She sits at the café. She just arrived from another era. She is not quite sure where she is, but she can recognize an urban heaven when she sees it. In her lacy gloved hand, she slowly lifts a lided paper coffee cup, and indulgently sips the warm elixir inside. Peacefully watching passers by as if completely unaware that she is the one who’s being watched. With her striking European chic outfits, complete with brimmed hat, carefully made-up brows and powdered face and dark lipstick her presence is enigmatic and foreign not only to her Asian features but also to the laid-back Pacific Northwest’ small-town mentality.
And just as her entrance into our lives was mysterious, so was her sudden disappearance one summer day. All I could gather was that I was not the only one sneaking curious gazes at her lacy brimmed hat and gloves, wondering if they might be covering some dreadful secret rather than evidence that she was indeed a time traveler… All I know is that she was not a hallucination of my dreams. Besides my success at capturing her image with my digital camera, I also found out that she disappeared on August 6th, 2007, and left behind a trail of mystery, including puzzled baristas who remembered her favourite drink was French Vanilla coffee – nothing fancy, just straight from the tap.
Perfume transcends the intangible mystery of time. And just like the presence of the mysterious time traveler, it enters our life suddenly and disappears without warning. Perhaps this was why when I saw her I smelled a phantom breath of Bois des Îles: a perfume that silently entered my consciousness and whose beauty I was unable to appreciate years ago because of its antiquated aldehydic moments and the vagueness of its intentions.
Years later, my reflections on Bois des Îles have been refined and clarity is starting to bring me more pleasure from this jus treasured within the crystal cut flacon. Without taking away from its mystery I can enjoy it and indulge in discerning the notes as they lazily dance on my skin. First come bergamot and aldehydes, which take some time to fade away. They are oily and bring to mind the somewhat uric aspect of sandalwood, and the somewhat sharp (at first) nuances of heady ylang ylang. As the aldehydic cloud settles, Bois des Îles becomes deliciously warm, with the spiciness of dry ginger and nutmeg. Sandalwood embraces the perfume throughout its evolution. Although there are floral notes in the heart (namely jasmine and rose), ylang ylang is the only one that truly stands out. The others are blended to complement the sandalwood and ylang ylang (smoothing and rounding its sharpness) and bridge from top to base and the crisp-woody notes of vetiver. And in the final movement choreographed on my skin, the sweetness of vanilla absolute, tonka and benzoin feels like a silky caress of soft lips and warm sand.
Top notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang
Heart notes: Jasmine, Rose, Nutmeg, Ginger
Base notes: Sandalwood, Vetiver, Tonka, Vanilla, Benzoin
P.s. This review is for the pure parfum, which unfortunately is no longer available in the Chanel boutiques as the beautiful and elegant crystal flacon of this jus had to make room for the ridiculously gigantic Eaux of the Les Exclusifs. Let’s hope the executives at Chanel smarten up and bring it back. After all, the extraits are the best way to wear the Chanel classics.
P.s.s. Coffret of vintag Chanel flacons was taken from this auction.