Un Bois Sépia (Serge Lutens)

What Serge Lutens wanted: "This fragrance, just like falling leaves, evokes the colors of autumn... More than a shade, sepia is the scent of moss and dead leaves that one only finds in the woods. As for the autumn sun, it often coincides with rain. Maybe my story should even include a scene about finding mushrooms... In a word, it's a fabulous chypre!"

What I wanted: Neither the painter's pigment known as sepia nor a chypre from the forest floor, but something organically marine in nature: the blood-rich, salty tang of ocean water and all the life that thrives in its depths. When I first smelled Un Bois Sépia at Sniffapalooza, I described it as "iodine smoke, inky ocean, weird wood"-- this is what I craved. (If a chypre could be predicated on kelp instead of oakmoss...)

What Serge and I got: Dessert. If Histoires de Parfum's 1828 Jules Verne and Viktor + Rolf's Spicebomb had a baby and then christened it in a baptismal font full of warm caramel, it would be Un Bois Sépia. I was unprepared for how sugary it is compared to the murky, complex scent I recalled from three years ago. Did Uncle Serge sweeten it up for the American market, or is my memory so faulty and fickle that it's attempting to spin a big fish tale?

What I'll wear instead: Liz Zorn's Fougère Nakh. This, at least, lays a legitimate claim to kinship with the 'wine-dark sea'.

Scent Elements: Vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, opoponax, cypress