Licorice Tree – Review: Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille

I never liked licorice until I got pregnant. Apart from changing my entire life forever, pregnancy also, interestingly, changed my attitude towards licorice. I really craved it then, and the predilection has stayed with me since (thankfully the mood swings have not, or have they?).

Un Bois Vanille, as the name cunningly implies, is supposed to be about vanilla. It is, too, but not solely. This is pretty close to the picture I get in my mind when smelling Un Bois Vanille

It was created in 2003 by Christopher Sheldrake and features notes of black vanilla absolute, licorice, sandalwood, coconut milk, beeswax, caramelized benzoin, bitter almond, Gaiac wood, and tonka bean (according to Luckyscent).

But the fragrance doesn’t stay that innocent. Soon after the first spray, Un Bois Vanille starts to develop away from the merry licorice tree towards something darker, decidedly more grown up. The forest I start to see in my minds eye is straight out of the Brothers Grimm, dark, shadowy, still sweet, but there is danger lurking beneath the sweetness.

I love danger…

(Okay, I’m being not entirely truthful here, I am a very, very big coward, but bear with me for the sake of the story. Whatever, moving on, back to the business at hand.)

Many reviews center on the gourmand aspect of Un Bois Vanille (Gaia at the Non-Blonde writes an especially mouthwatering review), I get much more of the dark, woody and smoky notes, less of the foody ones, which makes it quintessentially Lutens for me. The dark forest, where one can get lost easily, where all the bad creatures hide out, where it is forbidden to go, that is where Serge and Christopher love to take us.

And many of us gladly if shiveringly follow…

Picture sources: Black Forest by Daniel Staver via,, some rights reserved, thank you!

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26 Responses to Licorice Tree – Review: Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille

  1. kjanicki says:

    Lovely imagery of deep dark woods. I never thought of trying this one but you made me want to. you also made me laugh – I like to imagine I’m as mysterious and dangerous as my perfume too (but I’m not.) 🙂

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  9. Ohhh yes! I just bought my first SL today (Santal Blanc) and thought I’d google “licorice serge lutens” – I’ll go try this one at the store tomorrow. It sounds like the solution to my never-ending search for “the perfect perfume”. 😀

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi Melissa, nice to see you here! 🙂
      I hope Un Bois Vanille is “the one” for you. It’s definitely an interesting perfume.
      If you are looking for licorice, 1000Flowers Reglisse Noire is also a great one. (Review is on the blog.)

      • Zubi d'Nova / Melissa de Blok says:

        I was actually not going to reply (again), but then remembered you telling me on Twitter that I should. 🙂
        What is even more interesting – and annoying – is that I was looking at Un Bois Vanille today and had this strong urge/voice telling me to just try it, but I dismissed it with annoyance – I was there to try the scents that had been moved to the exclusive line only, and that was that. (My dept store still has them in the cheaper bottles)

        I REALLY should listen to my gut more! And the worst thing is that I keep saying this, lol. I shall go tomorrow specially, and leave with a bottle if I even remotely like it after a half hour. Serge Lutens is calling to me.

        As for Reglisse Noire – I’m a heavy discriminator against EdTs. I even scrunch up my nose and make an ugly face when reading “Eau de Toilette”, as if to say “What a shame. We could’ve been good together”. 😛

        /End of novel 😛

        • Zubi d'Nova / Melissa de Blok says:

          Side-note, related to licorice: I LOVE Eau de Reglisse by Caron… for the half hour my skin doesn’t eat it.

          EdTs. *rolls eyes haughtily*

        • Olfactoria says:

          Some EdT’s blow your mind, so I don’t think you can generally dismiss them, but I know what you mean. It is annoying to have a perfume be gone after a short time. 😦
          Have fun with the Serges today!

          • Zubi d'Nova / Melissa de Blok says:

            I don’t know how this happened… but I left with Cedre! I also could not smell a thing of UBV until hours later, and even then it was faint. Even the SA couldn’t smell it on me! 😦 I shall try it again soon, but in the meantime, I am broke. I am not even sure if I love Cedre! 😦

          • Olfactoria says:

            Haha, how did that happen? 😀
            UBV is very strong on me, but maybe it is more of a winter scent anyway.
            I hope you enjoy Cedre!

  10. Quick update: Your review made this a must-have, and so after giving it a quick spritz at the dep store, I decided that even if I don’t love it, it’s mild and pleasant. Got home to order, and found a store that sells discounted used/damaged bottles, so I also got Alexander McQueen’s My Queen, and John Galliano’s signature (both of which I actually do like, luckily) as well as Un Bois Vanille. So I decided to drown myself in it just now, and NOW I understand the pictures in your post!! (It’s also possible that the department store bottle has gone off) Boy oh boy, does the licorice waft! And closer to my skin it’s just pure burned something-or-other and vanilla.

    So yeah, just wanted to say thank you for your review; would have never plunged in and bought it. Does that make me a lemming or the bottle a lemming? I never know how to use that phrase correctly!

    (Sorry I keep posting novels! So much to say! And, so excited too…)

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