I’m a huge fan of Serge Lutens and his fragrances, even when I can’t wear them. To me, there is no other perfumer who seems so genuinely intellectual as a person, so philosophically theoretical and inquisitive, and so damn original across the broad range of his fragrances. Serge Lutens and his perfumes fascinate me on every level, and I constantly find myself intellectually engaged by what he’s trying to do, as well as often being emotionally touched by what he actually creates, even when I can’t wear them, find some fault with them, or am left undecided and completely confused as to what I actually think…. (Datura Noir, I’m looking straight at you for that last one!)
Boxeuses is another Lutens perfume that fascinates me. It’s not one that I love, or that ultimately worked very well for me, but I deeply admire it. It evoked a sharply divergent set of impressions — from Rasputin fleeing a dacha in the woods to, structurally, a sandwich — but, as always with Serge Lutens, it made me think. I cannot tell you how rare that is for me when it comes to perfumery. Boxeuses was released in 2010 and is the creation of Lutens’ favorite cohort in olfactory adventures, Christopher Sheldrake. Its description — like all of Lutens’ descriptions — is a fun, intellectual source of amusement. Except for Parfums d’Empire, I think no-one does better stories for their perfumes than “Uncle Serge,” as he is affectionately known in the perfume community. His background tales are frequently a mix between some sort of romantic, whimsical Proustian or Zola-like saga, and Camus-influenced existential angst. They rarely, however, seem to actually encapsulate the feeling or scent of the perfume, in my opinion. And the brief synopsis of Boxeuses on the Lutens website is no exception:
Now’s the time to fight.
To get the idea, think of Russian leather tanned on birch bark.
Now add animalic notes, strong enough to suggest a black eye.
In other words, it’s time to see stars!
“Boxeuses” translates to women boxers in English, but I have to say that was the last thing that came to mind when I smelled the perfume. As for the notes, Serge Lutens almost never provides a list, so it’s a little bit of a guessing game as to what Boxeuses actually contains. Compiling the elements from Fragrantica, Surrender to Chance, and the Perfume Shrine, the list would seem to be:
Leather, licorice, birch tar, fruit, plum, violet, cedar, styrax, incense, spices, cade oil.
Boxeuses opens on my skin with a bouquet of notes that are so dark purple, they verge on black: plum molasses; violet cherry cola; black licorice; leathery, black fig compote; and sweet dried fruits topped by heaping dollops of prune over a richly resinous, smoky base. Birch tar is a huge part of that base with its tarry, smoky character. It’s a hard aroma to describe if you’ve never smelled it, especially as it’s quite different here from the way I’ve encountered it before. It’s not mentholated, not like eucalyptus, not like diesel, not like rubber, and not chilly — and, yet, it almost feels like all of it. It never seems like pure leather to me but, rather, like extremely gooey, black, resinous molasses, filled with a dark, pungent, almost sharp smoke that has a diesel-like undertone to it. The molasses smells like the thickest concentration of stewed prunes, plums and black figs. I have no idea if black figs are actually in Boxeuses, but something about that sticky foundation smells like the grainy, densely sweet, slightly spiced, slightly leathered, earthy aspects of thick, Black Mission fig jam.
The real key to Boxeuses, however, comes from the birch tar and cade elements in conjunction with that fruit. As the Perfume Shrine explains in an article on ingredients often used in leather perfumes, birch tar has a very smoky, tarry, phenolic character and was frequently used by Russian or Finnish tanneries to treat leather. It’s a key part of leather perfumes like the legendary Chanel classic, Cuir de Russie. Cade oil comes from juniper trees and has the aroma of a smoky campfire. Those two notes combine with the fruit to create what I can only describe as a jammy-fruited-molasses tar with black smoke and, also, a hugely liqueured edge. It’s as if every dark fruit in the world had been cooked in and then soaked in a wood-infused casket of vodka, cognac and smoky tar, then left to seep and age for 75 years. Sadly, I think I’m still not doing justice to its particular and unusual nuance in Boxeuses.
