Miel de Bois (Serge Lutens)

The other day, I woke up with a headache the size of East Texas. I knew I was in for it the moment I opened my eyes: even in the pre-dawn darkness of our bedroom, I could clearly see that old migraine aura rippling around my head like the northern lights. By eight o'clock I was prostrate, racked with nausea and hissing like a Komodo dragon at the tiniest increase in light. Not even a double-strength pot of coffee could make a dent in that white-hot wall of pain.

Finally around four o'clock the beast began to loosen its grip. I got up, managed to stay up-- a promising start.  I hazarded a warm shower, gingerly running my fingers through my wet hair (which during the migraine had felt alive to me, like Medusa's snakes). Afterwards (temples still aching, stomach still iffy, but clean, dressed, and standing vertical) I became aware that almost a full day had passed without fragrance.

I'm already sick to my stomach, I reasoned. I might as well put on Miel de Bois.

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My ambivalence towards bees and honey began in childhood, when I watched my father suffer anaphylactic shock following a sting. He survived, but my child's mind converted the experience into a tidy case of melissophobia. It only increased when, at fourteen, I drizzled some local organic honey on my morning yogurt and ended up blue in the face from a severe histamine reaction. Until that moment, I'd been able to mentally separate honey from the terrifying little creatures who produced it. I'd loved its mellow sweetness, its sensual viscosity on the tongue-- but no more. Honey equaled danger.

Until this allergy faded away in my mid-twenties, the only thing not hazardous about honey was its scent-- and even then, the pleasure was dubious. As many others before me have observed, honey doesn't always smell like flowers. It smells like fermented urine, rutting goat, organic putrefaction, AND flowers-- a rather sickening combination, but one that I perversely crave. I once blew most of a holiday souvenir allowance on a tiny vial of honey absolute, which I was strictly forbidden to open in the family car. When this ran out, I mail-ordered tiles of natural beeswax, which has the strongest, sexiest, and most stomach-turning aroma imaginable. Products claiming to be made with honey, such as Lush's Honey I Washed the Kids, cannot approach its queasy glory.

Perhaps the uneasiness provoked by the scent of honey is hard-wired into the ancestral brain. After all, wherever one finds one honey, one also finds millions of little buzzing maniacs, kamikaze-like in their willingness to give their lives for the hive. Honey and beeswax also played a role in the Egyptian mortuary arts, being prime ingredients in the mummification process. An ancient queen might go through life perfuming herself with honey, then journey onward into death surrounded by its lascivious reek.

Sex, death, and the mindless hum of the swarm-- no wonder the scent of honey raises our hackles.

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The first time I sampled Miel de Bois, I gagged-- I kid you not, my friends. My sample being small and made for dabbing, I swiped an infinitesimal amount on my skin and did a quick wrist-rub.  (Spray it?  Are you insane? Even the smallest nebulized spritz of Miel de Bois would most likely be construed by those around you as gaseous warfare!)  That top note of piss-soaked latrine! Was Lutens kidding? Let the record show that Miel de Bois, and not Muscs Koublaï Khän, is the true anti-L'Eau Serge Lutens. This was the filthiest thing I had ever smelled-- and I mean that as a compliment.

Repeated wearings (always in miniscule increments) gradually enabled me to steel myself against that shocking opener. Be patient, and Miel de Bois eventually transforms into a creamy, sensual floral with a graceful heliotropic ripple. Granted, you have a good half an hour of nausea to endure before you get there-- but once you get there, ooooh. I would not wear Miel de Bois in public for a million dollars. But I'd sure as hell wear it to bed.

If I believed in reincarnation, I would say that Miel de Bois summons my inner Nefertiti. Its archaic scent of honeyed oudh pushes every atavistic button on my control panel. If you buried an amphora of Miel de Bois today for explorers to dig up a millenium from now, they would tremble with fear upon opening it and throw themselves upon the mercy of the old gods. 

It's brilliant.

It's a slap in the face.

It's beautiful beyond articulation.

It's absolutely vile.

I absolutely adore it.

I hope you will, too.

Scent Elements: Ebony, guaiac, oak, agarwood, honey, beeswax, iris, hawthorn