My French vocabularies have been growing very slowly through osmosis since I started collecting perfumes three years ago. Now I can tell what “eau”, “noir”, “amour”, “poivre” and “bois” mean instantly. (And that’s about it.)
So when I read the words “Bois D’Ombrie” (Wood of Umbria) on a perfume label, I knew it’s a woody scent. But what I didn’t expect was the rather unusual aspect of woodiness that I got from this scent by Eau d’Italie. (Ironically the perfume name is in French, not Italian.)
“Bois D’Ombrie” reminds me of three things, all related to Chinese cooking ingredients – giant lotus leaf, giant winter melon (both commonly used in summer soups to help “suppress the fire” in your body) and bitter melon. Bitter melon has a more poetic and lesser-used nickname in Chinese, and it’s “Half Life Melon” (not carbon dating half-life). Chinese people say that commoners usually don’t like to eat dishes cooked together with bitter melons (because it’s literally bitter tasting), but when you start to like bitter melons, it also means that half your life has gone. A pretty scary thought, but it’s also an indicator of midlife maturity, a change of attitude towards things in life.
Those three ingredients I just mentioned share similarities in smell – very dark green, damp, earthy, bitter and vegetal; if it is a juice I don’t want to drink it. And that’s the opening of Bois D’Ombrie. As the opening dissipates, the fragrance morphs from a bitter melon to a carrot-flavored cigar, together with a resinous, earthy leathery base. The unusually deep green and soil colored scent probably is not for people who are new to the fragrance scene who wants a crowd pleaser scent. Rather, it’s very moody and introspective, like walking in a forest at 5 pm in the evening with an worrisome love letter in your jacket. It’s special, and I like it, but don’t ever think I will be crazy about it, but maybe I will, just like I have started to like eating bitten melons.