Le Labo are a boutique line of perfumes that go one step further than the usual indie bunch. Not only is their line of 11 fragrances a little tricky to track down, but they also have a further 6 scents that are “city exclusives”, available only in far-flung places like Tokyo and Dallas. A niche line within a niche line, if you will.
The nice fellow at the Le Labo Los Angeles store was telling me that customers get irate when they find out they can’t purchase London’s Poivre 23, for example. I can’t say I blame them. Exclusivity is all well and good - until you’re the one being excluded.
Fortunately for all the frustrated fumeheads, Le Labo have made their city exclusives available for a short time until 1 December 2009. If you can hustle your hindquarters into your local Le Labo retailers in the next few days, you too can smell like a niche bunny all the way from Paris or New York.
Today, this niche bunny is smelling up the joint Tokyo-style. Gaiac 10 is the Tokyo exclusive, and I’d heard tell it was “the incense one”. Knowing that Annick Ménardo, nose behind the emphatically smoky, black lung-inducing Le Labo Patchouli 24, had created this, I was expecting full-force frankincense. Maybe something like the vigorous Comme des Garçons Incense Series.
Well, it’s not. Le Labo wouldn’t be Le Labo without some “Mary Mary quite contrary” misdirection (perfumes named after ingredients that are supporting players, rather than headliners), though to be fair, this one is called “Gaiac”, and not “Incense”.
What I do experience is cedar wood, mildly spicy, and cushioned in musky softness. Gaiac wood is said to resemble cedar, but sweeter and less dry. The bottle says it’s in there, and I’ll take its word for it. There’s a little vegetation in Gaiac 10, a slight something that gives this eau de parfum a mossy nod towards earthiness. The incense has a peppery quality that’s a bit nose-tickly, but not outright sneezy.
Chandler Burr and others have reported on the Japanese aversion to strong, showy fragrances, and their preference for linear scents with little development. In those respects, Gaiac 10 delivers. There’s nothing bonkers here. It’s a time-out fragrance - something neutral to wear when you don’t have it in you to live up to a statement perfume.
As the edges blur around the woods, and the musks assert themselves, Gaiac 10 resolves itself into a masculine version of a skin scent. It’s a little on the blah side for my tastes, but at least you can wear it with full reassurance that you’re not going to gas people out in the elevator, or in your panic room. Or in Tokyo.
Image: "Panic Room" by Peter Halley