Sunday, November 15, 2009

Serge Lutens- Un Bois Sepia

Un Bois Sepia is an odd one in Serge Lutens (sort of) exclusive/non-export* collection. Supposedly part of the Bois series, the spawn of Feminite du Bois, which are all variations on the original fruity-cedar theme, but I can't find an official confirmation for that (the official Serge Lutens website has gone from bad to worse). If my nose is to be believed, Un Bois Sepia is not more a part of the Bois series than Un Bois Vanille or Miel de Bois. It's quite different than anything else in that group and doesn't seem to find its place among the other Lutens creations, either.

Now, as far as I understand, Un Bois Sepia was reformulated approximately two years ago. I think it used to be darker and might have had a touch of moss somewhere in its green structure. I have a travel size atomizer (15 ml?) which I got at Bergdorf Goodman with my full bottle of Bois et Fruits a couple of years ago. This is the newer juice which feels a bit weak and has a more generic green opening.

The top notes make Un Bois Sepia appear like a somewhat classic male cologne. Something green, sheer vetiver, wood and just a little dirt, which on a bad day doesn't agree with my skin. It's the patchouli, I think, which is different than the rich chocolaty patch of Borneo. This one is not as complex and reminds me of the patchouli used in several mainstream fragrances such as Prada (the original women's version) and even Calvin Klein Euphoria without all the icky synthetic fruit. Un Bois Sepia is better, however, and on a good skin chemistry day it actually dries down to a very pleasant dry wood scent. Generally speaking, it usually smells better on my husband and I like it best as something that remains on my scarves or jackets. Still, it's easy enough to wear in a non-nonsense kind of way, even if I don't think it's quite worth the $200 price tag.

*As a Serge Lutens non-export, Un Bois Sepia was originally only available in a bell jar from the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris (they sell online and ship in Europe). A couple of years ago, Uncle Serge began releasing some of the non-exports (Bois Violette, Bois et Fruits, Santal de Mysore and Un Bois Sepia) in the regular rectangular atomizer- first, exclusively at Bergdorf in NYC, later adding a few more doors, such as Luckyscent/Scent Bar in L.A., Aedes in NYC and Beauty Habit. The price of those bottles is $200. Don't confuse the limited edition/distribution of the above with the yearly release of one non-export in a regular bottle (with a black label, $140) that usually makes its first appearance at Barneys. This year we were graced with MKK, last year it was Borneo and the year before (if I'm not mistaken)- Fumerie Turque. Then there are Chergui and Chene which seem to have been added to the export line permanently (the latter has also been obviously reformulated in the last year or so).

Samples of Un Bois Sepia (and the rest of the Serge Lutens, export and not) are available from The Perfumed Court. The Posh Peasant also offers most of the line, but currently not this particular one.

Art: Tree O by Robert Cook


  1. Un Bois Sepia was the first 'variation on the leimotif' of the Bois series; I discovered it only because- in the early 90's-
    I was trying to keep fluent by reading a French Marie Claire every month ;-)

    It is very different.
    I have a few bottles tucked away of the original, if you ever want.
    Glad to share with you :)

  2. This was very informative and helpful.


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