Five minutes into the perfume’s development, the leather aspect starts to rise a little from the depths of that smoky, fruity, dark molasses base. It’s never a cold, raw, harsh leather; nothing about it feels black or steely. This is a fruit-soaked, jammy leather tinged with church incense and backed by dark woods. It’s beautiful and, oddly, conjured up Rasputin in my mind. Perhaps it’s the mental association of church frankincense with birch tar — an element so often used to treat the leather boots of Imperial Tsarist officers’ boots — and Cuir de Russie. Whatever the reason, the image which comes to mind is Rasputin, wandering around a birch forest in the snow outside a luxurious Russian dacha. He is followed by women trying to serve him sweet, stewed fruit or to cover him with a leather coat. His clothes reek of church incense and smoke, and he’s completely drunk on some dark fruit liqueur which makes him stumble and lose his way amidst the sea of trees. I grant you, it’s not what I’m suppose to imagine with Boxeuses but, despite all the fruit at the base of the perfume, Boxeuses has a very strong feel of the outdoors and winter, of snow and Russian forests, of campfire smoke and sharp incense.
Twenty minutes in, the perfume shifts a little. Black licorice becomes more prominent, flickering tongues of salt over the campfire flames whose smokiness has increased even more. The dried fruits and the always subtle leather nuance have receded to the background, working their magic from afar and with indirect impact, and leaving the tarry birch woods, church incense and salty black licorice to duke it out at center court. At the forty minute mark, the three are still the most prominent notes, though I somehow smell a salty beeswax element as well.
Then, suddenly, exactly one hour in, Boxeuses suddenly becomes abstract: the notes all morph into one vague, generalized soft accord without a hugely distinctive, individualized character. There is still salty black licorice flickering but now, it’s in the distance along with much else. The perfume feels as though it’s muted and seen through a foggy veil where the overall impression is of very amorphous dark woods with smoke, licorice and some vaguely fruited-molasses elements. Part of the problem is Boxeuses’ sillage on my skin. It’s soft from the start and, on both occasions where I tested the perfume, it started to hover just barely above the skin between the 40 minute and 1 hour marks. It’s such a soft fragrance, it feels abstract. Even during the second test where I applied substantially more, Boxeuses became nondescript quite quickly and much sooner than I had expected. The notes feel so translucent, despite their underlying purple hue, that they lack any distinctiveness.
And that never changed for the rest of Boxeuses’ limited duration on my skin. Two hours in, the perfume turns into abstract licorice woods. There is still a hint of birch in the background; it’s enough to infuse the licorice note with smoke and to make it take on a slightly burnt aspect. Nonetheless, it feels as though Boxeuses is starting to slowly die on my skin. It gives a few gasps during the third hour, almost like a second wind before death: the jammy, dark, pruney-fig molasses note reappears, joining the smoked licorice element and bringing amber along as a companion. Then, just barely after the fourth hour, Boxeuses gives its final hiccup. It is barely ambered, smoked woods — and nothing more. The exact duration of Boxeuses on my skin in the two tests was: 3 hours and 50 minutes with an average dose; and 4 hours and 30 minutes with a large dose.
Boxeuses’ structure consistently calls to mind a very badly cut sandwich. The top and the bottom — the “bread,” if you will — consist of the plummy-stewed-liqueured-dark molasses. The middle of the sandwich is all black “meat”: black birch tar, black frankincense smoke, and black, salty licorice. The top piece of bread is thick; the bottom one is sliced so thin as to be flimsy and translucent. Separating the “bread” from the “meat” is some sort of layer that brings in elements of both parts. Perhaps we can call it a “mayonnaise” which mixes part of the dark fruited molasses with elements of smoke and birch. It’s the overlap area, if you will, which takes place immediately after the thick opening minutes of liqueured molasses and, also, at the very end when the molasses returns. It may not be the most on-point or perfect analogy, but it’s what comes to mind when I think of the perfume’s evolution.
