Monday, September 20, 2010

Serge Lutens Boxeuses: fragrance review & draw

I wouldn't hesitate to think of the latest Paris exclusive fragrance by Lutens , going by the insolent name Boxeuses, as Féminité du Cuir instead. What do feminine pugilists (the true meaning of Boxeuses, pronounced box-EHz, in French) have to do with the delicate and mysterious affair of perfume? And why did Serge choose that name?

Plenty it appears and Lutens isn't one to go by conventional names anyway. This enigmatic woody leather is molded after a soft kid's leather glove that hits all the sweet spots for any ardent Lutens fan, that's why! After all French perfumery did arise through scented gloves, didn't it? Unlike the green fairy of Bas de Soie with the icy sensuality that demands kinky behaviour to unhinge itself, Boxeuses goes straight for the jugular, playing on the familiar, original codes of the Lutensian universe: violet-tinged woods, plummy fruits, somptuous spices...

To those who are intimately familiar with the Lutensian opus, Boxeuses can't fail but instantly remind them of Féminité du Bois and in fact the whole Bois series it spawned for the launch of Les Salons du Palais Royal back in 1992 (Bois de Violette, Bois et Fruits, Bois et Musc, Bois Oriental). Much like them, Boxeuses is full of the woody backdrop of Iso-E Super and violet methyl-ionones, plus a good dosage of plummy nuance redolent of Arabian desserts which perfumer Chris Sheldrake elevated beyond manière into Art. To those who are not, Boxeuses could be the love-child of a Cuir-de-Russie-type (notably Chanel's offering with its luxurious feel) due to the birch tar material anchoring it and Rochas Femme with its Prunol base; the latter in all its cuminy sexy glory, thank you very much. Of course the lineage might be de trop to mention: Féminité du Bois does owe some of its genius in the sexiness factor of Femme, but pushing the envelope further thanks to its sombre spiciness of cinnamon and cardamom which couple with woods reminiscent of a box of lead pencils; unheard of at the time.

If Cuir Mauresque (his other "leather" and this year's limited edition export of the Paris exclusives, scheduled for a late 2010 launch) recalls a "Peau d'Espagne" or Cuir Ottoman sensibility, Boxeuses is restrained enough in its opulence to be closer to a Cuir de Russie type or Tabac Blond (the pyrogenic coupling of acidulous notes and styrax with birch) and similarly genderless, despite the name. The leathery and spicy facets of Boxeuses come to the fore immediately, on one hand an anisic tinge recalling licorice and classic French perfumery, on another an incensy feel with cinnamic facets recalling Serge Noire. The sticky plum surfaces next, not sacharine but shaded with violet, rounding out the fragrance alongside smoky woods and milky soft musk with a smidge of dark cocoa, sustaining that impression with medium sillage for a long time.

To those forlorn, after the launch of Nuit de Cellophane, then L'Eau Serge Lutens and even of Bas de Soie, claiming Serge was "softening" and much like Alexander the Great allowing himself to adopt the customs & sensibilities of a completely foreign aesthetic, Boxeuses is a punch in the nose. Like Australian boxing film sensation Girlfight (2000) proclaimed, Lutens attained the unexpected through the most expected way: "Prove them wrong!"

For our readers, 5 samples of the exclusive Boxeuses will be given out of my own personal bottle. Tell us WHY this scent sings your name in the comments and I will pick 5 winners. (Draw is open till Friday 24th midnight).

Notes for Serge Lutens Boxeuses:
Birch tar, styrax, incense, spices, cade oil.

Serge Lutens Boxeuses forms part of the Paris exclusive line, available as 75ml of Eau de Parfum in the bell bottles. The packaging has been slightly changed (ever since the launch of Bas de Soie last July actually) and the bells are not sealed so as to protect contents from spillage and tampering. It retails for 120 euros at Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Serge Lutens reviews & news, the Leather Series

Photos of female boxers via the Hulton Archive. Photo of Lutens Boxeuses bottle © by Elena Vosnaki


  1. Leathery, spicy, sticky plum! You've hit all of the ducks in my shooting gallery. Please enter me in the drawing.

    Love the photos--who wouldn't want to watch these beauties "punch" each other while wearing those adorable shoes?

  2. Lately, I've been going back to revisit a lot of leathers I dismissed early on in my perfumista days. Then, I was looking for something that smelled just like the leather jacket my college boyfriend wore. Now, I can appreciate them more for what they are, and not what I want them to be. It makes for much more satisfying sniffing. I'd love to try this one.

