Two very different landscapes are captured in Anatole Lebreton‘s L’Eau de Merzhin and Bois Lumière. The first takes you to the nostalgic heart of the countryside where grassy pastures are speckled with purple wild violets, mimosa pollen, and sweet hay. The second focuses on the blazing light of the Mediterranean sun where sticky, smoky honey is slathered in waves over arid driftwood. I’ll look at each one in turn.
L’EAU DE MERZHIN:
Like all the Anatole Lebreton fragrances, L’Eau de Merzhin is an eau de parfum that he created and released in 2013 or 2014. On his website, Anatole Lebreton describes the scent and its notes as follows:
A vegetal poem on a dry hay bed. The perfume of a childhood spent running around in meadows, venturing through the deep mossy woods and the mysterious moors of the Breton countryside. A nostalgic stroll on the other side of the mirror, in an enchanting landscape, with hawthorn groves blossoming in the very first days of spring, when earth is damp and the grass is lush, when the flowing water sings and the first flowers bloom, gently spreading their scent all around the prairies.
Galbanum, Angelica root, Violet leaf
Cassie [mimosa], Hawthorn, Flouve
Green hay, Tonka bean, Orris, Oakmoss.
L’Eau de Merzhin opens on my skin with greenness shot through with sparkling light. There are meadows filled with the astonishingly fragrant sweetness of fresh grass, soft clover, and plush mosses. Wild violets poke their purple heads out through every blade of green, adding a crisp, sometimes metallic, but always leafy floralcy. A cool breeze gathers bits of fresh, green galbanum and angelica from a small herb garden, and carries them across to a nearby field where bales of fresh, sweet hay lie near a small grove of dark trees. Even further away, on the furthest periphery, mimosa trees shower their sweet, golden pollen down onto tiny wisps of rooty orris and hawthorn. The entire landscape ripples under a sparkling light that is brisk and cool, more like early Spring than Summer.
This is the opening world of L’Eau de Merzhin, and it succeeds fully in its mission of capturing the nostalgic innocence of a childhood in the countryside. There is something beautifully evocative in how well the fragrance bottles the essence of nature from the vistas of grass to the subtle herbaceousness flickering in the background. The key, in my opinion, is the flouve that initially provides that incredibly sweet, aromatic freshness of grass. It is a rich, multi-faceted ingredient that adds layers of depth and nuance to the scent, transforming within minutes to give the grasses a subtle underpinning of earthiness akin to dark, loamy soil shot through with strands of tobacco.
Flouve is the same note that Mandy Aftel used to such effect in her Bergamoss, and, in truth, L’Eau de Merzhin reminded me a lot of that lovely chypre in its opening moments. There are differences, though. Bergamoss was much sunnier, warmer, and softer. L’Eau de Merzhin is significantly and substantially crisper, cooler, and greener in feel. It’s spring, not summer, in the countryside. Later, L’Eau de Merzhin becomes increasingly suffused with violet leaf and woodiness in a way that Bergamoss never did. In addition, L’Eau de Merzhin has a synthetic and clean side that the all-natural Bergamoss lacks. Finally, thanks to the use of some synthetics, it is both stronger in sillage and more long-lasting than the Aftelier release which is also a solid, not a liquid fragrance.
On a Basenotes discussion thread, one person found similarity to another fragrance, Creed‘s discontinued Aubepine Acacia. “The Beck” wrote:
This is the best of scents using the aubepine/hawthorn note. For those of you enjoyed the long discontinued Aubepine Acacia by Creed – L’Eau de Merzhin is actually better. There’s no mention of it, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Aubepine Acacia was Anatole’s inspiration for this scent. Either consciously or unconsciously. Nothing like it, and hauntingly addictive to my nose.
