Friday, 11 February 2011

Serge Lutens Miel de Bois

Ah, Miel de Bois. If ever there was a divisive fragrance from Uncle Serge, this is it. If you bother to read the reviews, you will generally find it is a case of love-it-or-hate-it, with very little middle ground. The three principal reviews I have read come from Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmine and Perfume Smellin Things, and all three trod more of a middle ground, stating that this is a perfume that is initially repelling, but that with perseverance you can grow to love it. I don't give up easily, so have tried Miel de Bois on and off for a few year now. I have to say that I am still in the 'with perseverance' camp!

No review can truly prepare you for Miel de Bois, I think. The initial assault upon the senses is astonishing. The error I made the first time I tried it was to use five sprays. Within ten minutes I stank to high heaven and had christened this rather as Miel de Pong. The notes include honey, hawthorn, ebony gaiac and oak woods, beeswax, iris and acquilaria, which as I take it is oud. On skin, Miel de Bois' opening translates to a massive blast of sweet, strong honey and intense, almost charred woods. It is pungent and smoky and fills the nostrils with almost palpable waves of honeyed fumes. The honey note is so forceful that it does come across as quite pissy, or urinous. It really does.

Miel de Bois has astonishing longevity on my skin. I've never encountered a Lutens that is a wilting flower; they all last very well on me, but this one is beyond robust. For example, I sprayed this on at about 8.30 this morning and it is now 2pm as I type, and Miel de Bois still smells almost as strong as if I sprayed it 10 minutes ago. And that's the issue I have with it. It's not the smell itself that is so offputting to me, but rather how strong and persistent it is, with a massive sillage. Reviews suggest that after the first 20 minutes this is mostly a skin scent, but not for me. I can still smell it intensely five hours later, wafting up clearly and loudly, and I only sprayed once. Yes, that is all you need and you're set for a long day's wear.

While I find Miel de Bois quite repulsive in some ways, I keep on returning to it in the hope that one day I'll 'get it'. Whatever one thinks of it, you can't say that this is a boring fragrance, or not challenging. It has these in spades. When I think of Lutens' most distinctive perfume (and I have to admit that there are still quite a few non-exports I haven't tried) I think of Miel de Bois. There is nothing else remotely like it. It is an extremely dark, woody and honeyed fragrance. The honey is prominent on me from start to dry down, whenever that happens to take place (I've never reached, always having had to wash it off eventually, hours and hours later). I can't distinguish between the different woods and the iris is lost on me. The oud makes sense, combined with the strong honey and beeswax. For originality and balls, I give it a big thumbs up. But I really struggle to wear it - it is one of the few perfumes that I feel wears me instead.

I'll leave you with a phrase from a review by Tom from Perfume Smellin Things, that has always stuck in my mind and amused me no end at the time I read it. He describes the opening of Miel de Bois as "killer bees on crack". That sums it up very aptly for me!

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