Guerlain Bois d’Arménie

Bois d’Arménie, by Annick Menardo for the L’Art et la Matiere collection, feels less a classic Guerlain, and more an Hermessence; sharing closer kinship to the transparent grace of Amber Narguile than to languid Shalimar. However, true lineage is apparent — the rubbery vanilla/incense combo made famous in another Menardo creation, 1998’s Bvlgari Black. Though warmer and earthier than Black, Bd’A bears the makers “Oddball Vanilla” mark.

Bois d’Arménie boasts a balance of raspiness and powdery softness (‘dustiness’ might be a better term) that is compelling. The vanilla is dry and smokey, yet the fragrance is sweet—almost gourmand. On first application, my immediate reaction to Bd’A was surprise at a honeyed tobacco that instantly brought to mind Killian’s Back to Black. Surprise followed surprise at the virile masculinity— this scent dances the line between rough and smooth textures so skillfully, one moment a graceful pirouette, the next, busting a move on some cardboard, that it’s nearly dizzying— yet, somehow, holding it’s split personalities with such poise induces a zen-like state in the wearing.

In Bd’A I smell familiar elements from various other places (above mentioned Bulgari Black & By Killian’s Back to Black, also Dior’s Eau Noire, Carbone de Balmain, Dzing!, and Chanel Antaeus) that at first sniff I thought “I’ve smelled it before, it’s not worth the price-tag,” which was, if you recall, my initial response to Dior’s Mitzah. I have since learned that, sometimes, something familiar, yet exceptionally well done, really is enough to justify it’s existance.

Perfection is a little bland; the greatest beauties always have some quirk, flaw, or mark rendering them memorable. Unexceptionally exceptional might be a true assessment of Bois d’Arménie, but such an assessment fails to capture the truth: perfect beauty, while bland, really is a rare and marvelous wonder to behold.

I bring enough imperfection to the table for the both of us.

24 thoughts on “Guerlain Bois d’Arménie

  1. Oh, oh, oh, I love this one, and have squirrelled away a big decant. Wore it once in the snow in Bruges and it was like a furry stole. Agree about the oddball vanilla and the other scents you compare it to, notably Bvlgari Black and Dzing!. Also Le Labo Labdanum 18 is in this ballpark, I’d say.

    And of course I am the Queen of Bland in Perfumeland, so no wonder I like it.. : – )

    1. What? You are not the queen of bland! You are HRH the Queen of Understated Elegance!

      And I really don’t think the fragrance is actually bland, it’s just so seamlessly beautiful that it makes me want to nudge it a little 😉

      I think it’s cool that you agree about the Dzing! comparison! Sometimes I have phantom references when I’m getting to know a perfume, so I find it thrilling that someone with a more educated nose concurs!

      1. LOL at HRH the Queen of Understated Elegance! Like B, you are a hoot! And you are also kind to refer to my nose as “educated” – it may be long in the tooth(?) but I always think of it as a very blunt instrument compared to most bloggers in perfumeland. Hence why I try to be silly to make up for the conspicuous lack of note detection.

  2. Haven’t smelled Bois d’Armenie, though I probably would if a droplet came my way – despite the fact that “raspy” and I almost never get along. I do like B Black, and I like Dzing! except for that animal-fur bit.

    Who’s the lovely chanteuse in the photo? I was going to say, “Ooh, I want her earrings!” but let me be completely honest: I want her cheekbones too.

    1. No animal fur here! It’s really quite lovely, and I wouldn’t say no to a bottle…

      The face is Noomi Rapace, a very lovely Swedish actress who starred in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (among others). I really love her look!

  3. I have some of this to get to know over Autumn and dee, you’ve really inspired me! I do love Annick Menardo’s oddball creations and I hope it works as well for me. I’m a bit worried it will be benzoin overload like Candy, but we’ll see.

    1. Hmmm… I think Bd’A, while sweet, is also weighted with the scratchy, smokey, masculine elements, which push it into a different territory from Candy; I like Candy a lot, but it’s more of an easy body splash for a quick pick-me-up (I use the famous “bathing” method of application for it), where d’Arménie is more thoughtful and pensive.

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


  4. Hmm … do you mean ‘perfection’, or ‘perfect beauty’? Perfect classical beauty can be dull, but if Bd’A achieved ‘perfection’ in what it sets out to do, that is different of course.

