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.

46 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Le Labo Rose 31

  1. I say Man Rose. Sexy. Spicy. Warm. Wearing it now and tracking to the 90 minute mark. I think the cumin makes this a butch rose compared to all others. Rose 31 was the only rose I liked until Mohur made herself known and that is a completely different affair. I have given decants of Rose 31 to other guys without telling them the name. They all loved it although they would normally not rock a rose.
    On Iso E-super; used to love the fragrances that dosed large with this molecule. Then the overdose did give me searing headaches too. Resolved this by avoiding them for a period with ‘naturals’ and then returning but never to quite as much love. Maybe one becomes fatigued by this extra large molecule floating up the nose? Where do these molecules end up? Do we just breathe them out again? I don’t think that they penetrate the blood-brain barrier but a scientist I am not.

    • It sounds like you’re one of the lucky ones who gets lots of the rose note. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. As for the ISO E Super, I didn’t know that you got searing headaches from it. Does the Rose 31 not trigger them?

      • Not at the moment. I have had a break from this molecule for a while assuming this was the headache activator. I actually bought the second (small) bottle the day you published this review.

  2. Great review Kafka! Rose 31 is one of my favourite Le Labo fragrances I tried so far. Of course Iris 39 must be my number one. I was quite surprised that I liked Rose 31. It’s one of those exceptional fragrances with a big dose of spices and cumin/caraway that I can tolerate without a fuss.
    I’m looking forward to trying two out of three new Le Labo’s, YLANG and Limette.

    • I’m surprised you liked Rose 31. I had thought you’d told me a while back that you didn’t love it. Did subsequent applications and testing make you change your mind, or am I just misremembering our conversation? Given just how tired I’ve been lately, the latter is MORE than likely. LOL. As for the new Le Labo fragrances, I’m very happy you’ll get the chance to try them. 🙂

      • I didn’t like it at first but giving it few more wearings changed my mind. I think you’ve mistaken Rose 31 with Lumiere Noire pour Homme which has similiar notes but it smells all cumin on me.

        Erm… who said I will get the chance to try new Le Labo’s? I don’t know anything about that 😛

        • No, it was the Rose 31 because I remember you brought it up just as I was considering testing my vial about 2 and 1/2 weeks ago, and you said you didn’t like it, so I thought maybe it would work for me (given how we’re so opposite). I never knew you had Lumiere Noire until I reviewed the female version. 🙂 But I’m glad you now enjoy Rose 31 and that repeated wearings turned it into a small favorite. (After your beloved Iris one, of course. lol)

  3. I love your fairy tale treatment of this fragrance. I have hesitated to try this line because its overall presentation gives me the (perhaps mistaken) impression that it is highly synthetic and my favorite fragrances are all mixed media with a high percentage of natural ingredients. Your review did nt change this impression but I am oddly curious about this one because there was a cheap little fragrance I loved from CCB Paris called Love Etc. that was mostly pink pepper and cedar. It is out of production now and my taste may well have outgrown it, but this sounds oddly reminiscent and I wonder. Also I would like to see if I have any sensitivity or reaction to ISO E whatever it’s called.

    • The bottle is funny. You know, I’m rarely bothered by bottles and I always think the scent is more important. When others wince away from the Montale “fire hydrant,” I’m not affected. BUT the Le Labo ones….. they truly give me some pause. They are too similar to medical vials, and they conjure up a doctor filling a syringe before giving you a shot. I think they’re the only perfume bottles that truly put me off a little. As for Rose 31, I know you like scents that others consider to be masculine and the dominance of the cedar in this one certainly makes a few people classify it as such. So, perhaps you’ll really love it. Let me know if you get a sample and try it out. 🙂

  4. Fascinating review Kafka 🙂 With all the notes that Rose31 has, including cumin, it works on my skin like magic. It gets mad compliments and I love to wear in a springtime and summer nights. But as you mention in the review, the drydown becomes dull and its not my favorite part of the fragrance at all. But I just simply reapply.
    Have you tried other roses based scent from Le Labo Baie Rose 26? It’s another peppered rose but much more refined than Rose31. xxox

