Le Labo Olfactionary

Quite simply, this is the most fun I have had by myself since the days of Lancer. It comes in a gorgeous silver case, looks like a flatter metal train case, and inside are 40 essences in bottles, from iris to civet to labdanum, etc.  You have the little booklet that tells you about each, where it comes from, etc., and the bottles are numbered so you can look up which one is which. (picture is from Le Labo)

The fun is in figuring it out.  Now, I have always been up front that my ability to pick out notes is pretty iffy.  Most times, I can get some of the big ones like iris or patchouli or ones I hate, but most of the time I know it’s familiar, but I can’t quite place it somewhere.  Also, when you put them on the tester strips, like the civet, which smells rank enough in the bottle, let that baby dry out a bit, and we cleared the room with it.  Excellent!

With the Olfactionary, I am slowly learning to have my nose match up the note with the smell, and I can spend hours playing this Smell Match Game… dipping some in, letting them dry and then sniffing again. Identification of notes is one of those things you can learn, though I think some people possess the ability naturally and are leaps and bounds ahead of where I shall ever be, but for those of us that struggle greatly and want to learn more, this is an excellent learning tool. Now, it is also a very, very expensive learning tool.  If there is one thing I would beg Le Labo to do is to find a way to condense this kit to smaller bottles, less cool container, so it would be easier and a little less expensive to procure for most everyone. It is $490 for the kit.  For me, it is worth every penny, but it would be nice if it were much more accessible. 

BTW, I’ve gotten the notepads done, and they are up for sale here for $6.99 each, there are 50 sheets per notepad.  I wish I had a better price point, but unless I order in HUGE quantities and because we use our own artwork, they aren’t cheap to get done.  If a bunch get sold, enough that I feel okay about ordering in larger quantities, I may be able to bring the price down. Now I’m working on the coffee mugs!!! 

P.S.S. — Bergdorf is shipping the Tom Ford Private Blends today. For those of you wanting a bottle, call Helga at 212-872-2581, she’ll hook you right up.  They are $175 for 50 ml and $450 for 250 ml (not sure about that amount or price on the larger bottle, but it’s close).  For those of you that did the pre-order of the samples with Diane and me, we are hoping we can still get them in the mail yet this week and back out to you. For those of you that were waiting until they were here… well, they’re here!!  I can’t wait to get my nose on them.  Love, hate, indifferent, don’t care, I have to smell what Tom has been up to in his laboratory.  Also, we did start offering the sample set in the 1/2 ml size so it’s not quite as pricey, though the 1 ml is a better deal.  Individual samples and decants will be available probably yet this week.

  • Kyra says:

    Bet you’ve been too buried to even look at this new toy of late, but do blog when you have time.I was finding it frustrating that neither Le Labo nor Barney’s listed the contents of this magic box, but when I googled “Olfactionary”, I found a pdf of the guide book at the Le Labo site. Nice to know what you get for your money!

  • MarkDavid says:

    Patty! I spent 45 minutes at the olfactionary in the Le Labo boutique in NYC during Sniffapalooza and I completely understand where you’re coming from – there are not enough hours in the day AND even when you think you know what something smells like – you find out you can be VERY wrong.

    With the civet, once I smelled that, I felt that my sense of smell had been changed for the rest of the day. It seemed like whenever I would smell a fragrance, I would smell civet. I don’t know if its b/c a few molecules got on my nose or not, but I don’t think so b/c I would have probably smelled it. Instead, it was only when I would test things on my skin or on blotter cards and lean in to smell that the civet would pop up. And it was with fragrances that I knew contained no civet.

    So just a caveat on that Civet – bottle no. 39 if memory serves me.

    It was definitely an undeniably rank smell, but seemed to offend no one at Sniffapalooza which made me happy knowing I was in the company of people who could smell anything unbiased.

    • Patty says:

      Yeah, I thought I had smelled civet before,. but never the untamed, and the more it dried, the ranker it got. One of those lessons your nose hurts to learn, as I leaned into that dried blotter and about fainted. Ack!!!

      Yup, it is no. 39, and I didn’t even have to look that up.

  • tmp00 says:

    Oooooh Patty-

    If I live within 200 miles of your house I would so be over there playing with it with you: we could have pop quizzes!

    Is civet the part of HE that’s so, er… so? I swear it’s civet and cumin.. 😕

    • Patty says:

      That would be a blast!!!

      BTW, I have the aldehyde 44, if you want a split of that, just let me know!

      Yup, it’s the civet that makes up some of the rankness of the HE. Though something else is crawling around in there too.

  • katia says:

    I wish it so much !
    But I think I will never have it.
    I do live in Brazil, and I can’t bring nothing that costs more than 500 bucks (including the shippment fee). And I have to pay 60% of total (including shippment fee) when it arrives (Brazilian tax).
    So… I will just dream about it every night…

  • Mike P says:

    You are SO my role model Patty…

    The Olfactionary is on my Xmas 2007 list already…I need this!

