Maurice Roucel, you old roué! I think I’ve figured out your game. You made a beautiful musk-vanilla-amber template in the lab one day, and you thought to yourself, “Maurice, old boy, this ain’t half bad! I can get at least three good fragrances out of this.” You dialed up the rude bits on the template to arrive at Musc Ravageur, and you sanitized it with cotton and heliotrope and doll’s head plastic to come up with Helmut Lang EDP.
Le Labo comes a knocking, and you decide, you know what – let’s see if we can’t wring a last drop of juice from this old sponge. We’ll name it after an ingredient that isn’t noticeably in it, let’s say labdanum, so as to give those contrary hipster mofos at Le Labo their jollies. Add a pinch of cinnamon, a touch of powder, and my standard musky-ambery-vanilla, and BAM! Everybody’s happy.
Well, not me, Maurice, not me. The last imprint of the well-used template is too faint to leave much of an impression. It’s a midget in a hall of giants. Civet, leather – castoreum? Pfff, please. Shalimar has more underpantsy funk than this. The trouble is, of course, that Labdanum 18 can only cower in the shadow of its more outgoing big brother, Musc Ravageur, and its more distinctive, characterful little sister, Helmut Lang EDP. And if I want a powdery musk-amber-patchouli scent that smells like skin, I always have the soured-fur delights of L’Ombre Fauve to fall back on. Desolee.
Warm, woody spicy at first. I admit, I don't know laudanum from olibanum. This smells quite linear to me. Sadly, within an hour it turns to Play Dough on me. I guess I can live without it although it starts out nice enough.
Genre : Oriental
So where’s the labdanum?
Oh, I’m sure there’s some in there, but anyone expecting a labdanum-centered fragrance will be sorely disappointed here. Labdanum 18 is actually nothing other than an attenuated Musc Ravageur: Musc Ravageur “Lite,” if you like, composed by the same Maurice Roucel who did the superb original for Frederic Malle. Labdanum 18 is thus not only unoriginal, but conceptually misguided as well. As I see it, the whole point of Musc Ravageur is its over-the-top extravagance, its unabashed sensuality, and yes, an certain perverse gaudiness. To defang it as Roucel has done here is to render it pointless. There are plenty of other great spicy-sweet oriental fragrances out there at less than half Le Labo’s price. Without thinking about it I can name at least a half a dozen: Eau Lente, Shalimar, Jaïpur Homme, Maharanih, Shaal Nur, L’Air du Desert Marocain, and let's not forget, Musc Ravageur!
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Shares a lot of facets with Ambre 114 to my nose, pleasing but not too complex powdery slightly spiced amber, perhaps could have benefited from a little edge. As the drydown sets in I get a bit of vanillic almost almondy side which is for me a bit of a turn off, I'm not really getting much of the promised animalics either. I guess I'd call it good-meh, good quality and certainly nice if you like your ambers to play politely, but I personally prefer mine with a little more bite, ala Ambre Absolute, Opus VI et al.
This fragrance introduces all the olfactory complexity of the resinous note of labdanum, an element "di per se" arousing a multifaceted aroma with diverse facets, some of which are ambery, some incensey, some leathery/musky, some woody, others finally smoky, mellifluous and musty/mouldy. The perfumer creator decided in this case to support each of those nuances with the insertion of many accessorial elements as the musk, animal notes, resins, balsams, sweet-smoky tonka and a spicy patchouli which imprints sophistication and "importance" to the all whole olfactory fatigue. Labdanum 18 is an articulated white oriental. At the beginning for instance i detect the labdanum in its resinous outlook and i smell opposite types of accents, detect at once something detergent, soapy and rediant and something else vaguely smokey in the middle of a sort of ambery and musky general resinous feel, with fuzzy olfactory reminiscences about Ambre Fetiche Annick Goutal, E.Coudray Ambre et Vanille, Le Male Gaultier and Shalimar Guerlain. While at the beginning the aroma is more properly resinous, in the final phase of the development becomes really subtle and sensual even if almost evanescent on my skin. In this stage the scent is feminine in my opinion and really close to the skin (at least the mine). In the central stage the labdanum is overwhelmed by many other elements under my nose and it tends to disguise its substance and hide itself before to appear again in the base. Is properly in the dry down indeed, after some hours of development, that i detect more strictly the labdanum presence in its more stressed airy/boise' (almost incensey and anyway sharper) temperament. In this phase the juice is dry, cool with a touch of birch tar, musky and vaguely talky/eliotropic. An almost edible concoction for the lovers of the heavenly and immaculate ambery/resinous juices.
Wow - this is quite a piece of work.
At first, it strikes me as standoffish, with needlessly aggressive dark greens shouting for attention through a cloud of shrieking powder. The result is the perfume equivalent of an embarrassing loud racist grandmother or that guy at a bar who thinks that he's more likely to score if he acts really aggressive to all the other guys there. Just unpleasant.
Thankfully, given an hour or two, the loud greens and the powder tame each other under the watchful eye of an aldehydic chypre skeleton. The greens get less gross and more patchouli-ish, and a subtle vanilla sweetness rounds everything out, creating a smell that's kind of like a powdery old-fashioned amber perfume, but very green and patch-heavy.
