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Songe d'un Bois d'Été – Woody and leathery and incomparable - May 30, 2016


It was just an ordinary day until the email from the Guerlain boutique in Toronto dropped into my inbox.

“Thierry Wasser, will be visiting Toronto later this month. Would you be interested in a 30 minute one-on-one meeting with him at our boutique?” it read.

That would be Thierry Wasser, the Swiss-born in-house perfumer for Guerlain since 2008, who has created over 42 fragrances for the brand. We’re big fans of Mr. Wasser’s work here at perfumeniche and have shared some of our favourite fragrances of his here - Encens Mythique d’Orient, Quand Vient La Pluie, Terracotta Le Parfum and Le Parfum du 68.

I couldn’t hit ‘Reply’ fast enough.

I’ve done enough of these sorts of things in my professional life to know that, in these situations, the person being interviewed can be shy or hesitant or just difficult to talk to.  So, I did some research, read some interviews Mr. Wasser had given online and prepared a few questions. When the big day came, I was ready.

I needn’t have worried. Gregarious and convivial, Thierry Wasser welcomed me with a warm hug. Elegant and charming yet down-to-earth and playful - and far more handsome in person than in any of his photographs – he is the perfect ambassador for the Guerlain brand.

We fell into an easy conversation that touched on many topics: his pride in the relationships he has developed around the world in the sourcing raw ingredients, his weekly meetings with Jean-Paul Guerlain, how his interest in herbalism led him to perfumery, his ‘tick’ for putting green notes in perfumes, travel and unicorns. From time to time we’d move from our chairs to the fragrance counters where we would sniff and the stories would pour out – sourcing Tonka beans in Venezuela for Tonka Imperiale, the lovely fig note in Promenade des Anglais or the inspiration for Les Déserts d'Orient collection. One of my favourite collections in perfumery, I found the discussion on Les Déserts d'Orient the most interesting.

To paraphrase Mr. Wasser, he was in the Middle East, casting about for ideas for an Arabian-inspired collection of fragrances. During a meeting with one of his suppliers in Dubai, the supplier said that French perfumes needed more “Wow” or impact in their fragrances. He went on to say that in the Middle East fragrance isn’t just for the skin, but is put on clothes and hair as well. The conversation stuck with Wasser and informed the development of the Déserts d'Orient collection.

The collection is focused on three distinctive Middle Eastern notes: rose, oud, and incense and there are three fragrances in the collection: Rose Nacrée, Encens Mythique and Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté. Rose Nacrée is centred on an intense Persian rose and oud, Encens Mythique is based on incense and oud and Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté, a fragrance I have owned since it came out in 2012, is a deep leather with oud.

It’s a strong collection that bridges eastern and western tastes because it showcases Middle Eastern notes in a very French way. All three fragrances deliver the “Wow” but I keep going back to Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté.

It starts with a note of herbal bay leaf and citrusy, honeyed, floral neroli. Together they create an opening that’s bracing and aromatic – a calling card I love. As it blooms, it gets spicy from a note of saffron that was specially created by Wasser for the Déserts d’Orient collection. The saffron tempers the bay leaf and neroli beautifully. Then, it gets woody from cedarwood and oud. There’s a smokiness here that I find irresistible and a balminess that at times gets deliciously medicinal on me.  Patchouli makes it sweet, earthy and even woodier while jasmine, floral, animalic and indolic, sweetens the blend and, to my nose, adds the smell of skin. A pungent leather accord adds depth at the base while aromatic myrrh makes it resinous and woody.

For all the heavy sounding ingredients in Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté, the drydown is a refined, beautiful woody scent that is an incomparable fragrance from one of the world’s great perfumers.

I’ve heard that some people prefer wearing Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté in cooler weather, but I like to wear it in warm weather, after all Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté translates into ‘dream of a summer wood’ in English.

My time with Thierry Wasser was a wonderful experience. He was generous with his conversation and his time as my allotted half hour stretched to nearly two hours, but felt like the blink of an eye.

I came away from the meeting buzzing with excitement, smelling great and grateful to live in a place that has a stand-alone Guerlain boutique that carries all the exclusives. Of course, if you don’t live in such a place, you can always contact the store in Toronto directly by phone at (416) 929-6114 or by email at and order any of the exclusives as they do ship throughout North America (and beyond).

Songe d’Un Bois d’Eté is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.