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I was at the optician’s getting my new glasses fitted a while ago. I’ve known Cynthia for some time now, and while she was adjusting the frames, she said, ‘You write a perfume blog. What do you think of Santal 33?.’ Before I could say anything, she jumped right back in. ‘I just love that fragrance. My boyfriend loves it on me, I love it on me and whenever I wear it people want to know what perfume I’m wearing. You know, I think Santal 33 is my soul-serving scent. Mother used to wear….’  At this point, I confess, I began to think about what to have for dinner but snapped back to reality when she told me how much those fancy-schmancy new frames cost.

Back at home, I was checking emails while I waited for the pasta to cook, when an email from a very close and very dear friend, Beckie, dropped into my ‘Inbox’:

‘In case you haven’t seen….

Two references to the same perfume within an hour of each other? Coincidence, or was the universe speaking to me?

I followed Beckie’s link and was rewarded with an entertaining story of how Santal 33, from niche perfume line Le Labo, came to be.

Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi, who had both worked for Giorgio Armani fragrances, launched Le Labo in 2006, with ten fragrances and one candle - Santal 26. The fragrances were well-received, but the candle was not – until hotelier Ian Schraeger discovered it at the time he was renovating the Gramercy Park Hotel and had Le Labo create a smokier version high-end for the hotel lobby. Guests of the hotel noticed the smoky, woody scent and started showing up at the Nolita store asking about it. A room spray followed, but people began wearing that as perfume. And then the penny dropped.

In June 2010 Penot joined a large group of people that were watching the World Cup on a TV screen inside a bar on the corner of Prince and Mott streets. He noticed that the guy standing in front of him smelled terrific. Penot was transfixed by the smell and finally asked the guy what perfume he was wearing. The guy told Penot that it wasn't  a perfume but a room spray that he buys at a little store on Elizabth Sreet - Le Labo.

And that is how Santal 33, Le Labo’s star fragrance was born.

Overcooked pasta aside, the universe was speaking to me and I listened. Now I am a very happy Santal 33 devotee.

A small caveat: the name and number of all Le Labo fragrances refer to the ingredient with the highest concentration – in this case sandalwood - which means that the name of the fragrance might bear little resemblance to what the fragrance smells like. The number refers to the number of ingredients in the fragrance.

This makes breaking their fragrances down note by note challenging (as it can be for most fragrances, truth be told) as it’s the way the ingredients are blended and how they react on the skin, that tell the story, but I’ll give it a go.

On me, Santal 33 opens with the metallic, green scent of violet followed by a dry, woody jolt of Australian sandalwood. I smell cardamom. Its spiciness warms the wood. There’s smoke, sensual and hypnotic drifting over the smell of soft, worn leather. Just when I think this is getting a bit masculine in tone, powdery iris adds a sophistication to the fragrance that changes my mind. Cedarwood extends the woodiness and adds a beautiful, balsamy scent. Ambrox, musky and animalic adds a richness to the blend.

The drydown is like nothing else I own. It has an understated sensuality that beckons and pleases for hours.

Oh, I do like it when the universe speaks to me.

Santal 33 is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.

Image - - Flowers of Indian Sandalwood (santalum albums), Hyderabad, India by J.M. Garg, 20/09/2008

A while ago, a friend gave me her bottle of Foxglove, a woody floral from the D. S. & Durga HYLNDS collection. She knew I already own two scents from the 2014 collection (sadly now discontinued) and she thought that her bottle of Foxglove would get much more love from me than it had been getting from her. Judging by the dust on the box, the love had definitely not been flowing, so her instincts were right. With Foxglove and me, it was instant love.

There’s a simple reason for this. David Moltz, the self-taught nose of Brooklyn-based independent perfume brand D.S. and Durga, is a superb story-teller and one of my favourite perfumers. He says on their site that the core of his aromatic vision includes… “off-notes, unexpected combinations and novel constructions…perfume has the ability to conjure unseen worlds…a world you can return to over and over – a keyhole into another realm. Perfume is armchair travel”, he says. Basically, his words express my own perfume philosophy. Stick a perfume bottle under my nose that fuels my olfactory pleasure zones, and watch me take off into an out-of-body experience. Time travel is a real phenomenon.

David’s stories conjure a lost world – see Gwen’s post about Mississippi Medicine. After reading William Butler Yeat’s Wanderings of Oisin, a poem about the Irish warrior poet, David was hooked on Celtic and Norse mythology. So off he went to visit Scotland and Ireland to experience the land himself, to climb in the highlands, walk moors and glens, to stand in ancient sites and absorb the grandeur and raw scents of the living landscapes. The result was the 2014 HYLNDS Collection, four non-gendered “atmospheric” scents, each one connecting the story of a myth with its Celtic landscape.

Spirit of the Glen captures Speyside in the north-east Scottish Highlands. The rocks, the flowers, the moss, the earth, the rain, the mist, the mountains, the rivers, all wrapped inside the distinctive aroma of The Glenlivet single malt whiskey, because one is made from the other. Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is set in Northern Ireland, on a fog-shrouded mountain in Armagh, the land of Oisin the Warrior. The perfume is a study in solitude, it creates the extraordinary sensation of being in the presence of something much greater than yourself, of being connected to a landscape and part of a vast continuum.

