Can a luxury brand be so good that it speaks for itself? Le Labo has shunned the traditional marketing approach to allow their craftsmanship to connect customers to their company. So I thought I’d do a candle review to see what this company is all about.
Le Labo is an upscale parfumer unconcerned with the traditional approach to creating fragrances for the masses. They don’t simply present a brand, they live and breathe the complexities behind each fragrance. Their artistry is truly mesmerizing and their approach to creating fragrances and candles puts them in a class all on their own.
Stick around for this Le Labo candles review to learn more about the company, their practices, and why you want to consider burning their candles in your home.
All About the Company
Headquartered in New York City, Le Labo, French for “the laboratory,” was founded by former L’Oréal executives Fabrice Penot and Eddie Roschi in 2006.
Estée Lauder has been their parent company since 2014. But Penot and Roschi have maintained a high level of autonomy over business operations, inclusive of selecting store locations and facilitating their own product development. They have been allowed to manage the brand without many directives from the multinational cosmetics company.
This company was born out of the co-founders’ personal resolve to be socially and environmentally responsible. You won’t find preservatives, parabens, artificial colors, animal products, or any unnecessary ingredients in their products. While most companies widely advertise their sustainability efforts, Penot and Roschi feel that sustainability should be a given for any company that’s dedicated to their customers for the long-term.
They’ve maintained a lean business model to avoid injecting the “smell of fear” into their fragrances. It can take a year or more for them to create a new scent. But they take their time, experiment, and allow the process to unfold without concern for how the market will react to their products. For instance, their Tonka 25 scent took three years to develop.
The entire process seems deeply personal. Penot has once said that when creating scents for Le Labo, they are sharing parts of their soul, … joys, struggles, discoveries, and visions with their customers. When making new scents they start with the science – the ingredients, and then they imagine how customers will feel while using the new fragrances.
Their first retail location was in Nolita, a charming neighborhood of New York City. Now they have expanded to over forty flagship locations globally and hundreds of stand alone stores and retail spaces worldwide. Even though they are part of the Estée Lauder catalog, Le Labo is still a boutique perfumery.
In their retail locations, fragrances are blended in-house, personalized for each customer. It’s an explorative atmosphere where customers are given space to test and tinker around without constant hovering from sales associates. They refer to their retail associates as Souls and go to great lengths to guide them towards being empathic towards customers and only speaking when necessary as a service to them.
According to their company manifesto, they believe that craftsmanship is the future of luxury. You will still find that there’s limited product availability for their artisan products because they want to focus on developing the product, not advertising, packaging, ambassadors, and media exposure.
Some product fragrances are exclusively available in its inspired city. For example Gaiac 10 is only available in Tokyo boutiques and Baie Rose 26, named for Chicago, is only available in Chicago boutiques.
Le Labo Product Lines & Features
Le Labo was founded with ten perfume fragrances and one candle. Currently, they have nineteen perfume fragrances in their classic collection and a dozen home fragrances.
As mentioned, the scent-making process takes time. Initially the co-founders worked with multiple perfumers but have since reduced down to two: Daphne Bugey and Frank Voelk. They both work for the Swiss fragrance company Firmenich. More importantly, they understand the rhythms of Le Labo, so working with them is a seamless process.
Roschi is originally from Switzerland and worked for Firmenich after completing a chemical engineering degree at university. After some time with the company, he also earned an MBA in order to better understand how to communicate and negotiate with clients. Later on, he joined L’Oréal where he met Fabrice Penot who had already been with the company for years.
In fact the two of them worked on creative projects together for L’Oréal but felt stifled by corporate expectations. Over time they decided to create a company that helped them feel the opposite of all the frustration they felt going to work everyday. They even downsized and chose to be roommates in a New York City studio apartment at the beginning stages of developing Le Labo.
When testing out fragrances, they are worn. Test swatches are not used. Instead, the co-founders want to experience each scent as it is developed.
Classic & Home Fragrance Options
Classic fragrances include scents like, the infamous Santal 33, Lys 41, and Oud 27. Some of the Oud 27 fragrance notes include agarwood, patchouli, saffron, black pepper, plus 23 additional ingredients.
This is the Le Labo naming approach. The fragrance is named for the most dominant scent note and then the number of ingredients. There is one exception. Another 13 was named for Another Magazine, using 13 ingredients.
There are eleven formats to their classic fragrances:
Eau de parfum
*Through their discovery sets, you can sample multiple product fragrances to help decide which one you might like the most.
Personal care items that are not attached to their classic fragrance lines are: beard oil, body creams, body scrub, face lotion, face mask, hair mask, hand pomade, lip balm, shampoo and conditioner, shaving cream, shower gel.
These plant-based products have singular scents like basil, mandarin, and hinoki, but unscented versions are also an option.
Home products include:
- Classic candles – 8.6 oz / 245; soy-based wax and single cotton wick in thick glass jars
- Concrete candles – 42.3 oz / 1.2 kg; soy-based wax and four cotton wicks inside white or gray concrete containers and only in Santal 26 signature scent; 150+ hours burn time
- Interior parfum sprays – 3.4 oz / 100 mL; natural ingredients in a glass mister bottle
- Vintage candles – 6.9 oz / 195g; soy-based wax and single cotton wick in worn tin containers
- Votive candles – 2 oz / 56.6 g each; a set of three glass or concrete votives
In keeping with their artisan approach to creating goods, all of their candles are individually hand-poured in Mississippi, USA. Product labels are also applied by hand and include the scent, where it was poured and labeled, along with company information.
