Skip to main content

Un Bois Vanille – Class of its own – November 23, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo - Wikimedia Commons - Campfire with twigs and pine cones - Emildil

Weird weather the past few days – warm, then cold and windy, then back to warm and balmy, and today it’s windy, overcast, with a threat of snow. Very confusing weather, and I’ve been feeling confused, too - probably from over-heating in my down coat.

What to wear in this weird weather, perfume-wise? Orientals with woods, leather, incense, vanilla, musk, tonka, patchouli, myrhh, beckon me in cold weather. Wearing them is like being inside a protective bubble, in a world of my own. Hmm, sounds like today will be a Serge day. Un Bois Vanille will be perfect.

Echh, vanilla! Sweet, nasty, girly, vanilla-milkshake frags. Can’t stand vanilla frags, you say? Hold on, this is a Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake take on vanilla, and it’s anything but girly and nasty – it’s definitely grown-up, decidedly dark, and fascinatingly weird like all Lutens scent creations.

For starters, here’s Serge Luten’s comment about Un Bois Vanille (A Vanilla Wood), which is listed in the “Consolation” (Comfort) category on his website: “To paraphrase Freud, it's not the evil who are full of regrets, but the good. Both the devil and vanilla like black. No sentimentality here! Within each of us, this mellowness grows stronger and more refined thanks to contrasting wood notes.” I’m not certain of his exact meaning here (maybe it’s a lousy translation) but suffice to say that vanilla is the key note, and it’s coming from a dark place…the depths of the woods.

Un Bois Vanille opens sweet, I smell milky coconut with a hint of curry or anise – it must be immortelle – and I immediately think of other strange Lutens that I own, like Jeux de Peau and Santal de Mysore. This sweet opening, though, soon becomes far less sweet and develops a dark roasted quality - the smell of brown sugar caramelizing, or coffee or almonds roasting, with burning wood mixed in. It’s a tantalizing note with a bitter edge, and I can definitely detect dark vanilla underneath. The sensation of Un Bois Vanille at this point is definitely un-foody, definitely woodsy.

In the heart, vanilla blooms with a hint of almond, then is unexpectedly joined by a floral note, a true rose which adds a spicy pungent energy, but it, too, eventually leads back into the woods. Creamy sandalwood and smoky guaiac wood mix with the floral, then segue into a comforting wrap of tonka and soft musk in the dry-down….and warm dark vanilla, restrained, edgy, mysterious, with smoke curling round the edges.

Un Bois Vanille is fascinatingly complex, a full-spectrum experience of vanilla created through the contrast with woods. Sweet, milky, spicy, roasted, creamy, warm, smoky, deep, dark, the scent reveals every delicious facet of this familiar note, including some we may never have consciously perceived. It is way beyond a “vanilla frag”, much different from the minimalist Vanilia by L’Artisan, or the lush boozy La Vaniglia by BOIS 1920, and in a class of its own. Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake have a knack for taking simple things off the pantry shelf, like vanilla, and giving them back to us as works of art.

Un Bois Vanille - for me today, since I crave comfort, or "consolation" as Serge calls it, nothing else will do.

Un Bois Vanille is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.