Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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April 20, 2009:

Parfumerie Generale “Private Collection” Bois de Copaiba

I’ve been meaning to write about Bois de Copaiba, from Parfumerie Generale, for a long time. I bought a decant eons ago but stashed it away after only a couple wearings, thinking it really wasn’t my kind of thing…a fragrance so resinous it bordered on the medicinal. Then one day this past winter, when I was feeling bored, I dug it out and lo, fell head-over-heels in love with it. Yet falling in love with a perfume doesn’t always make the job of writing about it any easier; the images this scent evokes when I wear it don’t lend themselves to words, and I can only try my best to press forward with an analogy (and one that is highly imaginative at that, having no basis in the world most of us live in, but then, this perfume smells like it comes from a different world, too).

There is something prehistoric about the mood and spirit of Bois de Copaiba: it doesn't smell like it should reside in the same universe as man, but as it is necessary to to bring it into that realm, then imagine the perfumed remains of an elixir that a medicine man set about making in an ancient forest, where he spent his days pounding ginger root, orange peel, gum arabic and sugar cane on a slab of wood so green, the sap was still oozing from it, before he set the whole hodge-podge to ferment in a wooden bowl. Bois de Copaiba is the scent of sticky, spicy resins clinging to a piece of balsam wood, some of them bitter and sharp, some of them creamy and sweet.

The notes for this fragrance are listed as crystallized orange pulp, red ginger, amaretto, copahu balm, mahogany wood, myrrh and sandalwood. Ginger is an integral part of the scent, and there is something about its warmth, combined with the piquant, slightly bitter orange and amaretto notes, and the pine-like smell of the copahu balm, that makes me think of amber—and here I’m referring to the fossilized, tree-resin amber, and not the amber of perfumery, which is an entirely different thing. Bois de Copaiba smells so deeply of forest, I suppose that’s why the image comes to mind, especially since its beauty makes me feel like an insect trapped and held enthrall forever inside its golden ooze. 

Based on my own experience, newbie perfumistas should sample this scent first before buying. There is a very bracing, medicinal facet to this perfume that I now quite enjoy but didn’t at first. It never fully fades away, even after becoming married to the creamy qualities of the wood; both elements, the medicinal and the creamy, wrap so tightly around each other that it makes for a fairly linear scent, but one with a constant vibration, like the excitement—the mystery, the lifeforce—that exists in prehistoric things.

Bois de Copaiba is from Parfumerie Generale’s “private collection” series. It can be purchased from, currently priced at $125 for 50 ml.

Image of insect trapped in amber is one I found on somebody's Pinterest page; I could not find a photographer or website to attribute it to. The bottle image for Bois de Copaiba is from