Chanel Bois des Iles perfume review

Chanel Bois des Iles perfume, original flaconChanel Bois des Iles perfume, Les Exclusifs flacon

Earlier this year I owned up to my shameful failure to properly appreciate the classic Guerlains; today, I'll come clean on Chanel. The heavy-hitters from Chanel's back catalog, Nos. 5, 19 and 22, are masterpieces which I admire but have no real desire to wear. I adore Cristalle, but that probably doesn't count, does it? Bois des Iles, launched in 1926, is the only classic Chanel I really love, and I have never understood why it is not readily available at Chanel counters everywhere.

Bois des Iles was created by Ernest Beaux, and was re-released in the 1980s along with Cuir de Russie and Gardénia as part of Chanel's Rue Cambon Collection. The fragrance notes include aldehydes, coriander, bergamot, neroli, peach, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, benzoin, vanilla and musk.

The Eau de Toilette opens on a burst of aldehydes and harsh woods; Susan Irvine describes the top notes as "a hardware shop with a smell akin to turpentine". (The Perfume Guide, p. 50) I don't find it as hard to take as all that, but it isn't exactly pretty. The heart is flowers, indistinct and lightly spiced, the base is sandalwood perfection: dry, smooth and creamy, with a velvety finish that isn't quite powdered. The fabled gingerbread accord starts to come into its own after around an hour; it is very soft, but lingers for the duration and adds a gentle warmth to the woods.

All of the aldehydic Chanels basically smell like money to me, from the first spritz to the last lingering breath, and Bois des Iles is no exception, but it is quieter about it than some of the others. It is the epitome of understated elegance, nothing showy, nothing overdone. If you are looking for something very sexy and oh la la, it might not suit.

The Eau de Toilette is simply lovely; the Parfum moves past lovely into stunning: the harsh opening smooths out faster, the woods are deeper and richer, and the floral notes in the heart, which are something of a blur in the Eau de Toilette, are more prominent and distinct. In this case, at least, you get what you pay for.

Bois des Iles is available in Eau de Toilette and Parfum only (wouldn't an Eau de Parfum be perfect?); for buying information, see the listing for Chanel under Perfume Houses.

Update: in 2007, Chanel re-issued Bois des Iles as part of the Les Exclusifs collection; you can see the new packaging above right.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What is sexy and ooh-la-la? After smelling Black Orchid yesterday I am left feeling flatly deflated about anything perfume related…. I am looking for sexy and ooh lala this season and there is nothing out there. It's all fruit and NOTHING! I believe our societies obsession will all things youthful has trickled into and tainted the fragrance industry. There is nothing that has balls to it and takes balls to wear! Can you tell I'm over the fresh and fruity bullshit already? What's out there for a woman who wants to smell like a woman?

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is the love we share! My holiest of holy grails, this oen. “A hardware shop with a smell akin to turpentine'? I wonder if Ms. irvin and I smell the same scent when we smell BdI :-)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can't think of anything sexy and oh la la among this season's releases, really. Still trying to make up my mind about Black Orchid, but it isn't sexy either — except the bottle, which is way sexy.

    To my mind, sexy and oh la la = Frederic Malle Parfum de Therese. It is fruity, but not even close to fresh, and it has balls.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well, to be fair she was just talking about the opening, although she calls the dry down an “oleaginous stew” so perhaps she isn't smelling the same thing at all, LOL…

    It is such a great fragrance. It is hard for me to imagine that no. 5 outsells it so very dramatically.

  5. Anonymous says:

    How very funny, I am freshly back from Macy's wearing No. 22 after reading Angela's post and realizing that I couldn't conjure up the smell at all…
    Bois de Iles is lovely, lovely, lovely … I always have a decant of it and Cuir de Russie sitting around here. Oddly, I find the opening quite pretty (maybe I'm nuts?) more like fresh, green wood than turpentine. Given the world we live in, I remain grateful that it hasn't been discontinued.
    The Chanels DO smell like money — a wonderful description! To me they are “aspirational” in the best possible way.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Not sure I can conjure up 22 either, at this point, so I should do the same.

    Yes, aspirational…Bois des Iles is like the fur coat I'll never have, LOL! And like you, grateful (and somewhat astonished) that it hasn't been discontinued.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Susan Irvine must have had a bad head cold that day. I find it exactly pretty and the perfect autumn fragrance. Nothing else like it. I only have the EDT (great anyway) but long for the parfum.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am a sad BdI philistine. I love the headnotes much better than the drydown, which goes sharp and thin on me. And I prefer the EDT to the parfum – which annoys me no end, as I splurged birthday money on the parfum because I thought it would give me the head notes drawn out for much longer. It definitely smells expensive – I'd wear it for an interview or anywhere I wanted to impress with my elegance and intelligence (and here, I need all the help Chanel can give me!), but there's a lingering frustration with the scent that makes me feel, well, ostracised, as this seems to be the ultimate HG scent for most people. Sigh.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I'm not a huge Chanel fan, but this one is beautiful. The sandalwood in the drydown is perfection. However, the minute I smell Shalimar parfum, I realize how even this beauty pales in comparison.