  3. Alexp16:33

    Happy that Oncle Serge is taking us back to woods ! After reading your post putting my nose on the left arm Cuir de Russie and then on my right arm Cuir Ottomane I 'm trying to build in my mind Boxeuse.......I'm a fan of leather frags ( not very easy these days when sweet patchouli fruity smells are all over) so may be I'll a lucky winner. Please put me into the draw. Thank you!

  4. Marte16:38

    I have been wanting to try this since the first time I read about it. It sounds divine! I haven't been too impressed with the latest SL scents, but this sounds much more promising.

    I love Femme, Feminite du Bois and Cuir de Russie, and the combination of leather, plum, woody notes and Serge Lutens can't go wrong in my opinion :) Please enter me in the draw.

  5. Malena16:43

    Dear Elena,
    Long time no hear, but I'm still trying to follow your blog as often as possible :-)
    Boxeuses is singing my name for several reasons:
    1) I love to watch boxfights.
    2) I don't own any of the SL Bois series nor Féminité du Bois.
    3) I love leather scents & the combination of leather & plum seems especially alluring. Plums are also among my favourite fruits & moreover I love the color plum/purple.
    I'm really happy that Serge Lutens finally makes a new fragrance with a little more punch - back to the roots it is *yay*

  6. Delfina16:49

    Well... Let me see... I like Cuir mauresque. I love Knize Ten and Féminité du bois and Bois de violette. I lust vintage Tabac blond. I bow myself before Cuir de Lancome. So "Féminité du cuir" is basically a mantra I could tattoo on myself... If I only did tattoos.
    Please enter me in the draw. Thanks!

  7. Mimi Gardenia16:50

    Dear Helg

    I love the name Boxeuses.
    A wonderful review that has ,as usual ,got me salivating !
    Cuir de Russie and Rochas Femme love child with cinnamon, cardamom ,woods and sexy cumin- please count me in. This sounds gorgeous.

  8. Stephan16:52

    I like so much rather pungent fragrances such as the leathers Lonestar Memories or Oud Cuir d'Arabie that don't leave much room for subtleties during their first hour or so. Moreover, you readily renamed the Boxeuse to "Féminité du Cuir", so I'm absolutely sure I'll love it. The take on woods in Féminité du Bois is breathtaking and mysterious, and it might be so in Boxeuse as well.

  9. I dont have any personal experience with serge lutens scents. but I would like to have at least one.:-) And thi is my chance! I love leather in fragrances. please count me in! Lubica
    lubaska dot k at gmail dot com

  10. I sincerely don't know if Boxeuses is singing my name, because I'm still starting to appreciate leather notes on perfumes. Maybe it's whispering my name since it knows somehow that it will be the ultimate leather perfume which will make me drool. After all, I really love its sister Féminité du Bois!

    What I know is that I have never tried the exclusive line of Serge Lutens and Boxeuses could be a nice start :)

    Please, enter me in the draw and thank you very much!

  11. As I often wear Femme and Cuir de Russie to bed, this would certainly save me some trouble!
    Sounds like my scent for winter 10/11...

  12. Can boys play, too?

    I'm reminded of Gore Vidal's Live From Golgotha. In the novel, set in ancient Rome, "Are you into amateur boxing?" is a 1950s-style code phrase for men wanting sex with other men to recognize each other. The Emperor Nero uses the line on the narrator, St. Timothy.

    Anyway, you do say it is genderless, and I love me a good leather scent, and the notes look interesting!

    Great review!

    Sign me up for the draw, if I am eligible.


  13. Zazie17:15

    Do you know nappa leather? That soft, luxurious, full-grain leather? My hands love it. It smells warm and fresh, like leaves and smoke. Not “Spanish skin”. Not “Russian leather”.
    My nose, however, prefers more dramatic leathers. Cuir ottoman was the first, the perfume I would wear for a big night out; then I upgraded to Tabac blond, rubbed my nose to the silky yet cold charms of Cuir de Russie, but found the guiltiest leathery-musky pleasures in Shalimar, quinoline spikes on a soft vanillic heart. Spirals of smoke hovering over a nappa armchair, burnt sugar on a French dessert. What happened on that armchair? A musky smell lingers…
    So, close to my wood and nappa armchair, aptly named Gilda; close to my precious la pleiade book collection, with their leather covers color coded; close to my collection of rough leather fragrances; close to Shalimar, there is a space for Boxeuse… because leather fragrances are so naughty and so much fun, you just can’t have too many to play with… and there aro too many I haven’t tried yet!

