Serpent Bohème was yet another Marshalls impulse buy. I remember liking either Boucheron or Jaipur when I was a kid, and would like to get a hold of those sometime. But Serpent Bohème was right in front of me, so even though I knew it would have basically zero kinship to either of those, I grabbed it.
The bottle is outstanding. It's a slightly tapered solid U-shape. The clear glass has a snakeskin texture imprinted on three sides. The front surface is smooth, so you can feel the rough texture with one hand while touching the smooth part with the other. The front also has a metal nameplate near the bottom. The cap is a heavy golden cylinder. The inside of it is black plastic, but it makes sense for that part to be plastic for mechanical reasons - it doesn't come across as cheap at all. There's a black nylon cord wound around the neck of the bottle. This cord has metal aglets on it which make a clinking sound when they knock against the glass. Every detail is high quality, even the aglets (which have solid ends, instead of being merely sheets that were crimped into place). It's a sensory treat for the eyes, hands, and even ears. Boucheron is a jewelrymaker first and foremost, and it shows in this bottle design.
Speaking of jewelry, that's what Serpent Bohème is named after. The Serpent Bohème collection consists of diamonds and gold beading in teardrop shapes inspired by paisley. If I had to invent a complaint about the bottle, it would be that it doesn't have any similarity to the jewelry collection. I'm not married to that complaint. I don't love it. I do love the bottle.
Inside the bottle is a fruity-floral neo-chypre. It opens with orange and blackcurrant that are sweet enough to come off edible. Blackcurrant has green leanings that make it a really interesting idea for a neo-chypre, but combined with the orange it comes off more like a fruit candy or mocktail than as a stand-in for moss. The fruit becomes more tart as time passes.
Starting about half an hour in, the dry rose and metallic amber heart start heating up. The fragrance becomes as clean and pressed and warm as fresh laundry. The rose is extremely tenacious. It hangs on through the whole drydown. That makes Serpent Bohème's progression linear, but that's not a bad thing. It's unusual and pleasant that it still smells bright at a point where ordinarily there'd be nothing left but the baritone parts of the amber.
Another thing that isn't bad is that it smells expensive. I don't mean that it smells like it's masterfully crafted from quality ingredients, which is associated with expensiveness but not necessarily assured by it. I mean that it smells like it cost a lot of money. I can picture a woman with a media management job accessorizing a gauzy neutral blouse with Serpent Bohème. That assessment has really bad associations tied to it, but I mean it well.
There's a lot of shrugging off of deficiencies up there. The former great perfume houses are all in decline and have been noticeably so for long enough that I'm tired of rehashing it. Nice shouldn't be good enough, but that's where we're at unless we dig into the niche or fuck off from Europe and the IFRA completely. My plan is to save my anger for one last vent session on a perfume from a house that really should have fucking done better. This doesn't qualify. Boucheron did not have the kind of reputation that can be undermined by releasing a perfume that's merely competent.
Could Serpent Bohème have been better? Yes. Was it ever going to be better? No. Is it great? No. Is it good? Yes. It's likable. The blackcurrant note is lovely. I've been respraying it mid-drydown to refresh it so I can enjoy it more. And the bottle is a delight. I expect to use up my bottle and display it when it's empty. S'good.