Perfume Review – Le Labo Ylang 49

Le Labo Ylang 49Ylang 49 is one of three new scents released last month, in May 2013, by Le Labo. Two of them — Lys 41 and Ylang 49 — will join the permanent collection and won’t be exclusive to any one city. As always with Le Labo, the perfume name (and the number that corresponds to its purported number of ingredients) does not give the full picture. Ylang 49 is a ylang-ylang fragrance, but it is also a chypre — and one with a heavy amount of very fruited patchouli.

I will be honest and confess that it bored me. It bored me to tears and, even worse, felt like an utterly exhausting slog that I just wanted to end. To my surprise, my favorite out of the two new Labo fragrances was the delicately ethereal lily fragrance, Lys 41, while Ylang 49 was barely tolerable. I’m in a distinct minority on that point, however, as Ylang 49 has received endless raves with one highly experienced blogger, the fabulous Non-Blonde, declaring that it may be her favorite out of all Le Labo’s floral scents!

Ylang 49 was created by Frank Voelkl and described on Le Labo’s website as follows:

Ylang 49 is a chypre floral, where Pua Noa Noa (gardenia from Tahiti) completes the floral voluptuousness of ylang ylang… Patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandawood [sic] and benjoin follow to tip the blend into darker sensual undertones…

Ylang 49 is a walk in the woods, a lush floral bouquet in your hand, listening to G. Gould’s well-tempered clavier and realizing that a floral composition can go beyond flowers, in the same way a fugue in D minor is way beyond the D…

Out of the perfume’s 49 notes, the only ones we know about are:

ylang ylang, Tahitian gardenia [or pua noa noa], patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, benzoin.

Ylang-ylang. Source: wallpaper.free-photograph.net

Ylang-ylang. Source: wallpaper.free-photograph.net

Ylang 49 opens on my skin with a definitely old-school, classic chypre profile: citrus notes (probably from one of the hidden, secret ingredients) infused with patchouli and oakmoss. The oakmoss is interesting because it has that dry, slightly mineralized greyness of the real thing, while simultaneously feeling a little fresh, green, bright and rich like the more patchouli-infused modern sort. Seconds later, hints of ylang-ylang and the coconut-y characteristics of Tahitian gardenia start to emerge. They’re subtle at this point, especially the gardenia, and add just an amorphous “floral” touch to the chypre opening.

"Purple Velvet Gold Flakes" by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

“Purple Velvet Gold Flakes” by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

As the minutes pass, the floral tones in Ylang 49 take more shape and become more distinct. The ylang-ylang takes the lead, but the gardenia dances around the edges. The flower has brief flickers of coconut, but it’s also a lot more gardenia-like than I had expected from the Tahitian variety. I keep getting images of a thick pile of dark green and purple velvet, perhaps because the patchouli is so prominent. It’s very hearty and veers dangerously close, in my opinion, to the purple patchouli that I dread so much. It infuses the ylang-ylang in particular, turning it into something so jammy, velvety and rich that it almost feels like a beefy, meaty, red damask rose. The normally white ylang-ylang flower has taken on the same sort of darkly liqueured undercurrent — to the point that Ylang 49 strongly calls to mind how Amouage‘s Lyric Woman manifested itself on my skin. (Unlike most people’s experiences with Lyric Woman, on me, it was predominantly a very beefy, liqueured, ylang-ylang fragrance.)

Source: damask-wallpaper.com

Source: damask-wallpaper.com

Ylang 49 doesn’t morph substantially in the hours that ensue, shifting only in degree as to which note undulates to the top of the heap. Namely, the patchouli which turns stronger, heavier, richer and more painfully fruited. Ylang 49 is essentially just a plush, heavily fruited, ylang-ylang perfume atop a strong patchouli base that is lightly flecked with oakmoss. Occasionally, the fragrance will throw off flickers of coconut or gardenia like a warm ray of light, but its fundamental essence unchanged. The most noticeable thing after a few hours is a softening of the patchouli element, but it’s just an incremental drop and a question of degree. Still, it serves to make the ylang-ylang feel slightly more custardy, buttery and floral in nature, and a little less fruited. It’s all relative…

At the start of the third hour, the flower’s creamy undertone is matched by an equally creamy, beige wood note that subtly adds even further depth to the ylang-ylang. The wood accord is undoubtedly from the sandalwood which feels like a synthetic, Australian, or generic cousin to the rare, spicy, rich Mysore wood that is now almost extinct. Here, the sandalwood is bland and rather nondescript, but I suppose it serves its uses in adding that extremely subtle, amorphous, beige, creamy “woodiness” to the base. At the start of the fifth hour, Ylang 49 turns into a creamy floral fragrance that is somewhat ylang-ylang in nature but also, increasingly abstract. The overall bouquet is infused with the endless (and still fruity) patchouli and hints of oakmoss atop a base of dry, generic sandalwood. The floral part is pretty, but I truly can’t stand the patchouli at this point. I’m also not enthused by the sandalwood which smells faintly sour, a little burnt, and a little too arid to my nose.

As time progresses, Ylang 49 turns more nebulous and vague; Now Smell This accurately describes it as a “hard-to-pin-down presence,” though they notice it after the third hour. It happens to me much later, but particularly around the eighth hour when Ylang 49 becomes a wholly abstract patchouli “floral” with musky overtones and some of that bland, slightly unpleasant, totally unimpressive “sandalwood.” In its final hours, Ylang 49 ends up as an amorphous, dry, slightly bitter woodiness.

