Chanel – Bois des Iles Parfum

Posted on July 24th, by What Men Should Smell Like in A - F, Oriental. 17 comments

Chanel Bois d'Iles

Bois des Iles is one of a number of legacy perfumes Ernest Beaux created during his time as Coco Chanel’s head perfumer. Along side the infamous No. 5, it is the stuff perfume legends are made of. Chanel raised Bois des Iles from the dead in 1989 and again as part of their Exclusifs de Chanel collection in 2007 where it is currently offered as an eau de toilette and parfum extrait. Created for Chanel in 1926, Bois des Iles not only feels like a scent of the era infamously known as the roaring twenties but the composition also has Chanel’s classic signature of aldehydes that were an integral part of Beaux’s successful No. 5 a few years earlier. I remember smelling Bois des Iles in 2005 after reading an article that described it as an inspiration for modern day Chanel perfumer, Jacques Polge. The article was in relation to my favourite Chanel masculine, Egoiste. Of course the two fragrances are not identical compositions but it is easy to see the connection between Beaux’s Bois des Iles, and Polge’s Egoiste, originally titled Bois Noir. I was merely curious to smell the scent I had read about and in 2005 I didn’t see it as a potential scent for me to wear. Back then a number of Chanel counters carried Bois des Iles and other revived classics that made up the Rue de Cambon Collection. The bottles were more inconspicuous on display compared to Chanel’s modern bread and butter; Chance and Coco Mademoiselle. Carrying these older classics felt more like a respectful gesture to the Chanel women who had been buying Chanel perfume for decades. It was their reward for years of loyalty to the brand. Had these clients known the collectability their vintage bottles would retain, they would have surely stocked up.  Today, modern perfume fans have developed a frenzied approach to collecting perfume from bygone years. Last week an Ebay auction for a sealed bottle of Robert Piguet’s Bandit parfum, first created in 1944, sold for US$953. Curiosity got the better of me and I too have dabbled in vintage perfumes on Ebay.  Whether the soaring popularity of vintage perfume is due to a fear that perfumes don’t smell the way they once did as restrictions on certain perfume materials increase, or because these days, some of perfume’s rarest materials cannot be produced in large enough quantities for a growing consumer culture; it is an interesting phenomenon. Nowadays a perfume discontinued only years ago, today benefits from being called vintage. And perfumes older than 40 years are tantamount to archaeologist Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. It’s a goldmine! After a few failed attempts at securing an Ebay sale for vintage Bois des Iles, I decided to go to Chanel and purchase a new one. Do I really not trust Chanel’s integrity and I need to find a bottle from all those years ago with the hope it will smell miraculously better than the one currently sold? – Of course not. Even with vintage perfume, you have to make a sacrifice. Sure, they do contain wonderfully complex raw materials no longer found in today’s perfumes. The nitromusks Beaux used in No. 5 have since been deemed unstable and although they smell wonderful, they had to be replaced. The trade-off of buying old perfume is that depending on its storage over the years, the top notes can often be in bad shape, either fading or rancid. The vintage perfume you are smelling is never the exact perfume your predecessors had the pleasure of smelling. So my opinion is- why not enjoy what the world provides you today. 2012’s Bois des Iles smells truly sublime!

Olfactory impressions:

Bois des Iles (parfum) starts with a brisk opening of fizzing aldehydes, bergamot and neroli. Perfume critic Tania Shanchez cleverly points out a cola-like effect the fragrance gives before it departs into more floral territory. One of the main reasons I purchased the parfum over the eau de toilette was for the increased amount of Chanel jasmine and rose I expected to find this in the extrait de parfum version and Chanel did not disappoint me. Paired with ylang-ylang this is the sibling of No. 5, which I love. Where Bois des Iles breaks away from No. 5 is with a rich oriental woodsy accord made from sandalwood, vetiver, benzoin and musk. It is an accord I think you find in varying amounts in many Chanel creations, but it is unbridled and let loose in Bois des Iles. The perfume melts down to become a sugary balsamic wood described by Chanel as gingerbread.

Suggested wearing:

I recommend the current eau de toilette version for modern men. If this 2007 eau de toilette has been reconstructed in any way, as I suspect it has, it feels as if some of the outdated notes have been striped away. Today’s version feels lighter, slightly more transparent. It has a modernity to it whilst maintaining all of the house’s historic codes. The parfum version is likely to be popular with fans of the great French classics. Whilst I can appreciate the beauty of the floral notes, some men could potentially think the parfum smells a little too ladylike. Another consideration is that Chanel parfum is less travel friendly with the traditional ground glass stopper. I would not put it in my toiletry bag, especially on a plane for fear of leakage. But there is something wonderful about dabbing a few drops of this precious liquid directly to skin instead of spraying from a larger bottle.