    • I knew you’d love Rose 31, Ross, I just *KNEW* it!! It has your name plastered over every inch of it, my friend! LOL. I’m glad you can overcome that monotonous drydown phase but, tell me, does the ISO E Super not give you problems? You once said that Encre Noire and Terre d’Hermès gave you monstrous headaches, and we subsequently pinpointed it to the ISO E Super. Is it not as much for you in Rose 31? As for Le Labo’s other rose fragrances, I’m afraid I haven’t tried them. I have a sample of the Santal 33 that I’ll get around to testing one of these days, but that’s about it. I have to confess, I’m a little more intrigued by their labdanum and patchouli ones than by trying something with pink peppercorns and roses. You know my weakness for labdanum and patchouli. LOL! xoxox

      • I can detect ISO E Super but for some strange reason it doesnt give me a headache, unlike Encre Noire or Td`H. Perhaps rose and musk blend well with Rose 31 that I can wear it without any complications 🙂
        As for Santal 33 its my friend`s favorite scent and he wears it a lot! As for me, I can`t wear it for too long, it reminds me pickle juice for some strange reason…. Its weird how one`s body chemistry interacts differently with the same fragrances :/

        • Pickle juice? Ha, now I’m going to be curious to see what *MY* wonky skin does to it! 😀 I’m so glad you can enjoy your Rose 31 without the usual ISO E headaches. 🙂

      • By the way patchouli24 is love/ hate fragrance. Some say it smells like smoked meat( you can purchase those in Europe during Holidays). But I like patch quite a lot. As for Labdanum 18 I didn’t like the opening at all! So much powder! But the drydown was nice on me. I’ll be testing L18 more times , actually a decant is on my way.

        • “Smoked meat”????? Oh dear. And powder for Labdanum 18?? Oh dear, again. The powder actually sounds better than the European holiday smoked meats (and I know exactly what you’re talking about). I’m simultaneously wide-eyed and strangely intrigued. LOL

  5. I find it interesting that this is considered a masculine fragrance. I wear this quite a bit and love it. Then again, I was the weird girl wearing Drakkar Noir in high school (I seriously got a bottle for Christmas one year). You clarified something else for me as well: I must be anosmic to ISO E Super. I can’t pick it out in this or my Ormonde Jayne samples at all.

    • What I would give to be anosmic to ISO E Super! *grin* I’d give my left foot not to detect it. LOL. Have you ever tried Geza Schoen’s Molecule 01? 😉 With regard to the Rose 31, I’m glad you are enjoying it. Are you one of the lucky ones who gets lots of rose from it?

      • No I haven’t, but now I want to! It will be my test. 🙂
        I do get quite a bit of rose from it. Granted, it’s a spicy, warm rose, but it is rosy on me. I really do enjoy it.
        I also wanted to tell you I received my samples from LuckyScent and I’m planning my purchase of Hedonist, I am loving Ambre Russe, and I’m planning on wearing Onda on my next day off. Little sniffs of these and I was in heaven! Thank you so much for the reviews!

        • Whaaaaaaat??!!? This is fabulous news, Kellilee!!! You fell in love with Hedonist and Ambre Russe?? Fabulous!! I’m so happy for you. As for the Onda, have you sniffed it at all or are you waiting for a full day’s test? Is your sample of the EDP or the Extrait?

          I’m so chuffed that you adored Hedonist enough to get a full bottle. I really, really am!! 😛 😛

          • I always do a quick sniff when I receive my samples, just because I’m too curious and impatient. I’ve worn Hedonist already and I couldn’t stop sniffing myself. It was an immediate, deep love. I KNEW I had to have it.
            I’m waiting to try Onda (it’s the EDP) until I was off of my work stretch. I really liked my little sniff, so I’m very excited to wear it out and about. 🙂

  6. When I was in the Le Labo shop in NYC last fall, I think my daughter really loved Rose 31. But by the time we got back to her apartment she lost interest completely. It never did any thing for me. I am a lover of Patchouli 24. I do not wear it, I just sniff my sample and get carried away to that ‘stiflingly airless, hot attic, filled with old vanillic leather bound books’ that Mr. Turin speaks of. I adore the smell, but I would never expect anyone else to enjoy it wafting off my skin.

