Monday, November 14, 2011

Le Labo Aldehyde 44: fragrance review

The aliphatic aldehydes string of Chanel No.5 is what is termed "aldehydic" in perfumery parlance and characterises a whole sub-group within the floral fragrance family: C10, C11, C12 aldehydes to be exact, creating an accord so memorable it has pervaded fragrance mores for decades. [If you don't know what aldehydes are, refer to this article]. Le Labo's take in Aldehyde 44 is more inspired by the sweeter, soapier, more snowy-capped mountains seen flying above in lesser known (and more American-geared) Godzilla-aldehydic Chanel No.22 and equally American "sharp clean" White Linen by Estee Lauder than muskier-sexier-dirtier (aka Frenchier) No.5 however. Perhaps the fact that it's a Dallas,TX city-exclusive (only Dallas inhabitants and visitors of the city's Le Labo boutique at Barneys can partake of the sprakling waters!) is not totally random as imagined.This is a clean, rested, posh fragrance; depilated, smoothed and hosed and full of energy, not languor.

The opening in the Le Labo fragrance is so old-fashioned elegant and prim in its sharp biting "sparkle", with its citrusy-waxy fat top note, you will be doing a double take to see whether you have been magically transported back to 1955 and wearing a whale-boned petticoat under your skirt. But the perfume is modern, in more ways than one.
The progression is seamless and sustainaibly sour aldehydic into a somewhat metallic musky floralcy in the base, without either too much sweetness or woodiness (The idea of musk at Le Labo can be perversely illusionary anyway, as attested in Musc 25. Perfumer Yann Vasnier is using ambrettolide here in Aldehyde 44, which is a macrocyclic musk, very refined, soapy smelling-fruity in character).
What is characteristic is there is no powderiness in Aldehyde 44, as associated with other retro fragrances that utilize irones and ionones (iris and violets) to denote cosmetic products and old-school face powder. Instead it's citrusy waxy-soapy-fatty, it makes me think it's what an hypothetical child between Ivoire by Balmain and White Linen would be like: the green sudsy oiliness of the former meets the fatty sweetness of the latter, the rosy facets taking on a peppery bite with lots of buds' green, a hint of pear fruit in there too.

If you read that Aldehyde 44 contains woods and vanilla and imagine a comforting scent, you will are in for a nasty surprise: the woods only come from the C12 aldehyde (a pollen-rooty, lilac scent) and the silvery refracting amber synthetic; while the citrusy touches are reminiscent of bitterish, tangy orange rind (which has a resinous quality, not unlike some incense blends) and not marmelade. The floral notes cannot be taken apart, it's an abstract blend where no note rises above the rest. Aldehyde 44 possesses "sweetness" of another kind altogether and it can only be compared to that encountered in No.22 (especially in its less incense-y modern incarnation as part of Les Exclusifs in Eau de toilette) or the classic Lauder referenced above. The sillage is civilized, but definitely there, and the lasting power very good. Lovers of the elegant polished genre, rejoice, this is a well-crafted example; perhaps not totally necessitating the ouchy price-tag nevertheless.

The offficial Le Labo presentation states: "Aldehyde 44 is a small wonder that sits tight between an aldehyde overdose, that gives this scent a unique cleanliness to it, a sublime floral composition that is built around Naracissus, Jasmin, and Tuberose (all Absolute in case you wandered), and a bed of muscs tied with a hint of vanilla. The result is esthetically admirable and unique".

Aldehyde 44 by Le Labo features fragrance notes of: aldehydes, tuberose absolute, jasmine sambac, narcissus absolute, woods, vanilla and musk.

Le Labo Aldehyde 44 is a Dallas, TX city-exclusive, retailing at $290 for 50ml, but only for the month of November it is globally available at Luckyscent and on the official Le Labo site.


  1. I love this stuff. It's bracing and clean but not at all harsh. As a Texan who spends a fair amount of time in Dallas, I'm not sure that it goes with the city's vibe, though. The Dallas fashion identity is very much one of not-particularly-creative artifice (French manicure, lots of chunky highlights, a tan at all costs). Dallas fashion is very "tribe-y." There are a limited number of types, and they are pretty strictly adhered to. The sort of stripped-down no-nonsense-ness of Aldehyde 44 doesn't really match the preponderance of current and former sorority girls one sees shopping in Barney's at North Park Mall. One thing it is really good for though, is a cooling spritz on a hot summer day.

  2. I like this fragrance SO much!!! I got it a few days ago and I am so so happy of this pure and soft odor.
    Thank you for posting and keep sharing.

  3. SS,

    wise observations! Muchos thanks!! (and certainly more than I'd know for certain myself). The clanny thing would be interesting to watch. ;-)
    It does lend itself to that polished clean ambience that great aldehydics can impart, I would imagine it would be fabulous in TX heat!

  4. FL,

    that excited huh? OK, I'm letting this pass this time. Only once. ;-)


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