Chanel Bois Noir, Chanel Egoiste, Chanel No. 5 Parfum, Keiko Mecheri Bal de Roses, Guerlain Shalimar, Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois

Perfumer: Ernest Beaux

Bottle designer: Coco Chanel, Jacques Helleu, Jean Helleu

Release date: 1926

Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woody Oriental

17 responses to “Chanel – Bois des Iles Parfum”

  1. Ashley Marie says:

    I have a vintage bottle of Bois des Iles and I tried to sell it on Ebay with no avail. I assume I will keep it because it’s a gorgeous little bottle and I collect vintage Chanel items.

    • What Men Should Smell Like says:

      Why not keep it I say. Vintage Chanel items will never go out of style : )

    • Kristi says:

      Hi Ashley,
      Were you still interested in selling your vintage Bois des Iles? I have been looking for one but haven’t been able to find one.

  2. Alchemist says:

    Hey Clayton, I love your blog! Wonderful reviews, thank you for your great job! I’m a 21-year-old med school student, and I love Chanel pour monsieur, Eau Sauvage (classic EDT), and Coromandel. Unfortunately, I can’t test Bois des Iles before buying. Do you think it’s wort blind buying? I know it’s kind of difficult to say, but I’d love to hear your opinion!

    • What Men Should Smell Like says:

      Thanks for reading! It is hard to say whether you should blindly purchase but I would say there is a lot of respect for Bois des Iles. Last week I was reading a passage written by the great perfumer, Edmond Roudnitska who created Eau Sauvage. He comments on the genius of Chanel’s Ernest Beaux and he goes on to say that although No. 5 is cleverly marketed, it is Bois des Iles that is Beaux’s best composition. Not knowing you, I can’t say for sure, but I think a blind purchase of Bois des Iles is much less riskier than many other fragrances out there. Or you could buy a sample from one of the many decant stores online such as Surrender to Chance or The Perfumed Court. Good luck! Clayton

      • Alchemist says:

        Wow, thank your very much for replying so quickly! :-) Alright, I’ll try to get a sample, but in Germany that’s a little complicated.

        Once again: it’s a pleasure to read you!

        • What Men Should Smell Like says:

          My pleasure! Ah Germany- yes I have heard the postal system does not like perfumes, which is a shame. Hopefully you can find a way or you travel soon enough to go to a Chanel boutique.

  3. Natalie says:

    I have such respect for this perfume. Thanks for the in-depth look at it.

  4. lucasai says:

    Bois des Iles is one of my favourite from Les Exclusifs de Chanel range. I’ve got a spray sample of and EDT version, sent to me by a generous friend (who also sent me sample of all other Chanel Les Exclusifs) I find it quite sophisticated, modern and definitely elegant blend of aldehydes, neroli and toned woods. Gorgeous scent!
    Drop by Chemist in the Bottle pal, I haven’t seen you lately 😉

  5. laniersmith says:

    Save your purchase of Cuir de Russie for PARIS!!! I am still kicking myself that when I was in Paris in 2005 I did not go in to Chanel when I walked past in on Rue de Cambon. I would buy the parfum if I were you, I mean why not? (I have the EDT and it lasts quite a while but still why not go all the way?)
    Yes I have read The Secret of Chanel No.5 and loved every moment of that incredible story. I am now reading The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr and that is leading me to want to read the books by Jean-Claude Ellena.
    I too have pictures in my mind assciated with fragrances. One of the funniest is a certain shampoo called Big Hair. When I smell it I am transported to Rome. It was a shampoo I bought there because I forgot to bring mine on the trip. I kept buying the shampoo with the stupid name just to be reminded of Rome. Now they don’t make it anymore so I have to go back to Rome to by something else. In the meantime…my hair needs a wash!

  6. laniersmith says:

    Yet again you present us with another brilliantly written review. You really do impress with your research, knowledge and light flair with the keyboard. Lovely! As for Chanel Bois des Iles Parfum, it is at the top of my list with Sycamore and Coromandel. I have the Cuir de Russie (I may have mentioned this before) and I could bathe in it…just that wonderful.

    • Thanks for reading Lanier. I love the history of Chanel. It’s such a rich story to tell. Have you read the Secret of Chanel No. 5 by Tildar J Mazzeo? This was one of a few books I read that really inspired me to know more about Chanel’s history of perfume.

      I love Sycamore also. I bought it in Chanel’s Soho boutique in Manhattan. It still reminds me of that holiday when I wear it. I’ve been putting off a purchase of Cuir de Russie until my next trip to Paris. Maybe I’m being overly sentimental but I want to buy it at the Rue de Cambon boutique. Whenever I wear a new perfume, whatever I am doing or where ever I am for the first few weeks of wearing it is the mental picture that gets etched in my mind every time I wear the perfume from that point on. I’m thinking what better thought to have each time I wear Cuir de Russie than Rue de Cambon and the street’s of Paris in summer?

      Last question is- should I buy the eau de toilette or parfum?

Leave a Reply


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: