Roses de Mai Marathon: Rose 31

Sometimes I read reviews or comments about fragrance that I just don’t understand. Take, for instance, cumin. Many commenters smell cumin as “sweaty” or dirty. I never understood that, because I like to cook, and sometimes I cook with cumin, and it never smelled sweaty to me. Until I tried Le Labo’s Rose 31.

Le Labo is the niche brand (now owned by Estee Lauder) that markets itself as a sort of in-store fragrance laboratory, where the sales associates mix up your fragrance in lab-inspired bottles right there at the dedicated Le Labo counter. Each fragrance’s name is said to refer to the most prominent note and the number of notes in the fragrance. So Rose 31 is meant to be a scent in which rose is the most prominent, accompanied by 30 other fragrance notes. I haven’t found anywhere a list of 31 notes, though. Fragrantica has the following:  rose and cumin; middle notes are rose, vetiver and cedar; base notes are musk, guaiac wood, olibanum, labdanum and agarwood (oud). The incomparable Kafkaesque lists Grasse rose, caraway, cumin, pepper, clove, nutmeg, cedar, ISO E Super, frankincense, amber, labdanum, vetiver, guaiac wood, animalic notes, and agarwood (oud). It is an eau de parfum.

What I smell when I first apply Rose 31 is sweat. I was really startled! Then I read the notes list and saw cumin. Aha! So that’s what other people were talking about! I kept sniffing my wrist. Every time, for several minutes, I smelled both spice and sweat. Then, luckily, the sweat disappeared and the spices stayed. Next, I smelled cedar. That’s it. No rose, no vetiver — cedar. I assume that’s the ISO E Super, but unless/until I get a sample of just that aromachemical (or one of the fragrances that claims to be nothing but ISO E Super), I can’t know for sure.

Apparently I am not alone in not smelling any rose at all in Rose 31. Kafkaesque reports two entirely different scent experiences with it, the first without a hint of rose. On her second try, the rose was much more apparent to her. Luca Turin gave Rose 31 only two stars and labeled it as “not rose” in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. (He also called it “aldehydic carrot juice,” but I don’t smell any aldehydes or carrots!). The scent dries down to a pleasant, light woody fragrance with a bit of spice left. I can see it appealing more to men than to women, but really, it is a unisex fragrance and a perfectly nice one. It is not, however, a rose fragrance. So it that’s what you’re after, Rose 31 won’t scratch that itch, as they say here in the South. Make sure to test it before you consider buying it! And now I would say that about any Le Labo fragrance, because suddenly those names don’t seem very reliable.

What do you think about Le Labo’s fragrances, this one or any others?

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8 thoughts on “Roses de Mai Marathon: Rose 31

  1. The Fairmont hotels have Rose 31 products and I had the same experience – I didn’t get any rose, just the cumin. I also don’t really enjoy cedar most of the time, so overall not good. I haven’t actually sniffed the perfume – after the shampoo and body wash I had no interest. I think my husband liked them, though – his nose is fairly weak and he didn’t get the sweaty thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really extraordinary, isn’t it? I mean, I didn’t expect a soliflore, but their own copy says that the name of the fragrance reflects the most prominent note! I guess Sweat 31 or even Cumin 31 wouldn’t sell, lol.


  2. I haven’t tried many Le Labo scents, only a few of them became available locally last year. I love Lys 41, but found a travel spray rather expensive really. I used it up rather quickly (less than a year), so I may buy a new one at some point. But I do find this lab thing and marking the bottle with the date it was bottled, a bit pretentious. Cumin is not among my favourite spices, but it doesn’t come across as sweaty, I love Serge Lutens Fleurs d’oranger, but nevver got around to buy a full bottle.


  3. It’s been a while since I’ve smelled Rose 31, and I don’t remember not smelling rose, but I was probably heavily influenced by expectations from the name! It was a “runner-up” for me out of the Le Labo discovery kit—my favorites being Ylang 49, Lys 41, and, yes, Santal 33. I think their names are known to be a bit unreliable.
    Le Labo is fun in that they have a range of different styles and there’s something for (most) everyone. Last September (when the city exclusives were available in every store) I went in with 4 friends and we each got something completely different.
    I find that the drydowns of most Le Labo perfumes share a common signature, and am also very curious as to what that is—does anyone here know?


  4. Cumin reads very dirty on my skin in the winter but smells quite good in the summer. Something about the heat. I’ve tried a few Le Labos from samples sent by friends. The only one I really liked was Ambrette 9. I think the prices are outrageously expensive for what you are getting. And on three separate trips to the Le Labo counter at Saks in Manhattan I was literally ignored by the SAs each and every time. Now that I know that a billion dollar conglomerate owns it I am just as happy giving my limited discretionary income to very small artisanal lines, like St Clair Scents, Sonoma Scent Studio ,1000 Flowers and Dame Perfumery. Or even better, animal shelters that desperately need our help during this pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

      • My favorite is Reglisse Noire. It’s in my top ten of all fragrances. And given that I have been wearing perfume on a regular basis and have probably worn /sampled 1000+ plus in half a century that’s saying a lot. It’s a licorice with a gourmand twist. My eldest likes Rose Cassis Paradis ( a jammy rose) and my middle daughter and son like Ode ( for Him)….a beautiful spicy fragrance…the for Him was taken out of the name because women adore it as well. My childhood friend loved Fleur no 1, sadly discontinued, a lovely younger sister to the more austere no 19.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I hate cumin in most perfumes. Yet somehow it doesn’t bother me at all in Rose 31. It’s one of two Le Labo perfumes that I like and enjoy wearing… Well, at least the way it was 6-7 years ago – that’s how old my decant is. So, there is a chance that I wouldn’t like whatever is sold these days (I don’t know for a fact but assume that it has been reformulated in the last several years – if not because IFRA then to make it cheaper to produce: those executives’ bonuses won’t pay themselves.


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