There's a cute scene in "Shadow of Night", Deborah Harkness' (much improved) sequel of "A Discovery of Witchess", where the male protagonist (a vampire, among other things) chides an aging Queen Elizabeth (as in Elizabeth I. Not the current one we know as "Granny") for her overindulgence in candied violets that have rotted her teeth. The author mentions smells and scents of the Elizabethan court and the world around it, not all of them as nice as the Queen's favorite treats, but there's enough there to satisfy a curious nose, from herbs, various natural remedies, church incense, heavy imported spices, cedar chests holding fine linens and family treasures. And some unwashed bodies here and there.
When Serge Lutens released Bois de Violette (composed by Christopher Sheldrake) in 1992 I'm pretty sure he wasn't aiming for 16th century England, but he could have had. The thick and dark forest with its carpet of green violet leaves sees little sunshine, but a bubbling brook somewhere in the background keeps the air cool and fresh. The scent of wood, peppery cedar, damp bark, dry logs is impregnated by the sweet violet syrup, creating a temptation that is yet not quite edible. If you're familiar with Lutens' Bois series, I'd place Bois de Violette between the jammy wood of the original Feminite de Bois and the Holiday fruitcake of Bois et Fruits. Bois de Violette has a bit more frivolity to it-- it dances around on skin and smiles coyly; it's the way I perceive violets, most likely.
Bois de Violette is a typical Serge Lutens, no doubt about it. It might be one of the most accessible of the Bois series because even though it does go strong on the cedar and adds a touch of cuminy sweat, it's still friendly, sweet, and purple, with far less hamster cage than you'd find elsewhere. I find that I need to spray myself good and well to get the perfume to stick for a full day, but once again, it might have something to do with the relationship between my skin and violet notes. And it's worth every hefty spritz.
Other reviews of Bois de Violette can be found on Kafkaesque and Bois de Jasmin.
Serge Lutens- Bois de Violette ($200, 50ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent, Twisted Lily, Aedes, and Barneys. If you don't mind dealing with the gray market for a better price Google is your friend.
Image by Serge Lutens.