Rose 31 (Le Labo)

Le Labo is one of those super famous niche lines with a reputation preceding it, and very problematically at that. Approaching their perfumes, I'm reminded that their fragrances rarely smell like what they're named after. I'm also conscious of their subtler reputations for being a bit synthetic, and a bit weak, and perhaps more damningly, not especially complex. None of this dissuades me from liking Le Labo (Iris 39 is excellent), but it doesn't engender confidence. Expectation is the enemy of enjoyment, and if I expect to be disappointed, confirmation bias becomes a risk.

I needn't have worried with Rose 31. I like it. Not enough to ever buy it, or even to wear it again, but I appreciate what was achieved here. In a perfect world it would be called Vetiver 31, because it strikes me as being a vetiver fragrance with a hint of dry rose. That must be the reputation about names catching up with it. But the vetiver is well done, smelling very rooty and a bit green, with a smooth, woodsy character. Adding to the smooth woodiness are very clean notes of cedar, a hint of oud (synthetic oud, similar to the stuff found in Dirty English), and cool incense. The romance is delivered via musks, greens, and spices: white pepper, carrot seed, cumin, castoreum, and a bit of cold, powdery galbanum balance into a gauzy veil of earthiness, throwing shadow across the bright wood notes.

Poking through it all is the dry, bitter rose note. This is the same rose found in Van Cleef & Arpels PH, but here it's less intense, less prominent, more a suggestion than a statement. If you're a traditionalist about your rose fragrances, you won't care much for Rose 31. If you're interested in the mood that a dry, masculine rose note can evoke, this stuff is for you. I'm neither here nor there. I like or dislike rose frags as they come, and rarely do I find myself pining for this one. Is it too synthetic? It's obviously not natural, but I'm not bludgeoned by harsh aroma chemicals, either. Too weak? Yeah, maybe. Complex? Yes, in a linear way. It's nice, and well worth a sniff.


  1. I like whatever I've tried from Le Labo, including this scent, but I also noticed that they are pretty famous for a niche house. I know a couple of people who don't buy fragrances for the most part, only have a bottle or two, and theyre from Le Labo.
    I think people actually believe they really make the perfume for you, instead of just mixing a fragrance with alcohol and water. It's gimmicky, but still quite the show.

    1. Yeah I'm not a huge fan of the dishonesty inherent in that gimmick, and sometimes wonder if it's symptomatic of deeper issues with the company, but hey, the fragrances smell good, and that's all that matters to me.

  2. I'll admit to being put off by LL's silly 'compounding' gimmick & the whole Manhattan 'hipster' esthetic - but they do make some great fragrances.
    I also like that you can buy 15mls of a fragrance rather than having to buy an 1.7 oz bottle. I've noticed that Frederic Malle is making their scents in 10ml bottles too now.
    I tried LL's Ambrette 9 years ago & really liked it. I hoped they haven't changed any of their formulas since Estee Lauder bought them in 2014.

    1. Apparently they're no longer the darlings they used to be on basenotes:



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