Back To The Future – Review: Serge Lutens Feminité du Bois

In science-fictions books or movies time travel is a regular occurrence. Do you know those scenes when the protagonist visits his younger self to give some essential advice that eventually saves the world?

Well, if I had the chance to give my younger self circa 1992, some advice, I doubt it would save the world, but it would have saved me some heartache. I’d go up to teenaged B and in no uncertain terms tell her to go and pick up a bottle of Shiseido Feminité du Bois, or better make that two. It would have been so easy then. I distinctly remember seeing that beautiful Japanese bottle in the windows of perfumeries then, I admired it from afar only though, since it was way too expensive for a student’s budget. I wish I had known how much I would crave this smooth, dark bottle with its revolutionary (for the nineties) juice in 2011…

Feminité du Bois was created in 1992 for Shiseido under the art direction of Serge Lutens by Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon, it includes notes of ginger, cinnamon, clove, plum, peach, orange blossom, violet, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla and benzoin.

In 2009 Feminité du Bois joined the Serge Lutens export line and was repackaged in regular Serge Lutens rectangular flacons. If that was also the point in time of reformulation, or whether that came earlier or later, I am not entirely sure. Fact is, Feminité du Bois has been reformulated and quite distinctly so. I am not saying I don’t like the new version, I do, but it is different nonetheless and I would love to own the original, for the scent as well as the Shiseido bottle.

Feminité du Bois was revolutionary for its time, because it used a traditionally masculine note – cedar wood – in a feminine fragrance. The stewed fruit-spice-compote we take for granted now in a Lutens creation, appeared for the first time. Indeed a far cry from floral fragrances that were the usual offerings for women on the perfume market.

Many spin-offs sprang from that initial cocktail of spicy fruit and wood, the Bois series are part of the Paris exclusive range (Bois de Violette, Bois et Fruits, Bois et Musc, Bois Oriental).

This review is about the Serge Lutens version that is available now.

Feminité du Bois starts off spicy. Ginger, clove, cinnamon are vying for attention and getting it too, the first minute Feminité du Bois is pure spice, nothing else. But then all of a sudden the perfume opens and deepens, widens and stretches and an olfactory vista of plum and orange blossom sweetness, of woody violets and vanilla tinged cedarwood lies before your nose. Breathtaking in its beauty and softness, Feminité du Bois is the softest and most quiet Lutens perfume I know. The volume is on low, the sillage is below average, but longevity is excellent. Apparently, Iso E super is to thank for the smoothness of the woody notes.

What I like about this fragrance, is its smooth, plummy softness, its rich spiciness, its dark woodiness, all presented in low volume. Feminité du Bois allows for a sumptuous tableau of notes, but never overwhelms. It wraps itself around me like a soft cashmere shawl, clinging close, warming but not stifling me. It is elegant, seductive and comforting.

I am happy with my version of Feminité du Bois, but knowing myself I will not rest before I have a bottle of Shiseido’s original version, somehow I feel it belongs in my collection. I would put it right beside Le Feu d’Issey and I can already anticipate the smile on my face everytime I look at those two.

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43 Responses to Back To The Future – Review: Serge Lutens Feminité du Bois

  1. GeM says:

    Time travel stories is one of my favorite thing, I enjoy them like a child!!

    Great review for an exceptional creature. ♥
    Although I never tried the former version of FdB you’re reviewing, as I’ve said in previously in other threads, FdB is a true love scent of my life and now it’s nearly a finished bottle. Anyway, maybe to enhance a more feminine side, I used to wear it layered with a honey & orange blossom body lotion that it’s discontinued now -for which I have no substitute yet-, and what I really LOVED the most was that combo effect. It worked dreamy, so try it if you have a chance!
    Now, without layering, when I wear it people use to say ‘what does it smells like cinnamon?’ (It’s funny how they tend to simplify) and some other people are only able to refer it as a ‘woody smell’ and that’s all. ALL?? 😦

    What I like the most of FdB is that, to me, is ALIVE. I mean like a pulsation: it gives a warm heart-throbbing effect that sometimes is embarrassing. I always think in that Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ scene, with Scottie and Madeleine under the monumental ancient woods and touching the tree circles while she’s confessing her dreams —> the whole thing smells like FdB! How funny that ‘quiet’ reference you do… in a sense I agree, it’s ‘quietly moving’, like the silence before a storm… but just an apparently silence: it’s pulsing inside!

  2. civava says:

    This one is one of my favorites. The original one. And I can’t still forgive myself for not buying a bottle. I now own the new version but it lack some softness. The old one is more rounded and the new has some unfinished unpolished edges.

  3. andrea says:

    Hmmm, I have sniffed this one (I like SL so have sniffed my way through many) admitedly it was only on paper as I had no spare skin left, It did not leave me wanting more, perhaps after your lovely review I will try it again, (Boxing day, Harvey Nicks here I come) this time on skin. 🙂

  4. Marty McFly is my hero….

    I adore Féminité du Bois and I guess I’m lucky in the sense that I have only tried the reissued version, but I would love to try the original Shiseido version for the sake of olfactory research :D. That original bottle is just wonderful.

