If perfume were a religion (with me as benevolent Perfume Pope, obvs), then the Le Labo City Exclusives would be our pilgrimage. As the name suggests, the City Exclusives are nine fragrances that are exclusive to the cities they're named after. This is true, maddening exclusivity: no phone or web orders.
On top of the cost of your international plane ticket, the fragrances themselves are priced at $290 for 50 ml and $440 for 100ml. The worst part? Some of them are actually worth it.
For one month out of the year, however, the process of obtaining a City Exclusive becomes ever-so-slightly less unreasonable: every September the collection is available at all Le Labo boutiques and counters, and online at the Le Labo and Luckyscent websites.
But what if you’re not near a Le Labo counter? Normally I’m all about online perfume sampling, but the City Exclusive samples have an appropriately obnoxious price of $12 for 1.5 ml. Sampling all nine will run you ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT DOLLARS. PRE-TAX.
That's where I come in: I sniffed my way from Tokyo to Moscow to bring you my top picks from the collection. Bon voyage!
Gaiac 10 (Tokyo Exclusive). A dark, smoky wonder. Like sipping a cup of lapsang souchong in a teahouse with polished ebony floors.
Poivre 23 (London Exclusive). The ultimate pepper fragrance. The huge, exhilarating blast of pepper in the opening is followed by a plush, sweet blend of vanilla and resins.
Vanille 44 (Paris Exclusive). Strange, dry, woody vanilla. There are an awful lot of vanilla perfumes, but none of them smell quite like this.
Worth A Sniff
Cuir 28 (Dubai Exclusive). Ferocious, filthy leather, like a saddle still attached to a wild animal. Not all that wearable, but maybe you’ll be able to tame this bad boy.
Musc 25 (Los Angeles Exclusive). Weird, wet, unsweetened musk. The least Californian perfume I can imagine, and all the better for it.
Benjoin 19 (Moscow Exclusive). A decadently rich amber warm enough for Russian winters. A perfectly executed example of a relatively common genre.
Save Your $12
Tubereuse 40 (New York Exclusive). This lush, green tuberose is awfully pretty, but there are so many similar scents with much friendlier prices.
Baie Rose 26 (Chicago Exclusive). Pretty-but-boring peppery rose.
Limette 37 (San Francisco Exclusive). Fresh, woody citrus, surprisingly lacking in tartness or sparkle.
Which of the City Exclusives appeals to you the most? Do you already have a favorite?