Given the extraordinary range of perfumes that exist in the world, I think that anyone would be hardpressed to find one that manages to smell incredible on the skin, stop people in their tracks, and last and last for hours (if not days)- all the while transforming and blooming into something new, different, and beautiful.
Well, I found one: I introduce you to Le Labo’s newest creation, Santal 33.
(photo courtesy of the Le Labo website)
Le Labo is a perfume firm known for its undeniably creative transmutations - and I use ‘transmutations’ specifically because Le Labo has a gift for creating scents that smell nothing like what the bottle leads one to expect (the ever famous Rose 31 is a classic example of this - it is, in my opinion, a truly masculine scent with a bare hint of rose offsetting a dusty amber wood). Santal 33 sits comfortably within this description.
I would have difficulty describing to you exactly what this perfume is. The description that Le Labo offers is almost hilarious; it spouts something about the Marlboro Man being the inspiration behind this scent. I call bullshit, as this smells so sexual, so biting, and so warm as to almost be dangerous if worn on the right kind of man or woman. I smell this on myself, and I kind of want to sex myself. I’m not kidding (nor am I narcissistic - I just really smell amazing)!
A long-time fan of Le Labo, I was drawn to Santal 33 because of the notes: musk, leather, violet, sandalwood, among others. It sounded made for me, and I purchased the $58 15mL EDP bottle from the store as a birthday present to myself. The Nolita, NYC store itself is a chemist’s dream, with tubes and bottles to play with. My dear friend Joe (he of the fudge), whose favorite movie is “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer”, was enchanted by the displays. I myself didn’t have to look around. I was on a mission. The lovely associate, Kate, poured a fresh bottle for me, and graced it with a label that has my name and an expiration date. Before leaving the store, I sprayed a tester of Santal 33 on my wrists; yes, I actually BOUGHT the perfume before I SMELLED the perfume - I just knew I would love it. What I didn’t expect was how complex and gorgeous it would be, and ultimately, how besotted I would be by it.
The first spray shook me: cedar, something metallic and sharp, leather, violet. It screamed sex to me; it took me back to sweaty Manhattan nights, to intoxicating first kisses, to under the cover whispers, to 3am walks along Riverside Drive. I stuck my hand underneath Joe’s nose, and his reaction was surprising. For someone who vehemently refuses to wear cologne (although I try to convince him otherwise), he was instantly enamored with the smell. For him, it brought back a huge rush of summer memories (his words, not mine!), and he instantly approved of my purchase. I knew I had a winner if it had his approval (and considering how the two of us continued to smell me all afternoon and all evening, I knew that I definitely had chosen well.).
As Santal 33 blooms on the skin, it takes its wearer on a journey through its different notes. On my skin, the leather note never dissipates; rather, it intensifies and sharpens the other notes. The drydown becomes increasingly smokier and more violet-y. Even better, this perfume lasts forever on my skin - I can smell it still 24 hours later, and it smells just as fresh. Everything about Santal 33 screams “that leather jacket that the hot guy you met at that bar in the West Village was wearing before he took you home and did things to you that made you sweat” and I cannot get enough of the smell. Of course, that’s just my take - for Joe, it reminded him of youth and summer.
The entire point I'm trying to make is that this fragrance actually does what perfume in general is meant to do: stimulate the senses, engage your memory, and make people take notice of you.
I love Santal 33. I love it for how it smells on me, and how it makes me feel. I love that it brings all of these wonderful associations back to me; I love that it created a moment between me and my friend; I love that I feel confident and sexy and alluring while I wear it. What more could I possibly ask for, besides a lifetime supply of it?