Le Labo City Exclusives: Poivre 23 and Musc 25

For the entire month of November, Le Labo offers its City Exclusives for purchase worldwide. As the last minutes of the last day of the 11th month tick by for adrenaline-charged, online-shopping fumeheads to score a bottle of New York (Tubereuse 40), say, or Dallas (Aldehyde 44), here's an overview of the exclusives I've had a chance to wear.

Poivre 23 -- London Exclusive by Annick Ménardo

I'm reconsidering my original position (in my Vanille 44 review) that Poivre 23 is “a pepper mill overkill.” The intervening years have seen me taking too many hits off the hard stuff (Guerlain Nahéma, LesNez Manoumalia) or the weird stuff (Byredo M/Mink, Miller Harris L'Air de Rien), so perfumes that once overstimulated my ragged nerve endings now seem perfectly well-mannered. (Just the kind of increasing tolerance my junior high health teacher warned against in that “Just Say No” lecture.)

Poivre 23 is undeniably peppery, but not in the monotonously relentless manner of Marc Jacobs Bang, for instance. Poivre 23's lively, freshly-ground opening puts you smack in the middle of crunchy, multicolored peppercorn bits, like a child in the Ikea ball room.

This is your Poivre 23'd skin under a microscope.

And just as you're announcing to no one in particular, “Mmm! I'm so well-seasoned! Waiter, you can stop grinding now,” the pepper shower stops, enabling you to tune into heretofore undetected woodsy vanilla. The whole deal is very dry, and in the way that the mind's nose can transform vanilla into cardboard, P23 wafts in a hint of sweet book pages.

This is a truly unisex scent with a kicky opening that quickly mellows into a pleasing but verrrrry soft ambered wood hum.

Musc 25 -- Los Angeles Exclusive by Frank Voelkl

The Los Angeles exclusive is Musc 25, a pure white musk with a passing puff of Labdanum 18's powder. But unlike Labdanum 18, which starts off dirty and gets cleaner on the drydown, Musc 25 opens with a blinding laundry glow which then becomes borderline rank as it stews on the skin. Could that have something to do with "ingredient X", “a synthesized representation of human semen”, as it is described by Le Labo?

Le Labo founders Fabrice and Eddie: guess which one has been "synthesized" for your smelling pleasure?

The virtual spunk passes through a sour stage, but there's a happy ending for all as Musc 25 resolves into a snuggly amber and dryer sheets blend, leaving behind only a faint stain of its previous bad behavior.

P.S. Musc 25 is incredibly tenacious, and pleasingly so: a clean musk scent still clings softly a day after application. Given Musc 25's vaunted "ingredient X", I just hope I'm not pregnant.

See KP Smells reviews of more City Exclusives:

Le Labo fragrances are available at LeLaboFragrances.com and at LuckyScent.com


  1. Bright Angel Katie – You have, as usual, beautifully articulated what I could never say so beautifully about Poivre 23. Your review is so on point!!!~ I bought the $440 bottle and for some reason, I was very disappointed. I even tried the $10 sample first from Luckyscent in Los Angeles and yet, I went ahead at the first of November and ordered the MEGA-bottle of Poivre 23. When I wore it several times, it just did not pan out for me. It is very, very, very nice and different and I do get some compliments. I just do not know how to describe it. Katie, I even watched all the YouTube tutorials the one you made and the ones that several men did on this cologne and they all went banana peelings over this scent. I have tried several of the LeLabo scents and somehow they just do not capture me. There is something missing in the compounds and I never seem to get that incredible rush when you smell something SUPERNATURAL. Katie: I have to tell you this. Just between you and me. I have been going into our men’s room at work for about 5 years now and somebody in the men’s room ALWAYS has this incredible cologne on, however, I have NEVER found out who it is or where it is coming from. You would think that running around all day, I would get a whiff of it somewhere in the lunchroom, conference rooms or hallways. Nope. Just in the men’s room. I mean some of these colognes are like nothing I have ever smelled before and they are AWESOME. So, this has been a several year mystery for me. I just had to share that, because I think it is so cool and I have not, to this date, found out who is wearing this incredible stuff. It’s wild.

