Spice 31? Cedar 31? No, Le Labo Rose 31.

Dear Scent Diary,

When I was in New York last summer, I happened to stumble into the Le Labo boutique in Nolita, unplanned. What. Stop looking at me that way. Fine, I stalked the place and made a deliberate trip. Sheesh. Anyway, I hadn’t had a chance to sample any of their fragrances beforehand, but I’d heard/read/watched quite a bit about Rose 31 and was eager to try it.


The store has an a beautiful ‘modern apothecary’ aesthetic which appealed to me right away. All the scents are lined up on tables to your left as you walk in, and divided up between ‘femme’, ‘unisex’ and ‘homme’. Rose 31 resides on the ‘unisex’ table, if I remember correctly. As a ‘femme’ who most of the time prefers ‘unisex’ and has been known on occasion to sport an ‘homme’ or two, I was appropriately intrigued.

46801On first spritz, I was slightly anosmic, which I know is not the experience of most people.  A few minutes later though, my nose began to catch on. The rose is present and accounted for, but it’s a dark, low-register rose doused in spices. Pepper, nutmeg, clove and cumin, all blended harmoniously, provide a counter to the floral note. Neither rose nor cumin haters should write this one off – the rose is miles away from anything ‘old lady-ish’, and the cumin is a part of a well-blended spice mix that works beautifully to juxtapose the rose. As things dry down even more, the woods start making an appearance. Cedar and a smidge of oud start to bloom and overtake the spices, giving things a very dry, aromatic impression. In the late stages of the drydown, there is a gorgeous ‘sweetening’ of all the spicy, woody, rosiness, lifting the overall feeling as it melds with your skin. At this point, there’s actually a cleanliness to the scent that carries on for hours.

In a strange turn of events that I can’t quite explain, I ended up buying a bottle of Labdanum 18 instead of Rose 31 that day. Call it travellers panic? I wasn’t quite ready to make a decision but our flight was the next morning and our dinner reservation was looming. Oh the strife! Anyway, I enjoy my Labdanum 18 and my husband loves it on me, so it wasn’t a mistake. But it does feel strange because of the two, I’d call Rose 31 my love of the line. One day when my decant is drained, I’m sure there will be an excuse to return to New York. Or at least to Barney’s.


10 responses to “Spice 31? Cedar 31? No, Le Labo Rose 31.

  1. Rose 31 is such a great scent. Probably my second favourite right after Iris 39

  2. “Rose 31 is such a great scent. Probably my second favourite right after Iris 39” – exactly my sentiment. But I like Labdanum 18 as well. And I have decants to prove it 🙂

  3. Das

    Cumin scary! :-S
    I tried Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore and could only smell Indian lime pickles for miles and miles. That put a significant pause in my exploration of anything with cumin in it. 🙂
    The only other frame of reference I have to your description is the ‘dark/spicy?’ rose, Agent Provacateur (original). Is it anywhere close?

    • Hi Das,
      It sounds like I’m less cumin-sensitive than you but I haven’t heard anyone object to the cumin in this one. It reads as a spice mix with no one spice standing out more than another and works as a counter to the rose so even it doesn’t stand out. I’ve heard that some don’t even pick up the rose! I haven’t smelled AP so I can’t compare but it bears some resemblance to Portrait of a Lady. Except your husband won’t smell it from the basement. More civilized, less polarizing. Worth trying…

  4. I’m one of few who don’t particularly like this scent at all. Honestly, I don’t get why people are so entranced by Rose 31’s sickening aroma. I’ve been smelling this stuff on and off for a few months and it still smells just as bad as when I first sampled it. All I get out of Rosé 31 is spices, spices and oh yeah more spices with a touch of woodiness (which includes oud and cedar) and musk. Maybe one day I will be able to pick it out.

    • I’ve heard a few people now say they barely pick up the rose if at all. And invariably it makes them angry! It must just be a quirk of the composition that some are anosmic to the namesake note. You’re not alone 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on In The Nose: A Fragrance Blog and commented:
    I wish I was able to like this fragrance, unfortunately, I just can’t do it. Rosé 31 is one of those fragrances I just don’t get. I’m so happy some people get it because I’m still searching for the rosé in the midst of all the spices, woods and musky elements. I’m an optimist and I haven’t given up hope just yet. I will figure this fragrance out before hell freezes over. Believe that.

  6. Pingback: Know-how [not to]: Freshen up a linen closet | Undina's Looking Glass

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