Le Labo’s “city-exclusive” series, whereby they make a special perfume for each city in which they have a boutique or fragrance counter, and if you live elsewhere, forget about it*, either annoys you or it doesn’t. I find it mildly annoying. The perfumes aren’t impossible to get — there are ways around everything except death and taxes, right? — so to my mind the biggest annoyance is that they cost considerably more than the “regular” Le Labo fragrances.
That said, I adored their first city-exclusive, the wonderful Tubereuse 40 for New York, and I liked Vanille 44 for Paris as well. Aldehyde 44 for Dallas wasn’t my style, luckily. This year, we’ve got three newcomers to the range: Poivre 23 for London, Musc 25 for Los Angeles and Gaiac 10 for Tokyo.
Le Labo Poivre 23: Poivre 23, developed by perfumer Nathalie Lorson, is exclusive to Liberty of London, and it’s one of the few Le Labo scents that really does highlight the note it’s named for, at least for a time. The opening is peppered woods (make that heavily peppered). As it settles, add in a light trail of incense and just enough vanilla to make it comforting, but not so much so as to make it foody (it stays more dry than sweet; the other notes include cistus labdanum, sandalwood, patchouli, gaiac and styrax). The dry down is a warm and spicy ambery-patch-woods, and while it isn’t what I’d call transparent, nor is it rich or heavy.
I like Poivre 23, in fact, I really enjoyed wearing it. It’s very well done, and it’s already found lots of love on the fragrance forums. Still, I’m not in love; I did not, even for a moment (as I did with Tubereuse 40) consider coughing up the cash. If you want to cough up the cash, it’s £240 for 100 ml. There’s also a 50 ml, which is presumably cheaper, and if Liberty of London’s website is to be believed, you can go for broke with a 500 ml vat.
Le Labo Musc 25: The city of Los Angeles gets Musc 25, developed by perfumer Frank Voelkl, and yet another in the range that highlights the note in its name. This is a spanking-clean aldehydic white musk (the notes: aldehydes, ambergris, musk, lily of the valley, patchouli, rose, cedar, vetiver and “a synthesized representation of human semen”). There’s a twist of something vaguely-sour-but-not-quite-skanky underneath, in keeping with Le Labo’s concept of “heavenly white” with a “somber, devilishly dark” core, but unless I get up close, all I notice is the spanking-clean part; it smells good, but it reminds me of some functional product (dryer sheets, maybe, or laundry detergent), and it leaves me entirely cold. As with almost everything that leaves me entirely cold, it lasts just about forever, and then some, on skin. Tom over at Perfume Smellin’ Things loved this one, so it’s worth going over there for a second opinion. Musc 25 is $260 for 50 ml or $400 for 100 ml.
Le Labo Gaiac 10: For Le Labo’s boutique in Tokyo, perfumer Annick Menardo created Gaiac 10, and it just figures that the hardest-to-get would turn out to be my favorite, doesn’t it? The opening is bright but intense, and the dry down is wood, wood, and some more wood (the notes: gaiac, cedar, musk and olibanum). It’s greenish, more so in the earlier stages than in the later dry down, and it smells like dense, dark wood with citrus peel and a pinch of incense. As with the Poivre 23, it sounds heavier than it wears — I could be wrong, but I’d think you could wear this nearly year-round — and it has a kind of spare, nothing-overdone simplicity.
It’s gorgeous. If I had the money to spring for one of the city-exclusives, I’d be torn between this one and the Tubereuse 40. I don’t know the price for Gaiac 10, but I assume it’s also in 50 and 100 ml for more money than I’ve got. Now Santa knows what I’d like for Christmas…
Update: a reader reports that the Gaiac 10 is ¥36000 for 50 ml and ¥56000 for 100 ml. Thanks Tyler!
Le Labo Poivre 23, Musc 25 and Gaiac 10 are all unisex fragrances. For more information, see the listing for Le Labo under Perfume Houses.
* I should mention that I’ve seen reports that some of the Le Labo city-exclusives can be ordered over the phone and shipped. I haven’t tried to order any of them, but if you have, do comment on your experience.