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




Katie,

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.

Dan



Dan,

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....

Katie

53 comments:

  1. Since you already have stepped on Beth's toes I think at this point you have 2 ways to go:

    1. Put together a sample scent package of a range of other sandalwood scents with the statement that they are not "better" than Santal 33, but different styles and since she enjoys Santal 33 so much she might want other sandalwoods in her collection. And let her know that if she likes one you will give her a full bottle;

    2. Honour her choice, and give her 1 or all of the Santal 33 body products.

    -- Lindaloo

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    1. Lindaloo, are you a professional diplomat? These are great suggestions!

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    2. Lindaloo, Your suggestions are so reasonable and considerate, they make me hate myself. Santal 33 body products? Chilling.

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    3. Dan,I did realize as I was recommending Santal 33 body products that this might be asking a lot of you, if you have to spend time in Beth's company when she is oozing Santal 33 from every pore. :-)

      -- Lindaloo

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    4. That Beth and I live on opposite coasts, Lindaloo, makes your recommendation the perfect one. Alas, I bought her another brand of (non-sandalwood) body product to make up for my faux pas, but I can’t say which one because it hasn’t yet arrived. Though do you think Beth even reads this blog?

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  2. Dan is naughty. Me thinking he's awesome.

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    1. Is it coincidental that the only person ever to refer to me as awesome does so anonymously?

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    2. Fabienne is my name and I shall yell your awesomeness to all.

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    3. Bless you, Fabienne, but I’m afraid you’ll be met with much disagreement. And even more puzzlement.

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    4. Don't demur, Dan. Let Fabienne yell it like it is!

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  3. OT but I love how the cats look so standoffish, like some electronica/dance duo that makes music you can't dance to but they're so painfully cool they'll get away with anything :D

    Interesting about the Tam Dao reformulation. I'm only familiar with the original EDT but it sounds like I'll have to seek out the EDP.

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    1. HAHAHAAA! Yes! Post-punk, cold wave cats. Perfect.

      There I was thinking they looked like the Kray Twins.

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    2. Ooh, the feline Kray Twins. They are so cute, I would squeeze them and cuddle them and kiss them on their sweet little nosees........before, obviously, getting a shiv to the ribs from Bambi.

      As to fragrances, I have realised that while theoretically a Sandalwood lover, I dislike all those mentioned, even Uncle Serge's offerings (sorry Dan). The only one I can think of, off the top of my head which I might entertain, is 10 Corso Como and I don't think that's even available any more, is it?

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    3. Actually, it's Bambi's sister Pom Pom you need to watch out for. I call her "Claw Paw" (although the claws only come out when you ever-so-gently try to remove her from your lap, and she ever-so-firmly indicates that she would quite like to stay put).

      10 Corso Como is indeed still chugging along, though according to Luca Turin, much lighter now in sandalwood volume.

      Now that you've got me thinking about this some more, I realize my favorite sandalwood perfumes are Cartier L'Heure Promise, and L'Artisan Safran Troublant. Wonder if you've tried those?

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    4. Maggie, This is now the second time someone has apologized to me for not liking Serge Lutens, a line to which I have zero attachment. Still, apology accepted!

      I breathlessly wrote to KP about 10 Corso Como in 2012. I’d just worn it for the first time and she mocked me for being a half-decade late to the party. She compared it to her never having seen American Gigolo. Except I HAD worn 10 Corso Como, if a little late, and I bet she still hasn’t seen American Gigolo! (The Perfume Pen Pal outtakes are more contentious than the publicly available stuff.)

      I’d considered Chanel Bois des Iles, but Beth might’ve found it too perfume-y. Funny, I just remembered this was about Beth! She should be chiming in right now.

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    5. Oh yeah! Beth! Where she?

      You know me, Rolleri - I still haven't seen American Gigolo.

      Ooh yeah, Bois des Iles - 'specially the pure parfum for maximum lushness. But it *is* symphonically old school, not like these power pop young dudes.

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    6. Yep, Katie now that you've reminded me, I think that I would come downstairs on crutches for l'Heure Promise. Safran Troublant I haven't smelt, l'Artisan being a house I tend to ignore for some reason.

      Dan, I'm glad you're not attached to SL, since I was, even more rudely, going to describe Santal de Mysore as smelling like an unfortunate accident in a curry house. And, now I have!