All in all, the perfume lasted 13.25 hours on my skin with the patchouli wearing me out for almost the entire length of time. (So much patchouli, and always of the blasted fruited kind!) Ylang 49 had great projection for the first hour, but it dropped soon thereafter. The fragrance started to inch closer to the skin midway during the fourth hour, though it was still very potent if you brought your arm right up to your nose. It became a true skin scent on me around the eighth hour. As a side note about longevity, I obviously have wonky skin because Ylang 49 is said by many to have astounding longevity, with some saying it lasts all-day and overnight. They said the same about Lys 41 which never lasted more than 6 hours on me — and that was with a large dose. Still, for me, Ylang 49’s duration is phenomenally high at 13.25 hours, so I have no doubt it probably could 24 hours on normal skin. (I’m remain unconvinced about the Lys 41, though.)

I suspect that my overall prose about Ylang 49 reeks of flatness and a general lack of bouncing enthusiasm. I can’t help it. I’m trying very hard to be fair, but I’m truly so bored, I can barely write. Much has been made of how the perfume harkens back to a lost, golden, magical time when chypres were really chypres, when classique perfumery had depth, luxurious richness and elegance. Take CaFleureBon whose admiring description of the perfume ends with the words: “Ylang 49 feels like something found at an estate sale in an unlabeled crystal flacon.” Or take the rapturous review from The Non-Blonde which reads, in part, as follows:

Ylang 49 may be my favorite out of all the Le Labo flower perfumes. It has  a lot of warmth and a substantial base that surround the tropical flowers and make them more abstract and mysterious. The yellow blossoms are rich and enticing, but they’re also restrained and wonderfully elegant: this is what they mean by calling Ylang 49 a “modern chypre”. I was ready to protest and request that the label “chypre” be retired as were the true perfumes in this category, but you won’t find me kvetching this time. Ylang 49 is as chypery as it is modern. It moves from floral to a recognizable oakmoss-patchouli base; there’s  a hint of chypre soapiness, a  touch of roasted tea, and instead of the  animalic base of yore you get the familiar Le Labo sandalwood enriched with benzoin.

Perhaps CaFleureBon and The Non-Blonde are right. I grant you that Ylang 49 is a very heavy, rich perfume that — if you’re feeling really charitable — is a little like the chypres of yore. (Or it would be, if the old chypres were based primarily on patchouli.) Still, that doesn’t mean Ylang 49 is a great chypre and, in all honesty, I don’t think it is.

For me, ultimately, Ylang 49 lacks the layers, range, or complexity of a good chypre — of any era — because, on my skin, it was primarily a mundane mix of 3 main notes: fruited patchouli, predominantly abstract white florals, and slightly dry oakmoss. You can’t create a stunning symphony with three notes drummed continuously on the same boring cadence. What made the classic chypres so great wasn’t simply the now-regulated oakmoss; it was a hell of a lot more than that.

I can give you a list of places to start if you’re looking for truly good, complex chypres that have ylang-ylang. Check out any of the following fragrances on Fragrantica before heading to eBay to find them in vintage (and only in vintage) form: Ungaro‘s stunning, spectacular Diva by Jacques Polge (now of Chanel); Dominique Ropion‘s famous Ysatis for Givenchy; and either Paloma Picasso‘s Paloma Picasso or her Mon Parfum. They may not be centered solely around ylang-ylang, but that’s because they are not 3-note perfumes (with endless, painful patchouli). As for wholly modern fragrances that are easily available today, Amouage has some stunningly sophisticated chypres. (On my skin, Lyric Woman manifested itself more like a chypre than an oriental, and it was primarily ylang-ylang in nature, though it is generally seen as a spicy rose fragrance. And I think one could argue that Amouage’s ylang-ylang fragrance, Jubilation 25, has some definite chypre attributes as well.) In terms of other houses, Tom Ford‘s Arabian Wood is a gorgeous chypre that has ylang-ylang, along with other florals and significantly better sandalwood.

Interestingly, Now Smell Thisreview of Le Labo’s Ylang 49 specifically warns that some perfumistas will be underwhelmed by the fragrance which it concedes is not “especially challenging[.]” (That’s an understatement.) NST writes:

Although Ylang 49 isn’t an especially challenging perfume, a brand new perfumista might not take to it right away. It’s not overtly pretty or sexy or delicious. It’s not about flash and décolletage. If you’re moved to order a sample of Ylang 49 and on smelling it think, “It’s all right but nothing to get excited about,” I urge you to put the sample away somewhere cool and dark and come back in another year. Keep smelling, keep paying attention. You may never love Ylang 49 — or you might! — but I bet you’ll at least respect it.

