My relationship with Neroli 36 by Le Labo can be summed up as "It's Complicated". I have been testing it since 2007 or so, and it went something like this: "ugh, I don't like it", "really, I don't like it", "still don't like it", "REALLY don't like it", "DO.NOT.WANT!!!", and finally, "I still rather not" and "well, Ok".
There's no chance that Neroli 36 will ever become my favorite perfume, but this summer and the recent heat wave have taught me to appreciate it. It is a unique perfume even if it doesn't tickle my neroli bone one bit. I like my neroli thick and dark, perhaps heavily sweetened. My top two perfumes that are focused on this note are the original (discontinued) L'Occitane Neroli and the surprisingly incensy Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Nerolia (another goner). Also, when it comes to neroli's sibling, orange blossom, I prefer it as dirty and carnal as possible (thank you, Uncle Serge).
Le Labo Neroli 36 is none of the above.
Instead, what we get is a laundry room: laundry musk and a shockingly aquatic note so clean you can eat of its floor. There's also some steam from the ironing board and starched white cotton. On bad days the aquatic notes really kill Neroli 36 for me. The rest of the time they just annoy me. But on a good day, when the steam is already rising of bodies and pavements, it also releases the hidden floral notes (jasmine, more than anything else), and even I cannot object to the crisp white shirt Le Labo is offering me.
Notes: neroli, mandarin orange, rose, jasmine, calone, musk, tonka bean, vanilla
Neroli 36 ($58, 15ml EDP) is available from Barneys, Le Labo boutiques around the world, Luckyscent and .lelabofragrances.com.
Photo: Laundress, circa 1907-1912 From As We Were American Photographic Postcards 1905-1930 by Rosamond B. Vaule