October 5, 2011 by

An AldeHo Dishes: Le Labo Aldehyde 44, a Perfume Review


Categories: aldehydic floral, Le Labo, Perfume review, Tags: ,

I have to blame Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am for this decant. 

See, Le Labo annoys me no end.  They really do.  They have this quasi-scientific packaging, they fill and label your individual bottle upon order as if this is a desirable thing, and they name their fragrances in this strange, quasi-scientific way that turns out to be misleading, as in Tubereuse 40 being a citrus cologne instead of a tuberose fragrance.  Grr.  Also, they have these certain fragrances available only in certain cities, and they won’t sell them online or by phone order.  To get Aldehyde 44, you have to go to Dallas and buy a bottle.  This strikes me as unnecessarily exclusionary in that country-club, “you don’t belong” sort of way, which burns my shorts because I am pretty well bought in to the whole American ideal of all [humans] being created equal (which, I know, isn’t actually borne out in practice, but I still believe in it as an ideal).  I am not likely to make a trip to Dallas any time in the near future, unless I have to connect through the airport on a trip to visit my sister in Fort Hood, TX, which is also not likely.

Also-also, Le Labo makes a big deal out of being French, as in, “We are French, and you are not.  You can buy our ridiculously-priced French perfume, but it will not make you French.  Ha ha ha ha!”  On top of all this snobbery and floofery to do with misleading names and ugly packaging and city exclusives and Frenchiness, the Le Labo fragrances are ridiculously priced.  Did I mention the ridiculous price schedule?  It’s ridiculous.  As in, you can currently buy a 100 ml bottle of one of the city exclusives (assuming you can travel to the appropriate city) for the whopping total, before tax, of $440 USD. 

So the fact that I purchased a 5ml split portion* can be ascribed directly to Abigail’s review of Aldehyde 44, because I would absolutely never have done it if she hadn’t activated my acquisitiveness glands.  I think the phrase that did me in was this: “OH MY GAWWWWWWWWD.”  *at a price somewhat lower, about $3.60 per ml – still ridiculous, but manageable in small amounts.

The notes for Aldehyde 44 include aldehydes (duh), neroli, tuberose absolute, narcissus absolute, jasmine sambac, vanilla, musks and woods.  Aldehyde 44 was composed by Yann Vasnier and released in 2006.  I am a total sucker for narcissus.  Ditto aldehydes, ditto tuberose.  Although I’m not a jasmine fan, I like tropical jasmine sambac much better than traditional-French-perfumery jasmine grandiflorum.  So of course, of course, I had to try it.

Aldehyde 44 starts out with a blast of, you guessed it, aldehydes.  I do not recommend huffing your recently-spritzed wrist up close, unless you want an aldehyde headache – I had to warn Gaze “Not too close!” when he sniffed me this morning – but within a few minutes, the blast is gone.  What’s surprising to me about this fragrance is that unlike most other aldehydies, there’s not an aldehyde-heavy opening quickly transitioned to something else that usually smells completely different

You look at the classic aldehydic floral fragrances like Arpege or, say, Balenciaga Le Dix, and they only start out with aldehydes.  Arpege, to me, is all about the rich, almost composty florals followed by a wonderful sandalwood.  Chanel No. 5 is aldehydes followed by rich florals and a beautiful woody-musky drydown.  Robert Piguet Baghari (the reformulation, at least) is aldehydes followed by a delightful orange-and-wood accord.

But Aldehyde 44 seems to keep its aldehydic character throughout.  I was expecting the aldehydes to slide into a sweet white-floral bomb, but they don’t.  Instead, I get just a vague white-floral veil, light and pretty and uncomplicated, still with that sparkly champagne-bubble character of the aldehydes.  I’d swear that there is a little bit of rose in this scent, too, a pretty woody rose.  After several hours, I smell a hint of vanilla and lots of dry wood, and at this point it reminds me to a small degree of Baghari.  The aldehydes are never very powdery, as often happens; rather, they keep their sparkly quality.  Even in the far drydown, six hours after application (a stunningly long time for an edp to last on me), I seem to still get sparkly, white fairy light aldehydes.  The transitions are so smooth with this fragrance, I can’t pinpoint when it’s moved from opening to floral to woods.

The whole thing is pretty and light and fairly dry, not as sweet as I’d expected.  My one complaint is that it wears too close to the skin and doesn’t project much, even in warm weather.  In fact, when I’ve worn Aldehyde 44 in the summer, it has shrunk down to skin and disappeared too soon, very forgettable, which is close to unforgivable in a scent that costs as much as this one does.  It is lovely, but not as assertive as I’d like – and you might remember that I am not a big sillage fan!  All the same, I’m glad I have this small portion, and I’ll be wearing it happily until it’s gone.