I would argue that it has nothing to do with perfume experience or the lack thereof. Perhaps, Ylang 49 actually is much ado about nothing. But if this is what we’re now stuck with in the current IFRA/EU world of oakmoss restrictions and the slow death of the chypre genre, then I suppose Ylang 49 is nice. It’s certainly a scent that would appeal to both men and women, is versatile, and ….. Oh God, it’s too boring to continue. Try Ylang 49, I guess.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Le Labo Ylang 49 is an eau de parfum (though it is really extrait or pure parfum concentration) and comes in a few sizes, the most common of which are: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $145; and 3.4 oz/100 ml for $220. (There is also a 15 ml mini and a giant 500 ml bottle available from the company’s website.) Le Labo Website Options: Ylang 49 is available directly from Le Labo which says that it personally makes and customize the bottle for each customer: “all Le Labo products are personalized with labels that bear the client’s name.” The company has a variety of different country options for the website, from North America to UK to France to International. On its North American website,Ylang 49 comes in Eau de Parfum and perfume oil, with the usual accompany products like body lotion, shower gel, massage oil, etc., to come later in the fall. The prices are the same as listed above: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $145; and 3.4 oz/100 ml for $220. They also offer a tiny 15 ml bottle for $58. I’m assuming they ship to Canada, too, given the website name. On the UK website, Ylang 49 eau de parfum costs £95 for the small size and  £138 for the larger 100 ml bottle. Other sizes are also available, including a small 15 ml/0.5 fl. oz bottle for £40. On the International Labo website and the French website, Ylang 49 costs €110 and €170 for the 1.7 and 3.4 oz bottles, respectively. Le Labo also offers perfumes in a Travel Refill Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles (of your choice, and which you can mix or match) for $120. Ylang 49 is one of the options listed. Lastly, Le Labo also has a Sample Program: “Our sampling program comes in two forms – a Discovery Set of 3 x 5 ml  (0.17 fl.oz.) glass rods with spray and cap and a personalized label with your name on it, ideal for hard core testing of 3 different scents before making up your mind, and a standard (yet beautiful) sample of 1.5 ml (0.05 fl.oz.), available for all scents and ideal for more cost conscious clients who fall in love at first whiff.” I think the individual samples cost $6. As for their shipping prices, I’m afraid I can’t find any pricing information. Le Labo World Boutiques: Le Labo has store locations from New York to London and Tokyo, as well as retailers in a ton of countries from Australia to Italy to Korea. You can find a full list of its locations and vendors hereIn the U.S.: Ylang 49 is currently available from Barneys and LuckyscentOutside the US: In Canada, Le Labo is carried by Toronto’s 6 by Gee Beauty, but not on their online website for direct purchase. Call to order by phone. In the UK, Le Labo is carried at Harrods’s Designer Department on the First Floor, and at Liberty but Ylang 49 is not yet listed on their website. Again, the UK prices for Le Labo, are £95 or £138, depending on size. In the Netherlands, you can find Le Labo products and Ylang 49 in specific at Skins Cosmetics which sells the Eau de Parfum for €111.85 or €172.90, depending on size. In Australia, Le Labo is carried at Mecca Cosmetica, but I don’t see Ylang 49 listed yet on the website. In general, Le Labo prices in Australia range from AUD$198 to AUD$308, depending on size. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells the Eau de Parfum starting at $4.25 for 1 ml vials.

Perfume Review – Le Labo Lys 41: Dancing Floral Princesses

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there were three princesses who tiptoed out in secret every night to dance until dawn. Lily was the eldest and dominant sister. She wore a white dress but her green and red hair reflected her spicy nature. Then came the young twins, Tuberose and Jasmine: Tuberose was tall, elegant, also dressed in white, but had mint and black hair to reflect her slightly smoky, mentholated, chilly scent; Jasmine was short, round and sweet, bedecked in floaty, gauzy, white and yellow velvet.

Source: Tumblr

Source: Tumblr

Every night, they were secretly escorted to the shores of a magical tropical island by a boatman called Vanilla. He was a husky, swarthy brute of a man who smelled faintly of the buttery coconut that he’d picked up in his travels to Tahiti. He could be domineering, speaking as loudly as the sisters, but he could also be extremely soft. It all depended on his mood, as he watched the sisters dance the night away. They looked like petals floating in the wind, leaping with airy and light footsteps until they were a blur of white. Though they started on a powerful, strong note, they soon tired and their steps softened until they faded away in muted exhaustion. Sometimes, they danced for 4 hours, sometimes for 6. It all depended on how much of the magic potion they had drunk — but they were always a force of femininity, representing both delicacy and full-blown diva power. The boatman had a name for them: Lys 41.

Source: Basenotes.

Source: Basenotes.

Lys 41 is one of three new scents released last month, in May 2013, by Le Labo. Two of them — Lys 41 and Ylang 49 — will join the permanent collection and won’t be exclusive to any one city. If you’re new to Le Labo, it is a niche perfume house who hand blends your perfume for you at the time of purchase and who uses numbers in the name of their scents to reference the amount of ingredients in that perfume. So, the eau de parfum, Lys 41, purportedly has 41 notes. As with all their fragrances, the name may not actually correlate to what the perfume smells like. Now Smell This explains more:

In each case, the number in the fragrance name refers to the number of notes that make up the scent’s composition, and the name is taken from the ingredient in the highest concentration; to take one example, Jasmin 17 has 17 ingredients, with jasmine being in the highest concentration. The names are thus not necessarily related to what the fragrance is meant to smell like.

Lys 41 was created by Daphne Bugey and, out of the 41 notes, the only ones we know about are:

Lily, jasmine, tuberose absolute, tiare, warm woody notes, vanilla madagascar and musks.

Source: Kootation

Source: Jwallpapers.com

Lys 41 opens on my skin as a stunningly beautiful, completely diva-like, big white floral that is surprisingly delicate and a touch green as well. Like the oldest princess in charge in my version of the Grimm fairytale, it’s all about the lily as the dominant note in those opening minutes. She’s fresh, airy, slightly green, very diaphanous and endlessly white. She is trailed by her two white sisters, but the shock comes when the boatman — Vanilla — muscles his way past them to dance with Lily.

Source: Kootation.com

Tiare. Source: Kootation.com

He’s a big, brash, bold, hearty fellow who appears almost butch in comparison to his dainty companions. I have to admit, I am very finicky about my vanilla; I like it in a benzoin form or as a light, subtle touch, but almost never as true vanilla-vanilla. And I certainly don’t like it to be so buttery that it takes on an almost coconut-like tropical hue. Which is what our burly boatman does in this story, thanks to the indirect effect of the tiaré flower. As Fragrantica explains, tiaré is a type of Tahitian gardenia with a tropical aroma that “often reminds us of suntan lotion in perfumes due to its frequent use in such products; monoi essence is made by macerating tiara in coconut oil.” For me, the beauty of Lys 41 lies in its white-green notes, not in its more tropical, buttery, coconut undertones. And, yet, the boatman called Vanilla is an odd one. At times, he is so subtle and soft, he’s absolutely perfect. The whiff of tiaré’s coconut vanishes, and Lys 41 becomes a perfect dance of just the three sisters with him providing only a delicate support in the background. Frankly, I wish he (and the bloody tiaré he’s infused with) would stay there and stop joining the others, but he doesn’t. Back and forth, the vanilla note in Lys 41 changes character.