    Can’t wait for the Tom Fordies either – YAY!

    Also, is it just me, or did Mr. Ford pull a PR trifecta recently (was given an award at the GLAAD awards in LA last week, released his Azuree Soleil last week with Laude {BTW – luv it!] and this week the NY store opens. Busy guy!

    • Patty says:

      Mike, I’m not sure that’s a good thing for you or your budget! 🙂

      The Tom Fords are interesting. Lots of variety, nothing that is alike. I’m a little bowled over by how very different from each one they are. Some to love, some for someone else to love, not sure which ones will be the winners and losers in this bunch as far as popularity, but the only one I don’t care for is the one with the boozy note in it, the Noir de Noir, and it’s not hate, just not a note I like in perfume, but those who like their perfume boozy will be happy.

  • Marie-Helene says:

    Hey everyone,

    The Olfactionary sounds fun! I hope they give the names of the synthetic molecules they use to reproduce the natural scents. That would be instructive too. Thanks Ellen! I’ll need to sniff Sensations, I don’t think I have it. The Perfumista On A Shoestring needs some reviving.

    I can start right here BTW. A cheaper way to constitute your own olfactorium is to buy essential oils on eBay and make a trip to the nursery, the Indian grocery store and Chinatown to get some of the natural ingredients referred to in the palette of the perfumer. That way, you’ll be able to criticize the synthetically made molecules and say “mmmm, is this really star anise? I don’t think so. Methinks it’s a poor approximation of it…:) Actually their star anise is pretty good, but their mangosteen in With Love = pineapple.

    One has to keep in mind also that there are different types and origins for each “generic” ingredient.

    • Maria B. says:

      Great idea, Marie-Helene! I may follow that route too. What I’m currently doing is developing a fragrance garden, partly for the simple pleasure of smell and partly to train my nose to recognize some of the vegetal notes. For example, I’ve ordered five different lavenders. I’ve acquired a Cistus (labdanum source) and am expecting more, as well as osmanthus. I have a heliotrope, and naturally I’m very familiar with Dianthus and grow it. I have many roses. It’s amazing how varied rose scents can be. The scent of each of the three jasmine species I have is very different from the others’. Oh, and I recently purchased a wisteria. Mine is not a cheap approach, by any means, but it’s fun and fragrant and, if I do my job properly, green. 🙂

    • pitbull friend says:

      I don’t know about that… considering what I can spend at an Indian or Southeast Asian grocery or a natural foods store on essential oils, it’s not always so cheap!:) But it is fun & mostly healthy, that’s for sure. I’m thrilled that, in my neighborhood, it’s just as easy for me to pop over to the Vietnamese store as it is to the supermarket. Especially in the summertime — given the climate in SE Asia, the store owners know about the most refreshing stuff, like coconut water. –Ellen

  • Amy says:

    Oooooh, I’m a little afraid to find out what Ford is up to, frankly, with all his talk of crotches and how bad Black Orchid was. But I reckon I’ll sniff ’em, especially since I’m headed to NYC in a couple of weeks.

    The Olfactionary would be the ultimate fun splurge. I’ve played with it a little bit at the Le Labo counter & wished for one of my own, but that’s a pipe dream, I think. I could buy really good shoes with 500 bucks…

    • Patty says:

      There are definitley some winners and not winners in the new Tom Fords. I’ll be interested to hear what you think. But it covers a pretty broad range, and there are some loves in there for me, so that’s a great thing!

  • pitbull friend says:

    Hey, sweet Patty:
    That was great of you to put up the Perfume Posse notepads on the same day as you wrote about the Olfactionary. That way we have something nice to treat ourselves to on a more immediate & affordable basis! (And thanks for doing all of the work to make it happen — it’s lovely.)

    Just put on Parfumerie Generale Bois Blond for the first time. That cereal note is socking me in the head. It’s a lot like Jil Sander Sensations, which I didn’t hate but didn’t love, either. So — the good news on that is — if BB is not kept on past limited edition status, one might make do with Sensations — I see it at discounters for approx. $25 for 75 ml.

    Marie-Helene: Maybe that’s one for the “Perfumista on a Shoestring” section? I love that! You have really ingenious features, and that is surely one of them. (Anyone who is curious what I’m talking about can click on “The Scented Salamander” on blog links to the left.)
    –Ellen

    • Patty says:

      I’m trying to remember Sensations. I think I have it around here, I need to go check it again!

      I’m thinking I’ll do more notepads with other sayings, too, some of the runnersup!

  • Marina says:

    Can’t wait for your reviews of the new Fords!!

  • March says:

    It looks so pretty! I bet you are having way too much fun with that thing.

    Hope you didn’t eat too many Easter bunnies…

    • Patty says:

      It IS pretty! This darn work stuff keeps interfering with my playing with it. :-w

      Only one easter bunny, and that’s only because I gave my mom a really hard time that she hasn’t given us an easter basket forever. She’s such a pip.

