Perfume Pen Pals: Le Labo Santal 33 and Diptyque Tam Dao


Have you ever gifted an expensive bottle of perfume to someone without knowing whether or not they’d like it? Which is yet another version of, “Are you sometimes stupid like I am?”

Beth is one of my only friends who loves perfume and despite that, she recently purchased a whole bottle of Le Labo Santal 33. Because she loves it. And as her friend, I should support her decision, there’s nothing riding on this, after all, it’s not like she’s joining a cult.

Santal 33: not like joining a cult.

But not only was I unsupportive, I immediately bought her something else: the perfume equivalent of trying to set your friend up with another man because you don’t like her boyfriend. I’m such a jerk.

My excuse was Beth just had surgery, and so I sent her a bottle of Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore. It’s not the purest expression of sandalwood, but at least it’s not a Santal 33 Ambrox bomb. I’d given myself permission not to think too hard because the purpose of the gift was only to do better than Santal 33. And to have Beth say, “You’re right, your taste is better than mine!”

What do you think Beth actually said, KP?

Wait, before you answer, let me also add this: Serge Lutens requires a signature and so Beth, who’s on crutches and can barely move, had to somehow struggle down a flight of stairs to sign for her stupid gift, before realizing she couldn’t get back up the stairs with her crutches and her stupid gift, so she had to use her keys to cut open the box, tie her stupid gift around her neck, and then struggle back up the stairs.

It’s not like I couldn’t have seen this coming. We’d FaceTimed and because she wasn’t allowed to sit upright, she was in a prescribed sprawl on her sofa, like she was waiting for someone to feed her a grape. And I still made her struggle down the stairs. To make a point. About perfume. And I don’t even like Santal de Mysore.

Santal de Mysore: the ideal passive-aggressive gift.

I’m not going to tell you what Beth said because I’m sure you already know. But I do have a question: is the current formulation of Diptyque Tam Dao markedly different than the older stuff? Because I need to buy Beth another gift.



Santal 33 is a perfume whose devotees fervently declare is their jam/solid/bae/gig/schtick/unguent (delete as appropriate).

Wearers are truly passionate about it, whispering excitedly about Santal 33 as if they alone have discovered this esoteric elixir. The smell is undoubtedly assertive, while melding with every nook and cranny in an emphatically come-hither way.

Undoubtedly assertive, much like my friends Bambi and Pom Pom.

I notice it wafting regularly through the art/film/music crowd here in London (while Escentric Molecules Molecule 01 seems to have found a demo among yoga teachers, TV executives and hairdressers).

The last time I did my BBC 6 Music radio show, my producer Jack asked me "what's the new hot perfume?", and I answered, "Le Labo Santal 33". He was only half listening, though, because he was already texting a colleague to ask the name of the deep, lingers-in-the-room-and-makes-an-impression scent she'd worn to work that week. Her answer? Santal 33.

Santal 33 is the new Molecule 01.

But back to Tam Dao. I just went to a Marianne Faithfull concert with my friend Ian, who smelled wonderful. Turns out he was wearing the more recent eau de parfum iteration of Tam Dao. (And he's a hairdresser, so that's my profiling system shot to hell.)

Tam Dao eau de parfum

To answer your question, yes, the edp is notably different to the original Tam Dao edt, not hugely, but a fan would notice.

I feel it's fuller and creamier than the arid, cedary original. There's a touch of the vanilla-wood thing going on. Supposedly, unlike the edt, the edp has real Mysore sandalwood...? Dunno.

Sandalwood fragrances for Beth are turning into a perfume version of the Pie-of-the-Month club. Maybe her next pie can be Etro Sandalo, and then Lutens' Santal Majuscule, and then Decennial Santal Sacrée, and then Byredo Gypsy Water, and then....


Comme des Garcons Floriental

For a brand known for its chic eccentricity, Comme des Garçons can also surprise by keeping surprises to a minimum. I refer specifically to CdG's perfumes that comprise a virtual forest, a world of woods which includes the Incense and Blue Series, along with Black, Serpentine, Laurel, Hinoki, 2 Man and Wonderwood. (Hmm, seems I was complaining of "wood fatigue" back in my 2010 review of Wonderwood.)

Viewer Mail: The Perfect Beach Perfume

Hi Katie,

I am looking for a summer perfume I can wear during the day. I'd like it to embody the beach where I spent my summer months growing up.

There's a shady dirt path that leads there, the dirt pounded smooth by decades of bare feet. There are roots to trip over if you don't know the geography, and lots of ivy. At the end of this path there's a heaping helping of dark pink rugosa rose (I call it beach rose), white and orange honeysuckle, and granite rocks to sit on that are bleached by the sun.

Fumes in the News: Smell Ya Later

Hello! I'm cranking up ol' KP Smells clown car again, and while I'm lubing the chassis, I thought I'd share something I wrote for the The Guardian in June.

"Bottling the Smell of Dead People Won't Capture Their Essence" concerns Olfactory Links, a French company which aims to make a perfume out of the smell of clients' deceased loved ones.

Perfume Pen Pals: The Different Company Rose Poivree


As you know, this The Different Company Rose Poivrée drama of mine goes back over a decade. I'd owned a big canister of the original civet-heavy formulation, the one that Luca Turin famously said smelled like dirty underwear, and because I was young and I thought perfumes had to smell nice, I never had the nerve to wear it and finally sold it off.