Tuberose. Source: Fragrantica.de

Tuberose. Source: Fragrantica.de

Lily may be the head princess, but the other florals certainly dance alongside her. Ten minutes into Lys 41’s development, Jasmine starts to be a little less shy. Her appearance, in conjunction with her twin, Tuberose, inevitably brings to mind Gardenia as a lost sister in this dance. True gardenia, and not the Tahitian version called Tiaré. Yet, the whiff or visual of gardenia is just a subtle mental flicker. The more interesting thing is the tuberose which starts to take on a subtle camphorous note. In concentrated or absolute form, as it is here, tuberose can have mentholated aspects as it did in Serge Lutens‘ famous Tubereuse Criminelle. Lys 41, however, has none of the gasoline, rubbery, almost black, tarry, asphalt qualities of the Lutens fragrance. Instead, the note feels more chilly and, increasingly, a little bit smoky.

The combination of notes is a marvel of white, a blur as softly airy, diaphanous and delicate as a prima ballerina’s white skirts. In fact, it is really hard not to think of a row of dancing ballerinas when you wear Lys 41. Yes, on some levels, it is a powerhouse white floral and, yet, it isn’t indolic, over-ripe, over-blown and languidly extreme. The green and spicy nuances to the lily prevent the indoles from feeling over the top. Lys 41 is like Fracas in its white intensity, but it’s a surprisingly airy perfume. The best description of it comes from Luckyscent who writes:

While this is definitely not light in the sense of being understated, it is light in the sense of being airy and buoyant. It is an expansive airiness – a large billowy cloud of something weightless: rows and rows of ballerinas spinning in tutus, hundreds of white butterflies being released into the air, an impossibly long chiffon veil floating in the wind.

Absolutely brilliant and right on the nose! (And, see, they thought of ballerinas, too! I’m telling you, this perfume evokes the entire ballet corps of Swan Lake leaping in the air!)

Isabel Munoz dancing. Photo: Le Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Isabel Munoz dancing. Photo: Le Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Lys 41 remains essentially unchanged for the first two hours. There was, on my first test, a growing note of pepperiness underlying the notes that didn’t feel like ISO E Super (which Le Labo apparently loves to use) because it wasn’t antiseptic or medicinal. Instead, it was just simple “pepperiness.” Yet, I got such a raging migraine, I felt as though someone had taken a cleaver to my head. Oddly enough, during my second test, I actually applied a greater quantity of Lys 41 and… no headache. There also was no pepper nuance that time, but simply the chilly, almost peppermint-y smokiness from the tuberose absolute. I have no explanation. 

Regardless, Lys 41’s gorgeous floral bouquet remains unchanged until the start of the third hour when the perfume turns into abstract. Lys 41 is now a skin scent and none of the three dancing sisters is distinguishable in an individual capacity. Rather, they are a blur of soft, delicate white. There is also the perfect touch of vanilla: sheer and evoking the subtle sweetness of a vanilla mousse. The tiaré-coconut and mentholated notes have vanished, and taking their place is a subtle muskiness with a hint of creamy, beige woods. In its final moments, Lys 41 is nothing more than a delicately abstract, nebulous, floral muskiness with a tinge of light soapiness.

I was a little surprised by Lys 41’s longevity. For one thing, Lys 41 is concentrated at 25% perfume oil such that it is really a pure parfum or extrait de parfum in strength. For another, I had read on CaFleureBon that the perfume had “overnight longevity.” Yet, in my first test, Lys 41 lasted a mere 4.5 hours. I was so astonished, I tried it again, applying double the amount of the perfume. This time, the longevity clocked in at 6.5 hours. At least 3.5 hours of that time was spent as a complete skin scent. In my first test, out of the 4.5 hours, 2.5 of them were right on the skin. So, in my opinion, the perfume’s overall sillage is moderate to low, as is the longevity. Yet, in the first 30 minutes, Lys 41 definitely creates a lovely, small cloud around one, wafting about 3 inches above the skin.

One of the best reviews for Lys 41 comes from CaFleureBon, which is the only site I’ve seen thus far to discuss the very subtle, mentholated, smoky note that I detected:

So often with the name of a Le Labo fragrance it is sort of a feint as the note in the name is not the focal point. That is not the case with Lys 41 which perhaps should be written LYS 41 to be completely accurate. The lily is a big old white floral diva in Lys 41 like she knows it’s her name on the label. Perfumer Daphne Bugey creates a ginormous white flower fragrance which at 25% perfume oil concentration is at extrait strength. Often when something is at this concentration it sort of smokes and smolders on the skin. Lys 41 shakes her moneymaker right in front of your nose. The great green floral quality of lily draws you in and quickly it is surrounded with indolic jasmine, tuberose absolute, and tiare. The lily is the lead singer while jasmine adds a bit of low harmony, and tiare the high notes. The tuberose in the form of the absolute adds that camphoraceous quality the best tuberose has in high concentration and that is alto to lily’s contralto. The base is a foundation of woods, vanilla, and musk which you won’t notice for hours after you have this on. The white flowers are in charge and they won’t get off the stage without a fight. I haven’t enjoyed a busty powerhouse white floral like Lys 41 in a long time but this is going to be a summer staple for me.

The Non-Blonde has a very amusing review in which she recounts several people’s experiences with the fragrance, from herself to her friend, husband and brother-in-law. It may be useful for the various comparisons based on skin chemistry and, also, for how men feel about the scent:

It was an unexpected love since I’m not a lily person.  I don’t wear Un Lys (Lutens) or Lys Méditerranée (Malle)… but something about Lys 41, the new fragrance from Le Labo, seems to work incredibly well and to gain the approval of friends and husbands, though not everyone liked it on themselves, and my sweet brother-in-law was not amused.

