Parfumerie Generale is one of the collections of renowned nose, Pierre Guillaume, to our minds one of the best in the business. It was launched in 2010, so has been around for a little while now. It is described as a unisex fragrance, however, it tends towards the more stereotypically feminine end of the spectrum (please don’t let that put you off though if you are a man who likes the smell).
I’d like to pause here to talk briefly about the methods we employ at The Sniff, in order to write a review. The main thing I want to stress here is that we don’t look up anything about the perfume before testing it and that includes the notes listed for the perfume. The reason for doing that is we want to come to the perfume unbiased by what we think we should be detecting, rather than what the perfume actually smells like; the knowledge would cloud the experience. With that in mind, I was very pleasantly surprised when, after writing extensive notes on Bois Naufrage, I began my research.
Pierre Guillaume took his inspiration for this perfume from a photograph by Lucien Clergue entitled “Naked in Driftwood” (link is not entirely safe for work, but it’s art so use your discretion!). My honest to goodness notes for what this perfume smells of include “breezes off the sea, playful, sensual, naked skin, light woods”. In other words, it smells exactly like you would imagine from that picture. And that’s really, really clever!
There’s something wonderfully cerebral about trying to describe a scent using words, that in itself is trying to describe a visual image, which itself describes a moment in time.
Ok, I’ll stop.
The initial burst of this perfume is light, delicate florals like tulip and peony – that end of the spectrum – nothing heavy, there’s a definite hit of light, warm wood and a green, almost gourmand-like note. It reminded me of the scent of rain on foliage. Subsequent research instructs that this is fig, but it isn’t the sticky, heavy fruit scent, or the overly green scent that normally comes with fig-based perfumes. Yes there is a green touch to it, but it’s so lightly done that it’s reminiscent of the scent of foliage brought on the breeze. If you don’t normally like fig scents, then definitely don’t be put off by its inclusion here.
The heart of this perfume is foliage after a rainstorm, not quite petrichor – it’s softer than that – but wet leaves and flower buds, it’s transparent, warm and floral and it never strays into cloying. As I smelt it, I immediately thought of walking out into the garden after an early Summer shower and sniffing the peony buds that grow there.
In the base of this perfume there is a fresh, almost vegetal type scent, very subtly, like the smell on someone’s skin when they have been outside in the fresh air all day. There’s sea breezes coming through here too, a mineral accord. The freshness is held in balance by the gentle florals and the very end of the perfume is almost powdery. It reminded me very much of clean skin after a shower.
This perfume oozes elegance and class. It’s confident without shouting. It’s sexy without being brash or vulgar, it’s green without being over the top, it’s floral without being ‘old lady’. It’s definitely a subtle perfume, but like many things that are truly beautiful, it’s simplicity is deceptive and it draws the wearer in.
The other stuff
If you are going to wear this perfume then I would definitely suggest eliminating things like scented body lotion and strong fabric detergents or it will be overpowered and you risk losing that sexy, suggestive edge that it has. That said, it’s an incredibly easy perfume to wear being light, airy, and transparent. It’s a great perfume for people who like the warmth of florals but find them typically too heavy in commercial scents. Bois Naufrage would be best worn in Spring and Summer when the warmth of your own skin will allow it to shine.
The longevity of this scent is moderate – it was still detectable at lunch. I can completely understand, however, that to add anything else to it to prolong that longevity would upset the beautiful subtle creation that Pierre Guillaume has brought about.
If you like this scent you may also want to check out Pluie de Soleil by Phaedon.