Among the four variations on the original Féminité du Bois, which in 1992 catapulted Les Salons business into the niche market (namely Bois de Violette, Bois et Fruits, Bois Oriental and Bois et Musc), this one is possibly the most polished, the most seamless, the most like natural skin scent and yet the lesser known. The latter possibly because it has never so far been issued in the export line, resolutely remaining a Parisian exclusive. Alongside Un Bois Sépia, Un Bois Vanille, Santal Blanc and Santal de Mysore, these woody fragrances form part of an informal family pegged as "Les Eaux Boisées" which cemented the Lutensian canon as we know it today.
Bois (pronounced "bwah") means of course woods and Bois et Musc is a fragrance which marries the two components of the name exactly as promised, in equal measure; first experienced in rapid succession (woods first, musk second), then in unison. The synergy of Moroccan cedar and smooth musk is at the core, while the usual Lutens accord of spice & dried fruits, with which he has invested his orientalised compositions for long, is subdued to the point of transparency. I seem to detect a creamy note of rosy sandalwood too, even though it is not officially mentioned, like those traditional incense beads fashioned in India and the Middle-East. The effect cannot be described as anything less than silky...
This is a fragrance which enters the scene like a shy guest who radiates the room with their quiet presence even though they don't utter a single word and are bespectacled. You'd be hard-pressed to find dainty features, or beauty writ large over them, but they just exude a positive energy that surrounds every living thing within a one-foot radius. Contemplative, sensuous, brainy with the kind of wits that don't show off. Compared with the other Bois variations on Féminité du Bois, it is closer to Bois de Violette, but without the shadowy ambery backdrop.
Bois et Musc is totally unisex, completely ageless and a superb skin-scent (i.e. smelling like human skin would if only angels and devils had cradled it), what the French call "à fleur de peau". Possibly, the idea which perfumer Christopher Sheldrake had in mind when describing a "sexy", attractive scent. And this is even more so the case than in Clair de Musc which misses by an inch via its opaline soapy florals that read as ethereal. In contrast this is nothing like a white musk: In fact it's closer to intimate and impolite, but it's so noble that it invests naughtiness with impecable manners. A sort of Fanny Ardant in a François Truffaut film, totally French.
Amidst subtle woody musks, this Lutens stands as a personal favourite ever since I had sampled it during a rather rushed visit (I had exited craddling a bell jar of La Myrrhe which had just been issued and which is also beautiful). Bois et Musc would make a wonderful musk choice for anyone who finds the concept of animalistic and outré Muscs Kublai Khan ~which I love, love, love~ quite attractive, but is leery of wearing such a potent musk outside the bedroom.
Bois et Musc is a Paris exclusive, sold at Les Salons du Palais Royal only, in the beautiful bell-jars of the exclusive line 75ml Eau de Parfum for 110 euros.
For our readers: One lucky reader will receive a big-sized decant of this exceptional, Paris exclusive fragrance. Comment if you want to be eligible. Draw will be open till Sunday midnight.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Scented Musketeers (musks reviews), The Musk Series: ingredients, classification, cultural associations
Photo from the film La femme d'à côté (Woman next door) by François Truffaut, 1981.