As you may have gathered, I found Boxeuses to be fascinating, but something about it didn’t sweep me off my feet, even apart from the sillage and longevity issues. To me, Boxeuses was always more of an intriguing intellectual construct. Yet, given the notes, I really should have loved it. For one thing, unlike some very intellectual Lutens creations that I’ve reviewed (like Tubereuse Criminelle, for example), Boxeuses is imminently wearable. I’m not too sure of how versatile it is all year-round, particularly in light of the very cold weather, snowy, winter feel of it, but on the Lutens scale of versatility, this is somewhere in the middle. Not as practical or versatile as my beloved Chergui or the cozy Five O’ Clock au Gingembre, but also not as distinctive as the difficult Tubereuse Criminelle, the rich, patchouli-chocolate Borneo 1834, or the complicated Serge Noire. For me, it falls somewhere in that middle category with De Profundis and Cuir Mauresque. Yet, Boxeuses doesn’t move or interest me anywhere close to those last two perfumes which are huge Lutens favorites of mine. Boxeuses is nice and quite enjoyable, but, at the end of the day, it didn’t really rock my world. It never tugged at me while I was wearing it or make me think, “Wow.” It also didn’t have a huge, lingering effect afterwards where I’d continue to think of the scent days or weeks later.
I’m sorry, Uncle Serge. Please forgive me. I will always be a devout, loyal member of your fan club.
Great review, dear Kafka! As you know, I’m a fan and pretty soon, my precious (plus one other) will be in my hot little hands. Your description is spot on, down to its “in-betweenness” — neither heavy nor light/anemic. It is sweet but not cloyiing, and the leather is smooth and not animalic at all. In terms of best season to wear, my hoarded Barneys sample worked well in the Fall and Spring when temperatures were warm to cool. (And I am very happy that this doesn’t contain your kryptonite!)
Your “Precious”…. LOL! I always laugh at how you found yourself a perfume mule to ferry back your beloved Boxeuses from France. I’m actually a wee bit jealous, since the De Profundis tempts me so much and the mark-up for the “Exclusives” over here is so much. What is your other one that you’re getting?
As for the “In-betweenness”: I’d actually meant it in terms of the scale/range of approachability, friendliness and versatility; something like Chergui or Five o’ Clock Au Gingembre are very easy and could be worn every day. Tubereuse Criminelle is a thorny one and…. well, not quite as friendly across the board, while something like the Serge Noire is also not quite as easy for everyone to wrap their heads around. That said, you’re right that Boxeuses is in-between in terms of weight, too. And yes, that leather is incredibly smooth. I actually was surprised to get so little of it. I’d expected more than a subtle nuance, but the birch tar note was much more woody/smoky/tarry on me than actual leather.
Speaking of my “kryptonite,” I think that’s one reason why I love Serge Lutens fragrances so much. They’re always high-quality and smell like really good perfume, and they NEVER have ISO E Super. His famous “Feminité du Bois” for Shiseido is loaded with it (which is why I stay away), but none of the ones for his own line that I’ve reviewed thus far have ISO E Super. I could kiss Christopher Sheldrake and “Uncle Serge” for that! lol
A suggestion should be made for sticker on the box reading, “Iso E Super-Free!” 🙂
Love it….may be a Iso E S in a circle with a slash through it!
Haha! Yes 🙂
I would seriously pay perfumers to put such a sticker on their boxes!! 😛
The “+1” is mumblemumblebecauseitwasadaringunsniffedpurchase. Hint: It is definitely NOT Tubereuse Criminelle <– this one is VILE, VILE I tell you.
HA! “Vile,” not once but twice and in all caps, en plus! Hilarious. Well, you certainly aren’t alone in thinking that. I’m dying of curiousity about other Bell Jar exclusif. I bet it’s some of the jammy, fruity ones? You know what has *always* caught my eye? The Mandarin one. I once saw a photo of a special, limited-edition bell jar version of that one and my jaw dropped!
Sounds exactly like my type of perfume, woody, wintery, with incense notes like the ones you would get from an Orthodox or Byzantine church, and deep powerful fruity smell, alongside with some leather. Sounds like something I would really love, I need a commercial perfume similar to this the description talks to me 😀 .
VickyM, you’d love this, my dear! From what little I know of your perfume tastes thus far, I think you’d find it fascinating and very appealing. I only wish there were something comparable out there in the commercial world. Serge Lutens fragrances are known for their distinctiveness (and, yes, that intellectual approach helps), as well as for how very unique they are. The European “Exclusives” line perhaps most of all. It’s pretty frustrating for a lot of people that the Exclusives are so highly marked up in price outside of Paris, but I guess we should be lucky to be able to get them at all. For a while, they were totally “Non-Export” and limited to just his Paris salon. That’s why a friend of mine who loves this perfume got someone to act as a perfume mule for her and to bring it back from Paris where it’s hugely cheaper.
