Saturday, February 6, 2010

F. Millot Bois Precieux Precious Wood Perfume

Millot Parfums was established in 1836 by Felix Millot. An early success of theirs was a scented product called La Pomade a la Graisse D'Ours (Bear's Fat Pomade). Millot went on to mature into a well-respected perfume house, garnering many exhibition medals and a lengthy portfolio of unique and original perfume compositions beginning in 1900 and ending in the late 1950's. The company was sold to Revillon perfumes in 1963. Throughout the 1920's Felix's grandson Jean Desprez ran the house quite successfully. Under his auspices Millot gained a reputation for avant-garde productions, supported in part by his liberal use of humor in their advertising campaigns (from Nigel Groom's New Perfume Handbook)


(image via cgi.ebay)
Among the earliest references for the perfumes of Millot's is 1912's Les Lauriers d'Aigle (The Laurels of the Eagles). Fougere, Giroflee Simple, Jaspiz-Jaspiz, Le Bon Oeillet, L'insolent, Muguet d'Argent, , Roi de Trefle are just a few of the many undated but early Millot releases which caught my eye. There are probably three times more that I'm too lazy to type out... And as we know from the exampl s of other early 20th century French houses, probably there are additional, rare and as yet unlisted creations by F.Millot yet to come back into light. (Perfumes of F. Millot via perfumeintelligence).

(image: hprints)
Verabella 1935; Regard 1939; Insolent 1947 - which looks to be an early example targeted exclusively to the newly created 'youth market'; Revelry 1948; Joyeuse Nuit 1948; Revelry Joyeuse Nuit (an early flanker or typo?); Chere Madame 1949; Tananga 1951; Impertinence 1953; and Ganteline 1959, are some of the rare dated Millot releases that we scarcely see examples of today in bottle or advertising.
(image: hprints)
Crepe de Chine, a classic floral chypre (in the style of the mid 20th century) created by Jean Desprez in 1925 remains the star of all F. Millot offerings. Much later Jean Desprez went on to create the fabulous oriental perfume Bal a Versailles (1962). Crepe de Chine was released at the 1925 Paris Exposition Des Arts Décoratifs along with a number of other iconic 20th century perfumes which all debuted together. Among the perfumes featured there was Jean Patou's famous 'Love Story Trilogy' which includes one of my favorite vintage jasmine themed perfumes, Amour Amour. And there was also a little something from Guerlain, called Shalimar, which was introduced there on that very same day as well. You may recall I also wrote about Godet, who won a gold medal for one of their perfume entries at the same exhibit, which famously opened in Paris on June 6 of 1925.
(image: hprints)
According to Jean Kerleo, Crepe de Chine was the very first perfume reproduced for the Osmotheque in France. Crêpe de Chine has top notes of bergamot, lemon, neroli, and orange; a heart of jasmine, rose, lilac, ylang ylang, and carnation; and a base of oak moss, vetiver, benzoin, labdanum, patchouli, musk, and leather- (via Edwin Morris's book). Perfume Intelligence lists it as having top notes of bergamot, lemon, neroli and orange with heart notes of jasmine, rose and clove-pink on base notes of oak moss, vetiver, labdanum, patchouli and musk.


                                                                 (image: cgi ebay)
Bois Precieux is an undated release as far as I can find. It first appears in F. Millot history in advertisements along the side of Crepe de Chine beginning in 1939, along with Recital (1939) and Altitude (1938) among others. I obtained the 1/4 ounce sealed parfum version complete in a pink ribbed paper box stamped with F. Millot's logo, a cartouche of a framed, stylized gold long stemmed rose with four leaves. The bottle itself is fairly plain, stepped sided with a round smoked glass stopper without the daubber that was included on the larger sized presentation. It seems certain the example I have is 1930-1940 vintage. I decided to cut the cord on this small beauty after holding on to it for a while- some unknown hesitation made me think perhaps I wanted to sell it unopened. But ultimately I decided to keep Bois Precieux.
(image: eurofinegifts_eay)
For one thing, I find myself swept along with the recent vogue for woody scents. Estee Lauder's Sensuous Woods is one of the most recent examples of a mainstream release with a big advertising push that capitalizes on the trend of wood based scents. Perfumes from the woods family are usually typified as soft, warm and aromatic. Woods used in perfumery are diverse but traditionally includes sandalwood, cedar wood , black and white spruce, guaiacwood, and fir. Galbanum is related, being the resin derived from the ferula plant (a large umbellifer), frankincense is a resin from the Boswellia species of shrubby trees and myrrh derives from the tree Commiphora myrrha. The resinous materials derived from wood were traditionally meant to be burned as incense. Donna Karan's Essence Wenge, Guerlain's Vol de Nuit, L Artisan Parfumeur D'Zing and Keiko Mecheri's Oliban are a few outstanding classic and modern examples of the genre.
F. Millot's vintage version is decidedly rarer but not completely impossible to possess. I became enamoured of the idea of Bois Precieux because of the growing scarcity of precious woods, primarily Sandalwood, used in fine perfumery. Sandalwood is a parasitic tree; it obtains nutrients from several other plant species and takes thirty years or so to mature enough to be harvested for use. Due to its limited supply, the price of sandalwood has been going up about 25% each year for the past several years (Source: Eden Botanicals). It has become so rare that it is routinely poached, leading to the decimation of much of the dwindling wild crops. Compounding the issue is its presence as an IFA banned substance. That and the recent development of several artificial substitutes, means that fragrances made with real sandalwood aren't being produced anymore. So there is a very good chance that sandalwood based scents will have become extinct within my lifetime. It is also said that sandalwood is unparalleled as a fixative and that it improves substantially with age, so I felt a vintage perfume based on wood essences had a very good chance of surviving in good condition and I hoped it would be a well justified addition to my collection.

And what did I find once I decided to break the seal? First I am struck that it is a gracious perfume, truly belle epoque in style. Rich, warm, golden, satiny smooth, a scent akin to the mildest mellowest of musks with a powdery lingering and intense sillage. Serene and sophistocated, it envelops the wearer. EDIT: Sometimes I find when opening a perfume for the first time it requires some time ot breathe and 'open up'. With BP, on subsequent wearings I became aware of vetive rand rose notes I hadn't noticed at the very first sampling. And underneath, it rests on a smidge of it an intimate quality which serves as counterpoint to the  powdery facets and makes it easier to wear by vintage standards. Overall, I'm finding it is a lovely charactere and well worth the effort to obtain. (Robette Absinthe poster:

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

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