I haven’t tried Aubepine Acacia to know how it might compare. From my understanding and things I’ve read, it was centered primarily on woody, nutty hawthorn and mimosa (cassie/acacia). L’Eau de Merzhin doesn’t manifest huge amounts of those notes on my skin. They’re there, but usually in the background or base, and they don’t drive the scent as much as the flouve grasses and the violet leaf. In fact, the mimosa disappears from my skin after the first 10 minutes, and doesn’t reappear until the drydown. Even then, it’s only the softest touch. Still, given the Basenotes comment, if you were a fan of Aubepine Acacia, you might want to keep L’Eau de Merzhin in mind as a possible alternative.
Putting aside the issue of other fragrances, I like everything about L’Eau de Merzhin’s opening bouquet even though I’m not normally a fan of green scents. The galbanum is not green-black leatheriness so typical of leather fragrances like Bandit; the angelica is not a deluge of occasionally sharp herbs; and the merest pinch of both has been used to effect a naturalistic touch of herbaceousness. The much stronger, more dominant grass, hay, vegetal, and leafy accords lend a timeless quality to the bouquet, one that people have experienced for hundreds of years, an elemental communing with nature that was so perfectly captured by Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy, and Thoreau. All of it is beautifully blended, the ingredients are used in carefully modulated amounts, and they transition so seamlessly from one to the next that it’s not always easy to pick out where one ends and the other begins.
I think L’Eau de Merzhin’s opening is lovely, but I don’t find the rest of the fragrance to be quite so appealing as it develops, particularly its middle part. The main reason is because I don’t enjoy intensely green scents, and that is precisely what L’Eau de Merzhin becomes on my skin. At the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd, the violet leaf grows in leaps and bounds, surging to the forefront and adding that pointed green sharpness that I find so typical of the note. At the same time, L’Eau de Merzhin feels woodier, thanks to a streak of something darker in the base that isn’t precisely ISO E-like, but some sort of woodyish synthetic with a subtle nuttiness (hawthorn). In the background, white musk adds a new layer of cleanness.
For the most part, L’Eau de Merzhin continues to be a well-blended, multi-faceted mix of green notes reflecting different sides of a grassy country meadow, but the focus now skews to the leaves of wild violets growing at the base of dry, dark trees rather than on the sweet, sunny, softer, earthier, fragrant or hay-like aspects. The individual notes become increasingly hard to pick out in the billowing haze of greenness, the scent feels blurrier, and the changes are so incrementally minute that L’Eau de Merzhin feels quite linear at times.
The most visible change to the general deluge of greenness occurs roughly at the start of the 8th hour when L’Eau de Merzhin’s drydown begins. The streaks of synthetic hawthorn woodiness in the base seep upwards to the top, and their place is taken by an abstract creaminess. It doesn’t smell like tonka in a clear, distinct way. Rather, it’s merely a soft plushness that bears a subtle sweetness. The hay is merely a speck on the horizon but the mimosa finally reappears, shedding a light veil of pollen upon the violet leaf and grasses. It’s not a truly floral note, nor a powdered one, either. Instead, it smells lightly honeyed, and its floralcy is merely a whisper. It’s accompanied by small wisps of orris; it’s never floral like iris, but simply a sliver of vegetal creaminess.
L’Eau de Merzhin’s final hours are nice, mostly because the dry woodiness and violet leaves finally take a step back, and the scent turns warmer as a whole. The fragrance is now a blur of ineffably soft, gentle greenness centered on grasses that are infused with barely sweetened creaminess, moderate streaks of violet leaves, and a few smudges of moss at the edges. It’s warm and oddly comforting in way I can’t really explain. Perhaps the best description is that original Anatole Lebreton story about childhood innocence. Something about L’Eau de Merzhin’s finish does bear an outdoorsy gentleness and warmth that feels innocent. In its last moments, the fragrance fades away as a blur of plush, almost creamy, grassy greenness.