    To put it another way: BdI is gorgeous, but Shalimar is a knockout punch to the most joyful part of my perfumed soul.


  10. Anonymous says:

    T, the little parfum minis pop up on ebay every so often, and aren't that expensive. But I wish I had bought that dratted Rue Cambon coffret when it was out last year.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ah, it's just becasue there is this whole cult, eternal, ageless thing going on around No 5. They should pay someone beautiful to say she goes to bed in nothing but Bois des Iles and it will outsell No 5 in a matter of months :-D Because really, BdI is an easier scent to wear than No 5…I think :-)

  12. Anonymous says:

    Oh, sorry you laid out for the parfum and don't love it. I feel ostracized myself, as I just can't work up any real enthusiasm for no. 5, which everyone else in the world loves….to say nothing of Shalimar & Mitsouko.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Shalimar makes a much bigger statement, R, that is for sure, but it is too much of a knockout punch for me I guess. Still thinking some day I'll grow into it! I enjoy Shalimar Lite, though, and maybe that is a bad sign, LOL…

  14. Anonymous says:

    It may be a bad sign, R, but I prefer to think that you are on the right track, lol!


  15. Anonymous says:

    M, I completely agree that BdI is easier to wear — and has a more modern feel — but it seems nobody else does…I wonder if it is because it is less obviously feminine than 5?

    Or it could be just what you say, the public cult thing. Can't even think of who is a big enough name today that it would matter if she wore BdI to be naked…if she had a big enough name, she'd already have her own fragrance from Coty, LOL….

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence :-)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Oh I love this one too, my favourite Chanel. When my husband bought it at the Chanel boutique, they only had that bottle left (and no Gardenia or Cuir de Russie) and they kind of shrugged and said “No one ever asks for this one….” So sad. It never really smells like the notes to me, though; almost tropical on me, with something I would swear is pineapple in the heart notes.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I've never been able to give this one a sniff, as it's not readily available anywhere.

    You are not alone though! I cannot handle any of the ultra popular classics: Shalimar & Mitsouko from Guerlain, and No 5 from Chanel. Aldehydes just don't agree with me.

    My favorite Chanel is No 19 (the EDT!). I think of peridots and soft green moss when I wear it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    BdI is the best of #5 and Coco rolled into one. I have the EdT and long for the parfum.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Oooh. Which is available at gloss. Hmm….

  21. Anonymous says:

    I'm with you- maybe Angelina Jolie, if we told her the money would go to unfortunate children…

    And it's feminine w/ MYSTERY- not obvious, aldehydic [although I like 5 ,too], but smoldering…

  22. Anonymous says:

    Nooo! If she starts wearing BdI, I'll stop. I'm Team Aniston, me :-)))

  23. Anonymous says:

    Team Aniston, LOL!

    But I can't see Jennifer Aniston in BdI.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Do you mean in Paris? If so, that is tragic. In New York, I wouldn't be surprised. The staff there are completely uninformed about the fragrances.

  25. Anonymous says:

    WAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!! Likewise sob, sniff, and so on and so forth. BdI is beautiful, really beautiful, and it lasts about five minutes on my skin. Ah well, I've still got no. 19 and Coco to fall back on. And no. 5, for some reason, is growing on me after a long period of mutual dislike, especially long-forgotton vintage cologne bottles in yellowed, battered little boxes. But I do wish BdI would stay with me – I'd treat it sooooo nice!

  26. Anonymous says:

    It isn't easy to find a tester…in fact, I'm not sure there are any, so buying a sample on ebay is about your only hope outside of swapping for one :-(

  27. Anonymous says:

    I adore this–and I agree that it is easier to wear than No. 5–but my all-time favorite Chanel (and one of my all-time favorites, period) is Cuir de Russie, which gets even less press!

  28. Anonymous says:

    I am so surprised…even the EdT lasts for hours on me!

  29. Anonymous says:

    You are right, CdR gets even less love, and it is a simply gorgeous scent although it just isn't me.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Ah, but you might want to wait until Xmas and see if they release that Rue Cambon coffret again…that is, if you like Gardenia & Cuir de Russie!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Oh, BdI, it is just an amazing scent, and while I think it should be more popular than anything else chanel has, I'm glad that it isn't on every person walking down the street, that would get old.

