Current Obsessions  June 20, 2017

The Perfume Equivalent of Getting Laid in a Hygge Lair

by Larkin Clark

“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.”
– Coco Chanel, being dramatic


Some people are cagey about sharing their signature fragrance, but the thing that makes a fragrance your signature is the fact that it smells completely different on you than on anyone else. It also helps if you love it so much that you want to smell yourself all day. Case in point: Le Labo Santal 33.

I used to have a coworker who wore it as her signature scent. Every time she’d come near my desk, I’d stop whatever I was doing, inhale deeply like a total creepster, and tell her how good she smelled. She was very polite and just smiled and thanked me, but I’m sure inside she was like, “OMG just buy the freaking perfume already so you can stop sniffing me like a mangy dog.” I don’t like to overuse the word “obsessed,” but I was literally obsessed with this scent.

It transported me to fireside nights and those slow mornings everyone Instagrams, where you’re sipping coffee whilst reading the paper in crisp, white sheets.

I loved the smoky notes of cedar and sandalwood balanced with the brighter iris and violet. It was luxurious yet approachable. Mysterious and sexy – yet uplifting. It transported me to fireside nights and those slow mornings everyone Instagrams, where you’re sipping coffee whilst reading the paper in crisp, white sheets.

Santal 33 is kind of pricey ($180 for a 1.7 fl. oz. hit of eau de parfum), so I thought (and sniffed my co-worker) long and hard before heading to the Soho store to buy it. When I arrived, I quickly dabbed it on my pulse points before handing over my credit card – you know, to make sure the scent actually worked with my body chemistry. How could it not, though? We were clearly meant to be together.

A few minutes later, my hopes sank like a cement-filled balloon in the Hudson: Santal 33 and my body chem just didn’t vibe. It’s not that it smelled bad on me, it just didn’t smell magical like it did on my coworker. Crestfallen, I went back to the office and resolved to find an alternative to that made me feel a similar jolt of excitement. It took three years and dating some other perfumes to find my match: Maison Louis Marie No. 4: Bois de Balincourt.

I first got a whiff of it in candle form in NYC, first at a boutique and later in the dark, wintry confines of a hip hotel lobby. Later, when I moved to California, friends of mine had the same candle in their apartment, which launched yet another obsessive sniffing spree. It was woodsy in the same way as Santal 33 (that cedar and sandalwood again), but had a warmer edge (vetiver balanced with nutmeg and cinnamon).

Maybe the scent from the candle will linger on my clothes and then it’ll kind of be like wearing a fragrance? Wishful thinking.

Months later, I discovered a perfume oil version of the scent at Steven Alan in San Francisco. I immediately dabbed it on my pulse points and hoped for the best. A few hours later, I was stoked to find that it smelled almost the same on my skin as it did in the bottle and my boyfriend was into it (an important point, as he smells my skin even more than I do).

Along with Oribe Côte d’Azur, a more summery fragrance that I wrote about a couple of years ago for Birchbox, I finally have a some go-to perfumes that work year-round, day and night. And we’ve totally got chemistry.


Words and photography: Larkin Clark
Product image: Courtesy of Maison Louis Marie

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