On reflection, the name should have been a clue. Should I really have been surprised that a fragrance called Bois de Violette smells very, very strongly of violets? And I don't mean light, sugar-sweet violets or soapy violets; I mean dark, heady, synthetic violets. Nevertheless, I wasn't expecting what I got: Bois de Violette, at least at first, gets right up in your face and says "I am BEAUTIFUL, buster." Bois de Violette is marketed as a unisex scent, and I think that's probably fair, but the soul of Bois de Violette is a woman, and a particular kind of woman, to boot: It is an immaculately-presented 5'11" size-18 woman with a perfect manicure, expensive hair, and closet full of designer clothes unapologetically tailored to her figure. And she's wearing heels. The sillage is remarkable, even in the wax sample (and let me reiterate: to wear Bois de Violette, you really must enjoy the scent of violets).
I was looking forward to this sample especially because my friend and reader Amy, who seems to share my taste in fragrance, said that she wears it even though it is a simple floral. Now that I've tried it, I'm thinking she wears it because it absolutely isn't a simple floral. Ok, yes, admittedly violets and violet leaves are absolutely the focus, but there's a sort of springtime rot behind the violets, and they are most definitely growing in a cedar forest where the sap is high. Skank fans like me might like to note that [readers of a sensitive disposition please skip to the next paragraph -Ed.] there's a very slight note of . . . panties worn for half a day. Look, I don't make the stuff, I just review it.
Bois de Violette is not like anything in mainstream department store displays. It is not commercial, and it's certainly not easy to write about or to understand at first sniff. The list of official notes is simple: violet and cedar. The reality on your skin isn't simple at all. Do me a favor: man, woman, or child, head down to your local Serge Lutens retailer, try a small spray, give it half an hour, and tell me where it takes you.
Bois de Violette, Serge Lutens, 1992 Notes: cedar, violet leaves and flowers