According to latest developments, arising from a discussion on Perfume of Life forum, initiated by my friend Denyse who lives in Paris, the unthinkable has happened: Serge Lutens has decided to discontinue Miel de Bois, one of the least liked and most derided fragrances of his in the export line. [edit to add: it has become a Paris exclusive]
However this has sparked a fear that if indeed the reason of discontinuation is its abysmal reception by the market, then there is something rotten in the kingdom of Denmark and the Lutens brand is not impervious to the vagaries of marketing and sales. This could mean trouble for many of the less popular fragrances of the line, like the celery-smelling Chypre Rouge, the cozy yet dirty animalic Muscs Kublai Khan or the exquisite Douce Amère. And for a brand that has set the bar much too high, this would be foreboding and sad.
Nevertheless, Perfume Shrine in an attempt to exorcise the above demons, has researched a bit and found out that the key ingredient phenylacetic acid is used in the illicit production of phenylacetone, and therefore subject to controls in the United States. Perhaps the high concentration of said ingredient in the fragrance made it difficult to continue producing it without jumping through hoops of bureaucratic paperwork?
Additionally, phenylacetic acid has been found to be an active auxin (a type of phytohormone) molecule, predominantly found in fruits. Auxin comes from the Greek αυξανω which means "to grow", affecting cell division and cellular expansion, which means it has the potential to disrupt another organism's hormonal balance. Used in high doses, auxins stimulate the production of ethylene which can in turn inhibit elongation growth, cause femaleness of flowers in some species or leaf abscission and even kill the plant.
Whether this has tangible effects in humans is not to my knowledge, however seeing as the IFRA and EU terms of ingredients use call for severe restrictions on so many other substances used in perfumery, it might bear some relevance to the desire to discontinue the fragrance.
I don't know which of the reasons thus hypothesized is worse, but in any case, if you are among the few admirers of Miel de Bois or of daring compositions which will be shown to one's grandchildren when everything will be sanitized in the near future, this is your time to stock up.
*Stop the press latest info: I have been informed by a highly savvy source that Christopher Sheldrake, the nose behind it, never liked it and Serge Lutens himself might have stopped liking it too, which could account for his perfectionist streak showing through axing it. Remains to be seen.
*The ingredient is also known as α-toluic acid, benzeneacetic acid, alpha tolylic acid, and 2-phenylacetic acid.