And then I’ll wear my Guerlain Vega, which is also gorgeous, more warm and friendly, and slightly less expensive.

(This review interrupted for a public service announcement: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAZ!!)

If you’ve been reading and cursing your bad luck at not living in or near Dallas, you should know this: in a special promotional program, samples of the Le Labo city exclusives will be available at the Le Labo website during the months of October and November 2011, at $10 per 1.5ml spray sample (shipping included).  Bottles will be available for purchase at LuckyScent in November, with samples available from now through the end of November.

Other reviews, most of them favorable: Bois de Jasmin, Tom at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Marina at PST (not favorable),  Aromascope, The Non-Blonde.  In Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin first slyly pokes fun at Le Labo (yay!) and then calls Aldehyde 44 a “mini-White Linen.”  (Thing is, I don’t like White Linen…)

Fragrance image from Lucky Scent. 


12 Responses to An AldeHo Dishes: Le Labo Aldehyde 44, a Perfume Review

  1. Vanessa

    Very amusing review! I understand where you are coming from in your beef with Le Labo – **crucially not Dallas**, in the case of Aldehyde 44 – and I have yet to get to Paris to sniff the vanilla one (I think that where it is – would be awful to jump on a plane only to find you got the cities muddled and it’s the gaiacwood one).

    I wanted to ask if this is anything like Ines de la Fressange, in the sense of aldehydes throughout, at least, if not the notes per se?

    • malsnano86 Post author

      Hm. Well, in terms of “aldehydes throughout,” I think that’s the case with A44; I would not say that about the Ines, which keeps its fizz for some time but eventually loses it in favor of peach & rose.

      I suppose if you really, really wanted to try them, you could pony up for the Luckyscent samples… no air ticket required.

    • malsnano86 Post author

      I have not found a similar-but-cheaper Egoiste for him, no. I may have to wait a bit anyway – he just turned 11, and at this point I’m not convinced he’ll be, um, responsible with fragrance rather than overapplying the way most teens do their Axe…

      But Gaze has a birthday next week, and I did find something I think he’ll like. He’ll be 13.

      • Sharon C.

        Looking forward to hearing about your selection, and how Gaze responds. I have a great-nephew who’ll turn 14 in November, and was considering some kind of introduction to the world of fragrance (although I have yet to do that with my great-nieces…).

    • malsnano86 Post author

      Haven’t tried Poivre or Baie Rose, which were the ones that appealed to me, but the Le Labos I’ve tried have not impressed me all that much.

      I must admit that I am definitely impacted by advertising – but it is often negatively so, in a knee-jerk “Oh, so you think you’re Hot Stuff, huh? We’ll see” sort of way. ELdO ticks me off, JAR ticks me off, Le Labo is just annoying… JHaG *should* annoy me, but I really love Citizen Queen. Tom Ford should annoy me too, but him I just roll my eyes at and try the scents that I think might work.

  2. Musette

    I was on the road, missed this review.!

    LeLabo gets on my Very Last Nerve. And never more so than with Ald44 (though I am still madly in love with Iris 39). I spritzed a tester about 18 months ago at Barns…it was magnificent! Then I went nearly bonkers trying to get a bottle (wayyyy too much trouble)…thennnn I went in on a split.

    And what I got was, to my mind, a Totally Different Perfume. No sparkle. All powder. Some sweat. Some grease.


    So I’m now totally not feeling Le Labo.

    Still love Iris 39 though


    • malsnano86 Post author

      That… sounds wrong. No sparkle? Mine’s all fairy dust and very little else. Which I like, mind you.

      But am still annoyed by Le Labo.

      (Haven’t tried the Iris 39 – I hear it’s patch-heavy, and that just Ain’t Ma Thang. Besides which, I already haz my Green Iris: No. 19. Silences hits that angle too, except with a lotta rose as well.)

  3. ChickenFreak

    I officially dislike aldehydic perfumes, but there are a select few perfumes that have their share of aldehydes, that I like very much. I’m tempted to try this, just to live with the things for a sustained time rather than having the fireworks fade away just as I’m trying to decide how I feel about them.

    • malsnano86 Post author

      So now I wanna know which fumes with aldehydes you can tolerate!

      It might be worth sampling since you can get the spritzy samples for $10 each for the next 6 weeks or so. The aldehydes do stick around for awhiles in this, and they’re not as powdery as they can sometimes get.

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