L’Eau de Merzhin had good longevity, soft projection, and soft sillage on my skin. Using several spritzes from my mini-atomiser equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with roughly 3 inches of projection and a scent trail that was about 5 to 6 inches. After 90 minutes, the projection was about 1.5 inches, and the sillage about 3 inches. From the end of the 2nd hour onwards, L’Eau de Merzhin generally hovered above the skin in both categories, but it only became a skin scent 6.75 hours into its development. In total, it lasted just a hair under 11.25 hours.
There isn’t much discussion of L’Eau de Merzhin out there at this time, so I can’t provide you with a slew of comparative analysis. There is an Italian blog review at Bergamotto et Benzoino that seems to be a rave, gushing endorsement as far as I can tell using Google Translate. For English readers, the Basenotes discussion thread I mentioned earlier is the best alternative. I’ve already quoted the positive review from “The Beck,” but “Buzzlepuff” was also a fan, writing that he was “feeling haunted by L’Eau de Merzhin (dry galbanum / violet leaf / hay )[.]” However, “Hawk” was not very enthused: “L’Eau De Merzhin smelled green, like grass, hay and leaves… I didn’t care much for it.”
The fragrance’s overwhelming green profile and strong grassiness seems to have been too much for the lone commentator on L’Eau de Merzhin’s Fragrantica page as well. In the sole review posted there at this time, “Q80” writes in full:
This one is kind of confusing! some sort of complex chaos! sweetish grass! sweet greens! like a cloying sweet mingled with green notes & sightly saffron… will wait a bit more till the calm down!
I liked parts of L’Eau de Merzhin, particularly the opening and final hours, but I didn’t find it to be as complex, multi-dimensional, or sophisticated as Anatole’s Lebreton’s chypre-floral-leather, L’Eau Scandaleuse. It was simpler and also more linear, though I think the theme of childhood innocence in the countryside has some bearing on that and on the overall nature of the scent. As a whole, crisp green fragrances are not my thing and I dislike strong amounts of violet leaf, so I personally would never wear L’Eau de Merzhin, but I would recommend sampling it to people who do like those genres.
However, I must emphasize that you have to love a lot of grassiness and leafiness. Please don’t think “violet” means a Guerlainesque floral violet; this is the leaf and it has quite a different aroma. By the same token, don’t expect much mimosa; the focus of this scent is not on the florals. Still, if you’ve been looking for a fresh, crisp, green fragrance that transports you to grassy meadows strewn with violet leaf, hay, a subtle sweetness, woodiness, and a hint of herbaceousness, then you should definitely give L’Eau de Merzhin a sniff.
On his website, Anatole Lebreton describes Bois Lumiere and its notes as follows:
Somewhere under a blazing sun, in a garrigue scenery so dry it is ready to burst into flames, someone in love lazily takes a sunbath, heating their skin under the Mediterranean sun. This is a story of tanned bodies and ablaze landscapes, of dazzling light that makes you squint. It spreads on your skin like thick honey on a languorous wooden background. From the sea far away, a dry, hot breeze rises, a desert wind of Immortelle flower blowing on your dreamy skin for hours.
Corsican Juniper, Clary Sage, Mandarin
Fir Balsam, Honey, Rose, Carnation
Immortelle, Beeswax, Atlas Cedar, Benzoin.
Bois Lumiere opens on my skin with a tsunami of honey and immortelle syrup over arid woods. The latter always conjures up images of bleached-out, cracked driftwood on a beach, even though there is nothing aquatic, watery, or salty about the fragrance here. Flickers of dried herbs and something aromatically brisk hover at the edges, but they’re overwhelmed by a smoky sharpness, something that is both rubbery and blackened, almost chemical in nature but not quite.
Thanks to the waves of honey, the fragrance does glow with a blazing light, but the power and dominating force of that same honey also makes it hard to dissect the notes. Everything but the woods are indistinct or swallowed up. At no point is there ever any rose or floralcy on my skin. The hints of something vaguely aromatic never translate into clear, distinct notes of either juniper or herbal clary sage. The carnation is similarly invisible, though Bois Lumiere does have minute traces of something quietly fiery and almost peppered lurking in the background during its first hour.
