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.
Creamy, floral, plump, honeyed, animalic--a scent that smells better when you sweat. That was my initial estimation of jasmine grandiflorum, one of the two types of jasmine, often called, “the poet’s jasmine.” It's like your lover in a fuzzy turtleneck sweater*, you just want to nuzzle it forever and ever.
I fell in love with jasmine grandiflorum on a family vacation to Mexico. I’d been given a thumb-size vial of Linda Rodin’s self-titled perfume--a sticky-hot nectar of North Indian jasmine grandiflorum and neroli--and I’d carelessly chucked it in my makeup bag and thought, I’ll just burn through this instead of bringing a full-size perfume. Obviously I hadn’t smelled it yet, because when I did, a day into our vacation, I realized that I would not be wearing it again on this trip. It was too precious. This was the perfume I wanted to be wearing when I met my husband. I had to ration and treasure this tiny vial. I managed to milk it for almost two years (no husband yet).
My love for jasmine was kismet. Up until I'd sniffed it, rose was my favorite scent: jasmine and rose are the king and queen of essential oils, respectively. It takes approximately 8,000 blossoms to create one gram of jasmine absolute. And one pound of jasmine absolute can fetch prices of $4,000 and high above.
Unlike the night blooming (and greener smelling) Jasmine sambac (native to south and southeast Asia) Jasmine grandiflorum can be harvested during the day, and the scent is much, much headier. (I don't love sambac, so this is me being #teamgrandiflorum.) The world's supply of jasmine grandiflorum comes from Egypt, France (Grasse, natch), Italy, Morocco, and India.
Perfumers love to mix jasmine grandiflorum with orange flower, vanilla, musk, and sandalwood. The neroli in Rodin is like a softly sweet, innocent undergarment to the silky, sexy dress that is jasmine. But it's not for everyone. Jasmine is an indolic fragrance--indole is a crystalline compound that occurs in some rather unsavory places, such as horse sweat and manure. Don't let that soil your thoughts on the scent, though. It's totally, gorgeously carnal, like massaging a jasmine bud on warm, sweat-caked skin. You have to smell it.
But I realize that, for most, smelling Rodin ($240 an ounce, OUCH!) is limited to brief encounters at high-priced department stores and boutiques. Don't abandon hope, though, there are understudies in the $50 range--and even well under that.
My top pick is from Nomaterra, a Brooklyn brand that came on my radar about a year ago. The owner, Agnieszka Sygnarowicz Burnett, used to be a beauty assistant at Glamour and studied chemistry at Columbia. She is lovely. Her Miami titled fragrance is $55 per 10 ml roll-on (the half-ounce spray is $86). Anne-Marie is not a fan of jasmine** but she smelled this and loved it. That indolic jasmine scent is softened by vanilla, sandalwood, coconut, and orange blossom. It really is SO Miami. And that's coming from a born and raised Floridian. Agnieszka (Aggy) uses only jasmine absolute from Egypt in this fragrance. No synthetics. Aggy would also like for me to tell you that all of her products are vegan and cruelty-free.
Sunshine Grace by Philosophy
Quick! This was a March launch that's no longer sold on Philosophy's website but is still available on the Macy's website and a few other online spots for $46 per two-ounce bottle. I found it in a random beauty closet raid. It hits the nose with jasmine and bergamot and mellows to honeysuckle and freesia. I would so wear this under a big cozy sweater during the harsh winter months. Totally uplifting, if a little quick to fade throughout the day. (What are ya gonna do? It's forty six bucks.)
California Star Jasmine by Pacifica
At $22 per ounce, this is definitely a synthetic jasmine. Maybe (mayyyybe) it has a mouse's teardrop of absolute, but I doubt it. Still, it doesn't smell cheap, just lighter and younger. The solid perfume ($9) is more robust than the spray, but it fades faster. Like a lot of jasmine fragrances, this has orange flower, but the driftwood in it is more dominant. It's a beach-y jasmine. I wore it over Labor Day weekend at my family's beach house and got lots of compliments. Also: no parabens, no phthalates, and it's 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
Though none of my favorite Rodin understudies have the lasting power and sex appeal of my all-time jasmine favorite, they are potent. I can wear Miami all day and still smell it when I hit the pillow at night. Pacifica's California Star Jasmine isn't quite so long-lasting, and Philosophy falls shortly behind it.
I'm going to leave you with a quote from Linda Rodin on what makes jasmine so special to her. "It reminds me of Morocco and it is very romantic to me--like the song "When They Begin The Beguine."
*Jasmine grandiflorum has mothball base notes, so I just HAD to get this sweater ref in. Plus, it really is quite nuzzle-worthy. **"It's like a urinal cake."--direct quote from Anne-Marie. I politely disagree.
Tell me your favorite jasmine fragrances, whether they're $20 or $400, in the comments.