    I am ready to engage in a boxfight with the other sample contenders...yes, I throw my leather glove: let's prove how strong our motivation "sur le champ"!

  14. Wow. What a treat to enter to try this one!

    Here's why this one is for me... I've been on a leather kick for the last month. It all started when my aunt gave me her vintage bottle of pre-exlusif-formulation Cuir de Russie early this year. I sprayed it on as soon as I received it. I loved it (the leather smelled like skin, like horses, like an elegant car, a glove, a handbag with floral perfume inside, like luxury) but some days it would turn aggressively gasoline-ish on my skin, and I never knew which CdR I'd get: the mean gasoline one, or the rounded, elegant, sophisticated one.

    That was when I was a young perfumista. 6 months later, I've learned that if I give it some time to sink into my skin, I don't get gasoline at all. She's never mean. And now she eclipses my other perfumes. Needless to say, I want to smell all things leather, and I've been ordering and swapping samples of each type (Heeley, PdE, SL, KM, PG, etc). But I've found nothing that's as lovely as CdR.

    What's strange is that now, nothing else seems to really satisfy me the way that CdR does. My florals, my ambers, my tea frags or tobacco... nothing else makes me feel the same way. There's something calm, comforting, beautiful, challenging and lovely in her that I can't find elsewhere. I don't know if it's the note, or CdR itself, so I'm trying all the leathers that I can. I'm mostly worried because I only have ~85mls remaining. What will I do when she's gone? I have to find another leather. And who better than SL to fulfill my need?

  15. Oh my. Féminité du Cuir, I came to the exact same conclusion! Love this one, got a bottle coming, too.

  16. Please enter me in the draw I need some post-traumatic healing right now, the new Lutens will do it! I was home when two never seen before in this region F1/F2 tornadoes hit Brooklyn and Queens last friday. Dark green sky followed by train-like rumblings, sounds of loud cracks as lightning struck and thick tree trunks snapped in half, ears hurting from extreme low pressure. My street looks like a war zone, most cars were crushed.

  17. I read 7 or 8 perfume blogs daily. Sometimes I am moved to sample what has been reviewed, but usually there is a note, or style, or throw issue that gets in the way of actually following through. This review, however, describes everything I love (the woodiness, the violet, the prunol, the leather) -- not a single word gave me pause. I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to sample Boxeuses. Please include me in the draw, and thanks for the lovely review.

  18. I am mad about Serge Lutens: I own eight full bottles, and I've bought them all in the last year! And two of them were at the Palais Royale when I was (briefly) in Paris in May! His aesthetic meshes so well with mine: orientalia, overripeness, excess. (Not a big fan of the minimalist Serge Noire and L'eau Serge Lutens, because they seem like an unwelcome departure from his style.)

    Cuir de Russie suits me well. Lutens' Cuir Mauresque wasn't the leather I had hoped it would be: maybe Boxeuses is.

  19. Let's see...

    Leather? Check.
    Incense? Check.
    Spices? Check.
    Woods? Check.
    Rich fruit to finish it off? Check.

    It speaks to me simply because it sounds like a heady cocktail of things I love.

    I'd love to be entered, and I'd love it even more to win.

  20. Violets and this anything like my holy grail Jolie Madame? Even if it isn't the notes sound heavenly. Please enter me in the draw!

  21. I love the licorice and leather, with the plummy woods. Boxeuses is both original and an instant classic.

  22. Droooooooooooooool!

    Fab review and photos to match, E. I'd love to be in the draw for this Lutens! Thanks :)

  23. I have and love Chanel Cuir de Russie, Tabac Blond and Rochas Femme. But because the people around me have pronounced these scents "unpretty," I have taken to just wearing them in my room before I sleep. I would like to take revenge on them by wearing the "love child" of these scents *wink, wink.* Please enter me in the drawing for the Boxeuse sample.

  24. As I read down and down your review, I found more and more spices, smells, and conditions to lure me in. Each paragraph had enough to grab me and make me want this. It's hard to single out any one thing. My only fear is that it's too much good, but what if it's even more than that?

    Please enter me in the draw. I can't wait to try it.

