If cities had a unique perfume, what would SA's smell like?

2018-08-21 19:00
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Array of ingredients for perfume

Le Labo has come up with a perfume for some of the world's biggest cities. (Photo: Le Labo)

The Statue of Liberty, Christ the Redeemer, the Eiffel tower and Table Mountain - every major city in the world has sights and attractions that encapsulate the spirit of a place, providing visitors with memories and unique reasons to visit.

A perfumery in New York City is trying to take the usual visual-based associations that cities invoke in the minds of travellers and bottle them.

SEE: The cheapest and most expensive cities to call home in 2018

The sweet-smelling folk at Le Labo in New York City understand that an oft-overlooked sense - smell - is also pivotal to how travellers remember a destination. With that in mind they've created an entire collection of fragrances dedicated to cities. 

Consisting of 11 different scents, each is designed to be redolent of a specific city part of the 'City Exclusives' collection. It's an interesting way to carry around the essence of your favourite city with you.   

At present, the list is limited to some of the most well-known major cities in the world, but that may change as Le Labo continues to work and expand upon their selection of scents.

What about South African cities? 

But what about Africa? What about South Africa? Well, we may not have our own signature city fragrance yet, but we can hazard a guess to what it might smell like - or at least what we might expect to smell. 

A fragrance meant to get people thinking about Durban, on the other hand, would have to somehow encapsulate the following elements:

  • Lime juice
  • Masala spice
  • Mango
  • Cassia bark
  • Sugar cane 

A fragrance meant to get people thinking about Cape Town would have to somehow encapsulate the following elements:

  • The Atlantic Ocean
  • Kelp
  • Sea salt
  • Fynbos
  • Proteas
  • A massive superiority complex and obsession with Table Mountain. 

What about the golden city of Johannesburg? Well nothing smells like gold, but you could throw in the smells of smokey charcoal and the bush just outside its borders. Gold however has no smell.

What would your South African city fragrance smell like? 

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At present, these are the fragrances available from Le Labo: 

Tokyo (Gaiac 10)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

The Le Labo website describes Gaiac 10 as "a very hard, greenish wood that isn’t as dry as cedar, but is as subtle, profound and stable. Le Labo’s Gaiac 10 is a tense formula built on gaiac wood and surrounded by musks (four different types in all), with hints of cedar and olibanum (incense)."

Paris (Vanille 44)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

The Le Labo website describes Vanille 44 as being redolent of the essence of love in the city famous for it. The perfumery notes are, "...our Rose does not only smell of Rose, that our Iris does not just smell of Iris.

Well our Vanille 44 does not smell of just... vanilla. We would say that this theme is a subtle ambery, incensy, woody, sexy note that once acquainted with your premium pashmina sweater will release the finest of the vanilla bourbons that you’ve experienced. It’s vanilla disguised."

New York City (Tubereuse 40)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

The scent of New York City, according to Le Labo, "is of course full of tuberose (absolute and nothing less) but what hits you from the start is a wave of bergamot, tangerine, and orange flower that yields that surprising “eau de cologne” effect (despite its concentration of 30% which transforms this perfume into an extract). The first pschitt is hence pure well being.

Tubereuse 40 then slowly develops into the woody/floral heart that gives its unique character and comfort. You smell the white florals where the tuberose finally has its say and the woods (cedar and sandalwood) sing along with oak moss, musks and ambrette absolute to rock you into a state of intensity, pureness and bliss."

Amsterdam (Mousse de Chene 30)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

To some the smells of Amsterdam conjure images of smoke-filled coffee shops and slow-moving canal water, however for Le Labo it's "moss and patchouli paired with their most incisive synthetic boosters, crystal moss and clearwood. Cinnamon, pimento bay and pink pepper spice it up to create timeless elegance that is reassuring yet surprising, tense, and addictive.

For those that prefer less poetic descriptions, Mousse de Chene 30 is a neo-chypre (no, neo-chypre is not a poetic word) that is both traditional and progressive. Just like Amsterdam when you think about it…"

London (Poivre 23)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

The Royal Family. Thames. Big Ben - an absolute inability to handle any conflict. That's London, England defined. But what does it smell like? According to Le Labo "Poivre 23 translates into Pepper 23 and it’s Le Labo’s pepper statement.

Why pepper? (And we’re talking true Bourbon Pepper, the Rolls Royce of peppers). Because it’s the spice of all spices, widely used in perfumery, and we wanted pepper to finally get what it deserves: the limelight. It is very warm, ultra spicy, truly oriental, and it’s only for London."

