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Miel de Bois – woody and honeyed and rewarding

European honey bee on rock rose in Oakland, California -

I remember the first time I smelled Miel de Bois as it were yesterday. I was standing at the counter of Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris, waiting to buy a bottle of Miel de Bois as a gift for a friend, when it occurred to me that I had never really sniffed it. So, I asked one of the SAs, to spritz me, and she kindly obliged. I inhaled deeply, and a nanosecond later made a sour face. 'Who would wear this?' I thought.

And I began to wonder about just how well I knew my friend. Then the penny dropped - it's Lutens, the provocateur who likes to elicit strong reactions from people with his scents. The truth is that while Serge Lutens has created some of my favourite fragrances, not all of his fragrances are my favourites. Yet, as I went about my day, I found myself drawn to the fragrance on my wrist again and, with each sniff, falling more deeply into it. Miel de Bois had settled, and its beauty revealed itself. It was a slow seduction, and I happily surrendered to it. I left Paris with three bottles in my luggage – two for me and one for my friend.

I fell in love with Miel de Bois but didn't know much about it. I went to the Lutens' website and found this quote: "Let me thank all those whose labor contributed to making this fragrance.... in other words, the bees and flowers." Not very helpful. I give it a B +.

I did a little digging and discovered that Miel de Bois is a unisex fragrance that was originally launched in 2005 and that the nose behind the fragrance is Christopher Sheldrake. To really know Miel de Bois, you have to smell it.

It opens with notes of oak, ebony and guaiac wood.  The woods are dry, and heavy. There is a sharpness, like vinegar, that comes from the oak, but there's a slight sweetness too. The guaiac has birch tar facets, and the ebony is bitter, almost to the point of being unpleasant. If you embrace the wood accord as part of the experience, you will be rewarded with a fabulous, golden, raw honey note that's soft and sweet but not enough to be in gourmand territory and animalic. The creaminess of the honey is the perfect counterbalance to the bitterness at the top so that only a lovely woodiness remains. A sweet, floral hawthorn note echoes the honey with its animalic aspect at the base, while powdery iris adds another floral dimension to Miel de Bois. The flowers lie atop a note of sweet, musky beeswax.

Miel de Bois dries down smooth, warm and woody. But that honey/woody balance is what makes keeps me reaching for Miel de Bois again and again. And that bitter, acrid opening? I've come to see it as the perfect way to showcase that beauty that comes after it, and so I've come to appreciate it. Oh, Mr. Lutens, you really are a genius.

Miel de Bois is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.

Image by Joseph Morris, 8 May 2018.