  25. Anonymous06:24

    You say it's close to Tabac Blond and it's my cup of tea, I guess I would definitely like it. Thanks for entering me in the drawing! Alica -

  26. Maria B.06:54

    Boxeuses sings my name insistently. Here is why:

    1. Violet is my favorite floral note. I'm in thrall to it actually. I have been gathering up liquid violets from everywhere.

    2. One day all the supply of vintage Jolie Madame, that wonderful violet leather, will be exhausted.

    3. I love Feminité du Bois.

    4. When my father was young, he boxed. I watched televised boxing matches with him, and, eventually, he play-sparred with me. I don't make a fist like a girl, and I know how to connect with the solar plexus. I have an inner boxeuse.

    Thank you, E., for generously sharing some of your precious supply of this perfect-sounding fragrance with us. I hope one sample will have my name on it.

  27. I'm for all things leather although I prefer the harsher ones, Chanel's Cuir de Russie is okay with me but Cuoio di Russia of Profumi di Firenze is the thing for me, it makes the paint peel off.
    But, this one has cade! I have a wonderful cade shampoo that, people say, stinks like a house burned down, and I love it. And... and, it's related to Feminite du Bois - well, if I could choose, I'd pick the Shiseido one but hey.
    I guess this would work for me, that's it.

  28. Cinnamon, plum, milky musk and cocoa - sounds like the perfect comfort winter pudding! Good enough to eat and slightly sinful - please enter me in the draw.

  29. Vladimir10:09

    Great Review ! I'm a big SL fan, I really love Leather scents, dark woods and violets ... can't wait to try this new SL fragrance ! Please, count me in...

  30. Stella P10:26

    I think I couldn't live without Féminité du Bois in the coldest of winter, and am in the process of developing my taste for leather. The extention of the Fem. into leather-land sounds utterly fascinating! Please enter me into the draw!
    StellaP, as in happens, in Bandit today..

  31. You had me at Lutens, Tabac Blond, and Femme. Plum, cumin, leather, spices - this perfume packs a punch. I'm a leather kind of gal - this perfume speaks to me. Please enter me in the draw.

  32. Woods? Leather? Incense? Spices? Plummy?
    Oh, yes, that's me. Please enter me in the draw.

  33. I am a big fan of Cuir Ottoman, so this sounds like my thing ;)
    Anyway, this goes on my "Must Sniff in Paris" list for next week

  34. It sings my name for several reasons (each of them of equal value). First, it's a SL perfume, then the wood, leather and cuminy aspects? Oh, what a better way to feel warm on a dark autumn evening?

  35. lilacskin14:51

    what can i say other than the fact that i'm typing through the tears of joy? lust? maybe a bit of actual fear? that sprang to my eyes while reading yr review?

    enter me, little son just came into the room and asked "what's wrong, mommy?" sigh...whats wrong indeed!

  36. Darling:

    I could wax all poetic but I'll cut straight to the heart:

    You said: Cuir de Russie and (AND!) Femme. Together.

    My heart skipped a beat. Okay, my heart skipped TWO beats!

    xo A

  37. I've always wanted to be a fighter. But I have a peaceful heart, and I've learned that my battles will always be in my mind and in my heart instead of anything physical. Still, my imagination is drawn to thoughts of female fighters. I like the power, the contradiction, the unexpectedness of it all.

    Leather is a missing chunk in my perfume collection. For someone who loves the smell of leather as much as I do, it's hard to know how this could be. I guess I've somehow missed it, I'm new to this whole world, anyhow. I haven't smell Cuir de Russie, or cuir Mauresque. But I love Iso-E Super, and violet, and woods, I love Feminite du Bois, and plummy fruits and spices and woods.

  38. This sounds pretty mouth-watering. I love rich woody, warm leather scents and topped off with some fruity goodness? Right here to me, please!
    This could be the "pick me up" I need after the week I had so far...
    Please enter me in the draw, thanks!

  39. I'm not a huge fan of leather in fragrances, but the plum, violet and cocoa notes make me want to try this one. It sounds very nice for fall and winter.

  40. This thing has my name all over it. Denyse's review on Grain de Musc piqued my interest and this just sealed it!

    Cuir de Russie is among my absolute all time favourite fragrances (I got a bottle of extrait for my birthday earlier this year) and I liked FdB and completely fell for Bois de Violette (splashed out and bought a bottle only this month) so the idea of these two rolled together to create a Bois de Cuir-type scent is instantly appealing.

    I'd love to win one of the samples but even if I don't this just went to the top of my To Try list.

