Le Labo Santal 33: Has Reformulation Ruined it?
If there was a hall of fame for the best fragrances throughout history, Le Labo Santal 33 would definitely have a place there. It shook the foundations of the perfume world in 2011, coming from the talented and genius Frank Voelkl who, in my opinion, created two of the most iconic fragrances in the history of perfumes, that being Santal 33 and Zegna Florentine Iris.
Santal 33 is a woody, leathery and spicy perfume. Despite the fact that the perfume retails for 223 euros for a 100 ml bottle, it was bought and worn by so many customers since its release. It was such a successful creation that, in 2015, Olivia Fleming wrote an article about it in the New York Times titled ‘That Perfume You Smell Everywhere Is Santal 33′
Santal 33‘s opening is both harsh and green, utilizing the sharp Papyrus note along with some sexy and calming cardamom as well as a captivating iris. The heart turns woody with the emergence of the main players in the perfume, Powdery Australian sandalwood and cedarwood. The dry down mainly adds elegant leather while the woody notes from the heart still linger and become more prominent, giving the perfume powdery and earthy vibes.
Regarding performance and reformulation, I own the 2016 and 2018 batches which I compared against a 2021 batch. Sadly, I can tell that there are some differences there. First of all, the green essence in the original Santal 33 has been muted down a bit, and even though some fans hated this green amped up opening, the sillage doesn’t have the same appeal anymore.
The smell is still pretty much the same in terms of the powdery and woody aspects. Performance wise, the new formulation, to my nose, is also much tuned down. The original formula used to be a beast in the performance category. Be it longevity, Sillage, or projection, Santal 33 rocked them all. I almost had a compliment every time I wore it, and most of the times, It happened hours after the application. The new formulation makes itself noticeable in the first 2 to 3 hours, but then it turns to a skin scent for the rest of the fragrance’s life.
In terms of versatility and wearability, Santal 33 best suits adults but can also be pulled off by young men. It is very versatile in terms of seasons to wear in, but personally I think it is best worn in autumn or winter. Santal 33 is also a very outstanding and unique perfume. It is one of the fragrances that you can easily regard as a signature scent. It was used by some celebrities like Justin Bieber and Jodie Comer as their signature scent.
A note worth mentioning as well is the packaging. When you buy Santal 33, the bottle is filled in the boutique specially for you. You can also have your name and the date of purchase written on both the bottle and the box. This may not intrigue normal folks but a frag head cares about these things!
To sum things up, Santal 33 is one of the greatest Niche perfumes ever released. It used to be better in the past and is still worth your money today. It shows character and can be easily worn in almost all situations. Have you tried the previous releases by Santal 33? How about the new ones? Do you think they are worth the hype? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.