Shiseido Feminite du Bois: Le Jardin du Lady


It’s that Pierre Bourdon again. Every time he makes a perfume I end up disliking it intensely. It’s not personal; he just creates smells that I don’t want to smell like.

Shiseido Feminite du Bois is highly regarded and coveted by many as a warm Oriental. Which is quite right and proper and it is indeed how it begins on me. In fact it is a perfectly crafted woody spicy fragrance, full of depth and heat. It has an almost sour note in the heart, which is beautifully earthy, like freshly turned soil, and then it warms up even more to smell like ancient wood in a church pew, infused with a hint of musky incense.

However, and I’m not quite sure how to put this delicately (although I did try a Franglais euphemism-see title): this smells like a gusset. A non clean one. It smells like knickers smell on the walk of shame with party shoes in hand as the sun comes up.  There. I’ve said it.

Funnily enough, I had exactly the same response to Worth Courtesan. I thought “Mm that smells very feminine”, and then after about half an hour, “What’s that smell? I have to wash NOW!” Guess who was responsible for that little gem? Yes, Pierre Bourdon. Similarly, Iris Poudre. Within minutes I was washing it off. Pierre’s handiwork again. That rascal!

Now it goes without saying that “Gusset” will never be a note listed on the Mighty Fragrantica, but I at least looked for Civet notes or an Animalic accord. Nothing. Zip. Nada.  So either this only happens to me and me alone, OR it happens to lots of other people who can’t quite pin down the exact suspect note in question.  OR lots of people get this but like it and shut up about it.

Personally, I don’t want the smell of a musky knicker gusset on my arm, so after using a little bit of this kindly loaned bottle, I will be returning it with enormous thanks that the list of very tempting notes didn’t lead me to buy it blind.

This is a textbook example of a perfume I love that doesn’t love me back. I long for that first magical half hour again, but it’s not returning my calls.

5 thoughts on “Shiseido Feminite du Bois: Le Jardin du Lady”

  1. Big guffaws at “this smells like a gusset. A non clean one.” I wonder what you’ll make of L’Air de Rien, which Luca Turin says smells ‘fantastically unwashed’?

    Oddly, I’m a big Pierre Bourdon fan. Well, not so oddly really, since we’ve discovered that we are Evil Scent Twins – if I adore it, there’s a good chance you’ll want to scrub it off and vice versa. 🙂

    I do enjoy FdB occasionally, but only occasionally. I have a problem with the radiance of it – I find it absolutely enormous and can only wear it on rare days when I’m happy to smell it all day. I think I had a little session of it last autumn. In general I prefer to wear another Bourdon creation that I find incredibly similar but less spare – Christian Dior’s Dolce Vita. It’s another plum and cedar combo. And if you get the chance to test Calvin Klein’s Secret Obsession (brown bottle that looks like a gourd), I reckon that is very much in the same vein, but hopeful

    Interestingly, this is an important historical fragrance. Its appearance in 1992 heralded a new version of orientals – the fruit-and-wood varieties, as opposed to the earlier classic Shalimar types that were bergamot-and-vanilla based. Feminite du Bois opened up the field completely. So hopefully there will be a something out there that works for you.

    1. That’s really interesting to learn that it was a pioneer and a mould breaker. The thing with Pierre Bourdon is that his fragrances are almost too intimate to me. They give the impression of having to stand nose to nipple with a stranger when you don’t want that sort of closeness. I can’t explain it very well, but there’s an intensity and sort of thickness that makes me want to get some space. I feel a bit threatened or invaded by them.

  2. It’s amazing isn’t it that an individual perfumer have such a recognisable impact that their scents for totally different companies can still feel ‘wrong’ in exactly the same way?
    I mean, yes, I know JC Ellena is very recognisable, with his ‘watercolour’ style, but I wonder if there are any other noses that are as popularly known and feted? Bernard Duchafour maybe? What do you think?

    1. Well it’s funny you should say that as I often find I love a random scent and then find out its a nose I love. One example is Christine Nagel who made my beloved Eau de Cartier. Just the other day I was swooning over Yves Rocher Rose Absolue which you kindly lent to me, and guess who was responsible for that one?

      On the other side of the coin, there is Pierre Bourdon, the bounder! I disliked three of his scents without knowing they were all his fault, before you pointed out that he was the culprit behind all of them!

      And yet, with all rules there is always an exception, and that exception is Christopher Sheldrake. He surprises me as I love some of his scents, and yet loathe others that he has made. I loved Borneo, Chergui, and Cuir Mauresque, but abhorred Ambre Sultan, I mean I just can’t forgive him for that one! I also disliked Mandarine Mandarin and Douce Amere. However, if he made it, I will always smell it as he keeps me guessing.

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