Le Labo’s Santal 33 smells minimalist but highly polished. The smoky and creamy woody facets remind me of high-end furniture, a luxurious hotel lobby, or a classic bar. Santal is the literal translation of sandalwood, yet the wood’s smell in Santal 33 is a bit original. It is aromatic, yes; woody, yes; musky; yes. The materials used in building this masterpiece are amazingly harmonious, and the details are impeccable.
The sandalwood scent is very persistent and round. We can continuously smell the sandalwood backbone from the beginning to the end. A hint of precious materials accompanies the scent’s evolution along the way, making it an inspiring sensorial journey.
Santal 33 opens with a fresh aromatic and spicy notes coming from cardamom EO. The duality of this material is impressive—and it is well placed here. Contains around 30% of eucalyptol, cardamom has a fresh herbal-aromatic character. The highest chemical constituent is terphenyl acetate, which contributes to cardamom’s warm and spicy profile. A hint of cumin facet in the top note complements cardamom’s spiciness and gives it strength and character.
A warm, woody, and tobacco-like odors of amberwoods is visible in the top, contributing to the sweet smoky facets. These amberwoods gives an instant lift, bringing a luxurious and sophisticated feel to the whole composition. This accent is emphasized by elegant musks, which odor extend throughout the fragrance, amplifying the texture of the sandalwood backbone and giving persistency to the scent. I personally love the largeness of musks in this creation. It has clean and sweet facets with slight animalic and ambery shades.
The fluidity of Santal 33 is evident throughout the journey. The amberwood and musks flow smoothly with the orris root and violet accords. Velvet nuances given by the orris root flatters the sandalwood deeply, highlighting the balsamic and animalic facet of the wood. At the same time, violet accords adorn the sandalwood with its floral-powdery attributes, evoking its feminine side.
This composition is built upon a firm foundation of the sandalwood and leather accords. The leathery character given by papyrus is remarkably intense, bold, fearless, and persistent. Natural sandalwood’s balsamic and animalic facets also build the leather accords. A small touch of marine notes is presented to give a fresh breeze into this woody composition. This is the one aspect that binds all elements, providing the strong character of the perfume.
A quest to find sandalwood perfume
I stumbled upon Santal 33 when I was searching for a nice sandalwood perfume for my own collection. I remember that in the beginning, I wasn’t at all impressed with it. Anyway, I was curious and willing to understand why many people love it.
I smelled this a lot lately and tried to dig each facet of this perfume. I came to the conclusion that this is, in fact, an extraordinary creation and a beautiful, unusual, genuine interpretation of sandalwood. I imagine this perfume is built with a modernized concept of sandalwood. The more I smell it, the more I am in love with the scent.
I notice some comments from the internet that people smell green, pickle, cucumber notes in this perfume. These notes could come from two things. First is the orris root. Orris root could give this effect, especially when carrot seed oil is presented in the composition to enhance the orris effect. Second is the animalic facet of the woods. Sandalwood and papyrus have earthy and animalic aspects, which sometimes smells salty and green for me. Some people might find this greenness annoying, yet others might find this is the ‘hook’ they are looking for. Personally, I like it.
Do you wear Santal 33? I would love to know which part you like about this fragrance. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment box.