If you ask me, it’s the tuberose. While Lys 41 is chock-full of white flowers, my skin amplifies tuberose and the warm facets of the musky dry-down. The husband found it very sensual and nicely sweetened. On me, that is. His own skin took the jasmine note and shot it to high heaven. However, not even five minutes after spraying the sharp green screech was gone and the orchidy vanilla and fuzzy musk took over. I definitely want to keep smelling Lys 41 on him, and the husband himself doesn’t object, though he says it’s not really his kind of thing. […][¶]

In any case, Le Labo’s newest white floral is lovely. There’s something in the base of both Lys 41 and Ylang 49 that seems to embrace my skin and wrap it in a mohair-like warmth. I love the light twist into vanilla territory in the dry-down which lasts for long hours and projects nicely. I doubt that Lys 41 is office friendly, but I’ll say it’s an incredible date scent.

Obviously, my experience was extremely different in terms of sillage and longevity, not to mention the chilly, slightly smoky nuance I got from the tuberose. Where I think her review is uniquely useful, however, is in the issue of how men may feel about Lys 41. I think a “manly man” like her brother-in-law who prefers more traditional or masculine fragrances would not feel comfortable wearing Lys 41. And if he hate lilies, then forget about it completely! In fact, people of either gender who scream in terror at the thought of any of the flowers in question (you know who you are, you tuberose and jasmine-phobes) should obviously stay far, far away.

I really liked Lys 41 for a variety of reasons. First, I prefer my florals to be super dramatic powerhouse divas; second, I adore lily scents; and third, I am particularly fond of white florals when they have a green, spicy undertone to them. Given my personal experiences with Lys 41’s sillage and longevity (not to mention that headache the first time around), I’m not sure I’d look for a decant, but something about the scent fascinates me and is hard to forget. It’s the sheer delicacy of it all, with the strong mental image of Swan Lake’s entire ballet corps leaping gracefully into the air with skirts like waving petals. It’s the twist on the Brothers’ Grimm tale of the 12 Dancing Princesses. And, lastly, it’s the stunning beauty of the lily note in the first hour.

Source: nipoem.blogspot.com

Source: nipoem.blogspot.com

I think Lys 41 will fit very specific tastes. Those who prefer darkness, woodiness or spice with their florals will be disappointed. Same with those who prefer something less linear and limited in focus. I also think the average man won’t find it to be his cup of tea; Lys 41 definitely skews quite feminine. Yet, for the target audience, I think Lys 41 will be a big hit and extremely popular.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Le Labo Lys 41 is an eau de parfum (though it is really extrait or pure parfum concentration) and comes in a few sizes, the most common of which are: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $145; and 3.4 oz/100 ml for $220. (There is also a 15 ml mini and a giant 500 ml bottle available from the company’s website.) Le Labo Website Options: Lys 41 is available directly from Le Labo which says that it will personally make up the bottle for each customer: “all Le Labo products are personalized with labels that bear the client’s name.” The company has a variety of different country options for the website, from North America to UK to France to International. On its North American website, Lys 41 comes in Eau de Parfum and perfume oil, with the usual accompany products like body lotion, shower gel, massage oil, etc., to come later in the fall. The prices are the same as listed above: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $145; and 3.4 oz/100 ml for $220. They also offer a tiny 15 ml bottle for $58. I’m assuming they ship to Canada, too, given the website name. On the UK website, Lys 41 eau de parfum costs £95 for the small size and  £138 for the larger 100 ml bottle. Other sizes are also available, including a small 15 ml/0.5 fl. oz bottle for £40. On the International Labo website and the French website, Lys 41 costs €110 and €170 for the 1.7 and 3.4 oz bottles, respectively. Le Labo also offers perfumes in a Travel Refill Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles (of your choice, and which you can mix or match) for $120. Lys 41 is one of the options listed. Lastly, Le Labo also has a Sample Program: “Our sampling program comes in two forms – a Discovery Set of 3 x 5 ml  (0.17 fl.oz.) glass rods with spray and cap and a personalized label with your name on it, ideal for hard core testing of 3 different scents before making up your mind, and a standard (yet beautiful) sample of 1.5 ml (0.05 fl.oz.), available for all scents and ideal for more cost conscious clients who fall in love at first whiff.” I think the individual samples cost $6. As for their shipping prices, I’m afraid I can’t find any pricing information. Le Labo World Boutiques: Le Labo has store locations from New York to London and Tokyo, as well as retailers in a ton of countries from Australia to Italy to Korea. You can find a full list of its locations and vendors hereIn the U.S., Le Labo is traditionally carried by Barneys but I don’t see Lys 41 listed yet on its website. The perfume is currently available from LuckyscentOutside the US: In Canada, Le Labo is carried by Toronto’s 6 by Gee Beauty, but not on their online website for direct purchase. Call to order by phone. In the UK, Le Labo is carried at Harrods’s Designer Department on the First Floor, and at Liberty but Lys 41 is not yet listed on their website. Again, the UK prices for Le Labo, are £95 or £138, depending on size. In the Netherlands, you can find Le Labo products and Lys 41 in specific at Skins Cosmetics which sells the Eau de Parfum for €111.85 or €172.90, depending on size. In Australia, Le Labo is carried at Mecca Cosmetica but I don’t see Lys 41 listed yet on the website. In general, Le Labo prices in Australia range from AUD$198 to AUD$308, depending on size. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells the Eau de Parfum starting at $4.25 for 1 ml vials.

Perfume Review: Le Labo Rose 31

The kingdom of Pepper was sometimes affectionately called by its old, Norse name: Pepper & Pink. It wasn’t a vast land, but every square inch seemed to be populated by various forms of pepper. From the biting burst of freshly ground Malabar nuggets to the cedar trees which swathed its flanks from North to South and the great lakes of ISO E Super which dotted the landscape. It was ruled by a king called Ginger who was a chef at heart, willy-nilly tossing in spices off the royal balcony to his people below. For the most part, his subjects were a homogeneous people, descended either from the tribe of Pepper or from the royal house of Ginger. A small minority hailed from the nomads called Pink Rose. They were a demure lot, always dainty and shy, reeking of the pinkest, lightest, most translucent rose that was to be found. They were so quiet at times that haughty critics like Luca Turin sneering called them “Not Rose,” while others though they were mere myths and didn’t even believe they existed. Certainly, they were far outnumbered by the Peppers, with their fiery bite, and by the more rambunctious royal Gingers, but all of them were all ruled by the vast plains of cedar trees and the large lakes of ISO E Super.

