Santal 33 is the most famous perfume by the American niche brand Le Labo, the perfume that launched them into orbit and is responsible for their dizzying success. The result was that Estee Lauder also wanted a piece of the cake, acquiring the company in 2014, unfortunately for many perfume enthusiasts who don’t particularly like when multinational corporations take over their favorite brand. Not that the mere fact that Estee Lauder bought them has anything to do with creativity and the creation of new perfumes, though, interestingly, all their perfume masterpieces were created before 2014. Go figure.

santal 33

Le Labo was founded in 2006 by Fabrice Penot and Eddie Rochi in New York, after years they’ve spent in the beauty industry. The entire brand identity, from packaging that resembles, as Luke Turin puts it, Soviet sanatoriums, through a super designed website to naming perfumes by highlighting the most present note, and then numerically expressing the rest of the fragrant notes, all point to the hipsterish approach which is past bearing. However, I would say they made the full circle and got to the point again that they were cool again. Minus the story of mixing perfumes on the spot, that’s even for me, as a perfume enthusiast – too hipsterish.

Sandalwood is one of my favorite fragrance notes, unique in the perfume world. It is as if someone pulled out the essence of milk, rose, and wood and combined them into one, one that has the outlines of all three materials, but again it smells like something completely new. It is no surprise that in Ayurvedic tradition, sandalwood was considered a sacred tree. Of course, that is for the Indian sandalwood. The sandalwood that Santal 33 is made of is entirely different. It is Australian sandalwood that has an aromatic, herbal, almost medicinal scent. It lacks a lot of the Indian sandalwood (the creamy feeling I miss the most), but it still has the characteristic smell of sandalwood.

santal 33

The perfume composition of Santal 33 is woody aromatic, and perfume creator Frank Voelkl has managed to create a fantastic, very modern interpretation of sandalwood. Although a lot of people are bothered by the opening, which is ozonic, salty and reminiscent of fresh cucumbers, I find it extremely enjoyable and refreshing, both literally and metaphorically. After all, it’s not that the cucumber scent is foreign to the perfume industry, one of the most popular Marc Jacobs perfumes is Cucumber Splash. Despite development and shift of notes, Santal 33 is a linear perfume, and sandalwood dominates from start to finish, with an occasional play of leather and spice notes (cardamom) with elements of iris and violet. Ignoring the worldwide fame and popularity of this perfume, if you are looking for the perfect casual fragrance that will go perfectly with the combination of white shirt and jeans as you roam the city streets carelessly and endlessly, Santal 33 is the perfume for you. Although it is classified as unisex, for my sensibility, it is a bit more masculine. But, ladies, if you haven’t yet found an unobtrusive office perfume that still emanates attitude and character, Santal 33 might be the solution.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT LE LABO PERFUMES: dark and mysterious Patchouli 24.

[Fragrance notes] sandalwood, cedarwood, cardamom, iris, violet, amber, leather.

[Fragrance group] woody aromatic.

Perfume’s creator is Frank Voelkl.