When first sprayed, I instantly get a couple of things: the intense sharpness of Australian Sandalwood along with cedar to intensify it (good lord, the cedar is stunning), and a cool, camphorous blast. It almost feels cool on the skin too (but there's a chance I'm imagining that because I'm really getting into this). As the heart approaches, you can tell that it's not going to be as overwhelmingly powerful as Patchouli 24 or Oud 27, and that's okay, because I love and own those two perfumes already, I wanted something different.
While the woods and camphor (much like an unlit menthol cigarette) are the dominating notes, I can detect soft violet and iris in the backdrop, adding a rather charming element to the scent. The initial masculinity of the blend is tamed just slightly as the florals emerge and the camphor quiets down. I'm almost certain I smell vetiver as well, and it's lovely. There is supposed to be a smoky element to Santal 33, and I do not get that at all. Another unlisted note is leather, and it's not the leather I expected. In fact, it's more of a suede to me, the kind that often accompanies violet and iris. There's a reason these notes work so well together, and I'm not a perfumer or a chemist, so I'll leave that idea hanging in the air.
The ad copy on this fragrance has to do with The Marlboro Man, and the romantic image of the American West. I don't really get the connection once I'm smelling it on my skin, but I will say this, Santal 33 would smell amazing on a man, I just know it. It's also wonderful for people who love to toy with gender in perfume.
As is standard for Le Labo perfumes, Santal 33 isn't all about sandalwood. In fact, it only really starts to show itself in a familiar form after about 45 minutes of wear. It's not the smooth, creamy almost nutty quality of Indian Sandalwood. Australian Sandalwood (bolstered by cedar and papyrus) will cut you with a switchblade, old-school style. I can say with certainty (and may it be a warning for some of you): if you dislike the smell of camphor, stay away. Stay far away. It doesn't ever go away. I personally can't get enough, and am looking forward to a lot more time with Santal 33 to draw out any other peculiarities that I missed the first time around.
"Switchblade Sue Will Cut You" by Arabella Proffer
Creator Frank Voelkl does it again, two perfumes in a row that I love (the first being Esprit d'Oscar). He's definitely on a roll this year and has created something fresh for Le Labo. Santal 33 is modern, directly in line with the Le Labo aesthetic, and wholly original. My best guess is that Santal 33 will not quite enjoy the popularity of Patchouli 24 or Oud 27, but it will grow to legendary status among a select group. There's just no way to please everyone.
notes list: cardamom, iris, violet, ambrox, sandalwood, papyrus, cedar
Le Labo Santal 33 is available at lelabofragrances.com: 15ml bottle for $58, 50ml for $145, larger bottles also available.
[bottle purchased by me for my own personal use]