Foxglove was also inspired by the story of Oisin (pronounced Oh-sheen), the warrior poet. The foxglove respresents his fairy lover Niamh (Nieve), who lures him from the real world to live with her in Tir Na Noq, a land of perpetual youth. After three years with Niamh, actually three hundred years, Oisin is homesick, and returns to Ireland to visit his people, where he immediately dies of old age. Niamh truly loves him, so comes to watch over him forever, in the form of a solitary tall foxglove in lonely vigil by his grave.

Foxglove bursts open with lemony citron up top, zesty peel and juice, layered over vegetal carroty Queen Anne’s Lace, and the soft spiced woodiness of rosewood. The sensation is cool and damp, clean and crisp, with a vague medicinal quality that soon sweetens slightly and becomes deliciously inviting, like a just-picked armful of wildflowers and herbs. The vegetal carrot note becomes a powdery ethereal iris as Foxglove dries into the heart, then segues into a subtly narcotic feminine floral accord with the warm heady notes of champaca absolute and neroli.

The base is magical. Leather, soft sueded supple leather layered with the toasted velvety waft of immortelle is strangely seductive, moving the scent into a more masculine vibe, and when these two notes merge with animalic ambergris and the sweet fuzzy warmth of peach skin, the effect is deeply sensual and totally disarming. The spirit of the warrior poet and his fairy lover are united, I feel the power of their myth, I am there in the Irish landscape, smelling the damp scented air, the woods and flowers, feeling the mist on my face, and the ancient earth under my feet. 

Foxglove is sophisticated and very original. It has a vintage quality that I didn’t expect, but which is astoundingly beautiful. Foxglove is the fifth and last fragrance in the HYLNDS collection, and I think it’s the very best.

Foxglove is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml. 

Image - Wikipedia - Foxglove flower and bee by Sylvia Wetzel, 15 Jun 2013



Welcome to

"She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight."

                                                                       Raymond Chandler

We are Gwen and Kay, two perfumistas making our scent journey in the cool, clear North.  We are also BFFs - we hang out together a lot, travel together - so we try, buy and share fragrances.

What started out as a shared interest grew into a hobby, and has now become our obsession.

We’ve spent many evenings with a glass of prosecco, a little cool jazz playing in the background, spritzing, sniffing - “How does this smell on you?” and, sadly, sometimes scrubbing.

We’ve tested and tried hundreds of samples over the years, and when we deemed a fragrance ”full bottle worthy” (FBW), one of us has tracked it down and bought it. We now own a lot of really great perfumes, and we continue to buy bottles of what we think is the best of "niche" as new scents are launched.

Also, we include many perfume "classics" that are the foundations of modern perfumery - like Shalimar, Chanel No.5, Eau Sauvage - plus other perfume "gems" that have been discontinued, or were ahead of their time when launched but now fit perfectly in the Niche category. 

With so many exciting discoveries, we can’t help but talk about our passion with other friends. Wherever we go, people ask “What is that perfume you’re wearing? Where can I get that?” So we end up sharing a bit of our “juice” with friends. But the circle has grown, so we've started this website to let others buy and try samples from our collections and experience the fragrant beauty we write about.


We blog

We blog once a week and post a story about a scent from our collections, and add it to our Decant Store. We're not scent critics, so these aren't negative reviews. We love all our fragrances  - that’s why we bought them! But we describe how we think they smell, and share our stories about why we love them - maybe you’ll rediscover an old flame, or fall in love with a new scent.

Or we post conversations about whatever has grabbed our attention recently. Or we write about a specific perfume note,  and offer a Decant Pack, which allows you to explore new territory by trying 3 or 4 fragrances in a special pack at a special discount price.

We sell

We sell 1 ml. decants - .7 ml volume once you allow for the stopper in the vial - filled from our own bottles in our collection because the only way to experience a fragrance is to try it on your own skin. We take the fragrance from its original bottle and decant it into a smaller brand-new, 1 ml sterilized glass vials so that you can try it on your skin to see if you like it.

Through our Decant Store you'll have access to some of the world’s greatest niche scents, hard-to-find fragrances, and classic favourites. 

When you click on the Decant Store tab you’ll find our personal descriptions of each of the fragrances we currently offer from our collection, then you can add them to your Shopping Cart.

Let's be clear (this is a disclaimer!!)

  • We don’t sell full bottles of any fragrance - just .7ml decants. We only sell decants  from the perfumes we've bought.... because we love them.
  • We don't re-sell manufacturers samples.
  • We don’t represent any perfumers or distributors, so we don’t have every scent from a whole line of perfume.
  • We aren’t being paid to promote any product or scent.

If, after sampling a fragrance, you decide that you must have it, i.e. it is FBW (full bottle worthy), and you can’t find it, e-mail us and we will direct you to the best source we know – retail store or online source.

We provide

A place for you to learn about scent, and to share your fragrance experience with others. Click on the section called Resources, under My Perfume Notes (see top right), where  you'll find a Glossary, and fragrance FAQs. You'll also find two great tools we've created - Handmaps and My Sample Perfume Notes - so you can keep track of, and record your own scent experiences.
We hope you enjoy, and visit us often. Leave your preconceptions behind, look around, see what’s on offer, read the Blog, share your experiences and discoveries, and join the circle.

It’s just us.