Scent has the power to transport you right back to a certain moment in your life. It can trigger memories that feel so real it's as if you're standing right there, stuck in a moment of time. For me, memories of the '90s will always flood back to me when I smell CK One (£40) or Versace Red Jeans (£31). Dolce & Gabanna's Femme (£86) will always remind me of my mum (even though she hasn't worn it in over 20 years), and Thierry Mugler's Angel (£74) or DKNY's Be Delicious (£55) will always take me back to being a teenager.
But towards the end of the noughties, there was a shift in the fragrance industry with customers dividing into two camps: Those who bought into the rise of celebrity perfumes, and those who wanted a signature scent that no one else had. I personally was in the latter category. You didn't want people to recognise your perfume and you didn't want anyone to smell like you. But whilst it seemed like the whole world searched for a new, niche fragrance, many landed on the same one: Le Labo's Santal 33 (£125).
"We're lucky at Le Labo to have a few cults in our collection, so we've been blessed. But Santal 33 is another level of success—it's a stupid amount of it. As a perfumer, you always secretly hope—but you never expect—such impact. It happens once in a lifetime if you're very, very lucky," says Eddie Roschi, co-founder of Le Labo.
Interestingly, Le Labo's popularity isn't skewed towards men or women. Like CK One, Santal 33 is a totally androgynous fragrance loved equally by all. Launched in 2011, Santal 33 was inspired by old Marlboro adverts. It's woody and spicy, with hints of leather and musk. Both intoxicating and sultry whilst comforting, Santal 33 quickly gained a whole host of celebrities fans, from Alexa Chung to Justin Bieber. It's become so popular, in fact, that The New York Times dubbed it "that perfume you smell everywhere." But its popularity hasn't hurt its cool factor.
Even though Santal 33 might be the most spritzed perfume around (try going to a press event or fashion week and not smelling it in the air at some point), it's managed to keep its cult reputation. Of course, there are some fragrance snobs who consider Santal 33's reign to be over, but we're very much into the belief that one should wear whatever perfume you feel attracted to, whether it's "in" or not.
Sure, it's less of a secret than it was 10 years ago. Le Labo fragrances now pop up everywhere from fashion bloggers' Instagram feeds to the bathrooms of the world's coolest boutique hotels. And whilst there are other cult fragrances in the Le Labo family (I'm obsessed with Lys 41, and others in our office love Bergamot and Patchouli), Santal 33 is still the most hyped one.