I Fell for Le Labo's Santal 33 Just Like the Rest of the World and I Don't Care if That Makes Me a Sucker
I mean, even Justin frickin' BEIBER wears it.
For all the glamour that encapsulates my life (lunch meetings! Breakfast for lunch! 1099 forms!) I am none so lucky as when something I receive is not only super-fancy, but also something special that I love: fragrance. It's just one of those aspects of beauty that's so personal and intimate — dare I say, the knickers of beauty. I also really love lingerie and also can't really afford it, so you may think of me as a woman of unattainable tastes (and a keen sense of fiscal responsibility).
That said, I've yet to meet a Byredo scent that I don't like. There are ones that I prefer over others but I appreciate that they are all uniquely genderless and more of a rhetorical question than a veil of artifice. There are rarely more than a dozen notes in any of the fragrances, each one created as a scent-memory trigger for creator Ben Gorham. You either love it or hate it at first sniff, and that's kind of the point.
For its 10th anniversary, Byredo is releasing a fragrance that's a bit of a nod to Gorham's art school background: a mystery scent. The familiar bottle with a blank white label contains a fragrance that you can name, literally — it comes with a sheet of letters so you can name it. (Until you do, it goes by "Unnamed Perfume.") Of all the "mystery flavor" novelties available when as a child, this is basically the grown-up luxury redux.
It would be easy to just name it something that it smells like. The scent, however, is less accommodating than that. Unlike Byredo's more pointed fragrances like Super Cedar or Rose Noir (it's a fairly obvious bet what either of these smell like), this one is a mix, but here we go (I didn't want to look up the notes, I wanted to guess):It opens with spicy, crisp pepper note. There's also a jolt of something zesty like gin or pine — it's more green than wood, but most definitely evergreen. Wait a few minutes to get to the fruit! The fruity notes come after the evergreen, but I wouldn't assume citrus (but maybe citrus or some sugary floral like geranium — I'm not sure). It's a more gourmand fruit — I'm going to go with fig, perhaps.
The best part (to me) is revealed when you spend some time with it alone marinating on your skin, not unlike when you meet someone new and finally get past the small talk. Iris root. I can generally pinpoint a fragrance with notes of iris root because the scent reminds me so much of the scent of my mother's lipsticks, which yes, I did in fact covet and smell obsessively on account of not being able to wear them (iris root was used to perfume makeup from the past — like early-mid 20th century past).
It comes off rather powdery — floral but also a bit musky. It's comforting in a secretive elegant way. The fragrance holds on that vaguely powdery floral scent from there, anchored with another kind of headier wet-earth note. It's basically a lipstick forest to me. AKA heaven.
Now that I've rattled my scent analysis of this unnamed perfume, my shaky hands must decide on what to name it. Some names I had in mind...
INFPI just did one of those personality test thingies and my results were INFP — the mediator/diplomat. Perhaps this came of hovering too closely to a neutral response, but honestly, don't most people? As far as personalizing a fragrance goes, wouldn't it be funny to have a fragrance assignment for your personality type? That way, if you smelled a floral-scented person walk by, for example, you'd be all, "Oh here comes a sensitive introverted daydreamer!"
DATE NIGHTDoes everyone have a scent they reserve for dates or romantic events (or even like going out to hook up)? I mean, it differs probably, but I feel like lots of perfumes try to sell you on that "you need a sexy scent" philosophy, whereas honestly, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, all scent is sexy. It's pheromones, people! This one isn't aggressively sexy to me, but it's a soft beacon of come-hither, for sure. (Alternative name to Date Night for those who find the concept of date nights outdated and tedious: Pillow Talk. Not in a Zayn way, though. Like, I actually want my pillows to smell like this always.)
FANCÉE SHITTEWell, it is, OK? Of all the fragrances I own (over a dozen at this point), I'd certainly categorize this one in the "fancy shit" category. That and that super rare one that smells like dirt but is like $500 an ounce because the agarwood trees that provide the oud sap are basically as endangered as that one tree of life that Bran 2-becomes-1 with in Game of Thrones.
DREAMS BY FLEETWOOD MACIf scent is one of the strongest memory triggers, I daresay music is probably next in line. The song with the most memory trigger for me is Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." That and probably "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia, but this scent is no "Torn." This scent is most definitely "Dreams." It's full of wistful nostalgia and heavy-hearted lovers' memories. The mid-tempo rhythm keeps it from being too weepy ballad-y, though, which I appreciate. Stevie Nicks wrote "Dreams" about her and Lindsay Buckingham's breakup, and even though they were sad about it, they still managed to write some of their best material together during that time, ("Dreams" was Fleetwood Mac's only #1 hit in the US). I have cried to this song; I have made out to this song; this is the only song I know the words confidently enough to karaoke (if I did karaoke, which I do not because it is very alienating for me).
HOW DARE YOUSometimes I'll invent names for makeup or perfume that I think would be really funny to say when someone asks "Oh, what scent are you wearing?" or "What shade is that?" and I can say "HOW DARE YOU!" (like a "who's on first?" yuk-yuk). How Dare You, to me, is more of a perfume name than a lipstick shade because, in my mind, I've already done up the commercial treatment to be a remake of Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" dance number, but instead the starlet sings "How dare youuuuuu!" as she coyly swats away her gentlemen callers, and then the perfume name is written in script in the sky and sealed with a kiss or something equally old-timey. Fade to black.
But what I actually did name it — because, let's be honest, I'm going to douse myself in this fragrance until the bottle wheezes on empty...
SABLE SAUCEIsn't the point of having a bunch of stick-on letters the ability to put your name on things? I've already gone in about never being able to find any vanity novelty items with my name on it when I was a kid, so the opportunity to give something my name, all official and in print, is always a titillating premise. As for the Sauce part, I'm pretty much going to be basting myself in this scent until I run out.
Also, I think Sable would be a nice name for a perfume! Much better than a mid-sized sedan, honestly. Considering all my life I've had people referencing sable furs when learning my name (these were generally older people to whom furs were a status symbol) I've been groomed to consider my name to be a "rich people item." Much like this fragrance.
In related fun news, if you're not very much into fragrance but you are very much into naming things, this fragrances launches at unnamedperfume.com September 1st, and you can name a bottle with this cool template thingie and post it wherever you please so everyone will know what you would name your own fragrance if you were into that sort of thing.