    When you mentioned the honey creeping up behind the light rose, I got excited for a moment. Now that my love affair with Cologne Pour Le Soir is in full obsessive bloom, I am forever looking for other scents that mimic that honeyed rose amber. But I am not a fan of cedar Except in a forest. Once again, a fantastic review!

    • It sounds like your daughter fell for the opening 40 minutes and that it was as fascinating on her as it was on me. But it also sounds like that monotonous drum-beat afterwards got to her, too, subsequently. As for you, I can’t see Rose 31 being your thing. Not at ALL!! LOL. I’m very tempted to try the Patchouli and Labdanum perfumes from Le Labo, but I suspect it may be a while before I get around to ordering samples.

      With regard to honey perfumes, you HAVE to try Hedonist!! Really. It doesn’t have rose, but I do think you’d really enjoy it. I think Luckyscent has started to carry Viktoria Minya, but you’d may have a better deal ordering Hedonist directly from her, I think. The sample vial would be much bigger. If I remember correctly, there is free shipping for the vial which costs €6? Something like that. You can check my review for details. But honey lovers should try Hedonist. Plus, it’s very airy, so nothing like the heaviness of something like Absolue Pour Le Soir.

  7. Dear Kafka, this was a NO for me. It turned all vinegary dirty socks on me pretty much from minute 1. I got my sample from the Le Labo at Barneys from the tester bottle and I don’t think my experience was due to the top notes being off. I’m one of those unlucky ones where rose could just smell off (remember Mohur = pencil shavings, L’AP Voleur Roses [the recently launched one and I am not 100% sure of the name / spelling] = bad musty).

    I actually like the simplicity of the Le Labo bottles and the cap has a nice solid heftiness to it. I’m just slightly miffed that my name was misspelled on the label of my beloved Iris 39 – it was love at first sniff and the more I wear it, the more I love it!

    Great review, as always.

    • Vinegary, dirty socks???! You poor, poor thing. Ouch! I wonder what caused that because — even apart from your usual struggles or issues with rose — vinegar, stinky socks sounds like a particularly bad experience. The spices=dirty socks, perhaps, and maybe the ISO E Super’s rubbing alcohol, sometimes medicinal, sharp base smells like vinegar to you? Very intriguing. I wish we could figure it out. LOL.

  8. Ug, caraway ruins everything it touches – especially rye bread! 🙂 If it’s closer to anise it may be enjoyable, but if it’s anything like the caraway I loathe so much – pass.

    • LOL! I never knew you had a deep-seated hatred of caraway! I will add that to my mental list of your despised notes which, interestingly, aren’t many in nature. 🙂

  9. Kafka, I enjoyed the story-telling part of your review 🙂

    I like Rose 31 (as in tested it and then bought a decant) but I do not wear it too often due to a strange reasoning that I plan to cover in one of my posts soon.

    I have a general question: do you ever come back to perfumes you tested/reviewed before? Do you ever change your mind?

    • I rarely change my mind for things I really love or really hate. For those things I can’t stand, it’s almost always due to a very unpleasant note (like ISO E Super, gourmands, aldehydes, soapy clean scents, shrieking synthetics that give me a headache, calone, cotton, etc. etc. ) which I never like and would never change my mind about. No amount of testing would *ever* make me like something like the Dries van Noten, Chanel 1932, the ISO E fragrances, things like Dzing! or half a dozen other fragrances that I’ve loathed or been bored to utter tears with. I guess I simply know my own mind well enough after I go through the effort and analysis necessary for a review, and really trust my own nose after I’ve fully dissected a fragrance from top to bottom.

