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.
Fragrance is one of those things that I'll spritz, roll, or pat on regardless of whether I'm going to the grocery store down the block, to a party, to the office, to the gyno, all sorts of places where people with noses go. I own several scents and often reach for the same ones — anything woody, smoky, spicy and grounded. I like to smell like a really comfy rugged dude's sweater, essentially. Sure, I could just wear men's cologne, but I enjoy the more gentle warm notes found in feminine fragrances.
I haven't really found a signature fragrance that I'd consider my ONE, but then again, it's not that often that a fragrance chooses you — usually, it's the other way around.
The Harmonist is a new fragrance line that is created following the philosophies of feng shui. There is a slight zodiacal aspect in that The Harmonist's website has a "destiny management" tool that uses your birthdate and birth place to determine where you fall in the cosmic plan for yin or yang and which Captain Planet element of earth, water, fire, wood, or metal you are. Each of the 10 scents is a combination of an element with its yin or yang counterpart, combining two things I love: the cosmos and fragrance.
You don't have to choose your assigned scent because that would be boring. Each of the scents is attuned to personality energy, so the idea goes that even if I'm a fire yin, which is the discreet, sensitive emotional type (being a Cancer, I can NEVER escape that trope in any cosmic sense), I can spritz on a wood-based scent to boost my wisdom energies, metal for prosperity, water for status, and earth for creativity.
Not that a perfume is going to give you money or powers of seduction or anything. The energies of personalities are as ephemeral as your mood changing, so it makes sense that a fragrance would be the kind of beauty pick to manipulate that since scent is most closely tied to memory and mood.
The whole thing can sound a bit hokey to the modern realist. I mean, is it as simple as harnessing energies found in fragrances to save the day, like some overworked mom taking a Glade break from rearing her rambunctious children? Obviously not. I kind of think of these as the fragrance line that Nancy from The Craft would've ideated, had she taken a much more glamorous/less evil path (fun fact: Fairuza Balk bought the magic apothecary where the girls shop for spell books and stuff in the film. It's still open in LA). I happen to have been drawn to my own assigned fragrance, Hypnotizing Fire, more than the other scents. Since yin is the darker and more introspective expression, this scent is the "flickering candle" of the bunch — a softly spicy and complex scent with notes of pimento berries and Bulgarian rose over patchouli, violet and vanilla. Right up my alley. It's a quietly inviting scent with hits of complex earthy florals, and wears down to a nice velvety warmth.
I should note, however, that all of the scents are magnificent. Since they've each been crafted with such specific references to their elemental origins, the complexities within them can form entire landscapes and environments in just on whiff. One of my other favorites was Matrix Metal, the Yang Metal expression. Metal being a cold and sharp substance generally, this scent captures the scent of forging molten metal into a sword; it opens like a blade, crisp and sharp, but without being sickly. Rather, the sharpness comes from pine and juniper berries over aldehydes, woods, vetiver and amber. The overall impression is clean but deep. This fragrance veers a bit masculine, but the added complexities of combining forest elements over the heat of myrrh give it a mythical property. I'm thinking this is what Valyrian steel would smell like.
Another favorite of mine was the Yin Earth, aka Royal Earth. My first impression of this elegant grounded scent is that it reminded me of the smell of vintage lipsticks. It shares that note of iris pallida root from Tuscany, which has that deeply sweetly warm scent that was also used in vintage foundation and lipstick. Overall, this fragrance is pretty sensual but it's less obvious, since it borrows shadowy complexities from rich notes of neroli and sandalwood, plus bergamot for a bit of brightness. It's the kind of private and personal sensuality that you feel from wearing your favorite lipstick for no reason other than it makes you feel good.
Look, I could write a diatribe on every one of these 10 fragrances and how transportive they are. Mostly, I'm impressed how rare it is that something like a fragrance line launches with this kind of philosophy of cosmic assignment and the scents are actually ALL really, really good; none of them are phoned-in or overall novelty. They're all incredibly, luxuriously complex and created with all sustainably sourced ingredients and recyclable packaging.
The bottles are weighty, opaque glass with a little ceramic token on the cap indicating the scent's element. The Harmonist also offers refills that come in vials with a little brass funnel to decant into your original bottle. It's all these little design details that let you know you have a very considered product in your hands and take a beauty product from fancy to luxury.
It is, however, not cheap to be this luxuriously eco-friendly. A 1.7-ounce bottle of this bespoke eau de parfum is priced from $270, with the refill at $170. Scented candles are $85, which are much more in treat yo'self territory, but you can't really rub that on your body (I mean, I'm not going to stop you since they're potent enough that you could get away with it probably). The Harmonist has a boutique in Paris, since that's the fragrance capital of the world, and in Los Angeles, interestingly chosen because it's the only major city in the US that incorporates all feng shui elements of water (proximity to the ocean), fire (from the year-round sun, plus it's over some serious fault lines), earth (LA has lots of canyons and mountains, apparently), wood (and forests), and metal (what metropolis doesn't have a lot of metal in it?). The rest of us can find them online.
Fragrance — good fragrance — has never been in the impulse-buy territory, but a really good fragrance makes me feel that much more luxurious and glamorous in just a spritz. It doesn't matter if I'm wearing an evening gown or my Target-bought leggings-trousers and yesterday's sweater. Some say they just need a swipe of lipstick to feel put-together, but honestly, I just like a spritz of fragrance dabbed on my neck or spritzed under my arms (I feel like the heat from your pits amplifies scent and mingles it with your body chemistry quicker, but that's just my instinct).