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Source: hdwallpapers4desktop.com

That is the kingdom of Rose 31, a creation from the niche perfume house, Le Labo. A much-loved fragrance, Rose 31 is an eau de parfum whose number — 31 — purportedly refers to the number of its ingredients. Now Smell This explains more:

[Le Labo was] established by Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi (both formerly of Giorgio Armani fragrances) in 2006. Le Labo started with 10 fragrances by well-known perfumers, and is known for blending the essential oils with alcohol and water at the time of purchase and providing customized labels for the bottles.

Initial releases in early 2006 were Fleur d’Oranger 27, Jasmin 17, Labdanum 18 (originally Ciste 18), Ambrette 9, Iris 39, Bergamote 22, Rose 31, Vetiver 46, Patchouli 24 and Neroli 36. In each case, the number in the fragrance name refers to the number of notes that make up the scent’s composition, and the name is taken from the ingredient in the highest concentration; to take one example, Jasmin 17 has 17 ingredients, with jasmine being in the highest concentration. The names are thus not necessarily related to what the fragrance is meant to smell like.

Le Labo Rose 31The issue of not smelling like what it is named is something that actually comes up quite a bit with regard to Rose 31. Fragrantica classifies Rose 31 as a “floral woody musk” and says it was created by Daphne Bugey. Some of its 31 notes — as compiled from both Fragrantica, Luckyscent, and my own nose — are as follows:

Grasse rose, caraway, cumin, pepper, clove, nutmeg, cedar, ISO E Super, frankincense, amber, labdanum, vetiver, guaiac wood, animalic notes, and agarwood (oud).

I tested Rose 31 twice, to slightly different outcomes in terms of the opening burst. The first time, the perfume opened with almost entirely peppered, woody and spiced notes, followed on only much later by a minute trace of rose. The second time, the rose was upfront, and present from the start. I’ll cover both beginnings.

During that first test, Le Labo’s opening consisted of galloping amounts of pepper, sharp and backed by peppery cedary woods, and what felt like a light dash of ISO E Super. For those unfamiliar with the aroma-chemical, you can read my full description of its pros and cons here, especially as I’ll be mentioning ISO E Super quite a bit in this review. In a nutshell, though, the synthetic is used most frequently for two reasons: 1) as a super-floralizer which is added to expand and magnify many floral notes, along with their longevity; and 2) to amplify woody notes and add a velvety touch to the base. It seems to be particularly used in fragrances that have vetiver or, to a lesser extent, other wood notes like cedar. ISO E Super always smells extremely peppery and, in large doses, has an undertone that is like that of rubbing alcohol, is medicinal, and/or astringent. To those unfamiliar with the synthetic, all they detect is “extra, extra pepperiness.” Some people are completely anosmic to the note, while others get extreme headaches from it. (Ormonde Jayne fragrances, and others like Lalique‘s Encre Noire or Terre d’Hermès are particularly egregious in that respect.) I don’t get headaches from ISO E Super, but I cannot stand it in large quantities and I can detect its peppered element with its rubbing alcohol base a mile away.

Caraway seeds.

Caraway seeds.

Thankfully for me, the ISO E Super is light at the start, outweighed fully by a glorious complement of spices that feel as though a mad chef went to town like a dervish. I really adore that first opening to Rose 31 that I experienced. There is the most miniscule dash of cumin — powdery, dusty, a wee bit animalic, and nothing like that used in Indian curries. Much more prominent, however, are the caraway seeds which feel nutty, a little anise-like in tone, and a bit woody. (Technically, there is a difference between caraway and cumin. The terms may be used interchangeably by many, but that would be a mistake as they are not the same thing and their aroma, to my nose at least, differs in undertone.)

Source: Girl's Gone Child at Girlsgonechild.net . (Link embedded within. Click on photo.)

Source: Girl’s Gone Child at Girlsgonechild.net. (Link embedded within. Click on photo.)
http://www.girlsgonechild.net/2011/12/eat-well-gift-of-garam-masala.html

Both spices share equal space on Le Labo’s stage with heaping cups of ginger that is, simultaneously, both freshly pungent and spicy, and slightly crystallized and sweet. There are whiffs of nutmeg that subtly add a sharp, bitter edge to the perfume, along with the spicy, red-hot kick of cloves. The whole thing is covered by a heavy veil of pepper that feels as though a chef just emptied an entire bottle of Malabar peppercorns with the rest of the spices into a sauté pan to roast, bringing out their bite, their fire, and their subtle earthy woodiness. In the background, there are flickers of white smoke from frankincense.

The dominance of the cedar, underscored by the ISO E Super, and the pepper ensures a perfect balance between woods and spices. Rose 31 never feels like a dusty, spice shop, but nor does it feel like a purely woody fragrance either. Well, at this stage, anyway. The powerful ginger that threads its way throughout much of Rose 31’s tapestry also ensures a subtle freshness and zing to the scent. When you add in the beautiful frankincense smoke — never cold, musty, earthy or dank, but sweet and almost earthy — the result in those opening minutes is utterly fascinating.

Source: HDwallpapers.

Source: HDwallpapers.

During that first test, I found myself agreeing a little with Luca Turin, the famous perfume critic, whose low, two-star review of Le Labo Rose 31 in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide is sneeringly entitled “Not Rose.” I hate agreeing with Luca Turin on anything; it almost offends my soul. Though I didn’t share his contemptuous views of the perfume as whole, I had to reluctantly admit that I couldn’t detect a trace of rose anywhere in that first hour. I even looked up some reviews for Rose 31 in which people wrote with utter bafflement about how completely nonexistent the rose was on their skin, no matter how many times they tested the perfume.