The green patchouli amber is fine, but there are many many ambers that I like more than this and that don't have that off-putting top, so I don't really feel the need to keep trying to enjoy Labdanum 18. As an aside, I don't get the comparisons to Musc Ravageur at all, even one bit. MR is a poopy old-school fougere drowned in vanilla and pie spices and L18 is a mossy green oriental chypre. Aside from the fact that they're both sweet (and L18 is just BARELY sweet), they really have nothing in common. Oh well - we all smell things differently!
I 'get' why some people love this, but also why some are totally underwhelmed. This fragrance is everything that's wonderful about amber - warm, cuddly, powdery, grounding, close to earth, hearth, and security. That's a great set of adjectives, and why amber is consistently loved. I can't diss its raison d'etre. This one does the job.
On the other side - amber can be boringly one-dimensional and flat if you're not in need of its warm, earthy succor, or if you're not an amber person. I have an 'amber' friend and she loves them all, smells good in them all, and radiates amber.
But for me, amber needs to do a little more to be able to push my buttons. And that's always been my problem with it - I need a little more complexity layered in or I become bored.
That is the problem with this amber - just not enough complexity. When ambers are kept at the level of AMBER, they have no where to go but where they are - that niche they inhabit so successfully. I only need to inhabit it every so often - on snowy days sitting inside by the fire, holidays, etc., all the typical amber-ances.
I notice it's been compared to it's half-sibling Musc Ravageur a lot, and found lacking, primarily in animalics. A fragrance can't be demoted because of lack of animalics - each fragrance has it's own being. But the comparison is irresistible because they have the same father.
I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate by saying this, because I too prefer Musc Ravageur, and consider it my favorite ambered fragrance. It has so much more going on, and yes, it's sexier, though an amber doesn't need to be that. But amber does lend itself sooo well to that direction, and makes the whole seductive tone very warm and inviting.
All in all, this is a nice amber. It doesn't necessarily need more sexiness, just more... anything. But it is marketed as labdanum, so one shouldn't really expect more technically. But for me, amber always feels like a base that lacks completion, that begs for accent notes, needs a story line.
Note: actual labdanum resin (cistis is the essential oil) has a somewhat high, vaguely oud-like, sidenote, which this one lacks, even if it's called by that name. Sonoma's Incense Pure actually has a more realistic labdanum note, and the drydown on that one is almost pure labdanum to me. I don't consider that preferable - it's just interesting how the names don't always end up reflecting the fragrance they're sourcing, but what else is new?
18th July, 2012 (last edited: 31st March, 2013)
This one reminds me an awful lot of Lutens Ambre Sultan. It has that oriental amber/vanilla thing going for it. It gets a bit powdery after the resinous top wears through and overall just doesn’t do a lot for me. Definitely left me wanting more and I don’t find this one all that great.
Roucel's interpretation of the labdanum is an average quality amber/vanilla with some spices on top and an almost imperceptible civet note. It sits somewhere bewteen Musc Ravageur and Ambre Sultan but lacks the brilliance of the former and the majesty of the latter. Nice but nowhere close being exciting or distinctive.
Surely not a standout.
I can cover this one in one word - "dainty". You can determine if you might like Labdanum 18/Ciste 18 by your association with the word.
There’s labdanum, all right…very nice! And a civet note that’s rich but not intrusive. Unfortunately for me, Le Labo chose to include birch tar… The birch tar isn’t prevalent in Labdanum 18 but there’s enough to annoy me… and I am particularly annoyed because I love everything else in the fragrance. It’s a nicely designed fragrance: it is balanced and refined; it has some interesting spicy-sweet notes that are correctly proportioned for richness with a light touch; and it has about perfect sillage and longevity as far as I’m concerned. This coulda been a contender were it not for the birch tar.
Musky butter? Well, Le Labo is famous for producing perfumes that only slightly resemble the names they give them. It's a mix of powderiness, sweetness, pepper, musk... very strange and in the league of oriental perfumes suited for the ladies. Decent.
Labdanum 18 is a pleasant amber-ish skin scent that is sweet but not overbearingly so. The first two times I skin tested it, I noted a similarity with another fragrance, but for the life of me couldn't place it... it was something about the heart of L-18, at the point where a sweet floral note emerges and melds with the labdanum to create a buttery effect. It struck me tonight... the heart of L18 is very reminiscent of Helmut Lang EdC/EdP, only with the volume turned way down. This buttery floral/woody accord is the thrust of Helmut Lang, front and center. In L18 it is balanced with musk and amber.
Although it stays close to the skin, only a couple sprays are needed for the fragrance to last forever. High quality, but worth purchasing only if money is not a limiting factor. Even discontinued, Helmut Lang can be found for far less money.
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Labdanum 18 is more warm and cuddly than the smoky, cool, outdoorsy, woody, musky scents in the Le Labo line, which makes it easier for a woman to wear. This fragrance doesn't cover much new ground, being a leathery amber. Montale Blue Amber is better (and a good deal stronger, too) for the money. L'Artisan Amber Extreme is comparable. Amber Russe by Parfum d'Empire does it with a sense of humor, adding booze into the amber and leather mix. Anyway, it's fine, but try alongside the others mentioned here.
Interesting. On me this Labdanum is sweet musk with an immediate powdery accord...no spice. I get a hint of this in some of the loukhoums - it's nice, but doesn't suit my personality - which is how come the neutral thumb.