We present the experimental high-resolution vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) photoabsorption spectra of phenol covering for the first time the full 4.3-10.8 eV energy-range, with absolute cross sections determined. Theoretical calculations on the vertical excitation energies and oscillator strengths were performed using time-dependent density functional theory and the equation-of-motion coupled cluster method restricted to single and double excitations level. These have been used in the assignment of valence and Rydberg transitions of the phenol molecule. The VUV spectrum reveals several new features not previously reported in the literature, with particular reference to the 6.401 eV transition, which is here assigned to the 3sσ/σ-(OH)3π(3a″) transition. The measured absolute photoabsorption cross sections have been used to calculate the photolysis lifetime of phenol in the earth's atmosphere (0-50 km).