Then, I did the second test, and all the notes I wrote about earlier were backed from the start by the presence of the flower. It’s not huge, but the rose is definitely there, almost translucent in its pinkness and dainty freshness. Oddly, it never felt imbued by the heaping dollops of pepper; instead, to my nose, it almost stood apart, never tainted by the fiery, spicy notes, but remaining something dainty, sweet, and light. It was very pretty and well-meshed into the fragrance, but, unexpectedly, I found the non-rose opening in the first test to be much more interesting, and unusual. (The word “fascinating” appears more than a handful of times in my notes.)

Regardless of that small difference, the perfume’s development subsequently remained the same during both tests. Fifteen minutes in, the oud appears. It is not medicinal, astringent, or evocative of pink rubber bandages (my most hated form of oud). Instead, it is a bit more fiery and yet another source of pepper added to the mix. It also has a subtle, delicate undercurrent of honey which makes it quite lovely. As some of my regular readers know, I’ve got oud-fatigue, but this is an absolutely brilliant and fitting way to use the note, taking advantage of one of its intrinsic qualities to shore up the general peppered cocktail of notes. What helps with my enormous enthusiasm is the growing honeyed sweetness of Rose 31, the perfectly blended balance of notes, and the way in which each one mixes into a harmonious, greater whole. Truth be told, I was rather shocked by how much I initially liked this perfume, since I certainly didn’t expect it. Then again, I thought I’d be smelling yet another rose-wood-oud fragrance.

iStock photo via Wetpaint.com

iStock photo via Wetpaint.com

The oud is merely a muted backdrop player at this point, along side that other shadowing ghost, the ISO E Super, and all of them subsumed under the powerful ginger note. As time passes, the latter feels incredibly dominant, bringing back some memories of Versace‘s Crystal Noir in which pepper and ginger also perform a key duet. (Its top notes are pepper and ginger, with cardamom in lieu of the clove and nutmeg here.) Then, finally, at the end of the first hour, the rose makes its hesitant appearance. It’s slight, far from heavy in texture, and never feels jammy or fruited; instead, it’s almost watery and tea-rose like in nature.

Source: Wallsave.com

Source: Wallsave.com

Unfortunately for me and my joy at that wonderful opening, the 90 minute mark ushers in a strong wave of ISO E Super. Words cannot begin to describe my disappointment as that annoying subtext of rubbing alcohol begins its steady thrumming beat in the background. There is still heavy amounts of ginger, pepper and frankincense, but the growing force of the cedar woods and ISO E dominate. Even the oud and guaiac seem to have grown a little in strength — just two more sources of peppered woods that soon overtake the entire perfume. By the end of my second test, I felt almost browbeaten into submission but that constant, one-note, drumming beat.

The great nuances of the opening start, the complexity of the notes, the fascinating juxtapositions, and that perfect balancing act are all gone — thrown asunder by the top-heavy, unbalanced cedar-pepper-ginger-ISO E Super combination. Sure, there are flickers of other things that occasionally pop up: vetiver makes a late appearance with a darkly rooty, earthy accord; bitter nutmeg and honeyed labdanum dance around the far edges once in a blue moon; and subtle muskiness is a quiet vein underneath. But, they are tiny in nature and degree. Instead, for hours and hours and hours, it’s primarily just various sources of dark, peppered woods. The drydown doesn’t make me happier, either, because, five hours in, Rose 31 turns into an abstract, amorphous, generalized woody scent, with a hint of gingery rose and the start of soapiness. Eventually, that soapiness starts to take over until, in its final hours, Rose 31 is nothing more than a vague, musky, woody, soap scent. What a huge disappointment after that first glorious hour!

All in all, Rose 31 lasted just a wee bit over 9.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin. The sillage was initially excellent, though it quickly dropped after the first hour to become just a few inches above the skin. The perfume became a skin scent around the 5th hour, the same time when the drydown began and Rose 31 lost its shape entirely. On Fragrantica, the overwhelming majority of votes puts the sillage at “moderate” and the longevity at “long-lasting,” though there are a handful of votes for “poor” and “moderate” as well.

As noted earlier, Luca Turin is not a fan of Rose 31. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, his short, succinct assessment is incredibly harsh:

This aldehydic carrot juice was, unaccountably, composed by the brilliant Daphné Bugey, of Firmenich, who did Kenzo Amour and four sensational (and as yet unavailable) Coty reconstructions. Is Le Labo some sort of rehab where perfumers go when their noses are tired?

Ouch! Well, I rarely agree with Luca Turin, and I certainly won’t start now. I think the perfume is better than he believes, though I’m not sure that’s saying much. Clearly, Rose 31 is far from my personal cup of tea. As a side note about Daphné Bugey creating Kenzo Amour: that fragrance is listed as one of the perfumes with the most amount of ISO E Super, a whopping 48% according to the Perfume Shrine. As a result, it is often mentioned by people as a fragrance that gives them a searing headache. But ignoring the headache-inducing qualities of the ISO E Super, Rose 31’s eventual tidal wave of the synthetic — and the parallel way in which the pepper note is created by every possible source — suddenly makes a lot more sense. Perfumers who love ISO E Super just can’t seem to let go of it. (Geza Schoen, I’m staring straight at you!)

