Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Enchanted Forest - The Vagabond Prince and Fille En Aiguilles - Serge Lutens. The Scent Of Christmas Trees!

As I entered the supermarket this weekend I halted to marvel at the arrival of this season’s Christmas trees. I lingered over these aromatic wonders who looked a little trapped in their ‘easy carry’ netting, and took a deep inhalation. Not much entered my nose. I then crouched down and pushed my face into the prickly netting and tried again.. much better. I stayed for some considerable time and arose to the curious glances of my fellow shoppers and a security guard.

As a child we often had a ‘real’ Christmas tree. I wonder if it played a role in the development of my obsession with fragrance and the scents of my world? After my dad conducted some clever tinkering with something to prop it up, the tree would stand in the lounge awaiting decoration. The decorations themselves were an annual delight. I remember clearly ancient family baubles, in particular a glass teardrop dangler that shone with the same shade of purple as a Cadbury’s chocolate wrapper. It enchanted me. If you gave it a sharp twist it would spin rapidly and emit beams of otherworldly shards of light. All this magic took place within a great waft of forestry olfaction that to this day still renders me puddled with joy.
If you wish to smell tree in the absence of tree, or indeed year round, you can scent either yourself or your home. My urban flat is often transformed into forest with essentials oils of spruce or pine that I warm in a traditional aromatherapy burner.


My favourite oil is the Spruce (Tsuga Canadensis) which smells of authentic Christmas tree. Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) is harsher, with the same ‘back of the throat scrape’ that oud tends to give me.  That said, mixed with patchouli or rosewood, it retains the forestry feel and lends a meditative atmosphere to my home. 

Pinus Sylvestris does not really smell of what we perceive to be the pine made popular with cleaning fluids and in car air fresheners!

Two delightful (but very different) coniferous scents are Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince and Fille En Aiguilles by Serge Lutens.

The first, Enchanted forest, is the result of a collaboration between Elena Knezhevich (founder of Fragrantica) and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. It was inevitable that I would relish this scent as it combines two of my favourite notes with equal billing; blackcurrant and fir (in this case - pine needle absolute). There are many notes so I wont write an exhaustive list, but in the top are two extractions of blackcurrant and a bright peppery coriander and carnation combination. It is utterly effervescent, if it were possible to drink this I’d be glugging bottles of it and growing giddy on it’s fizz! In the base is a whole bunch of deep ambery/balsamic notes that thankfully are obliterated by the overwhelmingly beautiful scent of fir tree. If this scent were to only smell of blackcurrant and fir it would be an acrid concoction, tart in the extreme. Although you cannot really detect a distinct and specific base note in the dry down other than the fir, the rich accompanying notes must effect a tenderness and depth that stop this bright perfume from becoming a forest feerie and spiriting away.
Enchanted Forest does exactly what the name suggests – it’s smells of forests and enchants you. It’s very straightforward.

A much more complex composition is Serge Luten’s Fille En Aiguilles. Ranking at number 3 of my (long and unpublished!) list of most beguiling perfumes, this should really deserve a fulsome review in it’s own right. However, in the interest of the Christmas tree theme, I shall keep it brief.

Fille En Aiguilles is as dark and opulent as Enchanted Forest is luminous. It’s forest notes are pine, balsam fir and bay (this herb echoes the aromatic feel of the conifers).  In addition, Fille contains potent spices, sugary dried fruits and incense adding an oriental genre vibe to what would otherwise be simply an outdoorsy aromatic wood. For me it is seasonally confusing.  Whereas most fans associate the smell of Fille with winter woods, cloves pierced oranges, the Catholic church and boxes of sticky dates i.e. the stuff of Christmas, Fille journeys me to summer holidays in the pine forests of the Mediterranean where the blistering heat warms the tree sap to scent the air with aromatic sweetness. As an ‘outdoors type’, this juice elates me, it’s almost spiritual. But that’s just me. For the rest of you, this could be mulled wine drunk under the boughs of your beautiful tree or a hunt through the woods to pick holly for the hearth (if of course you live inside a Victorian Christmas Card).

Other scents of interest:

Ormonde Jayne - Ormonde Woman (a true forest and somewhat witchy scent, to read my review click here)
Parfum D’ Empire – Wazamba (a more biblical version of Fille En Aiguilles, with abundant incense and myrrh)
Pino Silvestre – Original for Men (classic fougere with intense pine)

And for the bath:

Dr Haushcka – Spruce Bath Oil (exactly like bathing in a Christmas tree, emotional rescue)

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  1. Well, I was duly enchanted by your description of pine scents, and after your close encounter with the topnotes of Armani Si the other day can well understand why The Enchanted Forest would be right up your street. I like it very much too, it must be said, though pine notes in perfume aren't really my bag. The smell of a Christmas tree and the ritual of selecting ancient family baubles to position just so on the branches - that is hugely evocative for me too. Sweet wrappers are equally memorable as my brother and I used to press the coloured bits of tin foil between the pages of books... Hmm, maybe I will rethink my stance on pine in future, and give Fille en Aiguilles a sniff sometime.

  2. I think sweet wrappers are the best part of the chocolate box (unless you are lucky enough to get a box of Thorntons)! I once covered a very functional 50s chair with them. It was most fun and it looked charming. I think I probably left it a long departed houses hare at some point. I hope it's still being loved by someone. I also hope that you come across your childhood sweet wrappers in an old book someday, that would be wonderfully serendipitous..

  3. Sarah - this time of year is one of my favorites due in part to the wonderful smells of pine and incredible baked goods, etc. I grew up with real Christmas trees, but out of convenience we now have the artificial ones. I do miss the smell of the real pine (I don't miss the sap however!). I like your aromatherapy approach. I typically will have some diffusers out that either smell like pine or cinnamon. I haven't thought about Enchanted Forest for a while, but you're right, it's perfect for this time of year. I really loved the opening as it was my favorite part of the fragrance. I think I have some part of my sample left, I need to give it another whirl! Lovely write up! Steve

    1. Ah Steve.. Yes, the opening is truly eauphoric isn't it? I love how they've created a blackcurrant that isn't sickly sweet and until you smell it you don't realise how closely related blackcurrant and pine/fir really are, very complementary in green goodness. I have smelt quite a few Duchaufour scents recently that seem like a repeat of his ideas. This one is really unique though. I wish my sample was 10 times larger!

  4. I like both "forests" but for December FeA seems more appropriate... Hm... Ishould definitely wear it tomorrow - thank youfor the nudge!

    The latest pine scent that pleasantly surprised me (though only on paper, I haven't tested it on skin yet) was Bottega Veneta Pour Homme.

    1. Hi Undina, File is on my list of 'possibles' for tomorrow night's Christmas works do. It's in competition with Robert Piguet's Calypso which I love for it's dark glamour. I think pine would be apt being as I'll be wearing a 1930s looking green velvet shift with an antique rose print. Pine + green velvet+ Christmas would be an excellent theme combo, though possibly lost as a fumey reference on the 'not obsessed with scent' community. Maybe I can bring some subliminal Christmas cheer with Fille?

    2. Aha! We found one more "like" in common - Calypso. I own a bottle of it.

    3. Calypso is my favourite rose/glamour frag. I'm really glad you're a fan. It's largely uncelebrated over either, Piguet just seems to to get applauded for Bandit and Fracas. Here's my review:


  5. Oh you just reviewed my two favourite fragrances. I'm wearing Enchanted Forest today which, weirdly, smells just like my childhood in Australia. I grew up with a pine forest at the backdoor and used to drink blackcurrant cordial... I'd love to see your favourites list :)