I am a relative newcomer to Le Labo. Although I have known about the line for some time, it is quite hard to access in the UK, unless you happen to be in London, where their line is carried at Liberty. I understand their flagship store has recently opened here too.
I ordered some Le Labo samples from Luckyscent a while back, and two that I've tried a couple of times now are Rose 31 and Oud 27.
Created by Daphne Bugey and released in 2006, Rose 31 has received a lot of favourable reviews. I am a fan of rose scents, but like them quite dark and broody. I went through a phase last year of trying lots of rose dominant scents, including Un Rose by Frederic Malle, Voleur de Roses by L'artisan, Amouage Lyric, Dark Rose by Czech and Speak and Rose Poivre by The Different Company. You get the picture - roses and then again some. Rose 31 opens with a quick blast of citrus and a faint rose smell, more like a crushed stem (but not green) rather than the flower. It soon becomes a lot more rose-focused, reminding me slightly of Voleur de Roses. As the rose note strengthens, it loses that initial freshness and sweetens up, becoming richer. At this point I am reminded a little of Malle's Un Rose, with its truffly richness, but only briefly, because then it veers off on an interesting path as it becomes spicier, when I start to notice the cumin. Cumin is not a deal-breaker for me and I've always associated the note with cooking rather than the dreaded body odour. In any event, it is so well blended here that it never becomes overwhelming. I do get a hint of pepper in the mid-phase and the spiciness is appealing as the scent loses some of the sweetness and becomes dryer and dustier to my nose. I wish this lasted longer because soon the scent becomes quite linear and the rose returns, brighter than before and stays like this for the duration of the drydown. I do get little wafts of cumin weaving in and out from time to time but by this stage it has become a skin scent and is mild and pleasant. I think it is a good scent; I'm just not blown away by it, but its well-constructed and well-executed, just not terribly daring in my opinion.
What about Oud 27? Released in 2009, I find its opening surprisingly dry, with only a hint of sweetness, which I interpret as a honeyed note. If you like your oud accords to lash your senses with Montale-like ferocity, then you will be disappointed. I don't get that medicinal/band aid note and I'm glad. There is a slight synthetic feel to the opening, reminding me for some reason of new plastic, like the dashboard of a new car. After a few minutes the scent darkens and becomes woodier, plusher and more oppulent. The honeyed note fades and I get more of the oud accord. I have read other reviews that describe the oud note here like wood that is charred on the outside but still raw and sappy inside. I don't know if I quite interpret it like that, but I sort of know what is meant. The scent does become more resinous in the middle and then in the drydown stays woody and then sweetens, not cloyingly, but enough to keep it feeling quite rich, yet in a close-to-the-skin type of way. For some reason the overall feel of Oud 27 reminds me of polished wood - not the actual smell of polish, but the shininess of old wood that has that sheen of polish. Its hard to explain, but that is the mood it evokes for me. Of the two scents, I find Oud 27 a bit more daring and interesting. Its not an oud accord I've personally encountered before and definitely is not in the same mould as the Montales, M7 or the By Kilians, Pure Oud and Cruel Intentions.
Would I buy a bottle of either of these two? I'm not sure - at these price points a perfume has to pretty much knock my socks off. Rose 31 is nice, but doesn't really move me. Oud 27 comes a lot closer - it is interesting and it is different. Perhaps time will tell.