Never were two fragrances by the same niche line been so contrarily contrasted: Where I expected the pedestrian I got a brilliant surprise and where all signs were siren-calling (the rare, the uber-exclusive!) I was crest-fallen. I'm referring of course to Baie Rose 26 and AnOther 13 by Le Labo, this autumn's newest releases by the hip niche line who provoke, as much as put things up for an interesting discussion on the boundaries of art and marketing.
Baie Rose 26 comes as a welcome surprise in a market inundated with the plethora of pink peppercorns (i.e.baies rose) peeking from ultra-fruity compositions with the requisite patchouli base that makes for modern "young" juice (what's accusingly called a "fruitchouli" ). The initially piquant top note of pink pepper sets the scene for a very diffusive fragrance, which radiates from both blotter and skin, slowly revealing a generous rose heart; like roses half-hidden in an aluminum chest under bullet-proof glass in an Ian Fleming novel.
Perfumer FrankVoelkl, who composed both Musc 25 and Iris 39 previously for Le Labo, tackled pink peppercorns (which naturally have rosy facets) and made them woody-musky with a prolonged drydown full of Ambrox reminiscent of the finish of Mille et Une Roses by Lancôme and Stella by Stella McCartney. There is even a deliciously weird, but oddly very becoming, "vomit note" that reminds me of Karo Karounde, an exotic essence which is used in Pleasures by Lauder. If that makes you queasy, fear not: it's only an impression and a little bit of jarrigness makes for an artistic outcome.
Although Rose 31 is already a best-selling fragrance in the Le Labo portfolio (a spicy cumin-rich rose note which makes for a rose "sweating" from the inside), the perfume enthusiast could find merit to include Baie Rose 26 in their collection all the same. I admit I'm sorely temped!
Baie Rose 26 notes:
Ambrox, Clove, Pepper, Rose, Baie Rose, Musk, Ambrette, Cedar, Aldehyde
Baie Rose 26 by Le Labo is available only in Chicago (it's a "city-exclusive", following Le Labo's annoying but business-savvy ~apparently~ technique of saving some frags for specific cities around the world).
AnOther 13 is the definition of a limited edition: only 500 units are produced globally, in partnership with so-hip-it-hurts AnOther mag in London. This project was born thanks to Sarah of Colette boutique in Paris who initiated the creative collaboration between the Le Labo founders and Jefferson Hack, editor in chief of AnOther Magazine. Jefferson Hack is a renowned British journalist and magazine editor who co-founded Dazed & Confused in the early 90’s and who launched AnOther Magazine in 2001. Perfumer Nathalie Lorson (praised on our pages for her Poivre 23) was called to blend a "dirty musk which your nose will want to go back to the skin that wears it more than you want to". Errr, no, actually; if you put this on skin, you run the risk of having your arm fall off!
Let me explain myself after this provocative statment: AnOther 13 is a monochromatic take on Ambrox and musks (three major musky aromachemicals, Muscenone delta, Ambrettolide and Helvetolide; more on different synthetic musks here) which murmurs disparaging bon mots with vicious intent and which unfortunately has the half-life of plutonium, i.e. you will be scrubbing and scrubbing if you happen not to appreciate that sort of thing.
Ambrox has certainly been toned & honed through several popular fragrances in the last decade (see our article on Ambrox here), but 2010 has seen it being writ large on the marquise, as the prominent star, which is a new twist. Contrary to Juliette has a Gun Not a Perfume, though, AnOther 13 is not solely based on Ambrox but is rather a composite of strong mostly woody notes which project with the force of steel. Helvetolide, a synthetic musk with fruity aspects (apple and pear-like) contributes a note which can be identified as "wet dog", Delta muscenone is reminiscent of real ambrette seed (and could stand for that) while Ambrettolide is strongly musky with a warmer feel. Yet the Le Labo fragrance isn't a "musk" in the traditional sense, nor is it nauseating in the aquatic and eerie mould of Sécretions Magnifiques: The piercing woody-ambery metallic note has something of the tormented Erica Kohut as she stabs herself aimlessly (and certainly non lethally) in lonely despair. A disturbing fragrance, to be sure!
Le Labo AnOther 13 notes:
Ambrox, Salycilate, Muscenone delta, Helvetolide, Ambretteolide, Cetalox
AnOther 13 is available in numbered bottles at Le Labo boutiques and at collaborating partners around the world: Liberty in London, Isetan in Tokyo, Barneys in the US, and Colette in Paris. It comes in one size (100 ml/3.4oz) and is sold at regular Le Labo 100 ml prices (i.e.200$) .
For our readers, a draw!Draw is now closed, thanks for the participation! Create the next frag concept for Le Labo in the comments & enter to win a sample of both exclusive fragrances!
Disclosure: For these reviews, I both paid out of my own pocket for decants for reviewing purposes through splits and was sent (a little later) samples in the mail by the company itself. Funny timing, but a great opportunity to be generous with our readers.
Asia Argento in a provocative photo shoot uploaded by girlsgirlsgirls on Photobucket. Another 13 photo found on Basenotes.