Even if you've never owned a bottle of Le Labo's Santal 33, you've probably smelled it — especially if you live in a metropolis like New York or Los Angeles. The scent, made ubiquitous by Estée Lauder's acquisition of the fragrance maker in 2014, was introduced to Le Labo's permanent collection in 2011, six years after the label was founded.
In the early years, it was niche — a store you needed to know about. The same could be said of the cologne, even if Santal 33 was everywhere. For a period, it was the collective musk of downtown Manhattan, an unattributable cloud of sandalwood and smoke. Everyone wanted it, even if it took a while to figure out exactly where to buy it. But that was part of the allure — that while it seemed like everyone cool wore it, it seemed like the general populous was unaware it existed, thus making it even cooler.
Case in point? In 2015, New York Times writer Olivia Fleming said "[In 2011], Santal 33 quickly became a sort of cult secret, whispered through wafts of sandalwood and cedar, only detected by those in the know," but that "fast forward four years, and what started out as a collective craving for a boutique signature scent — something no one else wore — has now become a predictable presence on the New York City subway, at bars in London, cafes in Paris, even on the beach in Los Angeles."
Then, four years later, the popular style site Fashionista called for the end of the trend, citing Santal 33's "utterly basic" appeal. It was, as the kids say, washed — something used in excess, which floundered further growth. Hotel lobbies smelled like; so did suburban moms; and so did new-to-the-city skateboarders with apartments paid for by their parents.
Santal 33 was never bad, though; hints of cardamom, iris and violet accent base notes of cedar and sandalwood, as well as smoke. It's a complex cologne that's as unisex as it is "cowboy bravado," with a particular flair some liken to pickle juice. And even though the early adopters are upset with its current ubiquity, I say who cares, especially if it makes people happy.
And if you're one of those that can't give the scent up (or want to try it for the first time), you no longer need to go to a stuffy (literally — so. many. smells!!!) Le Labo store to cop a bottle. You can find it at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and so many others — but now also at Costco, the store known for deep discounts on wholesale-sized stuff. Few would expect to find a niche fragrance on its shelves, but the store is the U.S.'s largest wine distributor. (Fun fact.)
Members can score a 3.4 fl oz bottle for just $224.99, a savings of $85 compared to the price listed on Le Labo and its preferred stockists. But they seem to sell out fast, says Reddit who've shopped for Le Labo scents there before. So, keep your eyes peeled and your credit cards ready.
As a few kind Costco customers have pointed out, this Le Labo cologne is sadly sold out — oops! Find links to it from other retailers, albeit at higher prices, below.