For the most part, though, it is just wave upon wave of thick honey atop desiccated wood, resulting in a scent that is intensely sticky and parched at the same time. The immortelle is fully subsumed within the honey, and it’s an interesting note here because it is neither like pancake maple syrup nor purely like the dried wild flowers. Instead, it’s a simple sweetness that bears an underlying glimmer of herbal floralcy, as though the dried plants had been macerated in a sticky bath of golden molasses.
At the same time, the honey also bears a certain sourness. It never smells like orange or “mandarin” on my skin. Instead, it soon translates into an animalic sharpness. In high doses, honey can be strongly urinous in perfumery. The one in Bois Lumiere stays clear of that type of animalics, but just barely. Still, 10 minutes into its development, there is a pronounced sourness to the note. It may not read as ammoniac “cat pee” on my skin, but I keep wondering how others may fare.
Roughly 10 minutes into Bois Lumiere’s development, the fragrance shifts, though only in the smallest of ways. Apart from the animalic sharpness I mentioned earlier, the honey also starts to emit ripples of quiet smokiness. It’s not like incense nor even like true smoke but, rather, an acrid, somewhat burnt, and sulphurous quality. At the same time, the honey turns thicker and darker, while the wood grows even drier.
From this point forth, Bois Lumiere’s path is set, and it doesn’t change much on my skin for hours and hours to come. It’s a sharp blend of sticky, intensely sweet, sometimes herbal, sometimes sour, but always sulphurous, smoky honey poured over desiccated, cracked driftwood. All that happens are changes to the prominence of some of Bois Lumiere’s nuances. At the end of the first hour, the honey grows sharper and more acrid, while the woods emit almost a raspy quality on my skin. After 90 minutes, Bois Lumiere turns drier and smokier, less stickily sweet. The 3rd hour brings a chemical twang to the woods that I don’t enjoy, while the immortelle fades to only a minute pinch of its dried, herbal stalks.
The only major olfactory change occurs roughly 5.5 hours into Bois Lumiere’s development when the beeswax joins the party. It combines with the immortelle’s sometimes creamy side to create a quiet layer of softness in the base that finally blunts the pointed sharpness of the honey, smoke, and parched, bleached wood. It doesn’t smell like actual beeswax, though, nor cream. It’s simply a plush, abstract softness that rounds out the other notes and stirs nebulously under the wood-laced honey. That’s about the only change on my skin. The notes grow blurrier and hazier, but the fragrance continues unswervingly on its main path until its final hours when it’s merely a wisp of slightly syrupy but dry sweetness with a lingering vestige of smokiness lurking at its edges.
Bois Lumiere had good longevity, soft projection, and soft sillage on my skin. Using several spritzes from my mini-atomiser equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, it opened with 3 inches of projection and a scent trail that projected roughly 3 to 4 inches, maybe 5 at best if I moved. The projection dropped after 90 minutes to somewhere between 1 and 1.5 inches, while the sillage was close to the body. Bois Lumiere turned into a skin scent on my after 5 hours, but was still easy to detect up close for a while to come. All in all, it lasted a hair under 14 hours. In one test, I applied the equivalent 3 small spritzes, and the fragrance lasted 16.75 hours.
Again, there isn’t a lot of discussion of Bois Lumiere out there. On Fragrantica, “Q80” seems a bit ambivalent in his feelings about the scent, writing:
Honey, beeswax, mandarin, red carnations, cedar , and cedar. Very honey based. it reminds me of Winnie the poo honey jar 🙂
After the calm (around 10 minutes) it turns into a candle wax smell of a lighted smell… fresh white wax. Interesting.
