Since tumbling down the rabbit hole into Perfumeland the only perfume I have bought on the spot is Bois des Iles. It was love at first sniff and despite the price tag I couldn’t walk away without a massive bottle of the Eau de Toilette. Bois des Iles is not just a great perfume, it is perfume perfection; a stunning and exquisitely balanced composition of aldehydes, woods, florals and spices.
The Chanel website only gives notes of bergamot, mandarin, tonka bean and vanilla but elsewhere on the internet you’ll find lists which also include aldehydes, neroli, peach, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris, ylang-ylang, coriander, vetiver, sandalwood, benzoin and musk.
Sandalwood is the bed upon which all the other elements of the composition lay. There aren’t many materials in the world as rich and creamy as this much depleted natural resource so who knows how Chanel manages to maintain the quality in Bois des Iles, but they do. The soothing sandalwood note is present from start to finish.
Upon first spraying the EdT you’re hit with aldehydes akin to freshly varnished wood. This fleeting blast is soon followed by bright splashes of orange citrus, muted florals and soft spices. These spices are of the gourmand variety and the resultant effect is often likened to gingerbread. It’s this mouth watering accord which helps to set Bois des Iles apart from other fragrances in the woody oriental genre.
After moving through shades of orange and brown, Bois des Iles turns into the olfactory equivalent of powdered gold. The drydown is truly swoon-inducing. The fragrance seems to meld with your skin, coating you with its fragrant beauty.
As well as the EDT, I now own the Parfum which is darker, deeper and surprisingly sweeter. I dab a little of the Parfum and add a few sprays of the EDT for volume.
Master Perfumer Ernest Beaux was apparently inspired to create Bois des Iles in 1926 after seeing “The Queen of Spades” opera by Tchaikovsky at The Imperial Theatre in Moscow. You can tell how the richness and sumptuousness of the scenery and costumes are reflected in this plush yet reserved fragrance. I’ve read that Beaux named Bois des Iles as a favourite among his compositions, which also include Chanel No. 5 and Cuir de Russie.
Opulence can be tacky and comfort can be unsophisticated but this is not so in the case of Bois des Iles which retains a high level of refinement throughout its development. Forget the loud, brash orientals of the 70s and 80s, this is an oriental with chic restraint.
Bois des Iles is a Chanel, after all.