If you are a fan of sandalwood scents then you are already familiar with Le Labo Santal 33. It quickly achieved cult status after making its appearance in 2011 and it became practically impossible to walk down the streets of New York not to be barraged by its distinct leathery/woody aroma.
For you who aren’t familiar with the brand, Le Labo = The Lab. The minimalistic bottles, the labels and the names are all intended to remind us of scientific experiments. The name “Santal 33” refers to the 33 ingredients used in the formulation of the fragrance. I’m not convinced that it’s at all necessary to know how many ingredients are used in a specific fragrance but this is all part of their brand image. Gimmicky perhaps but it seems to be working for them quite well.
I’m not knocking Le Labo brand btw. They’ve produced some really great scents and Lys 41, which I wrote about here remains one of my favorites.
I first tried Santal 33 at a perfume event at their NYC Nolita location a couple of years ago and I was less than wowed. You have to understand though that I was sampling over 10 different perfumes that morning and I’m usually not one to lust after sandwood perfumes. Lys 41, Rose 31 and Iris 39 are much more up my alley. Yes please!
The reason I’m writing this review now is that I’ve been going through my immense collection of samples and deciding which to keep and which to bid adieu. I decided to give Santal 33 another chance.
The first time I tried this was on paper since I was speed sampling many different Le Labo concoctions and trying them on my skin was not an option. This time I applied to my wrist to see if I’d feel differently.
It started out really raw, as in a blast of sawdust. Soon I started noticing sandalwood, cedar and a subdued leather. There’s also a hint of something that smells vaguely like cucumber and I’m guessing but it seemed be fig (a note I love). There’s just a whisper of some type of soft floral note which might be violet but not sure.
I’m pretty sure that Santal 33 isn’t anything that I’ll be reaching for anytime soon. I never say never but I can’t imagine paying $180 for a 1.7 oz bottle of this stuff. It is interesting in a shabby chic kind of way and smells comforting and peaceful once it mellows out.