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.
I wish I was the kind of girl who could go buy a fragrance and just have it work on my skin, but I learned the hard way a few years ago that an initial spritz you think you love can result in a migraine days later. Dior Hypnotic Poison was my rude awakening. I loved it and didn't think twice before purchasing a bottle because it met every sort of criteria I'd ever had for a scent: it's a sweet, spicy vanilla, which is a foolproof concoction as far as I'm concerned.
Except it wasn't. It took a few days for me to realize something happened as it settled in on my skin, and that something resulted in some of the worst headaches I'd ever had. I was devastated. I promptly returned my bottle to Sephora with a sigh (and new appreciation for their ever-forgiving return policy), determined to test-run every fragrance before ever getting my hopes up again.
When I wandered into the Nordstrom Bond No. 9 booth over the holidays — shout out to Mall of America for being the most overwhelming place ever — an intriguing spritz of New Haarlem wasn't enough to convince me to grab an impulse bottle, but it did come close. Despite being happy with my go-to bottle of Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille, I'm always on the hunt for a new grown-up gourmand, something with a little kick to it. So when the sales rep sprayed my wrist (and incidentally some of my cardigan) with this oriental, woody fragrance, I was seriously considering tossing my test-run rule out the window and just going for it.
The first whiff was so interesting, albeit a bit more than I'm used to (this is coming from a girl whose signature fragrance for years was Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Vanille Extreme — possibly the most cloyingly sweet vanilla ever). I hemmed and hawed, ultimately settling on the fact that Toronto doesn't have a Nordstrom to return my potentially unsuccessful impulse purchase to.
New Haarlem reminded me of something I couldn't quite place. I mean, I loved the scent as far as I could tell, but something about it was unsettling. It was only later that I realized it was reminding me of the overwhelming cloud of spicy perfume a particularly salty character in my life carried around. I was angry the one thing I came across that I found so intriguing could be ruined because it vaguely reminded me of someone I wasn't a huge fan of.
Defeated, I decided New Haarlem was something I would simply never be able to wear.
Days went by, and despite the fact that I'd washed off the initial spray from the Bond No. 9 counter, the scent lingered in the sleeve of my cardigan. It gnawed at me. I wanted to conquer this weird block I had created between me being able to enjoy this fragrance for what it was — an awesome perfume — instead of associating it with someone I disliked. It was just such a unique, bold scent I didn't want to miss out on.
There's a buttery sweetness to New Haarlem, but in this really heavy, carnal way. Like, you know when a dude smells amazing, and you just keep wanting to take that scent in? It was like that, but with a heady vanilla. It was addictive.
A week or so after my return home, I was wandering through The Bay on Queen Street and took a walk by the Bond No. 9 counter. Signs alerted me to a totally unexpected sale: 60% off. This sale made the difference between "Ehhh, maybe I'll buy a bottle one day" to "Holy $h!t, I think I can make this work." I mean, 50ml was still a bit pricey at about $90 after tax, but damn, I couldn't say no (and deeply regret not snatching up the bottle of Riverside Drive while I was at it). I decided if ever there was a sign to bite the bullet and buy this damn perfume, this was it.
The staying power of just one spray of New Haarlem is incredible. I'd say sillage, for me, is at least eight or nine hours. I spray this on at 6 a.m. and can still smell it on my train ride home from work at 5 p.m. I absolutely love it.
I think great sillage is a big part of Bond No. 9 perfumes. I've never come across a scent that really sticks as much as a Bond No. 9 one. It's definitely not a fragrance you're going to feel swindled by — staying an hour and fluttering away, taking your hard earned cash with it. Bond No. 9 sticks around; with one spray, you're covered. And I mean only one spray. When I first started wearing this I was seriously concerned with how offensively strong it could come off to someone who found the scent less than ideal. I could totally see it coming off as a bit much, and sort of had to become confident in wearing it. It's big, loud, and unapologetic. Any more than a spritz of this and you'll be overwhelmed.
Opening up with lavender and bergamot, New Haarlem settles in with notes of coffee and cedar, all on a base of amber, vanilla, tonka bean and patchouli. It's a lot, but I am totally obsessed. I couldn't be happier with my purchase, and the fact that I was able to overcome limitations brought on by negative associations makes it all that much better.