Santal 33 by Le Labo

Ok, so a lot of people like to wax lyrical about this scent and I'm not the first person to sing its praises (in fact, the mere mention of it can make some industry insiders roll their eyes), but to me, there really is no better "break-up perfume" than Le Labo’s Santal 33. Inspired by The Marlboro Man – Santal 33 is that country song you listen to again and again to get over that one who did you wrong. It’s for those times when life hits you like a gut-punch and you’re left floundering, with a strange feeling comparable to homesickness, with no idea of where "home" now is.

If you’ve had your heart broken, Santal 33 is the scent to move on with. But more than just a mere rebound fling, it imbues the wearer with a “masculine” strength and resilience; attributes you thought you’d have to seek out in a soul mate, but eventually realise you were capable of summoning all along.

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Created by perfumer Frank Voelki, it’s no exaggeration to say this is an incredible feat of perfumery, a work of genius on a par with Beethoven’s Fifth. Like the opening bars of said symphony, it immediately commands your attention with smoky cardamom and violet accord for added panache. It leaves no time for wallowing or wondering things like: “Where is he? What’s he doing? Who’s he doing it with...?” Think of it as akin to that friend who comes round after a break-up, drags you out from beneath the duvet, deletes his number from your phone and demands you go out partying with them - usually into the early hours.

As Santal 33 settles on the skin, it becomes a different character altogether, revealing a hidden sex appeal, as enveloping notes of iris, rich leather and papyrus turn the lights down to a gentle glow. It’s The Marlboro Man lying propped up by the elbow by a crackling fire, Mills & Boon style, with his hat tipped at a suggestive angle (yes, he’s still wearing the hat…). Reminding you that your ex-lover is not the final act – but there are others waiting in the wings – who may not be exactly what you’re after but will provide some much needed distraction.  

For extra dramatic effect, I recommend wearing Santal 33 à la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction - with a clean, pressed white shirt, nails painted in Chanel's Rouge Noir, black jeans and neatly bobbed hair (the standard "break up" haircut). It will help you weather the storm, as nervous colleagues ask "is everything's ok, darling?"; when you attend a wedding alone and get sat at the "odds and sods" table; or when certain family members tap their watch and mutter about "biological clocks" and so forth. You'll also have more courage to bat away bleary-eyed men in bars when you do eventually decide to venture back out onto the singles circuit. This is a scent that doesn't suffer fools gladly.


A few hours later and Santal 33 goes riding off into the sunset, disappearing in a clean haze of cedar and sandalwood, the earlier fire dying down to soft embers. It’s that point when your initial shock and devastation of a break-up gradually declines until it becomes a dull ache as you mourn the past, but start to feel lighter as you imagine something - and someone - better on the horizon.

Le Labo is £120 for 50ml