If you were to visit a retail location, they would personalize the information with the city in which it was labelled, the date, and then your name at the bottom.
Top Le Labo Classic Candles Reviewed
While this is a luxury brand with the price points to support that distinction, they put a lot of heart, thought, and resources into what they are creating in order for their customers to have a first-rate experience.
Below are some of their candles that you might enjoy. Each one is 8.6 oz and burns for 60 hours. They’re made with 100% soy wax infused with highly concentrated perfumes. Le Labo candles are hand-poured over a cotton wick and all ingredients are 100% vegan. All of the candles are naturally white aside from ones that are slightly yellow due to natural discoloration from the other ingredients.
Le Labo products do not stay stocked for long, especially Santal 26. That’s part of their allure, and their home fragrances are not any different. Their candles are frequently low stock or out of stock, so if you find a fragrance that you think you’ll like listed below, you might want to order it immediately. Their candles are so fragrant that next time you log in, the item might be gone.
Classic Le Labo Candles
All of their fragrances are unique and unisex.
1. Le Labo Classic Candle: Vervaine 32
You might know this as the verbena plant. Vervaine 32 is an earthy, fresh, herbal blend of fragrance notes like sweet violets, zesty kaffir limes, and grounding, minty eucalyptus. It’s like walking through the woods while sipping herbal tea, and then stumbling upon a bouquet of flowers. It’s an invigorating scent that brings peace into the home.
- Delightful, energizing fragrance
- Clean, sophisticated scent
- Premium candle price
2. Le Labo Classic Candle: Petit Grain 21
Sweet orange blossoms will fill your room in no time with Le Labo’s Petit Grain 21. It’s a refreshing scent that slowly creeps throughout the entire house. You’ll smell hints of bergamot and other citrus notes. There’s also an undertone of greenery, as if you are smelling a fresh flower stem.
- Soft, sweet scent
- Strong throw
- Nice introductory fragrance
- Some felt that the scent was overpowering
3. Le Labo Classic Candle: Anis 24
French for anise, also known as the aniseed, this licorice-like, earthy and herbaceous aroma is the dominant fragrance that will fill your room like the heat of the summer.
- Summery fragrance
- High price point
4. Le Labo Classic Candle: Pin 12
Reminiscent of your favorite holiday pine candle, but better. Twelve ingredients contribute to this smooth, pinewood and musk fragrance with undertones of sweet amber.
- Nice holiday fragrance
- Subtle scent with strong throw
- Artisan price point
5. Le Labo Classic Candle: Santal 26
As one of Le Labo’s two key scents, it’s hard to get your hands on Santal 26. This candle and the perfume, Santal 33, generate at least one-third of all company sales. For this reason Santal 26 is jokingly referred to as Le Labo’s “cult candle.”
Who knew smokiness could smell so good? Maybe it’s the combination of leather-like aromas mingling with sweet notes of vanilla and cocoa, along with the multi-layered sandalwood and over twenty additional fragrance notes.
- Proven customer favorite
- Long lasting fragrance
- Intoxicating aroma
- Quite an investment
6. Le Labo Classic Candle: Cedre 11
Add warmth to a cold winter’s night with the Cendre 11 candle scent. Its woody fragrance will remind you of sitting before a crackling fireplace filled with earthy, aromatic cedar and sweet birchwood. Additional natural ingredients add an undertone of smokiness with hints of tobacco and spice.
- Intriguing fragrance
- Scent fills the room in a short time
- Great gift idea
- Leans more towards a masculine scent
- Not for those who dislike heavy, smoky scents
- Expensive artisan candle
7. Le Labo Classic Candle: Calone 17
Like sailing at sea, with one strike of the match, you will smell salty waters and feel as if you’re surrounded by damp air. Light, complex geraniums then fill the air smelling like a combination of lemon citrus oil, green leaves, and powdery herbs. The sweet, rich smell of amber musk adds another layer of bliss.
- Highly fragranced
- Strong throw
- Soft, yet complex fragrance
- Pricey for the size
Now that you’ve learned more about the company and their products, it might help to hear what customers are saying about their experiences with niche brand, Le Labo.
- Amazing, long-lasting fragrances
- These candles smell natural and are worth every cent.
- Many customers are willing to pay extra for Le Labo candles because their fragrance lingers for hours even if the candle is only lit for one hour at a time. They have a great throw.
- Just as the co-founders intended, many of their customers return again and again to make purchases because they connect with the scents and the mission of the company.
- Although they are more expensive, there are not any other brands that create these strong scent combinations.
- It’s such a great product that its cost doesn’t even come to mind once the candle is lit.
- Many customers find it difficult to choose just one fragrance because they’re all so intoxicating.
- Impressed with the candle’s magnificent throw!
- You can reuse the cleaned glasses for juice or cocktails once you’ve finished burning the candle.
Some customers feel that Le Labo products are overpriced, but I think that there’s a lot of artistry that goes into everything that they make, and it’s not something that resonates with everyone.
While store customers seem to have a lovely overall experience, there are some customers who have faced challenges when placing online orders from the website. They wish that there was more communication on the status of their orders and expected delivery times.
Final Thoughts About Le Labo
With every Le Labo product offering, you’re getting superior craftsmanship on sustainably created items made with soul.
If you are on the fence about which candle scent to choose, I would suggest the cult favorite, Santal 26. But if it isn’t available, Calone 17 is another subtle, yet complex option. If you are looking for a sweeter scent, Petit Grain 21 is perfect.
In any case, considering the ethical and heart-led approach to creating products, I don’t think you could go wrong with any fragrance from Le Labo.