Monday, October 05, 2009

Shiseido Feminite du Bois (Original 1992 Version)

1992 was an important year in the perfume world. It saw the launch of several fragrances that shaped the following decades in terms of trends and expectations. On one side of the arena there was Angel, the gourmand beast. Women decided that to smell "yummy" means bathing in this stuff. The world held its breath and not in a good way. Then there was L'Eau D'Issey, that re-defined "clean "with its fresh marine notes and what is probably the most evil aromachemical to ever be created: Calone. Both spawned too many clones and imitators, each one more barfalicious than the predecessors.

In his own corner of the world, Serge Lutens was embarking on a new adventure. Ten years after his legendary Nombre Noir, he created a new scent that would influence and define quality perfume, even if its sales would never compete with Thierry Mugler's Angel.

Feminite du Bois is a dark and thick jammy wood, infused with enough honey and spice for a Christmas fruitcake (clove, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin), while somehow avoiding the foody trap. It's the father (mother?) of the Bois series that launched later that year under Lutens own brand (backed by Shiseido, as it remains to this day) and explored the concept of sweet wood with other iconic notes (violet, dried fruit, musc and others). While the notes in Feminite du Bois are quite identifiable and it's easy to just label it "plum and ceder", none of it explains the mystery spell that happen on the skin of those who do not hate cumin categorically.

I can't deal with either Serge Noire or Arabie, but the cumin in Feminite du Bois is not necessarily here to mimic human and animal sweat. It actually makes sense to have cumin in this blend for balance. If you tend to run for the hills from cumin, you might still enjoy the pure parfum concentration. I've heard many opinions, but it looks like most agree that the extrait has less cumin and more plum with a heavier woody (and ISO Super E on all its pencil shavings glory) base. I love both and enjoy layering them for full effect.

Shiseido no longer makes Feminite du Bois under the original brand. Instead, it is now an EDP in Uncle Serge's export range, in the familiar rectangular bottle and the Lutens price tag. The formula has changed to accommodate the availability of raw materials, but it's fully recognizable as FdB and is still a very good perfume, though I only tried it briefly a couple of times. The old Shiseido bottles in various concentrations can be easily found online for a very reasonable price (as always, Google is your friend), and samples can be obtained through the usual suspects: The Perfumed Court, The Posh Peasant and Rei Rien.

Art: Silent Groove by Nakisa Seika
Feminite du Bois perfume ad:


  1. I have also layered the two concentrations recently - glorious! If I had to choose my top ten perfumes of all time, this would be up there. A classic.

  2. Packed like a Christmas fruitcake...indeed, homemade, with all most too many but all good ingredients. Approaching the edge of how much/how long it macerated in the booze. :)

    For me, your observations about the cumin are spot on. I do tend to turn heel and walk, if not run, away from cumin in a scent. But in FdB, it is folded in just right. I still don't find it an "any day" scent--weather, or my mood, have to be right--but I do love it. Dense near beast lovely thing that it is.


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