  5. I guess Christmas brings out the cedar in us! It is marvelous. I have never tried the Serge Lutens current release. I snatched one of the last Shiseido bottles available in the Greek market. This gem has a masculine counterpart, Shiseido Basala. It is an amazing discontinued gem that I use sparingly for fear of running out of. Extremely complex, fougere but not just, full of herbs and honey. And an equally beautiful bottle.

    • GeM says:

      I think the current release is slightly sweeter, less dark and little bit more feminine….It’s a winner too!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Yes, it looks like it. 🙂

      You have Basala? Wow, what a find. I never smelled it but have heard great things about it. Such a shame those two are no longer available in their original versions.
      But there is mo use complaining, there are many gorgeous perfumes still available and I guess we are lucky that Serge Lutens did not do a bad job at all with the current version.

      • GeM says:

        You are such a band of Nerds! I’m jealous of you all! 😀
        The current version is already mastery, so the old version just had to be an extra bonus track!??? Please stop looking back on the past and longing for a time that is long gone, Carpe Diem and and towards the Future, always towards the Future, Marty!

  6. Alexandra says:

    I remember it was back in the 1993 when I received this as a gift from my sister (after my own recommendation)… I was a university student, and a friend (who wanted to be more than friends, but I didn’t share this feeling) loved it on me, saying I smelled like a femme fatale! I can imagine it was too sophisticated for a girl in her early twenties (just 21), but I knew it was special, and I treasure the curves of the bottle, which is a piece of art in my collection.

  7. Tara says:

    I tried FdB early on in my perfume career and it sadly did not work for me. Everyone else loves it so I feel very left out! Unfortunately, I think those cedarwood and stewed fruit scents just aren’t for me. At least I don’t have to pine for those SL exclusives, I suppose.

    I’d be more than happy to look out for an original bottle on Ebay UK for you, B.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Have you re-tried it since? You might perceive it differently now.

      That would be lovely if you were on the lookout at But it’ll have to be cheap… 😉

  8. deeHowe says:

    It’s hard to believe that I still have not experienced this beloved classic! The notes seem perfectly tailored to my tastes, and over the past couple years I’ve blind-bid on several bottles of the original formulation that have come up on eBay, with no success. If I were a smarter person, I would probably not seek out the original—who needs more if that kind of heartache?

    Cedar is such a gorgeous note in perfume—I love that it has a masculine edge to it. I wonder if Neiman’s still carries uncle Serge???

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh, I must send you some then! It is high time I made a list of all my perfumes for friends, so you can custom fill your packages. Much less unloved samples going around then. 🙂

      On a side note: Does your Neiman carry Dolce&Gabbana makeup?

  9. vanessa says:

    I have tried and tried to love this one, as it is really iconic in perfumista circles, but I have problems with cedar and with Uncle Serge and his stewed fruit-spice-compotes, so I am sorry to report it is still not happening for me with FdB of any vintage. I do totally hear you though about wanting to relate to your time travelling self. I would tell my 2008 newbie fumehead self to stop buying all those designer bottles like there was no tomorrow. Tomorrow came….and it is sadly albatross-ridden. : – )

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh, yes. This would not be the only advice I had for my younger self. 😉

      Lutens’ stewed fruit can be too much for me sometimes, but never in FdB, for a Lutens I find it unusually restrained.

  10. Sugandaraja says:

    I’ve always wished I love this more than I do. That plum-cedar-violet that Serge’s line uses over and over ( I’d add Boxeuses and Bois Sepia to your list ) originates from here, but I just don’t like this one, in either its modern or old incarnations. It’s something about the cedar – that dry, pencil-wood, raspy Virginia cedar note, rather than creamy-smooth Atlas cedar – married to fruit that pets the cat backwards.

    Oddly, Fille En Aiguiles totally works for me, despite it doing the whole wood-fruit-spice thing, too. I guess I’m just more of a pine person!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Of course, Boxeuses and Bois Sepia absolutely belong to that sub-group of Lutens’s oeuvre. My skin tends to amplify sweetness, so maybe I don’t get the full pencil-shavings blast in all its unforgiving dryness that many don’t like in a cedar note.

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  13. smokeytoes says:

    I used to be a fragrance SA (Dillard’s) in the 90’s-I remember everyone’s reaction when this scent was released. Very polarizing fragrance to many of my customers who smelled it. it was also Florida, so the strength was greatly amped up by the heat and humidity.
    To this day it remains one of my favorites, I have original bottles of the edp and extrait and they are greatly treasured!

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  19. Carol Mathis says:

    I actually have a bottle of the original. The problem with having precious perfume is that I’m afraid to use it too often, but if I don’t, what’s the point?

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