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April 18 2014

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Le Labo Debuts Eau de Rugged Americana

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“We wanted to make impactful scents that weren’t able to exist in the commercial mindset,” Le Labo’s Fabrice Penot explained last night at Barneys. He was describing the impetus behind his five-year-old brand, one that’s done no less than essentially change the fragrance industry. The revolutionary concept was simple: Fill only testers with actual eaux, and hand-mix the essential oil notes with alcohol and water upon purchase to ensure that each flacon sold is as fresh as it can be. “Perfume is fragile,” Penot continued, recommending that you store your favorite scents in the fridge—or at least at a cool 60 degrees. A hit with perfume junkies the world over—Karl Lagerfeld included (the Kaiser is reportedly fond of Le Labo’s Neroli 36 and stocks up on it at Colette in Paris)—the brand has only released two of its own creations in recent years, after launching in 2006 with a small range. (Penot has bided his time in between with some very high profile collaborations, such as a recent project with Another Magazine.)

Le Labo’s latest is Santal 33, which arrived on shelves this week. Inspired by its popular Santal 26 candle, the sandalwood-heavy scent stems from Penot’s boyhood infatuation with America, in which the Marlborough Man—with his leather saddle, crackling night fire and the perpetual sweet stink (one imagines) of rum and whiskey on his breath—played a pivotal role. But don’t get too caught up in the overt masculinity; like all of Le Labo’s creations, this one is unisex. “We don’t believe in gender in perfume,” Penot says. Notes of papyrus and cedar wood, cardamom, iris, and violet help soften this scent so that it dries to a warm, spicy finish—and you need to let this one dry down on your skin, too, to truly grasp its full-bodied flavor. “We also don’t believe in love at first sight,” Penot jokes. “What happens [to a fragrance] in fifteen to twenty minutes is soulful. It can’t be smelled in a bottle.”

—Celia Ellenberg

Photo: Courtesy of Le Labo

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