Friday, September 6, 2013

Le Labo Limette 37 (San Francisco exclusive): fragrance review

One of my better English teachers was a longtime resident of San Francisco; in fact she had met her husband in the City by the Bay, which, given the place's gaydar and the couple's subsequent breakup -due to his not wanting children, ever- might have been an ominous sign she might have noticed beforehand. But the fact remains -and I was reminded of it recently coming across Limette 37 by Le Labo- that I was tenderly and gingerly spoon-fed from a very young age the pure magic that this most cinematic of American cities presents: the Golden Bay bridge, the roads going up & down, perfect for car chase scenes such as in Bullitt, Basic Instinct and Jade, the small cafes, the buildings charmingly retro (and almost never do they hide a wacko like in Pacific Heights), the fishermen and the earthquakes (that last bit so eerily familiar to my Greek existence that I felt like kin) and of course the dolly zoom distorted views from Vertigo...Ah, my heart sighs.

Come to think of it, and with the eyes of a foreigner, it's always amazing how much a film depiction of a place creates an impression that is different and yet at the same time somehow captive of its innermost charm (Admit it, didn't any of you fall all over in love again with London upon watching this scene from The Parent Trap with the lovely The Las song in the background? OK, I digress, but...)
So, if like me you have always dreamt of San Francisco as an impossible ectoplasm rather than a real place you can step your foot on, you might have had higher expectations from a fragrance sold exclusively there. You might have even though it would "represent" this eidolon, though obviously Le Labo didn't (and wouldn't) go there. {The folks state it so ever so clearly on their site, man: "Don't expect Le Labo's San Francisco exclusive to be a chilly summer fog essence or the Golden Gate in a bottle. Limette 37's reference to The City is abstract"}

Limette 37 is certainly not unpleasant; in fact it is quite pleasant indeed (and absolutely unisex in feel) and I bet it would go down well with lots of people and have random folks pronounce "you smell good!" blah blah blah. The opening is nicely cologne-y with bergamot and petit-grain, slightly bitter and surprisingly softened with coolish vetiver. A small segment of warmth is peeping through, a touch of spice, a little sweetness reminding me of innocent linden flowers, just so. Upon drying down Limette 37 reveals lots of subtle, creamy clean musks that have a humming tenacity (and which are almost the only thing left at the mark of 2 hours's wear, perfect cover-up if you have seriously embraced the hippie "naturalness" popular in SF in the 1960s if you know what I mean, and a pain in the butt if you require your expensive perfumes to smell for longer than that).

My gripe is that you can probably achieve that effect with lots of other scents on the market (see our Skin Scents article for more fragrance suggestions, including some from the same company), without forking the big bucks for an exclusive release, nor having to jump through hoops to get to San Francisco to buy this latest Le Labo fragrance. In fact being sandwiched into the summer 2013 release trio by Le Labo, the other two being the excellent Ylang 49 and Lys 41Limette 37 is even more leaving something to be desired.

For that reason, Limette 37 can't go into my "must own" list. Whether it will go into yours is a question of means (in both senses of the word) vs. opportunity. Currently and only up till October 15th, the Le Labo city exclusives are available online at the Le Labo site.

Official notes for Le Labo Limette 37: bergamot, petit-grain, jasmine, clove, vetiver, musk, tonka bean.

For those paying attention to visuals: stills are (of course) from top to bottom from the films Bullitt, Jade, Vertigo and Basic Instinct. I decided to use some of the less predictable shots from those (opting for black & white in two cases), in order to convey the non representative nature of it all. The scent is nothing like the reputation of either film and is its own thing. I just plead to be allowed to have my fun, that's all


  1. I recently succumbed to the allure of Limette, and I don't know why myself. I agree that petitgrain and vetiver and musk shouldn't seem so special; but it doesn't smell like anything else in my collection, and it's so cooling and lifting and mmm. Still thinking about it. (But I don't have the passionate love for SF that you have, so clearly our expectations were different! Though I do love the city, I don't idolize it. :-)

  2. I was a little skeptical of the notes, which are definitely not my territory (and I had not noticed the linden, which properly speaking doesn't belong to fine perfumery). Your review just confirms what I expected. Perhaps they were inspired not by SF but by San Diego, or even one of the less exciting sea resorts of Southern Europe.

    In constrast, I liked the rich, slightly retro ylang, which you described so well. I want to retry it to check the longevity.


  3. Anonymous14:56

    I just got home from San Francisco three days ago. My husband and I spent our 20th wedding anniversary there. We go to SF once or twice a year, partially because the food is so incredible.

    This scent doesn't have any of the notes I like, really.

    I bought La Fille de Berlin while I was in SF though.


  4. In general, I deeply appreciate the artistry of Le Labo and their aesthetic. Bit I was hugely disappointed by this release. I am a resident of San Francisco, probably the most colorful and diverse city in the country, filled with ex-hippies, new hipsters, food worshippers, locovore originators, silicon valley zillionaires, fog, eucalyptus, briny sea breezes, hot Santa Anna winds, homeless people, pot smokers, patchouli wearers, a never ending summer of love on Haight St., and a mediterranean climate with aromatics galore. And Le Labo abstracts this by giving us a wimpy citrus fragrance. Sure it's pretty and unassuming, but there is NOTHING unassuming about my city, and we are not a tepid bunch. This is what I imagine Denmark or Norway or Sweden smelling like, but not San Francisco. I just don't understand this at all.....Have they ever BEEN to San Francisco?

  5. Unseen,

    if you love it by all means, indulge!

    I thought it was a bit deja vu, but perhaps that's not such a terrible sign; everything is, after all....

  6. M,

    there is no comparison between this and the Ylang; miles apart. The Limette could be different, more "tangy" and more spirited. Instead it goes for soft focus, but in a genre where soft focus is like Vaseline'd lens; a cliche.


  7. Marsi,

    delightful story and happy anniversary to you two!!
    I think SF is much more interesting than one would make it out to be if they had only tried the fragrance. :-(

  8. Marsi,

    delightful story and happy anniversary to you two!!
    I think SF is much more interesting than one would make it out to be if they had only tried the fragrance. :-(

  9. Scott,

    I was reluctant to claim all the things you claim, but coming from a SFan it gains new credence.
    I suppose they have been, surely, but the question is why they chose such a tepid formula style? The concept isn't really exciting and the end effect is very pleasant but no more than a skin scent for enjoying on yourself. Not as colourful as the city!

  10. I really tried to talk myself out of Cuir 28, but I couldn't, it was love at fist sniff. 100mls of Cuir 28 and a sample of Limette went home with me, wore L37 a few days later, it freekin blew my mind, this is a very unique take on citrus, for one thing, I don't detect a pyramid, I put L37 on at 9am, it's now midnight, I just got home from a LONG workday, L37 is still uber fresh, it's minimal in silage, but it sticks around for days, the notes stay totally linear, citrus, wood, musc and spice. I also love Neroli 36, this will be a great companion for the summer. Limette is a year round scent, leans masculine to me. I went back for a bottle of this too.

  11. Delta,

    glad that those worked so well for you!

    I hear a lot of good things about Cuir, so psyched to try that next. Limette is very fresh, very pleasant, and yes lasting and totally linear, but it didn't wow me, sorry to say. Maybe I expected more, who knows, especially for the price.

    At any rate, enjoy your new bottles!


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