posted on: Thursday, 8 August 2013

Outside Le Labo's London perfumery

The spice scents including Santal, Vetiver and Patchouli

Juan explaining Le Labo's range

A few years back one of my oldest friends from Brisbane emailed me out of the blue. She had just arrived at her parents new place in the South of France: 'It smells EXACTLY like your family's house!' She exclaimed. Really? I thought. My house has a signature scent?!

I was reminded of this when I met up with Sandy and Juan from the bespoke perfumery Le Labo in London's Marylebone this week, a place that is all about personalised scents. When I recalled this story Sandy was not surprised. 'Smell is one of the most powerful senses in creating and recalling memories,' she said.

Le Labo is an incredible perfumery where they have a collection of 12 individual scents which they mix inside the store for ultimate freshness. And very much like my friend's association of a smell with my family's house, they have translated the characteristics of places into scents. As a nod to the unique character of the cities that house their stores, they have a thirteenth perfume that reflects, and is only available in, that specific city. In Paris they have Vanille. In Tokyo it's Gaiac a woody, cedar based fragrance. New York has Tuberose. London is Pepper.

Do you like citrus, florals, a woody, earthy smell or spice they asked me. Not quite sure, Sandy took me through a scent session, much like a wine tasting where you can take the time to analyse what appeals to you. I narrowed my favourites down to their Bergamot 22 which has a hint of amber, musk, and vetiver, and their Fleur D'Oranger 27 which is based on orange blossom with a touch of lemon. They were so sophisticated and unusual I wanted to buy them straight away, but Sandy urged me walk around with the scent for a few hours before making a decision.

And like she said, once the perfume connected with my skin, the scents evolved. Was I imagining it or does the Fleur D'Oranger now smell like aniseed on my skin, and the Bergamot has also settled into something new, also with hint of aniseed? Is my skin made out of liquorice?!

'A number of factors can influence how the perfume will settle, for example your diet or skin type,' Sandy explained. 'So the good news is that no perfume here would smell identical when worn by different people.'

I love the sophisticated perfumes from Le Labo, but I have to admit that the thing I love most about this perfumery is that it is the antithesis of mass-produced perfume market.

'Le Labo is a place for people to enjoy the scents we have created,' they tell me. 'And if they find something they would love to buy, great, but we are not pushing. We also don't believe in advertising. It's what's in the bottle that does the talking here.'

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