I too, am a hard core devotee of Uncle Serge. Nothing I have tested of his has left me cold. I rise up challenged and excited by every scent I have tried. He fills my perfume cabinet more fully than any other house. My dream is to visit his place in Paris to smell every thing he has ever created. ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Uncle Serge” totally has groupies!! LOL. That road trip? I’d gladly do it! We’d have to bring along one of my closest friends who is obsessed with both Serge Lutens fragrances and with the man herself. She’s joked that she’d like to go to Morocco where he hides out most of the time and find a way to scale the walls of his villa so she can meet him. At least, I think she’s joking…. 😉 Seriously, I don’t think there is a Serge Lutens fragrance that she doesn’t like. She ordered a Bell Jar of Tubereuse Criminelle unsniffed and with only the description of “Return the Flowers to Evil” to go by. A bloody Bell Jar! *grin*
On the issue of Boxeuses, have you tried it? If so, did you love it? What is your favorite Uncle Serge fragrance, by the way?
Oh my word. Totally count me in on that road trip. I’ll even help your friend scale the walls! 🙂 The Lutens/Sheldrake duo is hands down the most creative, artistic, revolutionary perfumers of all time. Yes, I am obsessed. I’m actually wearing Boxeuses today. I had tried it at the Palais last December but they only dab you with a slip of paper dipped into the jar, so basically I had to come back to the States and order a sample in order to get an idea of what it smelled like. Too much smoke for me, but I’m still blown away by Lutens manipulation of the ingredients.
I’m SO glad to come across another hardcore Lutens/Sheldrake fan! But you may have a fight on your hands if you try to get in my friend’s way in her wild dash to Uncle Serge once she is up and over that wall….. 😉 lol. You know what I love far, far more than Boxeuses? Fille en Aiguilles. Absolutely STUNNING, and one of my favorite Lutens. Really, really fabulous. Great smoke, but also much more as well. And it is a very different sort of smokiness than Boxeuses because it doesn’t have the birch tar that dominates Boxeuses’ opening. That may be what you’re struggling with, in fact. The birch tar.
I happened to have just tested this one the other day (I am on a SL kick recently). I completely agree that even when I don’t love one of his scents I can always appreciate it. This was one of those that I found completely unique and unusual. I didn’t immediately love it but, it did keep me coming back again and again to smell it. I will have to give it another try, especially after reading this. I didn’t know much about birch tar – thanks for the lesson!
Birch Tar is one of the coolest, most interesting, unusual ingredients, in my opinion, and I wish more perfumers would use it. You can find it in Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories and in the slightly similar Ambra by Santa Maria Novella, the 800 year old Italian house established by Dominican friars. Birch tar usually has a very mentholated, chilly, almost eucalyptus-like character, mixed with smoke, tar and woods. Here, however, it is completely turned on its head and transformed by the fruit to become something really unusual, I think. It’s handled beautifully and with enormous delicacy, I think. (It’s far from being so delicate in Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories where it creates a very rubbery, diesel-like smell at first before it finally relaxes and mellows out.) I think the fact that most perfumers don’t use birch tar and its inclusion in Boxeuses is why so many people find the perfume to be fascinatingly different and unusual. It’s a very, VERY loved Lutens fragrance! You’ll have to let me know if you end up falling for it hard. 🙂 xoxox
Andy Tauer also used birch tar in the super limited Dark Passage and I love it as well as Boxeuses!
It is also in Le Labo Patchouli 24 but there it is rubbery and overtakes everything.
I’ve been meaning to send you some of this perfume along in the surprise perfume package but when I reached for my sample I was surprised. I though I had ad least a half of the content more but I was mistaken. There was too little to split it in two. But I’m glad you got it the other way.