    I don't get No. 5 either, the hype or the smell. Never have.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Oh, completely agree it would get old…I wouldn't want it to be massively popular. I just want it to sell enough to not get discontinued :-)

  33. Anonymous says:

    This was in Calgary, actually.

  34. Anonymous says:

    For some reason, that comforts me. I like to imagine that it sells in Paris…

  35. Anonymous says:

    Well after reading the reviews of this I had to go and try it. And i'm sooo glad that i did. This is a really beautiful scent. I loved it from the top to the base. I also tried Chanel's no.22 and found that really lovely too. Amazingly my boyfriend asked, when i thrust my no.22 scented wrist under his nose, was there incense in it. I didn't know but apparently there is. Anyway love, love Bois des Iles

  36. Anonymous says:

    Glad you got the chance to try them both, they're great scents and I'm so glad they added them to the Les Exclusifs collection.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I love this so much i bought it – well my boyfriend bought it for me :) Gorgeous scent and i definitely don't think the top notes smell like “a hardware shop with a smell akin to turpentine”. Ah which Les Exclusif next ;)

  38. Anonymous says:

    It's a hard choice!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Hi there – does anyone know if Chanel still produce the parfum of Bois des Iles? I know you can get decants etc from certain place but i'd love to get my paws on a bottle of the parfum! Why oh why does Chanel not make an EDP version of this?? I would simply be in heaven if they did :)

  40. Anonymous says:

    I understand they do still make it, but it isn't widely distributed. I'd call the Chanel counters at Bergdorf Goodman and/or Saks in New York City, if they can't help you, you might need to call Chanel in Paris.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Missed out on smelling this but did get a whiff of Cuir de Russie – ooof the sandalwood in it is just… :S

  42. Anonymous says:

    I don't know why we haven't reviewed that one yet. You must try the extrait if you can find it!

  43. rubaiyat says:

    I recently got a sample of this and it now tops my list of Chanel scents. I wore it to work and had three compliments on it in one day.

    • Robin says:

      How nice that others are appreciating it too! Sounds like you need a bottle.

  44. sharviss says:

    I just tried this one and I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so beautiful. It’s not for every occasion but I think I’m going to need the full Costco-sized 200 mL botte!
    Does anyone know if the have the parfum at Chanel boutiques? I would love to smell it.

    • Robin says:

      They did, but sorry to say I don’t know if they still do. I should think they still have it in Paris (?) Might also be worth keeping an eye out for a vintage (and probably better) bottle on ebay.

  45. capillary says:

    In case anyone still wants to know, the Chanel store in NY at 57th St had the parfum (15mls for $160, or something like that) when I inquired in late July. Cuir de Russie and no. 22 also. But not all of the boutiques carry it.

    • Robin says:

      Thanks so much! That’s not a bad price (I mean I know it’s high, but in comparison to other things…)

  46. jimmyfresno says:

    I find Bois des Iles in the modern formulation to be very unisex and wearable for a guy too! I went to the Chanel boutique in southern california with a friend, Julie and ended up buying the large bottle for myself! I love the light aldehydes and subdued metallic white musks Chanel uses, even in the new Eau Premier No. 5; they all do smell like freshly minted hundred dollar bills. The BdI is very subtle to me but wears like an aura of distinction, smoothly woody and classy.

    • Robin says:

      Agree — a man could easily wear it.

  47. Esther says:

    I just got a bottle of the parfum (!) as a graduation present. I dab a tiny bit of it on my wrists and behind my ears and get a lot of “Ooh, you smell good”. Thank you, Mom. Best present ever.

  48. OVincze says:

    Very interesting because I have been the same way, I do like the original Shalimar at least but I have yet to find a Chanel I like. I just find something really repulsive about the opening and they smell very artificial to me. At least Bois De Iles comes close to my liking it, I actually do and especially love the drydown but still not sure I could wear it because of the opening. I have to give it a full wear and see, I wonder if it could be something about my skin, for a long time I have wondered if it was the aldehydes making me really sick but now I do love some frags with aldehydes in the top.

    • Robin says:

      It’s a matter of personal taste for sure — they’re meant to smell artificial, I’d say.

  49. sweetgrass says:

    I finally tried Bois des Iles at the Chanel boutique just outside Neiman Marcus this weekend. I had high hopes for it, and at first I really did love it. But I’m not sure about the drydown. It was a little thin and more powdery than I generally like. The boutique has the Exclusifs line in absolutely ginormous bottles, so I’d imagine they’re probably edt. I’d be curious to see if the parfum is better in the drydown.

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