The first time I gave Le Labo's Santal 33 a full-body wearing, it kept me up half the night. I already knew what it smelled like from previous careful spritzing and wrist-nose interaction, but I couldn't even start guessing what Santal 33 felt like. Le Labo not only got my attention here but also engaged me emotionally. It doesn't happen that often.
Le Labo's marketing materials prattle something about the Marlboro Man as the inspiration for Santal 33. As other bloggers have noted, it's highly unlikely the ragged cowboy smelled anything like that (for the record, I refuse to think he would have chosen Lonestar Memories, either, but that's not the point here). Yes, there's wood and a little smoke here, a touch of the outdoors, leather accessories and body heat, but seriously- the Marlboro Man in violet? I doubt it.
The opening of Santal 33 is spicy with some of the weird but inviting pickle note. Sometimes I encounter pickles in the opening of high quality ambers, other times it's attached to certain woods, which I'd guess it's the case in this Le Labo perfume. I don't mind it as the dill is short-lived and actually smells almost comforting (blame my mom who used to can and pickle all through the years I lived at home). Once we get that out the way I start smelling the cedar, scorched sandalwood and loads of violet.
This is where the journey begins. Santal 33 changes and expands on my skin in various directions. It's sweet and it's not. It's rough and sharp but also snuggly. There's something metallic and cold thrown into the pile of aromatic woods that keeps my senses alert to any coming dangers. Sometimes it smells like a girl on a camping trip (that's sort of how I met the Blond, as hard as it is to believe), but also of nights years prior spent talking under a tree in a military camp (don't ask).
It's the blend of violet, camphor, leather and top quality wood that gets me in its grip. This wild ride last and lasts (and lasts) on my skin, becomes more musky and sweet, and just works magic for me. I've gotten wonderful compliments on Santal 33 from people who are decidedly not married to me, so it's not just my active imagination.
Notes: cardamom, iris, violet, ambrox, smoking wood alloy (Australian sandalwood, papyrus, cedarwood), spice, leather, musk.
Santal 33 (startine at $58/15ml EDP, a very attractive size and price) can be found in Le Labo stores all over the world, Barneys, Luckyscent, Colette Paris and lelabofragrances.com. The best way to get acquainted with three Le Labo perfumes at once is to order the discovery kit (3x 5ml decants at $58).
Photo by Helmut Newton for Vogue UK, March 1968.