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.