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    7. I've just checked Turin's review of SdM, and he says coconut and caramel, which sort if chimes with my impression of an explosion of coconut milk and cumin.

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    8. Maggie, many of those Lutens are pretty spice rack-y, aren't they? Arabie - yikes!

      I'm liking "come downstairs on crutches for" as a category for top-ranking perfumes.

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    9. Yes, "would I come downstairs on crutches for this?". With apologies to poor Beth.

      On another topic, are you in London at the moment Katie? Can I suggest you search out a company called Signature Fragrances London. I discovered them through their Instagram account and bought a couple of things. Their fragrances are concentrated perfum oils and really lovely. If you had a chance to get your nose on them in person, it might be worth taking the trouble.

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    10. Good thing Beth didn’t know exactly what was waiting for her or the SdM might still be in the lobby. And the whole building would constantly be wondering who’s cooking Indian food.

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    11. Maggie, I'm in London, so I'll check out your recommendation.

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  4. Dear Katie, the smell you've written about are awful, repulsive not to say more, and why? Because they block one's olfactory receptors and make it impossible even to breathe. Lingers not only in the room...they are dreadful. I know some odd people who are mad about vanilla. Truth be said I don't trust them. It is probably a serious defect. But sandall - wow! It is too much! Still you are right in writing that Diptique Tam Dao may be not too bad on a man, may be one little spray.

    Good luck, dear Katie. S.

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    1. Hi Slyfox - which smell are you referring to? I mentioned a few...

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    2. Katie, I think Slyfox is referring to Santal 33. Even if he says he’s not.

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    3. *snort* I think you've thoroughly established your position here, Dan.

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  5. Katie, have you experienced YSL's "Nu"? It drives people out of the room. When I first tried it, I overdid it and made the mistake of wearing it to a funeral. My own brother, a lover of fragrance, moved his seat far away from me...Did I ever learn not to do that.

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    1. Oh wow! No, I did not know Nu was a repeller. Even when applied with a light hand? I remember this one smelling very modern when it first came out in the early 00s - there wasn't really anything like it around. Now I've gotta go revisit this funeral room-clearer.

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    2. Okay, I'm back from my reacquaintance with Nu. It is pretty dense, but I suppose you could tame it with discreet application. I remember it was pretty much the first mainstream woody perfume for the ladeeez.

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  6. I like your phrase 'arid, cedary original' for Tam Dao, though I didn't actually care for it - I used to feel like being trapped in a tea chest. I can see me making the same egregious mistake as Dan did, after a token bit of wrestling with my conscience and thinking I should probably just get my friend a Boots voucher. Which is easier to carry upstairs, apart from anything.

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    1. Yes Vanessa, but then the wrestle would be whether to upgrade to a Liberty voucher.

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  7. Wow, Yes, Tam Dao EdT is SO much about Cedar... right now I'm working on a Fresh Sandal perfume and another fit for a king. Maybe it will be my sandalwood masterpiece... I hear Hollywood types are wearing lots of sandalwood these days... :-)

    Dan, your friend Beth might like the Fresh one, need a small bottle for her to try? ;-)

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    1. Paul, Both Katie and Beth have educated me on the ubiquitousness of Santal 33, which I assume includes Hollywood types. Still, if all your friends jumped off a bridge…

      As for Beth trying your perfume, it may not be equivalent, but I once played some new song for her and she said, “I don’t like any music I haven’t already heard.” (And I occasionally remind her of it.) So I’d worry your kind offer would sit and sit and you’d grow expectant of a response and resentments would build and friendships would fray. But thank you. Email me a link and maybe I’ll buy something for her.

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  8. Hi, Katie, Which smells I refer to when I write how unpleasant they are? Aggressive santal or vanilla (Le Labo, Etro, Serge Lunens). They may be loved only by those who suffer from high blood pressure, as such smells somehow reduce blood pressure. S.

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  9. Is this man buying a woman with a broken leg a present to crush the joy out of a present she bought herself supposed to be funny? It's appalling even before one considers the financial aspect of it. And there's then a discussion of attempting the above again but with a different perfume. It's all just so dislikable.

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    1. He is, as you wisely say Anon, a very naughty boy. Hanging is too good for him! I applaud your moral crusade.

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    2. "What we eventually run up against are the forces of humourlessness, and let me assure you that the humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything." -- Martin Amis

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    3. Anonymous, you sound miserable. Are you one of the Real Housewives?