    I agree that the exceptionally well done can be worth the price tag. I’m still pondering a large decant of Chanel’s Eau de Cologne, for that reason. The thing is, I don’t NEED it; I have the summer cologne angle well covered. (If only summer would finally arrive, I could wear them at last!)

    1. Anne-Marie, my dear, you are a tough editor! 😉

      The feel that I get from this fragrance is that it is almost too perfect— it’s austere, much the way no. 19 is austere (of course they smell nothing alike), and the warm/soft elements don’t soften the fragrance…
      Let’s see if I can paint a better picture of what I mean— I have this image of an ice-queen blonde for no. 19, but her flaw is that she’s perceived as cruel (whether it’s true or not). Bd’A is an ice-queen too, but she has no flaw, she’s just brunette.

      Have I gone totally off the deep end, or does that make sense??

      1. Yes indeed, it does make sense. Sorry, I did not mean to be so picky. Bd’A sounds divine. I wonder why cruelty seems more associated with blondes than brunettes?

        I’m interested in this whole perfection question because I recall Tania Sanchez remarking that 31 Rue Cambon is to her lovely but not moving because it is not strange. Bd’A does sound as if it has that strnage quality she is hoping for. (Actually, 31RC is to me made strange b/c of the iris.)

        1. LOL, it’s okay, you keep me on my toes!

          The blondes may get attributed cruelty, but they also get to have all the fun, so I don’t feel too bad about that. 😉

          I think I get what Tania was saying, because it’s that off-kilter element that can really keep your interest, furrow your brow a little and wonder, “What’s that?” Too weird doesn’t really work! But in a way, I think that Bd’A escapes this, as you suggest, by presenting such a perfect balancing act. It’s not strange, per se, but it’s two distinct personalities in one body!

  5. I LURVE Bois d’Armenie, and your review is so perfect! The whole L’Art line seems like Guerlain doing Serge Lutens to me, but that’s not a bad thing. Some of the perfumes are just stunning (Iris Ganache being my fave, and one I wear almost every day). From the names and concepts down to the packaging, there’s a sleekness coupled with a wacky sort of inventiveness that I just love.

    1. “Wacky sort of inventiveness” is a great description! I think that part of my surprise with Bd’A (and the few others from the line that I’ve tried) was that I came to it expecting a Guerlie, and found something different. The quality, the presentation, the beauty, those are Guerlain traits, but the wacky juxtaposition of notes are “other”. If I had tested this in a blind-sniff, I’m confident of only one thing: I would not have pegged it as a Guerlain! But that’s a good thing, I think. 🙂

      1. Yes, I agree! Kudos to Guerlain for trying something new and different. It’s tough, I would imagine, for a house with so much history and a name to uphold to give so much creative freedom to the perfumers. Everybody really “went for it”, I think!

  6. Not being a Guerlain fan I haven’t heard about this perfume (or haven’t paid attention). But I really like your review and feel tempted to find a sample of this perfume and try it: sooner or later there will be Guerlain for me – right?

    1. Maybe there will be a Guerlain for you, maybe not— but I don’t think that this perfume really says “Guerlain” like so many of the others from the house do. As Carrie mentioned, it could have easily been a Serge Lutens release, or an Hermes!

      I’d recommend trying it, with the caveat that this line isn’t easy to sniff— I think The Perfumed Court, or maybe Posh Peasant might be the only options! 😦

  7. I agree with you, it is unexceptionally exceptional. But then again that’s how most Guerlain’s feel to me. There is no flaw to them, but then why don’t they make me run for my credit card?

    Because of the name I expected something closer to the smell of burning Papier d’Armenie, In the end Serge Noire is closer to the astringent quality of this smell.

    1. Papier d’Armenie *and* Serge Noire are both things I need to experience first hand!

      Guerlain seems to inspire love or indifference, and I can see why. But, with so many truly great perfume houses out there, I think you probably find plenty to keep your credit card active 😉

      1. You can find papier d ‘ Armenie. quite easily. It’s not fashionable any more though. It is one of the first ambiance fragrance in history. Little strips of paper you light and when they burn they give out this spicy burned scent. Serge Noire is very special. Imagine burning cloves and cinammon!

  8. This isn’t one that has remained in my memory (although I know I’ve smelled it), but your review has piqued my interest. Anything that lacks flaws may not be for me, though. 🙂


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s