There are no other reviews on Fragrantica at this time, but the Basenotes discussion thread has a handful of passing comments. “Hawk” seems ambivalent about the scent, writing: “Bois Lumiere was resinous, somewhat animalic… beeswax and honey notes made it a bit too heavy.” However, “The Beck” found the balance skewed towards the woods on his skin, and the honey was just right in quantity and feel:
Bois Lumiere is an aromatic, herbaceous dry woods scent with just the right amount of honey to balance it all out. hawk thought it was a little heavy. I think it’s just right.
“AwayAloneAlong” also gave the scent a positive review:
Very impressed with Bois Lumiere. There’s a lot of light in the woods as they open, but shocking and delightful is the frag’s animalic development. Oh, and how about this for longevity: 10 hours. In fact, I can still smell just a tinge 24 hours later. The “EdP” label is not a ruse.
There are a few reviews for Bois Lumiere on Luckyscent, and they’re mixed in nature. I’ll quote them because you might find the comparison to other fragrances to be helpful:
- Incredibly reminiscent of Liaison de Parfum’s “Resist Me.” This is a little lighter, little dryer, slightly less headshop. It smells like one of those baskets of holiday potpourri which was supposed to smell like fir and mostly smells like filler.
- I have become a little weary of all the new niche perfumes rolling out lately but purchased this one thinking…”Sure..its different,sure the perfume story sounds good…and guess what? they really are right this time! This is the first exciting fragrance I have purchased in ages! It is unique… It is very warm,lightly honeyed, woody…Bois Lumiere is really gorgeous .
- I can clearly pick out all the notes described in this scent and they work beautifully together, but here’s something that’s not in the notes or the description: this is a skank monster! It is flat out the skankiest scent I’ve ever smelled. It’s like if you took L’Air Du Desert Marocain by Andy Tauer (which I love) and put it on a vagrant. That’s not a criticism. I think it’s the sweetness of the honey in it that contributes most and it’s really wonderful–way more complex and naturalistic than, say, “Honey” by Marc Jacobs, which I found synthetic and annoying. This smells like nature in all its aspects. I felt a little self-conscious wearing it to work, but I like it so much I think I might have to go for the full bottle. [Emphasis to perfume names added by me.]
What all these comments should show you is that how you feel about Bois Lumiere will depend completely on the way your skin handles the honey. Will there be too much of it, and will it turn animalic, sharp, or sulphurously smoky? Will there be instead a moderate amount that is a good counterbalance to the arid woods? Or will there be just the lightest hint of honey, leaving mostly a dry, woody scent that smells like “headshop” “potpourri”? (I’m unfamiliar with the “Resist Me” fragrance referenced in the first quote above, but Fragrantica comments indicate that it’s a woody oriental centered on very smoky, very dry woods with reportedly fecal and leathery undertones.)
It should be clear by now that I didn’t like Bois Lumiere. At all. I tested it several times, and actually got fed up with the boring and strident nature of the main duet the 3rd time around, washing it off after 8 hours. The thing is, I like a lot of honey in my fragrances, but Bois Lumiere did not work well with my skin chemistry. Animalic honey is one thing, but sharply sulphurous, acrid, and sour honey is another matter entirely. Had it been just a light touch and had there been other notes to offset it, I might not have minded, but there was nothing except for somewhat chemical, overly desiccated wood. That’s not my thing in any circumstances, let alone when combined with a deluge of smoky honey for hours on end. Bois Lumiere’s linearity added to my difficulty. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linear fragrances if you like the notes in question but, quite obviously, that was not the case here.
That said, I think Bois Lumiere has the potential to be quite an appealing scent on the right skin. I can see some people pulling it off well, but it’s really going to come down to how your individual skin chemistry handles the honey and if it lets the other notes show themselves in a good light. So if you love both honey and dry woods, and if you don’t mind some degree of animalics to go along with them, then give Bois Lumiere a sniff, but under no circumstances do I advise buying a bottle blindly without testing first.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.