Le Labo Santal 33 is the epitome of a cult fragrance. It's the scent that The New York Times, in 2015, noted was "that perfume you smell everywhere." Those who spritz their person with it are enveloped in a distinctive cloud of cardamom, iris and violet mingled with sandalwood, cedarwood and hints of amber, leather and musk. It's intoxicatingly good. It's the sort of perfume that has strangers stopping you in the street. For a long time, it was to ask, "What are you wearing?' but these days, they're more likely to ask, "Are you wearing Santal 33? I wear it, too!" As if, when you buy a bottle, you become part of some not-so-secret club you had no idea you were joining.
Santal 33 was created in 2011 by German-born perfumer Frank Voelkl, who is the Senior Perfumer at fragrance company, Firmenich. Voelkl loves to travel, as a child to nearby France and The Netherlands, and nowadays to Tahiti, where his wife is from, or as a modern traveller globe-trotting for work.
Le Labo's founders, Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Penot, work with a small group of perfumers, Voelkl being one of them. "Santal 33 started as a candle, but I loved it so much I would wear it as a perfume," Voelkl told Ca Fleur Bon. "It had such a mesmerizing presence that never went unnoticed, so Fabrice eventually decided to launch it as a fine fragrance. To me, Santal 33 is my masterpiece on 'perfect imperfection.' It completely embodies what I try to achieve as a perfumer, which is purposely overlooking details and the urge to polish every feature."
It's little surprise, with Santal 33 on his CV, that Glossier founder Emily Weiss called on Voelkl when she wanted to create a perfume.
Glossier You was created to dry down on the skin and smell like, well, you. With ambrette, ambrox and musk notes, it is clean, animalistic and addictive.
Keep scrolling for 6 more fragrances created by Voelkl that are well worth a smell if Santal 33 is your scent jam.
Designed to be stress-relieving, this juice is woody, smokey and clean. Based on research by the Brain & Behavior Laboratory at the University of Geneva, the scent contains ingredients (think green cardamom, iris, palo santo and cilantro) that were found to have a calming effect on the brain.
Voelkl may create niche scents, but he is no stranger to masterminding a celeb fragrance, and Covet is amongst his favorite creations. "I’m particularly proud of [this] even though its commercial success was limited. It’s a fougere for women using classic fougere ingredients like lavender and geranium," Voelkl told Ca Fleur Bon. "The initial accord was one that SJP fell in love with when it was first shown to her, She has a true passion for fragrance."
Art Meets Art fragrances are inspired by cult songs and created by incredible perfumers. For his creation, Voelkl was paired with Queen's famous anthem, Bohemian Rhapsody. This bottle contains a scent of mingled blackcurrant, sparkling aldehydes, rose absolu, tuberose, musk, patchouli and vetiver for something that is vibrant, romantic and a little different.
It's not just celebrities that Voelkl works with, but designers too. This floral scent was crafted around the jasmine flower, with fig, iris and pink pepper, and incorporates woody notes to give it a sensual depth.
Beauty Pie founder Marcia Kilgore (the brains behind Fit Flop, Bliss, Soap & Glory and Soaper Douper) called on Voelkl to create a line of fragrances for her beauty subscription brand, Beauty Pie. This fresh citrus scent has the unmistakable aroma of warm summer nights on vacation thanks to the addition of the fig, cedarwood and amber. Members pay just $20, while non-members pay $125.
This was Voelkl's first foray into fine fragrance and luckily, the key ingredient is the tiare flower, the national flower of Tahiti, where his wife is from. Voelkl told Ca Fleur Bon, "it is a place where I go every year to resource myself and be immersed in the lush scents of this tropical paradise."