Turin's 2 star evaluation of this Bois flanker in the Lutens line, "dumb-witted sports fragrance," hits the nail on the head.
Harsh and sweet at the same time, Un Bois Sepia does resemble a 1980s men's "powerhouse" scent, generic, common, unpleasant, and copied ad nauseum hundreds if not thousands of times by niche houses in the decades since.
Uninspired to say the least, one wonders why the Lutens house launched this. Most probably as another reviewer suggests to round out the Bois line by concentrating on the base notes only of the original, Feminite du Bois.
It's harmless, I suppose, but at Lutens' selling price, rather a joke on the fragrance-buying public, unsuspecting and trustful as we can be.
Genre: Woody Oriental
The violet blossom and wood top notes put me briefly in mind of a sweetened and superannuated Grey Flannel, though minus the fresh citrus accent of dihydromyrcenol. If you’re thinking violet + wood + Serge Lutens = Bois de Violette Mark II, you’d be wrong. For better or worse, Un Bois de Sépia has little of its sibling’s weight, depth, or opacity. Nor, I fear, does it have much character. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Un Bois de Sépia the mildest and most reticent fragrance I’ve encountered in the Serge Lutens “Bois” series. By the (admittedly flamboyant) standards of this house, Un Bois de Sépia smells downright bland.
The cedar underpinnings common to the “Bois” tribe are apparent in Un Bois de Sépia, but the aggressive spices, conspicuous dried fruit notes, and traces of smoky incense that lend its kin their fetching exoticism are conspicuously absent. All I sense in their place are a dab of coumarin and a milky-textured sweetened wood accord that approximates sandalwood. If the intent was to compose a woody perfume that could offend nobody, then Un Bois de Sépia might rank as a success. On the other hand, it could come in a box labeled “Generic Woody Oriental” and none would be the wiser. In the Serge Lutens line, this kind of anonymity is both anomalous and disappointing.
UBS is a well-mannered vetiver + cypress + sandalwood fragrance. The overall aromatic/woody effect is unoriginal. The one thing that I think would have improved this composition is the exclusion of the opoponax. That sweet myrrh note sticks out like a sore thumb—it just does not belong. Given UBS's lack of inspiration, I too am uninspired to say anything else.
When I first discovered niche perfumes after years of casually collecting designer scents, I searched out Serge Lutens and this was my favorite. I even bought a bottle. At the time, I just wasn't ready for all the Lutens weirdness, and Un Bois Sepia was a really good entry point for me.
Looking back, I can see what attracted me. I was such a sucker for those common topnotes, that mix of grape bubblegum, violet, mint, and lavender that have made countless men's designer scents smell similar. At the time, I already had Vera Wang for Men and Hugo Boss Pure, as well as Ulrich Lang's Anvers, which all have the same identical topnotes, so I know I REALLY liked them without realizing what was going on. Un Bois Sepia also has these smellalike topnotes, which makes it easily the most "cheap" and "common" smelling perfume in the Lutens range, despite the fact that most people assume that title belongs to his L'Eau.
Anyway, after the common topnotes fade, Un Bois Sepia goes into a very nice leather phase (my favorite part), which is unfortunately interrupted by that bleachy rubbing alcohol "aquatic" smell that ruins so many designer scents. Eventually, it goes vaguely dark and woody before ending up as a faded sweet patchouli darkened with the remnants of that aquatic chemical smell.
In hindsight, I guess it was a step in my growth as a collector to pay $200 (ironically, this is one of Lutens' most expensive scents) for something that mostly smells like dozens of scents I could get for $20 at Ross. To that end, I wore Kenneth Cole Signature a couple of days ago and, except for the leather and the concentration, it was almost identical to Un Bois Sepia in terms of notes and progression. That being said, I can't stand to give Un Bois Sepia a thumbs down because I've worn it enough to have happy memories attached, but it's certainly not a great perfume...
I can't believe Un Bois Sepia is by Lutens. Gone is the typical dried fruit quality, the density and the bold oriental structure. What is left is a generic smelling woody fragrance that continuely winks at tones of modern mass-market masculines. Weak and uninspired. Thumbs down!