Bois et Fruits (Serge Lutens)

The other night, while organizing my decants by perfumer like a dyed-in-the-wool nerd, I found myself contemplating the great Sophia Grojsman. Before me sat Lancôme Trésor (1990 redux), Boucheron Jaïpur (1994) and Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars (1999)-- all essays on the theme of fruit compote and roses.  Out of these, I personally prefer Jaïpur best.  It's a slightly more evolved version of the Trésor idea, while Sun Moon Stars comes across like a blurred third-generation copy... which is probably moot, since all three fragrances smell remarkably similar.  I went so far as to dab a bit of each on my arm so that I could sniff each in succession.  The verdict?  An uncanny resemblance-- indeed, they're almost identical triplets. 

How is that Grojsman -- creator of more bestselling fragrances than any nose alive -- spent an entire decade puzzling over the same basic accord, creating perfume after perfume in its likeness?  What about it eluded her?  Why did it haunt her so?

As the official nose of the Lutens line, Sheldrake engaged in similar exploratory maneuvers back in 1992, using his own Féminité du Bois as base camp.  However, unlike Grojsman, he proved willing to radically alter the original accord, releasing each variation as a completely distinct fragrance. This takes a certain measure of cold-blooded confidence.  To borrow a phrase from NASA, Sheldrake is perfumery's original "steely-eyed missile man", ready to deconstruct his own vehicle right down to the nuts and bolts in order to further the long-range mission.   From this audacious beginning, he has gone on to compose over sixty fragrances, some hits, some misses... but no mere flankers. For while he may play with a motif for a time, his gaze is ever fixed on horizons unexplored.

Bois et Fruits (the closest of all Les Eaux des Boisées to the original Féminité du Bois) uses the same starting point as Jaïpur-- a dark, dense compote of peaches, plums, and apricots. Yet Sheldrake's fragrance resists the zaftig tendency of Grojsman's and achieves a dry, saturnine, almost masculine tone. Rather than radiating plump and juicy good health, his fruit is clearly past its prime; cooked down into an undifferentiated fructose-rich tar, it defies you to find it appetizing. Compounding the challenge is a cedar note as sharp and plangent as lemon zest. Somehow, our pâtissier has arrived at a novel confection-- constructed of mismatched (and possibly unpalatable) ingredients, but curiously compelling on the dessert plate.  

It can't possibly be any good, you think.  Why is my mouth watering?

The qualities that attract me to Bois et Fruits are the same as those which attracted me to Jaïpur:  this odd juxtaposition of edible and inedible.  Perhaps this same contradiction is what keeps Grojsman and Sheldrake on the move, searching for the elusive and inexplicable.  She takes the long way to the destination, on foot.  He zips straight there-- as if rocket-launched.

Scent Elements: Cedar, fig, plum, peach, apricot