  41. Well honestly, this IS very interesting; I have worn Féminité du Bois since I got a bottle years and years ago, presumably when it launched, and got another off eBay when I panicked that it was almost out. Then in my new interest in vintage perfumes, bought Rochas Femme and when I wear this one I can't quit smelling my wrists. It's that plummy note I think that is addictive like smelling a rose you love over and over. I didn't even know there was an entire "Bois"series. My teenage daughter tells me I smell funny, or worse, "old" (those chypres I wear too.....), but what the heck! She's too young yet to appreciate the sophisticated scents I wear, right?? I would be thrilled to win this draw. Thank you!

  42. .....OH....can I just add that that vintage photo at the top of the article is hilariously funny!

  43. LEATHER!!! Please enter me in the draw :)

  44. If it's Serge Lutens, and particularly a return to his roots, then I'm always happy to partake in the pleasures. Please enter me in the draw, thanks.

  45. As a lover of everything that smells like leather, Boxeuses is on the top of my wish list. References to Tabac Blond and Cuir de Russie makes it even more desirable so please, please include me in this draw. Thanks for giving us the possibility to sniff this:)

  46. Birch Tar and Cade : a haunting memory of a tarry old rope dangling from the side of a ship.
    This sounds very promising!

  47. the first perfume I was impressed with was "Femme"- I was 7
    I love leather and still didn't find the perfect leather scent
    I have high hopes that Boxeuses will be "mine" as I love and respect and wear Ms. Lutens's creations
    I can't wait to try this, plese, enter me this draw

  48. I love leather scents so count me in. I most often wear Chanel's Cuir de Russie. I am always on the prowl to try new leather scents.

  49. I feel like I've been waiting for this release for far, far too long. I love Serge, but the latest releases just haven't been my cup of tea. I'm a leather and spice and not-so-nice kind of girl when it comes to perfume. ;)

    I love the visual of retro cuties in boxing gloves, as well.

  50. This is a wonderfull rewiev..i love serge Lutens, my favorite Cuir Mauresque..
    Incense, woods, violet, plummy, spices..oh..
    Please, enter me in the draw and thank you very much!

  51. This sounds amazing and I would love to try it. I've been on a 3 year search for my HG leather, and while I've found many new loves, I haven't found THE ONE. I would love to be entered in your drawing and have a chance to try Boxeues.

  52. Peggy14:39

    I have success with leathers. Since this is Serge Lutens creation I am anxius to try it. If I win...

  53. Yeah, please enter me in for the draw. Many thanks!

  54. Love the picture -- so happy to hear about this "new" Serge scent, harking back to the "old" Serge scents ; ) I always think I"ve gotten past my leather thing then I show someone around my collection and they say "you really like leather don't you?" OXOX from LA, W

  55. Oh this sounds like my kind of leather. Cuir Mauresque is beautiful, but not quite my mix of notes. If my name were a list of perfume notes, it would be Incense Cade Birchtar. That is how much I love those notes. Toss in some plummy roundness and we are talking serious fall scent. So happy that Uncle Serge is getting back to his roots! Please enter me for a sample of Boxeuses.

  56. Anonymous23:41

    Love the photos of the female wrestlers - all dolled up with high heels on to boot!

    Please enter me too, in your private stash drawing. Thanks Elena!

    ~ Susan

  57. I LOVE leather, and wear it daily, though most people never know as it is in the form of a nice waist smoothing corset. I would love to wear it not so secretly in the form of Boxeuses! I do have many favorite leather scents now including the already mentioned Chanel vintage version of Cuir de Russie. I also adore Miss Balmain, Tabac Blond and even Sarassins when I'm feeling a little more docile. Cuir Mauresque is high on my list to try though I am one included in the number of people who initially loved, or at least appreciated nearly everything Serge Lutens put his name on, but was alas, not very interested in the last few of his releases and never bothered to find samples. They just did not inspire me, but this one certainly does! Please enter this lover of leather in the drawing. Thanks, K

  58. Anonymous11:25

    My great grandmother was a boxer. We still have her gear. It was such a family scandal that we still talk hushedly about it. The more fascination this holds for us...Boxueuses just sounds totally irresitible, too.
    Please join me in the draw.

  59. I love Femme, Feminite du Bois and Cuir de Russie, and the combination of leather, plum, woody notes and Serge Lutens can't go wrong in my opinion :) Please enter me in the draw.


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