  • Judith says:

    I have been lemming the Olafactionary since I first saw it, and you have given my lemming new life. I can’t afford it, but I am really not good with notes either, so I NEED it!! But right now, I will buy a notepad instead.

    • Patty says:

      You absolutely need this. Tell Mr. Judith it would make an excellent anniversary, birthday or May Day gift.

      BTW, did I tell you what I scored last week? 3 oz vintage L’heure Bleue sealed in the box… for $110. =)) I’m still tickled over that.

      • Justine says:

        Having just bought my first vintage perfume, I have to ask, have you ever had the juice not smell the way you had hoped? I bought vintage Shalimar in the opera bottle, its in perfect condition and the bottle itself is worth what I paid, but the juice is off. It’s clearly Shalimar, jsut not the Shalimar I had hoped for.

        I was eyeing that vintage L’heure you bought, I’m always watching L’heure but now I’m a little gun shy.

        • Patty says:

          I’m not sure about Shalimar, Justine. It’s a perfume that doesn’t suit me. I have heard the vintage is different, and vintage can go bad, even when sealed. I hope someone familiar with both the vintage and current will pop in and help here!

          That L’heure turned out perfect. Now I’m torn between leaving it all sealed and perfect or breaking it out and using it. Hmmm…

          • Judith says:

            Ooooh–I am so impressed with your L’heure bleue buy! Way to go! And to Justine–vintage buys are always chancy: I don’t know whether the problem was with your expectations or this particular bottle, but depending on how it’s stored, some vintage bottles can be somewhat-to-very-much “off.” But they can also be spectacular. I am not, myself, a big Shalimar fan, but I do think the vintage parfum is far superior to other varieties.

            Once more to Patty–I keep suggesting this to Mr. Judith, but so far he isn’t impressed. I think he is “off” buying me perfume for noe, b/c he has figured out that, no matter what he buys me, it will not be the ONE that will erase all other fragrant loves, and end my perfume quest. So silly.

  • Elle says:

    Unbeknownst to the practical, budget conscious part of my self, I have a secret fund going for that Olfactionary or its equivalent. Sounds like *such* a blast!!!
    Definitely getting one of those notepads. Love them! And the price seems perfectly fine to me – one of the cheapest perfume related thrills available.

    • Patty says:

      You *should* have one. I love your multiple perfume personalities. 🙂 I’m thinking someone could assemble one themselves, but I bet it is hard to get the right essences that are a good example of the note. I put Star Anise under both my son’s and my mom’s nose, and they both declared it peppermint. I couldn’t figure out why until they told me they were thinking of those big pink peppermints that have a little bit of liquorice turn to them, and then it made perfect sense.

  • Gina says:

    arrrrrrrghhhh, I WANT! What fun! At nearly 500. I have a hard time justifying it, unfortunately, though I’m sure if I thought about it for a few days I can come up something. But I’ll show some restraint. HA.

    However, the notepads are adorable, and I’ll be hooking myself up with one of those soon. No justification needed.

    • Patty says:

      I know, I had a hard time pulling the trigger on it. I had eyed it since Le Labo first appeared. I would definitely put it on my wish list for all my friends and family, maybe they would all go in together and get it for you? 🙂

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Wow, what an amazing toy Patty! What are some of your favorite essences in the collection so far?

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday!:)

    • Patty says:

      Favorites is hard to say. I haven’t really gotten to that part. Mostly I’m using it to train my nose to know what something is. I have that weird state where I know I know what it is, but the name won’t come to me. The civet was so weird. I sniffed it in the bottle, thought it was rank enough, but, man, you let it sit out on a scent strip for 30 minutes, and buzzards start to gain interest.

      And you too! Mine was awesome, with the family in Kansas, just huge amounts of fun.

  • Maria B. says:

    Patty, what a cute notepad! Will order!

    I think for $490 you should get more than a little booklet. You should get a book, with an index. So do you get test strips with the kit? Was there a note that surprised you?

    I have a feeling something got accidentally cut out of the second paragraph, after “somewhere” and before “We also.” (Too many years as an editor.)

    I’ve been wanting to know: What did you wear on Easter? I wore Reverie au jardin, and it turned out to be a perfect Easter fragrance.

    • Patty says:

      The booklet is really adequate. I was looking at it first, thinking, isn’t there more book? But what they put in there is perfect. You get the test strips, all of the essences and the booklet that identifies the notes and the family they are in, etc.

      I fixed that awkward paragraph. 🙂

      I did the Ether Lilas on Easter, it just works for me. It’s got all the loveliness of En Passant, but it has no tears.

      • Maria B. says:

        “But it has no tears.” Patty, that’s lovely.

        And congratulations on your vintage L’Heure Bleue. <:-p

  • Gail S says:

    Ooooh, fun by yourself, sometimes that’s the best kind! Seriously, I envy you, that sounds fabulous. Hmmm, maybe if I don’t eat for a month or so, and don’t feed the kid, or the dogs….yeah, that might work.

    However, I can afford note pads, so off I go!