Monday, June 20, 2011

Le Labo Santal 33

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 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.


  1. I have tried the Le Labos but except for the Iris never as a full body scent, and as you explain, you need to if it changes and acts so differently that way. Something to consider, and you have piqued my interest in this line again. Sometimes the names are not really all that related to the scent either, a notion I will need to abandon in order to appreciate what is definitely there. Sounds so dreamy.

  2. Hi Gaia, I seem to remember that you chose not to cover Le Labo for some reason regarding them copying smaller niche companies (or something). Did their practices change, or did you have a change or heart, or was I making that up to begin with?

  3. Lucy, I find that it's really hard to get Le Labo without giving each perfume some serious quality time without other distractions. I don't like everything in the line, but the ones that work for me are really spectacular.

  4. K., no, I never had any issues with Le Labo and their practices. Perhaps you're thinking of Bond No. 9. That's the one I completely avoid.

  5. For some reason I feel relieved that you ended up liking Santal so much. It is definitely one of Le Labo's weirder creations, and they're ALL weird to varying degrees. Santal is surprising people left and right by not smelling at all like what we expect a sandalwood perfume smells like. In this case, sandalwood has sprouted wings and carries cartons of unsmoked menthol cigarettes around to barter with.

  6. Gaia, I bought this for myself as a birthday present and it's probably the best scent Le Labo's come out with. It's nothing like I expected it to smell like, and it's gorgeous. There's this incredible violet smoke to it. I'm wondering what it would smell like paired with the Oud or Patchouli.

  7. Carrie, is it weird that I don't find some of the Le Labo perfumes very weird? Iris, Labdanum and even Vetiver are pretty mellow on me.

  8. Joey, you chose well. I can't say I was half as sophisticated about perfume when I was your age.

  9. All of my sophistication stems from the fact that I've been reading your blog since you started, and thus learned from the best.

  10. <3 <3 <3 Joey. This was the best compliment.

  11. I find Santal 33 nearly identical to Essentric Molcule's no:4...ambroxan. But Santal 33 is not quite as cheap smelling and lasts longer.


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