In Style + Design

The Le Labo City Exclusives Are Coming to Australia

Perfume is best bought abroad. It’s the thrill of something indulgent on holiday that is already an indulgence. A longer lasting form of consumption than sampling the favourite local pastry – though both are advised.

One of the best parts is that immediate gratification gets drawn out, by the act of spritzing liberally and knowing that once you get home, the new bottle will be infused with holiday nostalgia. Olfactory memory magic. Further, one of life’s greatest tiny pleasures, is the mix of reticence and smugness you can answer with when someone asks what you’re wearing: “Oh, I got it from a boutique while I was away.”

A fragrance house that truly takes this to heart is the New York-based, Grasse-inspired Le Labo. Le Labo has built a loyal following (very devoted, probably also cult) with their apothecary aesthetic, premium ingredients and unique perfumes.

Their range of City Exclusive scents, as the title might have given away, are normally only available for purchase in the home cities that they’re named for. In a time of next day delivery and global giants like Sephora, this somewhat analogue approach makes them some of the most coveted bottles in the niche fragrance world. While a stopover in the UAE would usually have been required to catch a whiff of Dubai’s Cuir 28, or a romantic moment in France for Paris’ Vanille 44, the range is excitingly coming to Mecca, launching on September 1.

The City Exclusive Event each September is a brief but blissful moment annually when fans of the brand are able to acquire city scents from any Le Labo counter, or order from their website for those brave enough to “blind buy.” This is the first time Australians will have the chance to have a sniff before taking the delicious smelling plunge. In anticipation, The Upsider presents a cheat sheet to one of the coolest brands in fragrance right now, and a run-down of how to choose the scent for you.

The City Exclusives are named for their home cities and follow the usual Le Labo naming convention. For the uninitiated, that’s the core element of the fragrance, followed by the number of ingredients that make up each scent. Generally, the more ingredients there are in a fragrance, the more complex the scent construction – good luck figuring out what you’re smelling when burning Le Labo’s candle Laurier 62, described by them as simply: “a mess.”

The Le Labo range by its nature tends to defy regular fragrance categorisation, but there are some familiar scent families to navigate this launch by. Starting with the woodier family: fans of deeper, earthier scents might enjoy Dubai’s Cuir 28, and the newest city exclusive launched last year, Amsterdam’s Mousse de Chene 30. Definitely ones to try if you’re looking to loosen an iron grip on the now very pervasive sandalwood scent Santal 33.

The coveted Tokyo’s Gaiac 10 is a relatively pared back affair, heroing the title gaiac wood and nine other ingredients. Le Labo has an alternative, irreverent approach to the building of their fragrances, attracting those fatigued by commercial scents that can sometimes become repetitive. Still, Gaiac 10 is still special enough to leave one wearer speechless at how ‘hauntingly beautiful’ it is.

Lovers of white flowers (think jasmine, tuberose, gardenia) have a couple of options. There’s New York’s Tubereuse 40, a complex take on the classic floral, or the slightly unexpected San Francisco’s Limette 37, which combines the zest of lime and herbaceousness of bergamot to cut through heady jasmine. White flowers have a reputation of sometimes reading as cloying or sweet, neither of Le Labo’s creations fall into the overly indolic white flower territory.

Regardless of which fragrance you choose, make sure to enjoy the ritualism that comes after. Le Labo stands out amongst commercial fragrances houses because of their reverence and respect to the ingredients. Each bottle is blended on site, using high quality natural and synthetic materials. The scents have a concentration of up to 30 percent perfume oil in a base, where conventional eau de parfums normally sit between 15 to 20 percent. Technicians will normally explain not to worry about any small particles floating in the bottles – they’re a natural part of the ingredients.

The hardest part after deciding on a fragrance? Choosing what to put on the personalised label. Thankfully, no matter what you choose, smelling excellent is guaranteed.

Published 15 August, 2018