We review Un Bois Vanille, an amber vanilla Eau de Parfum (EDP) for men and women by French perfumery Serge Lutens.
Born in 1942 in Lille, the capital of the Hauts-de-France region of northern France, Serge Lutens has made a name for himself as a visionary of beauty in almost all its forms: among his many talents, he is a photographer, filmmaker, hairstylist, fashion designer, and perfumer.
Lutens was introduced to the world of beauty at an early age, when he became an apprentice in a hair salon in Lille at the age of fourteen—a period of his life that he would later describe as crucial to his lifelong fascination with beauty.
Photography also became his hobby, and he often photographed his closest friends as models. In 1962, Lutens presented his photographic work to Vogue Paris, which hired him to do hairdos, makeup, as well as jewelry. A few years later, the house of Dior entrusted him to develop its makeup.
In the 1980s, Lutens joined Shiseido and was charged with reinventing its image and internationalizing its brand. This is where he conceived of his first perfume, an amber-woody Eau de Parfum (EDP) for women titled Nombre Noir. Building on his success, Lutens created his own brand in the 2000s.
The eponymous brand reflects the authenticity, courage, and audacity of Serge Lutens, who conceives his fragrances, designs his bottles, and considers every detail of his creations without concessions. The brand also features a range of high-end makeup products, which, over the years, have been showered with praise by beauty connoisseurs.
Un Bois Vanille
Note that the photos above are of the old bottle of Un Bois Vanille. The new bottle, featuring a black label and a small, rounded cap, can be seen in the featured image at the beginning of this review.
|Un Bois Vanille
|Eau de Parfum (EDP)
|Deep within Aztec Mexico, Serge Lutens leads us in the footsteps of the conquistador Hernan Cortés and his discovery of the most heavenly nectar, vanilla. A delicious, wood-scented journey to the heart of a forgotten civilization.
|1.6 fl oz (50 ml), 3.3 fl oz (100 ml)
Denatured Alcohol, Fragrance, Water, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Alcohol, Linalool, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Coumarin, Citronellol, Alpha-isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene, Farnesol, Eugenol, Geraniol, CI 15985
Source: Serge Lutens, last retrieved February 26, 2022
In 2003, Serge Lutens launched Un Bois Vanille—a gender-neutral fragrance inspired by the discovery of vanilla and its introduction to the Old World in the year 1520 by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
This fragrance is a delicious, wood-scented journey into the heart of a long-lost civilization. Upon its introduction, it quickly caught on among gourmands, and continues to enjoy a following, if limited, to this day.
The notes are beeswax, benzoin, bitter almond, tonka bean, coconut milk, vanilla, guaiac wood, and sandalwood.
The opening is smoky and mysterious, with a strong hint of guaiac wood. If, like me, you are a gourmand lover, you will fall in love with the dry down. It smells like a crème brûlée, the kind served in the quaint cafes of Paris when you mingle with the locals and leave the tourist trails.
Un Bois Vanille is woody, smoky, seductive, refined, and very sweet. It’s a “grown-up” kind of vanilla. It invites you to play with it but leaves much more to the imagination.
It’s one of the most captivating and sophisticated vanilla scents in my collection. It’s so effortlessly elegant, yet has such a mysterious note to it, that you have to wear it in a certain mood.
I reach for Un Bois Vanille when I want to feel chic and stylish without revealing too much of myself or my mood. It’s like a luxurious scarf; as soon as you put it on your skin, it envelops you in its luxury.
It’s definitely not for the faint of heart—it’s a perfume that’s strong, in a way that stands out and turns heads. So, if you’re in the market for a delicious, warm, inviting vanilla, this is most likely not the fragrance for you.
Perfect for date nights or cuddling in front of the fireplace. I wouldn’t recommend it for an office setting as it is too strong and overpowering.
It’s one of the most alluring and intriguing scents I’ve ever tried. It isn’t among the most hyped in the fragrance community, and is one of those hidden gems that have a place on every perfumista’s dresser.
Un Bois Vanille is extremely long-lasting. Spray it on your skin in the morning, and it will stay on you for upward of 12 hours. Don’t spritz more than 3-4 times at a time, though. It’s very strong and might become a bit cloying.
You asked, we answered: Why some perfumes last longer than others
For the first 3 to 4 hours of wear, Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens has tremendous sillage. After that, it becomes moderate for 6 to 8 hours and then turns into a skin scent.
Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens can be purchased in two sizes: 1.7 fl oz (50 ml) and 3.4 fl oz (100 ml).
Read our guide: Which size perfume to buy?
On the day this review was published, Un Bois Vanille was out of stock on the US version of Serge Lutens’ online store. In the French version of the store, the 1.7 fl oz (50 ml) bottle sold for €120, and 3.4 fl oz (100 ml) for €180.
Layer Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens with Maison Margiela’s By the Fireplace for a smoky and sweet vanilla scent like no other.
Layer Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens with Vanilla | 28 by Kayali for a sugary vanilla concoction that’s perfect for gourmand lovers.
Un Bois Vanille is a heavy type of vanilla that would be perfect for the fall and winter, but can also be worn on a cold spring/summer night. We wouldn’t recommend it during the hot summer days; it’s too strong and potent.
Un Bois Vanille is one of the most sophisticated vanilla perfumes I’ve ever tried.
However, it is not a typical vanilla perfume. You have to like your scents strong and mysterious. Otherwise, chances are you wouldn’t enjoy it as much. One thing’s for sure: love it or hate it, it’s truly one of a kind.