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  10. Katie! Are you still going to make more youtube videos? It would be awesome to see what new perfumes you have picked out

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  11. Daisy! I've been getting inspired by new - and not-so-new - perfumes, and I'm planning to fire up the YouTube machine and get some vids out there before too much longer. Your encouragement means a lot.

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  12. Is there really a scent that is "safe" to give as a gift? You know, something that anyone would like. And by anyone, I mean everyone.

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    1. Lisa, you could open that question up to - is there really *anything* that is safe to give as a gift? Because as much as you know and love the recipient, personal taste is so...personal.

      But as you infer, perfume is a particularly tricky fit. (Although in my experience, civilians who don't share our cultish devotion to smells are more relaxed and accepting of random fragrance gifts. As in, "Oh good - a new perfume! I just finished up the bottle I had.")

      As much as it pains me to say it, connoisseur of elaborate scent symphonies that I am, it's good ol' Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules that continues to be the goof-proof, one-size-fits-all, anyone/everyone fragrance.

      Both women and men enjoy wearing it, it smells hip yet familiar, it genuinely elicits compliments, it's fashionably woody yet transparent, and people love the pop-science narrative of it having only one ingredient and the marlarky of it supposedly melding molecularly with your mojo.

      And one spray lasts forever. And it can be worn with most other perfumes to customize your gig with a woodsy bassline.

      So I nominate Molecule 01 as the all-rounder safe fragrance gift.

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    2. Considering the above, I’m the worst person to chime in here, but should a gift ever be safe and universally liked? I’m more inclined to take a shot at something unique. Or put together a small coffret of several perfumes then later gift a bottle of the most loved one. Or, yes, just be doofus and wing it.

      I long ago gave away a bottle of Molecule 01. To the person who bought it from me on eBay. It was used (barely), but he bid full retail and that’s quite an indication of popularity. Or something.

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  13. Dear Lisa, you ask about a scent that 'is safe to give as a gift'.
    Quite a number of very good ones! Flagrant Delice for ex. by Terry de Gunzburg. Transparent, cool, a bit milky, green with underripe fig and leaves flavours - fit for any time of the year, very womanly. I've successfully given it as present several times.
    One more gorgeous present is Сarnal Flower, a masterpiece by Domenique Ropion from the House of Frederic Malle. Seductively dangerous and expensive smell, chic, goes well with the music of Mozart. Ask Katie, she sounds as if she were fond it.

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    1. I'm not familiar with that By Terry one, but yesssss Carnal Flower is just the ultimate joyful, celebratory white floral. My caution would be that some folks are "obvious flower averse", and those with more low-key tastes would find it *de trop*.

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  14. Dan, awhile back you were talking about a Christian Dior fragrance and said something along the lines of, "it's like finding a corset, what good does it do?" I can't remember exactly how you phrased it, but I should have said, "Okay, next time you're looking to get rid of a corset, I'll give you my address and happily take it off of your hands!"

    So, yeah, if Beth's biggest problem in life is that she has a generous, thoughtful friend who gives her perfume to cheer her up while she's on crutches, things can't be all bad.

    And if hauling it upstairs was difficult, I'm also inclined to believe that it will be a funny thing to look back on.

    And this is me being a goody-two-shoes who takes things way too literally.

    Hugs to Katie and Dan.

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    1. Thanks Nora. That was Dior New Look 1947. (I only know because I just did a search for "corset.") Your memory is sharp; that was five years ago. My gosh, we've wasted a lot of time.

      And, yes, Beth struggling with her less-than-perfect perfume was funny almost immediately. Plus, I made up for it with a bottle of Tam Dao EDP, which she likes much more. (Thankfully, she was off the crutches by the time that one arrived.)

      But you know what was the biggest hit? The Diptyque Body Butter I threw in as a safety. Beth loves the stuff and if you run into her on the street, expect to hear all about it.

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  15. Five.Years.Ago.

    I have to admit, I am still terrible at analyzing perfumes after all these years. I just re-watched Katie's review of Agent Provocateur's L'Agent, and honestly, I can go no further than to say "Apricots and suede. Yep, that's what it smells like. Case closed."

    After all this time, I'm still hard-pressed to pick out more than two notes in a fragrance. It's kind of sad.

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    1. Sometimes it's best to close the case on perfume forensics and just enjoy the smell of the damn stuff.

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