As for the scent – it definitely doesn’t catch my heart. I think neither of Lutens scent does it for me. Those scents are more like artwork in an art gallery rather than things I would wear. But I still hope to find a few I would actually enjoy on my skin (there are two so far)
The uniqueness (and, yes, that particularly intellectual approach of Serge Lutens to perfume making) definitely makes a number of people consider them almost more like art than wearable, daily perfumery. Tubereuse Criminelle is a big example of that. But I think that unique approach, that distinctiveness, that unusual bent, the many layers, the sophistication and, again, the very intellectual approach is why I love Lutens so much. It’s definitely one of my favorite perfume houses, even when I can’t wear one of his perfumes. I admire ALL of them — and “Uncle Serge” himself — so, so much. Some of them verge on total genius, if you ask me.
I know you struggle with Lutens as a line but it’s my hope that, one day, down the line, you’ll find a few you love. His range is so massive (50+, I think?), that there is bound to be a few. I truly think you haven’t tried the ones that would be better matches for your perfume style and tastes. I think you’d enjoy Chergui a LOT! Five O’ Clock Au Gingembre with its lovely, cozy, ginger, milky tea notes would work great for you too. Un Bois Vanillé might be huge love. De Profundis would be a hit as well. Sa Majesté La Rose may be a little *too* much rose for you and not as much your cup of tea as the other cozy 3 and the floral De Profundis, but that would probably work too. So, those are 4 definites right there for you, and one maybe. And that’s totally apart from Boxeuses which Hajusuuri, your perfume twin, adores. (And your other perfume twin, Undina, has De Profundis as perhaps her favorite Lutens.) You should totally try those. With your personal perfume tastes, you need to stay away from the complicated, troublesome, more artsy, intellectual ones like Tubereuse Criminelle or the ones like Borneo 1834 which is based on patchouli, one of the notes you don’t like.
In my early perfumista hood I was unlucky to put my note on both Borneo 1834 and Tubereuse Criminelle. That’s a traumatic memory.
Dear Scent Twin Lucas, Tubereuse Criminelle = shudder. It is a very difficult perfume but I torture myself every time I go to Barneys and ask to smell it, hoping that one day I will fall head over heels in love with it. Alas, I had never bothered asking for a sample to take home and test and it is now permanently off my sniff list.
Glad to hear my perfume sibiling can’t stand it either. Love you!
Kafka, I thoroughly enjoyed your review – and thought your analogy to Rasputin wandering around in the birch forest, followed by women trying to feed him stewed fruit and warm him with a leather coat, was quite a good one for this very unique perfume. Yes, I can see that! I love this fragrance. It sometimes gives me a rash when I wear it, yet I wear it anyway. 🙂
I’m so glad you enjoyed the review, my dear Suzanne, and that you thought the analogy worked. (I only just barely stopped myself from inserting a YouTube video of Boney M singing “Rasputin”…. LOL! 😉 ) I think it’s the birch tar that makes Boxeuses smell so unique. As I was telling someone else in the comments, I wish more perfumers would use it because it definitely imparts a special flavour and character. That said, it’s handled very differently here than on those few occasions where I’ve previously encountered it. (Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer, and the slightly similar Ambra by Santa Maria Novella.) I wonder if it’s the birch tar that gives you a slight rash when you wear Boxeuses. 🙁 It’s the first time that I’ve heard that about the perfume and it must suck. I’m so sorry.
You had me at Rasputin! Thank you for the great review. You really got me into the fragrance from top to bottom of the sandwich. I found it to be indeed a fascinating journey that is going to lead me straight to Barney’s to take a whiff. I realized in reading this that I need to explore Serge Lutens more than I have. But there is so much out there to smell I get overwhelmed sometimes.
I adore the Lutens line and it’s truly one of my favorite perfume houses! I hope you explore more of it because I think you’d be impressed, my dear Lanier. As for Barney’s, let me know if they have it over there in San Francisco. I’ve always had the impression that the Lutens “European Exclusives” are only at the New York Barney’s, but I’d like to be mistaken. But, while you’re there, *please* give Cuir Mauresque a sniff and, if they have it (because it’s another “European Exclusive”) De Profundis as well. I think De Profundis might knock your socks off! Those two are both perfumes that I want to buy, with Cuir Mauresque being my next purchase, I think. I think the floral twist on slightly musky, barely animalic leather would really appeal to your personal tastes. And, of course, there is always Chergui which is perhaps the most popular, friendly, versatile Lutens perfume and one of the biggest sellers. (I succumbed to a bottle of that one myself.)
