Perfume Directory

Santal 33 (2011)
by Le Labo


Santal 33 information

Year of Launch2011
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 164 votes)

People and companies

HouseLe Labo
PerfumerFrank Voelkl
Parent CompanyEstee Lauder Companies

About Santal 33

Santal 33 is a shared / unisex perfume by Le Labo. The scent was launched in 2011 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Frank Voelkl

Reviews of Santal 33

Famously the “signature scent” of thousands of young professionals and hipsters in certain areas of New York city, Santal 33 by Le Labo has become a bit of a design cliché as of late – the olfactory equivalent of the Barcelona chair or the man bun. But just because everyone is wearing it doesn’t make it a bad fragrance. In fact, it’s pretty great, especially if you park your expectations at the door.

For one thing, despite the name, I find this to be a predominantly leather-focused scent, with a salty, green cucumberish quality that is almost aquatic. It opens with a powerful blast of chemical violet, sea salt, leather, and that aqueous herbal element, making me think each time of salty vetivers like Fleur de Sel by Miller Harris and Sea Foam by Art de Parfum.

But focusing too closely on the individual elements is of little use here, because the total effect is so forceful that you just have to give yourself over for the ride. Santal 33 is intensely masculine: full of raw, oily leather and balsam, it makes me think of a lifestyle concept store – one of those cavernous, white empty studio spaces where they place a tangle of parched white driftwood in one corner and a lone leather couch in the other.

Much later on, in the far drydown, there is the green aroma of dried coconut husks, raw and brusquely woody, and it is only then I see the reference to (Australian) sandalwood. But, in general, this is dry and woody-leathery, not lactonic or sweet.

Whenever I wear Santal 33, I am reminded of that craze for “shabby chic” that was so popular for most of the last ten years, because there is something very deliberately “antiqued” about the scent, like a modern wooden chair exposed to salty sea air to force-age it, whitewashed, and then distressed to give it the patina of age. It’s totally faux – but somehow the “fauxness” of it all becomes part of the appeal.

It reminds me of books, too. In particular in the raw, harsh chemical breeze of salt and Iso E Super whitewashing the grain of the scent, which ultimately comes off as a combination of freshly-tanned leather and newly-printed paper. It is an industrial book smell, one that belongs more to an Amazon warehouse or a newspaper printing room than a library or old book store.

But it’s also totally hipster and lifestyle-ish, with a high-gloss finish that is somewhat at odds with the raw, salty leather underneath. One of my favorite reviewers, Diamondflame, said it best when he called Santal 33 “a cross between the scent of a freshly printed lifestyle magazine and the interiors of a luxury leather goods shop.”

29th August, 2017
Le Labo Santal 33 is the Giorgio Beverly Hills of the 2010s in terms of its faceless ubiquity, exorbitant price, and California snob gaucherie, except that Giorgio Beverly Hills is actually good. Santal 33 is present in toiletry form in all the trendy boutique hotels. It is a staple of the millionaire fauxhemian celebrity class who masquerade as countercultural 1960s vagabonds. There are style pieces in the New York Times about it. Hipsters will claim that they wore it before everyone else did as though this gives them some kind of street cred. People who wear it will say that they didn't care for perfume or cologne before their senses were awakened by Santal 33, and they will coo over it like it is the first non-calone non-fruity-floral they have ever smelled, which it probably is.
In terms of its actual smell, it is a synthetic Xeroxed sandalwood-fig idea. The original Marc Jacobs for men smells similar, and is stronger, and cheaper. There's nothing really wrong with Santal 33, and it's positive that average Americans, the type that normally have a puritanical class-based fear of fragrance, get excited about a smell and feel emboldened enough to wear it in 2017. Why, though, does it have to be this one? Every time I hear someone express excitement about Santal 33 I want to take them on a personal tour of perfume history and show them all the weird, bold masterpieces that people used to wear and which used to be commonplace until the 1990s.
Santal 33's immense popularity can be traced to its au courant absence of gender and sex appeal, in a decade defined by identity politics gone mad and the proliferation of deceitful pseudo-religious gender theory. It doesn't seem intended for men or women, but for genderless pastel-haired consumers with customizable Mr. Potato Head body modifications, vaguely Bohemian self-images, and $300 to burn. Its smoky-woodsy theme appeals to hipster women who think of themselves as above wearing anything overtly girly, yet it does not have any kind of conventionally masculine hairy-chest fougere signifiers that will give Tumblr Millennials unpleasant reminders of grandfathers or patriarchy. It is ideal for male feminist industry bots attending SXSW conferences on "diversity in tech."
19th June, 2017
Santal 33 is a thoroughly decent scent. I ordered a sample from Le Labo for £3.99, including delivery. Sprayed it on this morning, my wife was impressed, but there was something about it as it developed that seemed very familiar to me. Then it hit me, the cedar note, that is. For I get mostly cedar in this, I guess because it's Australian sandalwood, rather than the far more difficult to get Indian stuff, so the sandalwood doesn't really stand out for me. This is cedar all the way.

But what was that all-too-familiar cedar note, where did I know it from? Ah yes, the old familiar, Quorum Silver, currently available at about £10-15 a bottle, compared with Santal 33 at £120.

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Well, that's marketing for you, Wills.

Yes, Quorum Silver is not quite as refined as Santal 33, but for the sake of £100, I think there's very little in it, though they do have slightly different accords. Try a sample of Santal 33, and buy a bottle of Quorum Silver, and see if you smell the same.
08th June, 2017
Quintessential New York fragrance. You will smell this on many people in NYC, and it will feel out of place in most other places. One of the finest sandalwood fragrances out there next to Santal Massoia. This can end up smelling like a horse barn if sprayed too close. Give it the right distance and it is perfect. Supremely balanced.
27th April, 2017
suede delicate leather in a campfire breeze, perfect duration and heavy duty sillage!
02nd February, 2017
I like Santal 33. It's big and loud and linear and sometimes I get kind of tired of it, but every time I wear it, without fail, at some point in the day, I catch a whiff of myself and just think "damn, that smells fantastic."

So what does it smell like? Well, it's pretty much my go-to to describe Australian sandalwood. Unlike its Indian Mysore cousin (which smells, at its best, like rich, buttery sawdust), Australian sandalwood (and, by extension, Santal 33) smells like breaking open a fresh, green, sappy, newly grown branch, mixed with the smell of coconut water. There's a mix of iris and ambrox in there, which mostly adds a luxurious richness without being very prominent, and some limpid, tea-ish elements as well. Honestly, it all comes together to smell mostly like coconutty green goop, but it's a rich, expensive, gorgeous coconutty green goop.
09th November, 2016

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