Los Angeles (Musc 25)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

Smog, pungent marijuana, colonics, the ocean and organic free-trade kale. This is what many come to think of the City of Angels when smell is mentioned. However, Le Labo sees it differently, according to their website: "Musc 25 is white, angelic, very musky, aldehydic and so intensely luminous that you will need to wear shades to approach it.

Yet, despite all this heavenly white, its core is somber and devilishly dark, so much so that it wakes up your inner demons that are anchored in sin and in animalic notes that are sensual, sexual and decadent. Its alter is made of vetiver, ambergris, more musk, and more civet (synthetic one of course) than the devil itself."

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Dallas (Aldehyde 44)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

JR, beef, cowboys, the inside of a cowboy hat, crude oil and, for some reason, patchouli - these are the smells that come to mind when thinking about Dallas. Le Labo sees it differently describing the city and its associated scent Aldehyde 44 as "a small wonder that sits tight between an aldehyde overdose, that gives this scent a unique cleanliness to it, a sublime floral composition that is built around Narcissus, Jasmin, and Tuberose (all Absolute in case you wondered) and a bed of musks tied with a hint of vanilla.

The result is esthetically admirable and unique. You should know that we receive numerous hate mail from perfume lovers that have somehow put their nose on some Aldehyde 44 and that are now considering vacationing in Dallas."

San Francisco (Limette 37)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

Much more than expensive property, tech oligarchs and sandal wearing vegans, San Fran has visitors plenty to offer. This Californian city has a scent described on Le Labo's website as being a "reference to The City is abstract and delves into its olfactive construction that mimics the hilly ride from Le Labo's Fillmore street store to the bay.

"You start off with a view, with bergamot's freshness and light, before plunging into the warm and welcoming effects of jasmine, petit grain and clove that roll into luscious softness with vetiver, tonka beans and musks... Limette 37 is an olfactive roller coaster, mingling an impression of cleanliness, freshness and well-being with that definite feeling that you are smelling special."

Chicago (Baie Rose 26)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

Chicago. America's second city. The Windy City. Deep dish pizza, jazz and rampant gun violence. But what would it smell like? According to the folks at Le Labo, "the main story behind this fragrance refers to music, jazz music in particular. There is a direct correlation between the sharp pepper and some of the more upbeat sounds of jazz: the soft back representing the simpler, soothing side of the music.

Either way, the uplifting effect of the music seems to carry you away; the same way the music of the spices (aldehyde and musk playing along with the pink pepper) brings your spirit away. In pure Le Labo style, our Chicago exclusive scent reinvents pink pepper (baie rose in French) to knock you off with straight elegance, an endless wake and a unique signature. Pink pepper is reinforced with clove, winking left and right to some cedar and aldehyde, while walking up the aisle to get married to the eternal rose absolute from Grasse. The result sits on musks and ambrox. It is pure refinement, personality and memorability."

Dubai (Cuir 28)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

What would wealth and excess smell like? We don't know but according to the Le Labo wesbite it's "Cuir 28, our Dubai exclusive - an Easy Rider without the sweat and gasoline-blending leather, wood and animal notes to give it a very powerful, dark and memorable personality.

Natural vanilla absolute, the spicy animalic tar version of the vanilla we know, mixes in with the leather to give Cuir 28 its oriental and addictive finale."

Benjoin 19 (Moscow)

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: Supplied, Le Labo)

We know that you're thinking vodka and pickles right now but these fragrances are meant to smell good. Le Labo's website describes Moscow's exclusive scent as being about a moment. The site says that "Benjoin 19, Le Labo's Moscow City Exclusive, is about a moment. A moment depicted by one of the most important writers of all time, Leo Tolstoy, in the eternal Anna Karenina, when Anna meets Count Vronsky in a Moscow train station.

Benjoin 19 is that moment, the moment when everything changes, when your life topples over, when nothing will ever be the same. In Tolstoy's masterpiece, this happens in Moscow yet what makes Anna Karenina a work of art is its universality: it could have happened anywhere. This is what Benjoin 19 is - a universal tribute to passionate spirits, to those determined to live their lives on their own terms. Like the novel, Benjoin 19 is a mosaic of intertwined stories centered on Benjoin (olibanum, amber, cedar, musks...) that transmits a deep and powerful experience of sensuality and rebelliousness... And yes, like its printed counterpart (928 pages in its original version), Benjoin 19 is incredibly long lasting!"

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