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le Labo Santal 33 review

Le Labo Santal 33 Review

Le Labo Santal 33 has been dubbed “The scent of New York” and is many, many people’s signature scent. It has an almost magnetic response with certain people and as soon as they smell le Labo Santal 33 they know instantly that it’s for them.

In this review, we’re going to take a deep dive into this captivating scent and everything about it. From the history behind Le Labo and their fragrances, to what Santal 33 performs like, each of the notes and how to wear it.

Brand and Perfume History

Le Labo fragrances were created by Edouard Rsochi and Fabrice Penot in 2006. The range was launched with 10 fragrances, body lotions and candles, aiming to add a more meticulous approach to perfumery.

The name ‘Le Labo’ is French for ‘The Lab’ and in an unconventional naming system, they name most of their fragrances after the most prominent note with a number – such as Bergamote 22 or Santal 33. The number after the correlates to the number of notes in the scent.

Santal 33 Eau de Parfum was released in 2011 and was an absolute smash hit, garnering cult-like status in a short time. There had never been a scent that smelled like it, with a totally different take on sandalwood. Instead of the heavy, woody base type note, many people had become accustomed to, Santal 33 took the note in a totally new direction.

Perfume Story

Wanting to create a totally new perfume with an interesting take on sandalwood, Le Labo drafted in perfumer Frank Voelkl for the task. The creative brief for Santal 33 was quite interesting: Sandalwood for the Marlboro man.

The Marlboro Man was a classic masculine icon, and Santal 33 was to recreate the icon in a fragrance. They wanted to develop a perfume that brings forth hidden memories of the American west, leather saddles, burning fires and the desert wind.

Santal 33 is a perfume that’s designed to touch the sensual universality in all of us. The combination of iris, Sandalwood, violet, ambrox and musky gives the scent its unique fragrance.

Perfume Bottle & Presentation

The presentation of the Le Labo Santal 33 perfume is absolutely pristine. Just the box that it arrives in oozes character. The bottle is the same as other le Labo fragrances – a bell shape with a slightly heavy dull grey lid. The front label is quite scientific in style, which suits the lab theme. This label displays the name of the fragrance and any sort of customised name you want, as well as the expiry date of the perfume.

Overall, it’s an incredible package that really lends itself well to the Le Labo brand, conveying a bit of quirkiness whilst also displaying the luxury of Le Labo scents.

Our Thoughts

Santal 33 is one of the most popular niche fragrances in recent times – whilst also being an incredibly polarising perfume. I’ve sampled it myself and quite liked it, with the sandalwood and leather being the most prominent notes on my skin.

When I’ve smelled this on other people though, it’s absolutely filled up the room. I remember catching the familiar and unique sandalwood notes whilst walking through the street – it was a guy who was a solid 10 metres in front of me. I also caught the scent of the perfume in a shared office communal area once and after asking who it was, found it was a lady who had passed through 5 minutes ago!

Overall I like Santal 33 Eau de Parfum, but many people simply get the smell of pickles. This is down to a hidden dill note which can work horribly with some people’s skin types. With the price of a bottle as well, this is definitely a scent I would sample first before splashing out.

How many sprays are required?

Santal 33 makes an absolutely perfect signature scent. For day-to-day wear, it only needs 2-3 sprays and you’re set – if you get it on clothes as well you’re set for a long time!

Office wear could probably do with 1 less spray, so 1-2 sprays. It can be overbearing in a confined space, so if you’re in a small office you want to be wary of the strength.

For nighttime and winter wearing, you can go for a few more sprays – I’d say 3-5 sprays should have you covered. The notes of Santal 33 are quite bright and airy and it lacks a proper sweet base note, so it doesn’t push out amazingly well during winter. It still has quite good performance though.


Like all le Labo scents, you aren’t given a full breakdown of all the notes, just the main ones. the main notes for Santal 33 are:

Top Notes

Australian sandalwood



You immediately get a very punchy opening of Australian Sandalwood with Santal 33 – Santal does translate to Sandalwood after all. It’s a bright and uplifting sandalwood that is very airy. The papyrus note goes along nicely with the sandalwood, adding a rather strange vegetal note. Some people get this as pickles and suspect there’s also dill in the opening somewhere, whilst others sometimes get cucumbers.

The iris in the opening adds a tiny bit of powderiness and helps bring the sandalwood and papyrus together into one neat package. It’s this opening stage that divides most people. Some purely get pickle or cucumber thanks to their skin chemistry, whilst other people get prominent sandalwood.

Heart Notes




The opening lasts quite a long time – for me, it was a good hour or so before the sandalwood tempered down and the mid notes really started to shine through.

The always impressive cardamom is more subdued here, not in your face but adding just a nice, gentle sweet touch. I get a hint of ambrox, which adds a scratchy wood note, and a hint of a purple floral note from the violet.

The majority of the mid-notes in this Le Labo perfume are woody. The sandalwood from the opening is very much still here, and the cedarwood from the base also starts to creep in the background, making the mid very woody but with interesting facets.

