Shiseido Feminite de Bois and Dior Dolce Vita share some DNA; they may as well be sisters. Both creations of Pierre Bourdon, with Christopher Sheldrake for Fem de Bois and with Maurice Roger for Dolce Vita, both perfumes are woody orientals focusing on cedar, seen through the prisms of fruits, florals, spices and vanilla.
FdB was created in 1992, and then disappeared about the time that Serge Lutens left Shiseido to found his own perfume house. Partly in order to have a line of fragrances readily available for sale without starting from ground zero every time, Lutens and Sheldrake created several fragrances from the starting point of Feminite du Bois, highlighting different aspects of the original scent: Bois et Fruits, Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Un Bois Vanille… are there more? could we go on ad infinitum?? Never mind. FdB has been rereleased through the Lutens house, slightly reformulated. I tested the Shiseido version, and it is a gorgeous, dark, smooth scent that cascades over the skin like plum liqueur into a glass. It has body, it is opaque, it is startlingly strong and feminine at the same time.
FdB starts out with a honeyed, spiced plum note that never really leaves. From there, it moves into a deep, rich floral-spice heart that feels like a heavy satin robe the color of blackberries. I begin to smell the cedar at this point, and it is sweetly aromatic, highlighted by rose and violet and spice. Unfortunately, two hours in, the scent all but disappears from my skin. I suspect that perhaps a musk is at fault. Five hours from application, I can smell it again – very close to the skin, but present – and it is glorious. I’m always a fan of a good rich benzoin-vanilla-woody drydown, and this one is rich and robust. I cannot wear FdB without thinking of a shadowy paneled room in the evening, with a fire that has gone to coals in the fireplace.
Dolce Vita, on the other hand, was released by Dior in 1994. Bourdon won the brief for a new Dior fragrance, having submitted an early draft of Feminite du Bois. (I somehow wonder if that was embarrassing, or whether it might have been vindication that Here Is a Great Smell.) Dolce Vita was at one time unavailable in the US, but is apparently available again. Perfumista friends say that it has been reformulated and is much thinner; my own bottle of edp is older. I also own a tiny bottle of parfum, which is amazingly rich. Please ignore the fruity floral Eau de Dolce Vita – I’m sure it’s nice enough, but it’s a totally different scent.
Dolce Vita, in contrast to the soft deep texture of FdB, sparkles off the skin with bright tangy fruit and the heady spiciness of lily. Instead of curried stewed fruit, I experience the fizz and sweetness of a bellini. DV’s heart is a floral-spice as well, and I seem to smell carnation as well as the lily and magnolia notes listed. I begin to smell cedar and sandalwood (a bright, almost floral woody note – perhaps it is Australian sandalwood?) along with the florals. I do not smell the listed coconut, but the drydown is sweeter and less rich than in FdB, with heliotrope softly lingering on my skin with the woods. The texture here is not the satin-smoothness of FdB, but a rather pleasing irregularity, possibly like shantung. I cannot wear DV without thinking of a sunlit autumn afternoon, and I find that I prefer its golden, sunny disposition to the melancholy of Feminite du Bois.
Notes for Shiseido Feminite de Bois, from fragrantica.com:
Top: honey, carnation, ginger, cinnamon, cedar, rose
Heart: orange blossom, plum, peach, violet, beeswax, cloves, cardamom
Base: sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, vanilla, atlas cedar
Notes for Dior Dolce Vita, also from fragrantica:
Top: lily, peach, bergamot, grapefruit, rose, cardamom
Heart: apricot, magnolia, lily, cinnamon, heliotrope
Base: sandalwood, vanilla, coconut, atlas cedar
Images, from top to bottom: forest shadows by AsAutumnDies; golden light by ..Peter…is back; both from flickr.
Shiseido Feminite du Bois and Dior Dolce Vita photos from fragrantica.