Thanks again for the wonderful gift of Le Labo fragrance samples. These scents linger, so it took me some time to appreciate each on their own merits. I don’t have a nose for the specific notes of scents, but I appreciate the imagery and sense of place that they each gave me.
Presented in the order in which they were first sniffed and with my favorite two *starred:
For Santal 33, I get where Eddie Bulliqi is coming from with “10 Years of Santal 33: Why Did it Capture the World’s Nose?” Yes, it is a scent likened to an art gallery. But, like most art galleries, it’s perhaps too aloof. This scent is not inviting. Santal 33 is to be worn on other people propped on pedestals, while an audience admires and interprets notes from a distance. I don’t want to hug myself when wearing Santal 33.
Neroli 36: I want to bathe in it; eat it; sleep it; luxuriate it. I think Neroli 36 was created in a lab for nefarious purposes, a chemical for heightened intoxication. It’s like a return to the womb. It’s like a journey to another planet. Neroli 36 may one day kill me.
Rose 31 is a shade too floral for me. Or maybe Roses de Chloé already took me to the desert and captured my heart.
When first spayed, I immediately disliked Lys 41. It smelled mechanical? But that initial harsh note soon went away and then it smelled similar to Neroli 36, but less potent. A whisper. Or maybe that really was Neroli 36, seeping from my pores. Either way, I don’t trust Lys 41. It think it’s trying to trick me.
FLEUR D’ORANGER 27*
Fleur D’Oranger 27 is a kitchen-with-high-vaulted-ceilings. It’s not an empty kitchen. This kitchen has delectable foods in bowls on counter tops, bird of paradise leaves (not flowers), and ample sunlight. I want to spend time here chatting with you.
Bergamote 22 is a clean bathroom at a very expensive hotel. I appreciate the universal loveliness of the masculine and the feminine balance, but I don’t want to spend time in bathrooms, no matter how luxurious.
Ambrette 9 is a tan, speckled vitamin swallowed while at a beach.
Ylang 49 is a darkly lit room just before a long, relaxing massage. It also has the promise of candies. Like, someone’s grandma is waiting for you to finish your massage, so they can give you a handful of candies.
THÉ MATCHA 26
Likely because I’ve never tasted matcha before, my first sniff of Thé Matcha 26 went to something familiar: the image of a sphere of bright white shaved coconut. Sadly, in my ignorance, this false imagery has remained.
Patchouli 24 is a luscious campfire, set ablaze for royalty.
I’m curious to learn which are your favorites and what you thought of all of these special scents.
P.S. I think about Neroli 36 when it’s not with me. In these moments, I wonder if it’s thinking about me or if that’s just part of its game.
I am so glad to be on this journey with you! I generally hate perfume and have left rooms because of overly scented people (including one young man I was interviewing for a job. He didn’t get it). I have tried over the years to find a scent I could wear but most perfumes are too floral, sweet, clingy (on the “feminine” side) and too musky, oily, heavy (on the “masculine” side).
Kudos to Le Labo, because they have figured out the formula for beguiling a lifelong perfume-hater like myself into spending hours sniffing and researching scents and spending my childrens’ college money on their wares. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. And my home smells like a bordello. I had heard about Le Labo and learned that every striving artsy New Yorker smells like Santal 33. I also learned that the Santal 26 candle is the official scent of the illuminati, so obviously I was ready to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.
I ordered the 17-scent “Discovery Box” and embarked on an olfactorial (now a word) journey, which obviously, you had to join me on. The rest of the world appears to be embarking on the same journey, because when I tried to order the box for you it was wait-listed. I went ahead and ordered you the 10 I liked most. In this way, I have spared your nose from some of the more offensive scents in Le Labo’s arsenal (I’m looking at you, Baie 19 and Labdanum 18. I still have nightmares about Jasmine 17).
The entire line (even the florals) have masculine notes of either musk, cedar or smoke, and when they go full macho, it’s pretty gross. Another 13, for example, per my notes, “smells like an expensive men’s barbershop that Johnny Depp (himself an arbiter of scent) goes to.” It was commissioned by highbrow arbiter of fashion/arts/culture, AnOther Magazine, which was founded by Kate Moss’s baby daddy Jefferson Hack, so, you know, “cool.” Unwearable, however, if you are not an aging, but still virile multimillionaire clinging to your rock n’ roll youth. Now that I think about it, I might need to send you this one just because it is apparently so evocative.
On to the scents. They are each named for the primary scent note and a number, which indicates the total ingredient count.
Per the naming convention, the main scent is “Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), a type of citrus fruit native to Italy NOT to be confused with other citrus fruits such as bitter orange and sweet orange” (fancy) and as you can see from this tastefully art directed image, other ingredients include cedar, grapefruit, cotton, a matchstick and part of a floorboard. I love it. It’s fruity and a little floral and has that cedar note that apparently is my kryptonite. I learned through this process that my scent MUST HAVE CEDAR. I want to smell like I’ve just run in from the rain through a grove of
orange Italian citrus trees and have just changed into the cashmere lounge-wear that I store in my bespoke cedar closet. This is ALMOST it.
The beer that made Milwaukee famous. The sauna in an expensive spa that is harder to get into than the Met Ball. Sandalwood. Musk. Cardamum. Deep floral notes. It is masculine, but beautiful.
THIS is my favorite. According to Le Labo, it is “Introverted and deep by nature. It carries a noble stillness… it is a scented reminder of home, of welcomed solitude, and of all things familiar and treasured.” Yes, that sounds like ME. I love it. It has the cedar and bitter orange that I like from my citrus grove/cashmere closet fantasy home and a deeper note that I can’t place and will just call “crack pie.” Is it Matcha? Is it Vetiver? What are these things? One can spend hours, days, a lifetime reading about arcane scents used in perfumery: their Latin names, their ancient roots, their medicinal properties, their complex extraction processes. (Vetiver is derived from the Tamil word meaning “root that is dug up” and is related to fragrant grasses such as lemon grass, though it is the extracted oil of its long roots that is used in perfumery. Vetiver smells “dry, earthy, woody, leathery and smoky… like uncut grass on a warm day.”) As I said, I love it. It’s woodsy, earthy, a little tart, very dry, with no cloying floral or musky scents. It is the scent of the best version of myself. The intellectually curious, effortlessly chic woman who runs with the wolves. The sapphire- and amethyst-adorned rover of ancient forests. I found myself breathing into the wristbands of my clothing, feeling my body relax.
I proudly held my wrists out to my husband, declaring that I HAD FOUND MY SCENT. “Eh, he said. Not for me. Smells like a man.” I am heartbroken and may never wear perfume again.
P.S. A few more notes:
Neroli 36: This one dragged up a strong scent memory for me. I am in a small shop in Cambridge, MA that sells bongo drums and serape hoodies. I am 19. Essential Oils have just become a thing that people wear. Patchouli is a common one, but too crusty for me. I loiter at the oil wall as only 19-year-olds avoiding homework can loiter. I have found my scent. It is floral, sticky and sweet. It smells like Neroli 36.
Baie 19: What young men think they smell like when bathed in Cool Water Cologne.
Rose 31: An incredibly wealthy, impossibly chic italian woman.