    I trust you had an incredible Thanksgiving. Mine was most excellent. [sidebar: yes, I know you are not to modify a superlative, but I am just using popular vernacular] Well, within a few hours, the City Exclusives from LeLabo will conclude. I am glad I was given the opportunity to get the Poivre 23. I think I am just going to pass on all LeLabo scents from now on. They just do not ring my bell like I would like them to. I am going to cling to Frederick Malle/Jean Claude-Ellena, etc. Oh, before I forget, there is a fragrance out by Guerlain called: Spiritueuse Double Vanille. Here is the link: http://www.neimanmarcus.com/p/Guerlain-Spiritueuse-Double-Vanille-Fragrance/prod98620055/?ecid=NMCIGoogleBaseFeed&003=5840816&010=C0NPV&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=prod98620055sku

    Everyone so far on ALL of the YouTube tutorials is ranting and raving about this cologne. I am going to get that next. I pray that I like it. Then, after I venture out on Guerlain, I will come back to base and try to find something that is extraordinary for my personal tastes. You have to admit, this is a really cool “hobby” and it is like everything you have said about it!!!~ Scent leaves such a memorable imprint on people that to this very day it is being studied at the University level. Intriguing………….

    Katie: Jean Claude just released his SANTAL MASSOIA at the Hermes in America. Here is the link:


    Finally, Katie, if I do not get the opportunity to e-mail you before Christmas, I pray that you, your entire family and “Dan” has a very BLESSED MERRY CHRISTMAS and a JOYOUS NEW YEAR!!!~

    You bring so much pleasure to all of us out here in internet land and your blog and the people who respond so gorgeously to it; are so cool, it actually hurts my heart………………….

    Take care………

  2. Byron! Such an outpouring! It is worth noting that despite the perky pepper outburst at the top of Poivre 23, it's a quiet little churchmouse of a scent. It's not fireworks, but it is pleasing. It has a place in the collection of someone who's not seeking a perfume manifesto - or banana-peelings excitement. Re your work restroom mystery...maybe leave a post-it note inquiry on the mirror...?

  3. What is your top 3 edp by le labo?

  4. I was all excited last week, went to Vegas and was hoping to try some of the exclusives. I get there and find out Vegas isn't part of it!!! So disappointed!!

  5. Anna, my personal Le Labo top 3 are Labdanum 18, Pathouli 24 and Neroli 36. The first for how it smells on me, the second for how it smells on my blog partner Dan, and the third for how it smells on Krista Madden, who runs beauty webzine Beauty & the Dirt:

  6. Gojira, that seems highly irregular that Las Vegas was left out the Exclusives cavalcade. I'd complain to my Le Labo representative, if I were you!

  7. I love Poivre 23, even though I generally dislike peppery fragrances, as they make me want to sneeze. Caron Parfum Sacre, I'm looking at you. (I know, I just lost my perfumista card.) But Poivre 23 is just perfect-a tiny hit of pepper, then cuddly woods, a hint of smoke, some spices and vanilla. It's one of my LL top three, which includes Patch 24 (pre-reformulation) and Labdanum 18. At least this week.

  8. Ingredient X is unsuccessful, as pointed out by Elena V at perfumeshrine. As she explained, the right ingredient X should have been chlorine + florals. Indeed, I involuntary experimented this myself when I stopped at Barney's after a long swim session in a chlorinated pool and applied Le Labo's Iris cream. Voila, chlorine + iris, as indicated. With all the pools in LA, Le Labo could have just told people to use the cream post-workout. But of course the cream doesn't cost $440.


  9. Haha, cacio - it seems there are many creative ways to end up smelling like ejaculate!

  10. I'm so glad you've come round to Poivre. I got it last year and thought I was the pepper-guy but then people were commenting that they liked my vanilla perfume. I'm like 'what the ...?' Gorgeous it is - and stays on for about three weeks.

  11. Steve, that's a perfect illustration of how the different a fragrance's narrative can be depending on who is doing the smelling...whether because of the literal development of the scent, or because of the associations it conjures.

  12. Can we retire the words Exclusive and Exclusif for 2012?

  13. Only if we can nominate another language in which to breathlessly murmur "exclusive". How about Welsh? Google Translate says it's "unigryw."

  14. I'm getting weary. Do marketers seriously believe we(I mean the ordinary folk, & not the Mssrs & Mdms Sacs de Argent ) are dumb enough to buy release after release sustainably enough for them to keep rolling off the endless production lines?

    Or maybe we (but not me!) are.

    That day I dabbed a touch of Tauer's Orange Star under my chin just before bed to give my sample a test run.

    It was like drowning in a fizzy drink that was part orange cordial & part authentic juice.

    Thank goodness I didn't spring for the full bottle(or even a partial one - my sample will remain mostly untouched).

  15. More importantly, why is Dakota Fanning in that ball pit?

  16. Haha, Nora! Dakota gets everywhere.

  17. DomPerrier, throw enough muck at the wall, and something will stick.