Boxeuses is a spectacularly modern, insolent name for a fragrance: the French for “boxer” both in the feminine and the plural, a hint about the gender ambiguity of this new interpretation of the Cuir de Russie, as well as its oscillation between attack and feint, toughness and softness. It could also be, much in the way that the house of Lutens drew perfume back to its Arabic origins, a roundabout allusion to the starting point of French perfumery: the scented glove, whose use Catherine of Medici brought to Paris in the 16th century, along with the perfumer (and purveyor of poison) René the Florentine. And with its bitter-charred top note piercing its smooth skin, Serge Lutens’ newest Palais Royal exclusive, to be launched in September, does indeed conjure a poisoned glove… But one for contemporary femmes fatales whose great-great-grandmothers wore Chanel’s gender-bending potion in the 1920s.
Boxeuses is a Lutensian Lutens. Unlike the clean-musk L’Eau or the ultraviolet and green haze of Bas de Soie, it reprises the original codes of the house: the spices, dried fruit and plum-violet-wood accords inaugurated by Féminité du Bois (in fact, it could have been called “Bois et Cuir”). Following the rich sillage of Boxeuses is like wandering back into more familiar rooms of Serge Lutens’ olfactory palace and finding that while you were away, he’d shifted elements of the decor. Where Cuir Mauresque played on shades from orange to tawny – aldehydes, mandarin, orange blossom, cumin, myrrh – Boxeuses pulls leather towards a darker spectrum, from tawny to plum to black, with references that owe less to the Orient than to two landmarks of French perfumery, Cuir de Russie and Femme, the great ancestor of Féminité du Bois. It is, in fact, a Cuir de Russie with the iris swapped for a plum/ violet accord.
What Boxeuses unveils is what I’d call a leather illusion: a halo of materials producing the effect of leather in their centre -- as though the scent itself had the rounded hollow shape of a boxing glove -- with a continuum of notes that go from sweet to caramelized, boozy, burnt and smoky.
The leather first punches through the sweet top notes of liquorice and cherry, paired up through their common almond and caramelized facets and livened up by a discreet celery note, like a tiny green glint in the anisic darkness of the liquorice. The dark, mouth-burning caramel facets of the top notes are then picked up by immortelle, which brings in its characteristic burnt sugar, spicy, almost alcoholised aspects; these tie in with prune/rose/wine/tobacco facets of damascenones to conjure a boozy effect, Armagnac or a plum spirit. The plum, framed in peach, violet (ionones) and patchouli, conjures the legendary Prunol base that first appeared in Femme and was reinterpreted in Féminité du Bois.
The violet in turn introduces the woods. The smokiness of the sandalwood and vetiver deepen that of the birch tar; the former’s milkiness melds with the lactonic effect of the plum. As Boxeuses dries down, patchouli veers into a dark chocolate effect that seeps into the sweet, musk-laden base... A sweet, fatty note, possibly bees wax, conjures the oily texture of the softest leather throughout.
All of these notes I’ve deduced, since no list is given out; I may be wrong on some materials, but not on the effects. But speaking about the structure doesn’t convey the feel of Boxeuses: a punch in the gut wrapped in yielding fine leather. One “boxeuse” lunges; the other feints. After all, you’ve got to be two to fight, and these boxers come in the plural. But Lutens is neither of the fighters: you’ve been sent to the carpet moaning with happiness, and he’s the referee. Ten... nine... eight...
As I have received enough Boxeuses to share, I am doing a draw for a 1.5 ml mini-atomizer sample. If you want to participate, drop a comment… and try to say a little more than “I want in”, it’s much more fun that way…
THE DRAW IS NOW OVER, SORRY FOR LATECOMERS!
And don’t forget, if you’ve missed it, to read the interview Mr. Lutens gave me in June.