      There is only one perfume which I keep contemplating and that’s because I actually *like* it quite a bit, own a full bottle, and yet, for some reason, almost never reach for it. It’s a Caron that I have reviewed briefly a long, long time ago and which, even then, I wrote about my total ambivalence, despite actually liking it. I was thinking just last night about it and about why I can’t seem to get enthusiastic enough to wear it, even though I like it a lot on those rare occasions when I do. I think it’s because it’s simply not special (to me), though it’s very pretty in its own right.

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  11. Not my favorite Le Labo fragrance. Actually, it’s kind of funny but after reading your intro (briliant btw! I can just imagine scented Smurfs or Oompa Loompas running around lakes of Iso E Super) I think that a lot of Le Labo fragrances start with a big dose of pepper and round off with tons of Iso E Super . . .

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  13. I think Le Labo labeled this perfume wrong, it should be called SpiceBomb (name already taken) or Spice 31. There is absolutely no rose I can detect in this fragrance, none whatsoever. I wish I smell what everyone else is smelling, as I like a spicy rose fragrance (Égoïste) All I get are spices, woods, oud, vetiver and a clean soapy musk. i also detect a subtle sweetess in the middle, not sure what it is though. It is a good scent, however, if I’m looking for roses, much like looking for class and sophistication in the newly transformed and twerted out Miley Cyrus, I’ll look elsewhere.

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  17. I just tried a spray of this last week at Barneys and nope, nope, nope! I actually like the spicy, cedar-y part of it (thing I have discovered: I like woody & smoky) but the opening on me is pure cumin and it reeks. My skin hates it. It eventually fades but I couldn’t handle it. Of course I had to see if you had reviewed it, and I’m so glad you did because it showed me the cumin was not in my imagination! Caraway is listed on Fragrantica, but not cumin. But I’d detect that smell anywhere–I really can’t stand it! Food with cumin = okay. Smelling like cumin = not okay (at least, for me). 🙂

    • HA! Cumin is one of the most difficult notes for people (along with honey, I think), so I can understand your feelings completely. 🙂

  18. Good morning K,
    It’s finally been two fabulous weather days. So I revisited Tolu yesterday. Still love it. Still headache. Today I woke up at 6 for no reason. And promptly decided to hit my Le Labo sample pack. Rose 31. Headache within the hour. Looked for reviews, and found yours in the google pile. Damn you IsoE. I can’t smell it (although I do get vague synthetic scent-is that it?) but it’s ruining the experience for me. Or perhaps saving me from myself and guarding my wallet. Now I know. I guess I’m not that surprised. I’ve been known to have allergic reactions to hypoallergenic baby oil, have loads of food intolerances, can’t wear skin make up (hence owning a million mascaras) and other nonfatal but annoying sensitivities (thank you air pollution in Athens, LA and downtown Beirut).
    More importantly. Mohur Extrait arrived. The full regal deep purple bottle. Slim. Tall. Deep satisfied exhale. Now that’s a rose.

    • Ah, so it was the ISO E Super with the Ormonde Jayne. Well, at least now you know, though the problem is that there are SO many fragrances with the bloody thing in it — always unlisted, en plus — that it will reduce some of your choices. Okay, a number of your choices, but I’m in the same boat, as you know. In terms of smell, ISO E can manifest itself in different ways depending on what notes accompanying it, but it does have a synthetic twang that — to me — is all too often like rubbing alcohol or antiseptic disinfectant. Sometimes, it’s merely a “woody buzz,” as Luca Turin once described it. Other times, it’s an indescribable synthetism that is very buoyant and shimmering. Many times, it’s very peppery, especially if the quantity of ISO E is high. In Rose 31, on me, it’s peppery, woody, buzzing *and* like rubbing alcohol.

      At least you have your Mohur Extrait. A lovely, lovely choice. Congratulations, my dear. I know it’s not an inexpensive scent, but it is a truly lovely one.

      • Mohur extrait broke the budget until the end if the summer. No new summer outfits or anything. But everytime I spritz it I feel new and confident and special and i figure the cost is equivalent to a few new outfits. It’s worth the mood life with every use. I totally totally recommend it. I’m glad I didn’t get the EDP. And, I happily blame you 🙂 one day I hope to recommend you a scent that will equally bowl you and your bank account over!

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