There's a strong contrast between the way I think of Coco Chanel and the 1920s and the way Bois des Iles smells and feels. Mademoiselle was strong, innovative and ambitious, definitely not the cuddly type. She probably wasn't into baking in general and gingerbread in particular, and no one would associate her with nutmeg and cinnamon. Yet, Bois des Iles, a fragrance created for her fashion house in 1926- right in the middle of the flapper, art deco years- is all that.
Bois des Iles is a classic fall/winter scent, with spice, creaminess and a wood base. It says "cashmere sweater" more than haute couture, and cozy interiors more than an urban setting. Still, it has enough of Chanel familiar cheekbones to not be simply about comfort. First, there are the aldehydes. Compared to N0. 5 or No. 22 they aren't too dominant and are less likely to scare away the younger generation of perfume wearers. Then there's the floral part, out of which I mainly smell ylang-ylang in the parfum version (I'm out of my EDT sample, but I remember it as sharper with more powdery iris in the heart).
The drydown on my skin is all wood, all the time. It's less feminine than the previous stages, but still soft and pretty. I love the sandalwood-gingerbread combination and truly appreciate the restraint that doesn't let the composition go all the way to yummy. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less from a true Chanel.
Bois des Iles was repackaged and probably re-orchestrated (consider the environmental restrictions on sandalwood harvest this is not surprising). It can now be found at Chanel boutiques worldwide as well as at Bergdorf Goodman and the Saks 5th Avenue flagship in NYC, as part of the Les Exclusifs line (also online at Chanel.com). The problem is that the new version is an EDT in that huge 200 ml (6.8 oz) bottle. The parfum has been withdrawn from our shelves for the most part. It's still available in limited quantities at the Paris boutique and every once in a while a handful of bottles are sent to Saks or Bergdorf. I bought my bottle when it was still offered on the website.
Top two pictures are of Coco Chanel in 1929. Third photo is a Chanel dress from 1926. All photos: Art Deco Blog