Le Labo Santal 33: Naturally Created In The Lab
by Martin Green
It can be tough to differentiate yourself in the world of scents when there are so many of them out there. However, a few young brands have enjoyed rapid success, including Le Labo (“The Laboratory” in French).
Founded in 2006 by Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi in New York City, Le Labo built its scent and candle collection around a joint manifesto that puts the focus on creating scents with meticulous care and attention.
Using natural-based scents requires a lot of manual labor, and Le Labo uses the time to create formulas that enchant the nose with surprise, while simultaneously smelling vaguely familiar.
Passionately embraced by the public, their success did not go unnoticed by the larger players in the scent industry. This led to the brand being bought in 2014 by Estée Lauder.
Fortunately, the parent company didn’t decide to heavily commercialize Le Labo, but gave it the opportunity to flourish at what it does best: make tantalizing scents in a somewhat old-fashioned way. Both Roschi and Penot are still on board, but with Estée Lauder handling the business side the founders can entirely focus on the creation of scents.
Le Labo is Santal 33
The success of Le Labo can be boiled down to a single scent: Santal 33. It touches everything that Le Labo stands for.
When you put a touch of Santal 33 on, it smells refreshing yet familiar. It has a powdery wood scent somewhat reminiscent of the odor of a brand-new, fine calfskin wallet or a just-delivered custom-made desk.
It is a delightful scent, not overpowering yet still full of character. It smells homey, yet at the same time undeniably outstanding in nature. You smell the quality of the ingredients that went into Santal 33.
On the skin, the scent is also very consistent. Santal 33 opens up very slowly, like a flower taking its time to bloom.
While leather is prominent at first, it moves somewhat to the background after an hour or so. It does not disappear, merely handing center stage over to the wood tones.
They are supported by violets, iris, and cardamom whose role is significant as they provide the powdery backdrop that makes this scent so sensational and recognizable. Its sillage is discrete, but it has a considerable staying power.
Packaging is often where you can differentiate between mainstream players and niche brands. The former attempt to lure customers with elaborate bottles, while the latter trust their scents to capture the attention of clients.
Le Labo couldn’t be more straightforward with its bottles, which are about as plain as can be, the only character provided by the label.
As a result, the bottle looks like something that could have been on the laboratory shelf of Louis Pasteur. That in itself gives it character, as does the fact that the label is printed in the store when you buy the scent, and part of the text can be altered to whatever the client wishes.
This makes purchasing a bottle of Le Labo Santal 33, or any of the brand’s scents, an experience that is different from buying any other.
The scents are also kept in a refrigerator on the premises of the retailer to ensure that the quality is at its best. The only thing that surprises me is that Le Labo doesn’t use a dark-colored bottle as light can harm the quality of a scent over time.
That being said, some call Santal 33 not only a benchmark scent but also a gateway drug to the collection of Le Labo. And I couldn’t agree more.
For more information please visit www.lelabofragrances.com/santal-33.
Please note that this article is not sponsored in any way, neither by Le Labo, nor its importers, nor its resellers. The author bought the reviewed bottle at full retail with his own money.