Okej, today I went to Le Labo in SoHo today for the first time. Wow! Such a cool experience. At first I just smelled a couple of their scents, both of which I liked very much--Iris and Labdanum (although I didn't so much like the drydown of Labdanum--it started to smell very "sports ambery" to me; actually it reminded me a LOT of the first cologne I ever owned: Rookie by Avon. At first that was charming, but I wouldn't plop down SoHo prices for Rookie when I could just buy a certain amber from Aphrodisia and get a similar effect). But, of course, the real fun was in smelling the raw materials behind the counter. I smelled calone (which does smell wonderfully aquatic), ethyl vanillin (I'd known of this before; calone too--this smells like whipped cream or marshmallow, a light, sweet vanillic smell with none of the complexity of vanilla extract), a musk that I'd read about but never smelled and did NOT smell powdery, fresh, floral or any of the adjectives you'd expect to describe "modern" musks, tuberose absolute, mimosa absolute, neroli bigarade, tonka abolute, leather base, and some hexylene that really did smell like just-cut grass--Hexanal? Oh, and Iso E Super. They didn't have helional, and I didn't see hydroxycitronellal. And I can't remember if we smelled dihydromyrcinol (I probably got that name way wrong--it's the odor that's in all the men's colognes today). (Oh yes, it was I and Jason Atkins, the lifestyle editor for The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment.) And I may have missed some that we smelled. It was wonderful, though, and I had to say that I was surprised that some of the raw materials smelled so nice on their own. Of course I'm thinking of the single-note synthetics like Hexanal and calone. Calone smelled lovely--I can see why it was so extensively used in the 90s, maybe 80s. I believe that Luca Turin says that Calone has the peculiar property of smelling stronger the more you smell it. So that a cologne that smelled really interesting and amazing in the 90s now smells all of Calone. Well, that's how I understand that he meant it. I wasn't surprised that some of the ones smelled faint (I could barely detect benzyl salicylate, which Jason and I had just before read in Perfumes: The Guide that it was the main event in L'Air du Temps, and that some people are anosmic for it but can detect its presence in a blend), because I'd smelled ambroxan and cashmeran before, and they both didn't smell as strong as their effects in perfumes suggest. Iso E Super didn't smell strong to me either, but it was surprisingly pleasant for a single woody-smelling chemical (it seems like those are often harsh alone, but I don't have enough experience to know)--it just smelled like dry, dusty wood.
So Le Labo was a riot for me--I love learning about raw materials in perfumery. The girl behind the counter used to compound perfumes, so it was great to hear her talk about that. Anyway, after LL J and I went to Bloomingdales, where I smelled a buncha stuff I've smelled before, and then to Enfleurage, where I looked at stuff. I noticed that Pacifica, which has started producing eau de toilettes for their candle scents (!), has come out with one of those for their Mexican Cocoa scent. I'd burned the MC scent before, and liked the almonditude to it, so I gave that one a try. Well, it starts out with a gigantic supersweet cherry-almond boat that you get in. Really, it's strong and kinda screechy. You get in the boat, which sails on a river of this sweet floral-spice smell, the kind that makes you think something-with-the-word-eugenol writ huge in glowing pink letters; it's reminiscent of Demeter Orchid: super sweet spicy-floral; nice but bare, and a little cloying. Well beneath this river, at the floor, is something that smells maybe like chocolate. Or maybe vanilla or maybe amber. It's hard to tell, since it seems like you never see the ground--that weird spicy floral note, which I think is in there to suggest the "cinnamon and clove" that the box says is in the scent, seems to last FOREVER. But smelling it, even though it's not something you smell and go immediately, "chocolate" (like you do with Amour de Cacao by Sud Pacifique, which on the drydown smells, ecstatically, of Cocoa Krispies), you can kinda convince yourself it's chocolate because the name of the scent is Mexican Cocoa. Anyway, I don't like it. I mean, I do, but that spicy floral note just ruins the concept. Personally I could find the scent pleasant, and I think you can pull it off well only by layering it, but if you wanted something cheap to wear for when you want to wear perfume but not expensive perfume, or if you just wanted to indulge in the sweetness on a rainy day when you're just ambling around or something, then this might work. But you could also make it work for a more important occasion by layering it with stuff that's better done. You could layer it with Amour de Cacao, if you don't mind walking around smelling like superamazing cereal. And why should do, really?? I frankly don't understand why people don't like gourmand fragrances as true gourmand notes---People say things like, "I don't want to walk around smelling like chocolate cake!!" But why not?? Chocolate cake smells great. People have great associations with it. And speaking as someone who's worn creamy vanillic stuff and almondy stuff and cocoa stuff, I LOVE fragrances that really smell like food (and not a tiny-initial-burst-of-food that quickly craps out into something powdery, like all those "cake batter" scents do; sometimes you can find a cheap vanillic scent that will make you smell like Lucky Charms, but you have to luck out); I think they're unique in the kind of lift you can get when you perceive them through the day. And everytime I smell Amour de Cacao or Vanille Amande, some part of me just instantly relaxes. But anyway, if you want to mix this with amber and then spray a very chocolatey or vanillic scent over it, I think it could really work. If you mixed them well it could become a signature scent. Of course that doesn't change the fact that the scent isn't good enough to work when you want to wear something good. Of course, you'd be stunned if a scent inspired by a CANDLE were that good. At least I would be. (Although I have to say, I TOTES covet Feu de Bois by Diptyque, and I think I'd wear it if it's available in eau de whatever.)
Oh yes, and in my run-on sentences I completely forgot--Le Labo has some $520 kit with li'l bottles of all the raw materials they have behind the counter (presumably so the consumer can educate him or herself on raw materials. Who would do that but a scent geek like me?! Also, why can't you make scents with said raw materials?! They don't sell them individually, as far as I could tell and I could be wrong, and I don't think you can blend them. WTF?!?) (also, [yeah, yet another set-o-parentheses] why do they mix the perfume "fresh" for you?!?! It's not a smoothie!!! Isn't perfume supposed to "macerate"?? I think they just pour the ready made perfume for you--no "mixing" involved). So someone out there can get that for me for Christmas. There you go.
And that's my beep for now.
PS: GAK! How could I not mention that I smelled castoreum at Le Labo?!?!? I have to say--it wasn't offensive at all. I mean, I could see how some might find it so, but I think Luca Turin had it right when he called it the olfactory equivalent of brown. It smelled animal, but more leathery than fecal. I wish I had some. Get me that for Christmas too! And since I mentioned Castoreum, we also smelled the civet, which smelled just like the (CHEAP) civet at that other place, which smelled just like the civet at Symrise. So you don't have to spend out da pants to get a perfectly good artificial civet. Ditto for mimosa--LL's mimosa absolute smelled remarkably similar to the oil at Caswell Massey.