Top notes: Peach, bergamot, rosewood, tarragon, cardamom
Heart notes: Carnation, mace, cinnamon, orris, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Cedarwood, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber, civet, vanilla
What no one says about Féminité du Bois (or Femme, another plummy beauty with a significant cumin note) is that it is an intensely sexual perfume. It smells, quite frankly, like a poetic perfume rendition of a woman's nether regions.
When I think of a visual for FdB, I think of Belgian Surrealist Paul Delvaux. He typically portrayed Woman (with a capital "w") either in the woods (sometimes even as part tree) as if to say that she, and her sexuality, are dark, unknowable, mysterious. (A familiar enough trope in art and literature, why not in perfume?) Similarly, FdB is Femininity in the Key of Woods. Cumin is often referred to as a "body odor" note disparagingly by those who hate it, and as a compliment by those who love it, as I do, when properly balanced in a perfume. Like civet, musk, or castoreum, those legendary stink notes that make a perfume "animalic," the cumin note (which I don't see in any official notes for FdB but which is unmistakeable), puts this perfume into a "human animalic" category. (This doesn't exist, but I think it should. Rumeur, with its dirty-hair Costus note, should be there, too, as Octavian has suggested on 1000Fragrances.)
In FdB, the cumin note, mixed with the woodsy flowers and fruit, is an unmistakably feminine sexual scent. It is not as brutally representational as Etat Libre D'Orange's Secretions Magnifique is with its blood/adrenaline/spunk accord, but then again, it's operating within pretty traditional gender parameters. (FdB couldn't date SM, in other words; I doubt he'd open the car door for her.)
Sensual and intense, FdB comes on strong. But after the intial blast of cumin you can smell a whiff of medicinal menthol (the clove note?) mixed with cedar, cardamom, cinnamon, honey, beeswax and plum. There's a hint of sexuality, after which time it all dies down or dries down into something quite soft, if still a bit spicy.
The 4 ml. mini parfum I have looks like a tiny, phallic mushroom shoot, with a naturalistic little curve that hints at a woman's body but looks more like something organic growing out of the ground. (Sheldrake, Lutens and their designers had some gender fun with this one!)
This perfume has definitely grown on me, and what struck me at first as shockingly cumin-y continues to dry down in my mind as velvety, plummy, woody, mysterious and dreamy. Wow.