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Loved the review Kafka, and the analogy with Rasputin and the sandwich 🙂 I haven’t tested Boxeuses yet, but I certainly will next time I’m in Barney’s NY. Lutens is one of my favorite fragrance houses and I have to sniff them all lol! I wanna get De Profundis next. xoxx
I want De Profundis too! I’ll probably get Cuir Mauresque next though, given the accessibility/availability/cost issues for De Profundis for me. Please sniff the Cuir Mauresque one too, next time you’re at Barney’s. With regard to Boxeuses, I wonder how its sillage and longevity would be on your skin, since you share some of my problems in that respect. As for Lutens, you should join a few of us on our planned roadtrip to go kidnap “Uncle Serge” and make him hang out with us over tea and perfume. lol. 😛
That would be splendid! Lets plan the road trip soon so we can meet Uncle Serge! How exciting that would be?!?! 🙂
I wanted to ask you if you get any similarities of De Profundis and TF Black Violet? I wore them once side by side and I think they have similar vibe. Hmmm….
I actually haven’t tried the Black Violet yet as I never sniff something, even in the vial, until I’m ready to review. That way, I won’t have initial mis-impressions or fleeting preconceptions impact my assessment. That said, I was going to test either the Italian Cypress or the Black Violet (that you so, SO generously sent me) this week, and I was leaning more towards Italian Cypress until you said there may be similarities with De Profundis. Now I’m DEFINITELY going to opt for Black Violet instead. LOL. I will let you know what I think, even though it may be Friday when the review comes up. xoxox
I never bothered to look at this one. Maybe the name just didn’t sound good to me. But birch tar, leather, licorice, and spices? That sounds good. The exclusive part is problematic. There are plenty of other perfumes I want to try that are easier to come by. Great review.
I share your frustration at the exclusive part, too. For most of the Lutens line. But, if you always really love it, people do seem to split it every now and then. Still, I realise it’s a huge pain but, if you ever put in a StC order, it may be worth ordering a small vial to sniff and see. 🙂
Boxeuses is one of my all-time favorite leather scents. I think the only reason why I don’t own a bottle is that the mark-up in the US makes me too mad. I’ll get me a perfume mule one of these days 🙂
On a side note, I knew a bartender who was gifted with one of Uncle Serge’s books by the man himself. This bartender didn’t have any idea who he was. Probably for the best. If it were me, I would have done all kinds of embarrassing things in an effort to sniff him!
Oh My God, I’d totally die to get a book from Serge Lutens. I wonder what it was? He’s so damn well-read, it could be anything. I know he shares my love for Baudelaire’s poetry, though. But forget the book, I’d just want to pet him! LOL. 😛 In terms of his smell, I’m pretty sure he wears “Serge Noire” almost nonstop. I think that was the one I’d read about and mentioned in one of my reviews. He doesn’t wear perfume often, but when he does, it’s Serge Noire. I’ll have to check my review of that one again. But seriously, wouldn’t it be cool if Serge Lutens actually *was* your uncle? He’d be the coolest one ever. He sounds like a total hoot. There is an English journalist who once commented on one of my reviews (for La Fille de Berlin, I think) who met him and had tea in his inner sanctum above the Palais Royal store. She said he’s beyond charming, a huge flirt (he’s apparently NOT gay), has the best sense of humour, and has all the super-chic French sales ladies adoringly hovering around him like butterflies to care solicitously for his every need.
Oh, I guess I should talk about the perfume…. um… right, Boxeuses. Heh. Yes, very pretty and very unusual. How is the sillage/longevity on your skin?
Boxeuses lasted for a long time! As much mileage as the rest of the line on my skin.
As for that bartender, he’s very nice and a very curious person. The book in question was Uncle Serge’s own Berlin à`Paris, I think. Lucky score!
