The Scent Critic is writing this review with a slightly broken heart – because not long after snapping this photo, I dropped my precious bottle of Bois de Paradis in the sink, shattering it, only to watch $140 of fragrance glug down the sink.
You see, despite being in the fortunate position of being dispatched literally hundreds of bottles of perfume every year, this was one I splashed out for (and splashed on) with my own hard-earned. (I suppose I should count my blessings: last time this happened, it was the sink and not the bottle that smashed…)
But quite aside from not exposing fragrance to heat and humidity (its enemies), it’s another reason to keep my ‘wardrobe’ of scents in the bedroom, not the bathroom. I encountered Parfum Delrae’s exquisite confection in the perfumery at Barney’s in San Francisco, aided and abetted by a most passionate sales assistant. (Who then proceedd to put Delrae Roth directly in touch with The Scent Critic, which is beyond efficient.) Having previously flirted with Amoreuse (when Les Senteurs brought these fragrances into the UK for a while), this was the Parfums Delrae masterpiece I had to flex my Amex for: a warm, woody but somehow breezy scent, garlanded with full-blown roses and tangle of ripe brambles.
It’s soft and fuzzy round the edges, right from the ever-so-slightly-lemony start – even as I sit here reeking. It’s also lusciously fruity – and by that I mean luscious wafts of jam cooking on a stove late-summer at berry-preserving time: ‘fruity’ has become such an insult in perfume circles, gotten itself a bad name – when in the right hands it delivers a luscious, sexy juiciness, rather than sickly-sweet bottled goo. To wit, Jean-Claude Ellena’s 1986 In Love Again for YSL, or the fruity-chypre qualities of Cartier’s fabulous So Pretty. (Note to self: must go and smell that old favourite again, soon.)
Unlike scents which have a definite season, this is something I believe could be worn year-round. I bought it on a sunny summer day in San Francisco, after the fog had burned off, and it was just perfect then. I’ve been wearing it as autumn sweeps in on Atlantic storms, and it’s just fine with opaque tights and cashmere – and for me, that’s unusual: I have summer scents, and winter scents, but few that bridge the season. It lasts forever and a day on the skin, the woody/ambery/incense notes hanging around for days if I don’t shower. (And as a non-sweat-er, I don’t, always… Which will horrify my American followers, perhaps, but not my French…)
To me, Bois de Paradis’s ultimate triumph is that it’s so perfectly-balanced. Not too much of this, not an overdose of that. So exquisitely balanced, actually that it conjures up an image of a ballerina en pointe, with one wood-blocked toe on the head of a man riding a unicycle across a tightrope strung between the two sides of the Grand Canyon. So poised that it almost takes my breath away, then. I shouldn’t be surprised that it sprang from the imagination of Michel Roudnitska, who’s as close to perfume royalty as it gets. (Along with the Polges and the Guerlains, of course.)
Only now we’re parted. Almost. Because the fact is I was wearing a silk shirt when my fragrant accident happened, and it got drenched. As it happens, Bois de Paradis has a fantastic sillage, and some time after the event is still wafting away. So I’m now carrying my shirt round in a suitcase (The Scent Critic happens to be in Paris, perfume capital of the world, for some meetings) – and retrieving it regularly for a sensual fix, sniffing it like a grown-up little girl and her blankie. What I get, now, are the warm, walk-in-the-woodsy, hint-of-bonfire notes that are Bois de Paradis’s lasting signature. Just glorious. But my ‘sniffie’ is going to have to last for another six weeks or so when I’m back in the land of Parfums Delrae, with access to a Barney’s, and part with another 140 bucks.
Small price for a mended heart, though, eh…?