Review: Guerlain Bois d’Arménie — 4.5 points

Papier d’arménie is a curious object. The so-called ‘Armenian paper’ is neither a paper for all its purpose and intent, nor is it originated from Armenia. In fact, it was a French innovation. Auguste Ponsot had observed during his travels in the Ottoman Empire that the inhabitants often burnt incense to perfume their homes. Upon his return, he worked with pharmacist Henri Rivier to develop a method that facilitated the process. The result was papier d’arménie. They are paper strips that have been soaked in tinctures of benzoin, styrax, frankincense, and other sweet balsams before they are dried, and they emanate sweet incense upon combustion.

Perfumer Annick Ménardo took to these fragrant, combustible strips of paper and created Bois d’Arménie (Guerlain, 2006). It is a composition of glowing, sweet incense that reminisces the paper strips, but with a polished style.

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It opens with a brief pink pepper that marries well with its oriental theme. The rest is a bulk of balsamic incense. That sounds like a hefty theme indeed, but in the adept hands of perfumer Annick Ménardo, it is rendered luminous. She has a knack for interpreting heavy accords in a radiant manner, and one only needs to smell Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) to see how she lifts a rich iris-musk accord with plenty of frankincense oil and Ambrox to create the impression of warm, crisp driftwoods.

Likewise, the treacly sweetness of balsams and benzoin in Bois d’Arménie are offset by frankincense. Iris, meanwhile, lends its powdery touch to mellow the sharp resinous note of frankincense. And, patchouli rounds the accord with woody richness. Then, throw in guaiac wood, and the overall effect is a soft, glowing balsam with accents of smoky woods and rose petals.

It finishes on a musky, balsamic incense note. I especially like how its incense crackles, sending out its rich noble notes over a balmy and dulcet base. In a way, it is like the extinguished Armenian papers oozing its fragrant incense smoke. The difference is that the polished glow of Bois d’Arménie never fades. It lasts well, and throughout the day, I feel as though I were wrapped in a warm cocoon. Its soft glowing presence begs one to lean in and inquire as to the nature of this addictive, cosy scent.

Source: guerlain.fr

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Review: Christian Dior Bois d’Argent — 4.5 points

Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) is not only a great perfume in terms of quality, but also a salient example of how its shades of iris are played to open the material to a unisex effect. We would later see a ground-breaking success a year later of the ‘masculine iris’ in Dior Home (2005) which truly demonstrates the potential of iris. For this reason, this excellent Bois d’Argent by perfumer Annick Ménardo is ahead of its time.

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At the heart of the composition is a combination of musks and 0.8% orris butter. Accents of vanilla lend its sweetness, and completes the powdery musky iris theme. In contrast, the woody shades of iris are expanded by patchouli and a noble whiff of frankincense oil at 1.1%. Thus, the character is powdery deep down, but with an interesting woody incense subtext.

The woody tone is kept warm and salty like driftwoods. Here, the unprecedented amount of Ambrox at 13.6% plays a major role with its crisp ambery note. It also gives an interesting warm sillage and a lift to the musky iris theme of Bois d’Argent.

Often, when I have already forgotten that I put on Bois d’Argent, I would still catch its warm, powdery, faintly sweet, and woody semolina hours later. It recalls somewhat the late dry down of Chanel N°19 Poudré, but is inflected with a warm woody accent.

Interestingly, Bois d’Argent explores the warm woody shades of iris whilst remaining easily accessible to both men and women’s shelves. At the centre is iris. The woody aspects are played up by ambergris, patchouli, and frankincense, meanwhile the soft powdery element is expanded by vanilla and musks. My favourite part is in the interesting pairing of the warm ambergris note and the musky flour of iris. It gives not only a beautiful contrast, but also a signature warmth. It is a brilliant composition.

Sources: dior.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors