Monday, November 7, 2011

Le Labo Musc 25: fragrance review

Musc 25 by niche outfit Le Labo reminds me of The Body Shops' White Musk, more than I'd care to admit for something super-exclusive (only Los Angelitos are privy to it) going for a matching pricey tag: The squeeky, almost white-snow reflective cap of citrusy-rosy aldehydes and the laundered scent of lily of the valley on top, underscored by the familiar sweet warmth of synthetic musks, creates an effect of radiant, well-meaning, inviting vibes all around, but with a slightly mysterious touch too. Le Labo advertises it as a "dirty, sexual, decadent" musk with "the devil itself" included; colour me utterly dumbfounded! Have they smelled Miller Harris (gorgeous) L'Air du Rien or the (ultra cuddly, ultra controversial) Muscs KoublKhan by Lutens? [If you don't know the first thing about the distinction between clean and dirty musks, refer to this link]. That's not to mean that Musc 25 is bad, because it's not, as long as one knows what to expect.

Musk is suich a misunderstood word anyway, since most people have never smelled natural deer musk to begin with.What IS "musky"? To many it means "heavy, dense, opressive", to others "oily & unwashed", to some it stands for what perfumery jargon categorises as "mossy", to others still it bears a "cheap" association through long familiarisation with drugstore musks. Perfume vocabulary is unchartered territory to the general audience. So many "musk" fragrances on the market (drugstore too) are mixes more than single note explorations as well. I guess the only way is for you to make things clearer for yourself is to check out our Scented Musketeers Series on musk perfumes and grab some samples to explore for yourself.

Le Labo Musc 25, created by perfumer Frank Völkl, is a likeable sweetish, refined and mostly "clean musk", yet without spike-in-the-head harshness, nor soapy smelling (Many white musks come off as "soapy"). It's billowy, soft (a little powdery), wide-eyed and rather fond of trashy novels kept under the bed. She (or he, but it's mostly a "she" vibe in attitude, if not in smell) gets them out and masturbates to them when the parents are away, playing Under the Bridge in the background, the melodious bass reverberating off the poster-collaged walls.
Apart from the best-selling White Musk referenced (the old, better version), Musc 25 also has some elements of Ava Luxe's Love's True Bluish Light; namely the vanillic sweetness and the slightly ozonic quality that provides an instant electrifying freshness. This kind of synthetic musks is what accounts for "the magic moment" upon opening the machine after using fabric softener and dryer sheets; a primary selling point for those products. Vetiver in small amounts pairs well with synth musks (witness its pairing with Galaxolide in Trésor, to which Musc 25 shares a peachy mini-facet), accounting for more than the sum of its parts.
The trail left by Le Labo's Musc 25 is lightly ambery and quite tenacious indeed; LA tanned legs, as my friend The Non Blonde puts it. My main objection is ~like with Clair de Musc by Lutens~ that there are refined musks in lower price points as well.

According to the official blurb:
"Musc 25 is Le Labo’s LA exclusive scent. Why you ask ? Because genderless angels have to be tempted into the smell of life. Musc 25 is white, angelic, very musky and aldehydic, and so intensely luminous that you will need to wear shades to approach it. Yet despite all this heavenly white, it’s core is somber, devilishly dark, so much so that it wakes up your inner demons that are anchored in sin and in animalic notes that are sensual, sexual, and decadent. Its altar is made of vetiver, ambergris, more musc, and more civet and of the devil itself. Enjoy the ride of L.A 25, oops, we meant Musc 25."
Apparently they also claim to have developed a synthetic named X that imitates the pheremone induced by smelling..drumroll..sperm! (Supposedly that creates an aphrodisiac effect; please forget for a second the horror of Sécrétions Magnifiques, no relation.) Something doesn't quite compute for me in that, not least because sperm has a bleachy, citrusy magnolia smelling segment in there by itself when fresh. In that regard the combination of citrusy sparkly aldehydes, ozonic touches and lily of the valley is more acurate than muscenone, vetiver, patchouli, civet or ambergris. I guess there is an integral sense of irony in the best jokes anyway.   

Le Labo Musc 25 has fragrance notes of: aldehydes, lily of the valley, rose absolute, vetiver, cedar, patchouli, ambergris, musc, and civet.

Le Labo Musc 25 is a Los Angeles 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.
The Los Angeles Le Labo boutique is at 8385 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 782-0411

Disclosure: I was sent a sample by the company for reviewing purposes. 


  1. I agree with you. I smelled the "exclusives" at Barneys recently - they're all ok, but nothing out of the ordinary, and certainly nothing worthy the outrageous prices.

    Funny they're advertising this musk as sexy, when they have a truly, uncompromisingly raunchy musk in the (non-exclusive) Oud 27. And regarding the secretions, I once tried their (excellent) Iris lotion after swimming in a very chlorinated pool, and, lo and behold, exactly as you say, floral, rooty plus chlorine pretty much replicates them.


  2. C,

    hmm, I don't know, I do like Poivre and Gaiac very much. They're quite refined in their respective realm.
    I prefer Gaiac for a musk frag though instead of Musc (sounds funny, doesn't it). The prices for the exclusives are rather steep, true.

    I can't make sense of the presentation the the line, really. As you point out, the name often doesn't correspond to basic scent (I do get the reasoning of the naming though) and that tends to throw us off.
    Glad you agree on the -ahem- secretations. My impessions are part of more "private" projects.


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