I have no excuse for not being here lately. You transport me with your writing. Thank you! jean yates
You’re very kind. Thank you, Jean, for your sweet words. I hope you’re having a good summer! 🙂
I had a few similar struggles as you – although I must admit I don’t find it nearly as interesting as your review. It’s not bad, but I just don’t love it. I have similar troubles with this as I have with Knize, that it’s a bit too abrasive and rubbery for me, I think. I think your review indicated a greater complexity to the perfume than I could smell with my own nose, which may be part of the reason it didn’t win me over. I suppose I’m just very specific about the types of leathers that work for me. I love the smell of leather, but only some leather perfumes really, truly evoke leather for me – with some of them the smell is closer to rubber than leather to me.
Interesting. I thought the sillage/longevity may be an issue for you, but not the birch tar. After all, you adore Cuir de Russie and you also own Lonestar Memories where it truly *is* rubbery and diesel-like. Given the reference to Knize Ten, I wonder if you don’t like birch tar when it’s infused with boozy or fruity elements? Then again, Lonestar Memories is rubbery birch tar with sticky orange, so….. okay, I’m stumped. LOL.
I love your sandwich analogy and when I was reading about your dark molasses fruit like stew my mouth was watering. However the birch tar and leather…not so much. I’ll have to check this out next time I see it at the store but I am thinking this is not for me. As always a wonderful review my dear.
The thing about the birch tar here is that it’s very different from the rubbery, diesel-like birch tar in perfumes like Lonestar Memories. Here, it’s an incredibly smoky note — more like cade, really. And the leather is very, very soft. Much softer than the leather in the Cuir Mauresque which I love, where it’s slightly animalic, musky, honeyed. Here, the note was very minor and fleeting on me, and subtle even when it was there. (The softness is probably why Hajusuuri is so in love with Boxeuses, as she doesn’t like harsh or animalic leather.) The primary feel was smoky woods with the molasses and licorice. So, I think it’s definitely worth a sniff if you’re at Barney’s and have access to it. Let me know what you think if you do. 🙂
I shall my dear.
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Loved the review (you created great images to describe the perfume) 🙂
I have a dual relationship with Boxeuses: I think I like it but sometimes when I first put it on it seems too sweet… but then it calms down and I enjoy it (for many hours!). But I don’t think I’ll need more than my small decant.
I’m so glad that it lasts on your skin, but I’m surprised to hear a little ambivalence in your voice over the scent. I have that same thing where I like it, but something — just something indescribable — holds me back right at the edge. I don’t know what it is or why. I would have thought that, given how we’re so close to being scent *opposites,* Boxeuses would have been huge, massive love for you. I guess this is one of those rare times where we almost feel the same way! 😀 😛
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I like licorice about as much as you like lavender, but I was pleasantly surprised with the note in the opening. I think the fruits tempered the licorice smell somewhat & gave the opening that purple/black feel that you described so well. I only smelled a soft, candied leather when I turned my nose into a vacuum cleaner & inhaled deep & long, so it was definitely a fruity licorice dominant fragrance throughout.
The sillage was very, very soft on my skin as was the longevity (big disappointment) I kept thinking that I needed to re-apply so that I could find that damn leather note! Boxeuses is not Cuir Mauresque, but it’s really nice, especially as it warms up in the drydown. I guess that’s the birch tar at work.
Although this isn’t a “love” for me, it definitely makes me want to continue smelling more Serge Lutens perfumes. Based on my reaction to this one, I think I’ll try Chergui before Daim Blond. It was lots of fun to read your great review while I wore Boxeuses.
What was the longevity like on your skin and how much did you apply, Ed? I think you’re right in noting that the leather is covered by the licorice, plummed fruits in the opening stages. The leather is there but not as dominant — intentionally so, I suspect.
The longevity was ok, but it became a skin scent within 3 hours, more or less. I used 3 generous sprays at first, but repeated the process 4 hours later (about the same time it gave its’ final “hiccup” on your skin that you described. LOL). I enjoyed wearing it, but it’s much too understated for me, but it’s a unique (to me) scent & different from my other perfumes.
The best part about the Boxeuses experiment is that it made me very eager to try more SL fragrances. My experiences are so hit or miss that it’s almost like gambling when I try a new SL, I have “hit the jackpot” (Fourreau Noir, Une Voix Noire, Cuir M, Jeux D P) a few times.
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