Base Notes


Leather accord


It’s hard to tell when the base kicks in, as the notes of Le Labo effortlessly weave between each other through most of its duration.

You’ll have it on for a few hours when you realise you’re getting slightly sweet and smoky sandalwood, which is when you know those slightly sweeter facets from the base have kicked in.

The cedar wood is a sweeter wood note, which adds a bit of colour and balance to the base of Santal 33 whilst still supporting the woody theme. This sweet cedarwood also has smoky and resinous amber to help amp up the sweetness by a notch. Finally, right in the background, you have smoky leather that’s there, adding a slightly masculine touch to Santal 33.


Now we’re going to take a closer look at the performance of this best seller – does it perform like a monster or simply fade away?…


The sillage is a sneaky one. You’ll spray Le Labo Santal 33 and think it’s a soft skin scent. But it’ll leave a sneaky scent trail behind you that lingers there. the scent trail is actually really, really good, you just may not notice it like I didn’t!

You’re going to leave the iconic sandalwood smell lingering wherever you go for a solid 5-6 hours. Top marks here.


Santal 33 is also a monster in the longevity department. A few quick sprays will last most of the day – a solid 8-10 hours before it disappears. Spray on clothes and it’s there until the next wash. It’s quite easy to go nose blind to, so don’t be surprised if you can’t smell it after a few hours – other people can still smell you.


Santal 33 projects like a beast for the first couple of hours, then slowly – key word slowly – gets closer and closer to your skin. Like we said above, if you’re thinking of wearing in an enclosed environment, make sure you go easy on the sprays as it can get overwhelming real quick.

Target Market

Santal 33 is what I would define as a true unisex scent – the smell sort of morphs depending on who’s rocking it. Many women can pull this off perfectly fine, getting a lighter Sandalwood and iris scent that comes across as feminine.

Many men find that the heavier notes come out on them stronger – so do the leather and woods. I don’t know what magic Le Labo has put in Santal 33 but I found this too – the leather, amber and sandalwood were most prominent on my skin.

Age-wise, anyone 18 and up could pull this off. It has a very metro/urban cool cat creative feeling, so if you’re the artsy type you will probably be able to pull this off with no problem.

When to Wear

As we stated before, many people wear this exclusively for daily wear. It pretty much suits all weather. It’s inoffensive enough to wear to work but unique enough to stand out at special events.

Some people may balk at the price and save it for special occasions, but it’s just so easy to wear and unique that they often start spraying it on wherever and whenever as it quickly turns into a signature scent.


Santal 33 is incredibly unique. It combines its notes in such a beautiful and charming way that not many big houses have gone after the same DNA. This means unless you’re in a major city – such as New York AKA the spiritual home of Santal 33 – you’ll most likely find it hard to find someone who smells the same.

Of course, there are plenty of low-price dupes and knockoffs to be found, but they all lack the refined character of the original Santal 33. It’s the price it is for a reason – the blending and premium quality being the main ones.

Value For Money

In my eyes, it’s pretty good value for money even though it’s quite expensive. You’re getting a fragrance that smells totally different to almost everything else out there, performs like a monster and is top-level quality. If you fancy it, be sure to get a sample first before you buy as it’s a nice chunk of change and doesn’t work well with some people’s skin chemistry.

Pros & Cons


  • Absolutely incredible quality
  • Uplifting sandalwood scent
  • Stellar performance
  • Lasts absolutely ages
  • Inoffensive
  • Versatile


  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t work with everyone’s body chemistry – SAMPLE FIRST

Similar Perfumes

Zara Energetically New York

If you want to get a feel for the general vibe of how Santal 33 smells, Energetically New York is a good shot. Made in conjunction with the one and only Jo Malone, this is clearly a spin on Santal 33 with the ‘New York’ call out. Taking the prominent sandalwood and cardamom, this one removes the musk and adds an almost clean and marine-like quality to it thanks to a hint of jasmine & some other notes. Again, highly dependent on your skin chemistry, it’s a nice entryway into a sandwood-heavy frag.

Maison Louis Marie No.04 Bois de Balincourt

Another very Santal 33-like offering is Bois de Balincourt by Maison Louis Marie. This one can be hard to find but smells very similar to Santal 33 with some small changes. Removing the leather and ambrox, you’ve got more spicy facets here from cinnamon and nutmeg. These spicy notes add a bit of a twist to the darker leatheriness in Santal 33. There’s also a nice and light vetiver note.

Our Verdict

Santal 33 is often called a masterpiece and that’s for a very good reason – it’s VERY good. A unique sandalwood fragrance that knocks it out of the park for performance with its rich, woody and leather-based scent, if that sounds like your cup of tea, make sure you sample it before buying. I can’t say this enough – the smell is very dependent on your skin and how it works with it – you hopefully won’t be one of the people who get the cucumber or pickle smell!

0/5 Bottle
0/5 Scent
0/5 Sillage
0/5 Longevity
0/5 Projection
0/5 Price

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