General reviews of Le Labo Rose 31 seem evenly split between those who find the cedar note to be unbalanced and overwhelming, and those who love the fragrance. A number of those in the latter category repeatedly comment on how the opening of Rose 31 reminds them of Caron‘s much beloved Poivre Sacré. I haven’t tried the latter, so I can’t help. But perhaps a sampling of Fragrantica opinions on the perfume will provide some light on whether you’d like the perfume or not:

  • Although I absolutely do not enjoy this fragrance, I need to give credit where credit is due. Immediately, the rose is detectable upon the initial spray/splash of the top notes and for me, that’s all I detect. It’s a very subdued yet masculine rose that exudes something very sensual but as the basenotes appear, that all changes. One thing, out of all the rose scents that I’ve encountered, this one has to be the most natural but when the cedar arrives, it ruins the whole aura of the scent. The cedar is too overpowering/cloying and masks everything the rose is trying to present. The two blended extremes almost seem to be competing with one another only the cedar always has the upper-hand. […] 
  • The top notes are very peppery in the same vibe of Caron’s Parfum Sacre, but then the cumin and cedar take top places, I find quite nice but I think suits a man better because of the cedar and have a very wood basenote.
  • Perfumes containing rose and spice are always dark, heavy, and complex. Rose 31 seems unnaturally crisp and ethereal. I think it contains a lot of Iso E Super, which usually smells so synthetic, but it seems to work so well here. [¶] The rose is a clean, magenta rose that reminds me of the Enchanted Rose in Beauty and the Beast that is protected under a crystal dome–perfect and sparkling in a way that only a fairy tale could be. [¶] I don’t smell cumin. Instead I smell a something like a translucent cinnamon hard candy. […]
  • there is hardly any rose in it, it is a very nice woody fragrance though
  • Dark prickly aldehydes and musk and woods. Like most Le Labos they seem to have forgotten to put the main ingredient in. […]
  • There’s no rose in this perfume. NO Rose. Period. [¶] What IS there? Well, there’s musk, woods, some kind of flower and some kind of vegetable, and more musk. Clean musk. Nothing spicy, nothing dirty. If one uses his imagination, it could be described as “dark”, I guess; but I wouldn’t.
  • smells like soap in bad way

Confused? Well, as I mentioned at the start, the main issue seems to be whether the rose note appears or not. And the bottom line seems to be that — even for those who do smell it — the cedar and woodsy notes eventually take over and, then, fully dominate. Whether you smell the ISO E Super (and yay for one Fragrantica poster who smelled loads of it!), the musk, the soap, or the other spices, the main thing you’re bound to take away from the fragrance is dark, peppered, cedary woods. You may have noticed  that the photos of the woods in this review have gone from: rosy, warm, and multi-faceted; to gold-tinged and autumnal; to dark sepia; finally ending with dark black with soapy white. That’s very intentional. It’s really how this perfume feels to me in large part.

Source: Wall321.com

Source: Wall321.com

If you love cedar, then you should definitely try Rose 31. All the other notes may just be an added bonus. If you’re not a fan of highly peppered woods — especially in perfumes that bang that main drumbeat for hours on end — then you won’t enjoy Rose 31. It’s really as simple as that.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Le Labo Rose 31 is an eau de parfum (though it also comes in a perfume oil) and comes in two sizes: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $145; and 3.4 oz/100 ml for $220. Le Labo Website Options: Rose 31 is available directly from Le Labo which says that it will personally make up the bottle for each customer: “all Le Labo products are personalized with labels that bear the client’s name.” The company has a variety of different country options for the website, from North America to UK to France to International. On its North American website, Rose 31 comes in everything from the Eau de Parfum to body lotion, shower gel, massage oil, and more. The prices are the same as listed above: 1.7 oz/50 ml for $145; and 3.4 oz/100 ml for $220. They also offer a tiny 15 ml bottle for $58. I’m assuming they ship to Canada, too, given the website name. On the UK website, Rose 31 eau de parfum costs £95 for the small size and  £138 for the larger 100 ml bottle. Other sizes are also available, including a small 15 ml/0.5 fl. oz bottle for £40. On the International Labo website, Rose 31 costs €110 and €170 for the 1.7 and 3.4 oz bottles, respectively. Le Labo also offers perfumes in a Travel Refill Kit of 3 x 10 ml bottles (of your choice, and which you can mix or match) for $120. Lastly, Le Labo also has a Sample Program: “Our sampling program comes in two forms – a Discovery Set of 3 x 5 ml  (0.17 fl.oz.) glass rods with spray and cap and a personalized label with your name on it, ideal for hard core testing of 3 different scents before making up your mind, and a standard (yet beautiful) sample of 1.5 ml (0.05 fl.oz.), available for all scents and ideal for more cost conscious clients who fall in love at first whiff.” I think the individual samples cost $6. As for their shipping prices, I’m afraid I can’t find any pricing information. Le Labo World Boutiques: Le Labo has store locations from New York to London and Tokyo, as well as retailers in a ton of countries from Australia to Italy to Korea. You can find a full list of its locations and vendors hereIn the U.S., Le Labo Rose 31 is also available from Barneys (in the big $220 size) and from Luckyscent, who also sells samples for $6, along with the perfume oil and what seems to be Rose 31 detergent. (???!!). Additional bath and body versions of Rose 31 are available from the Fairmont hotel online store, along with its Canadian counterpart. Outside the US: In Canada, Le Labo is carried by Toronto’s 6 by Gee Beauty, but not on their online website for direct purchase. Call to order by phone. In the UK, Le Labo is carried at Harrods’s Designer Department on the First Floor, and at Liberty which offers Rose 31 in a variety of different sizes and forms. For the Eau de Parfum, prices are £95 or £138, depending on size. In the Netherlands, you can find Le Labo products and Rose 31 at Skins Cosmetics which sells the Eau de Parfum for €111.85 or €172.90, depending on size. It also carries other concentrations or versions of Rose 31. In Australia, Le Labo is carried at Mecca Cosmetics. Mecca’s full listing of Le Labo Products can be found here. Rose 31 ranges in price from AUD$198 to AUD$308, depending on size. Samples: I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells the Eau de Parfum starting at $3.99 for 1 ml vials.