Le Labo Aldehyde 44 : Fragrance Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Aldehydes (particularly the aliphatic aldehydes that captivated Chanel’s perfumer Ernest Beaux) are among the most fascinating perfume ingredients. While being harsh and sharp on their own, the effect they can create is quite extraordinary. The crispness of starched linen, the fizz of champagne, the soft glow of morning light… Likewise, the newest fragrance from Le Labo, Aldehyde 44 relies on the sleight of hand magic of aldehydes. Although initially it showers one with snowflakes of metallic powder, the composition warms up and melts like golden honey on the skin. …

Created by perfumer Yann Vasnier, Le Labo Aldehyde 44 is without doubt one of the most complex and interesting compositions from the line. Given my affection for aldehyde embellished forals, it was love at first inhale. It opens up on the fizz of aldehydes, which just like the top notes of another wonderful floral aldehydic, Robert Piguet Baghari, offer a sweet and radiant prelude for the intoxicating white floral heart. The indolic* twist of jasmine lends a seductive counterpoint, creating a leitmotif that develops further as the composition dries down. After the pristine whiteness of aldehydes, the incensy woods of the base offer a dose of intrigue.

Aldehyde 44 is interesting in that it manages to escape the predictable retro flashbacks often associated with aldehydic fragrances. It offers a nod to the classical tradition with its soft glow and refined structure—one might note Vasnier’s infatuation with Chanel No 22, yet the powder of traditional aldehydic blends is absent. The perfume possesses a startling elegance, which contrasts with the warm and smoldering embrace of its heart. As the composition develops, the soft form of Aldehyde 44 gains a richer, darker hue, hinting at its femme fatale heart.

Aldehyde 44 includes notes of aldehydes, tuberose absolute, narcissus absolute, jasmin sambac, musks and woods. The most unfortunate aspect of Aldehyde 44 is that it is exclusive to the Le Labo boutique in Barneys Dallas (much like Tubereuse 40 was exclusive to Barneys NYC.) Le Labo is all about revolutionizing fragrance, so would it be out of place to call for a rebellion against this city specific concept? Beautiful perfumes are difficult to find as it is.

Photo of Catherine Deneuve from Tout Sur Deneuve.

*Indoles are organic compounds, which are naturally presents in white flowers (such as jasmine, orange blossom) and human feces. At high concentration, they have a very strong moth ball odor, but in low doses, which is how indoles are normally used in fragrances, they attain a fascinating floral character, rich and sensual.

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44 Comments

  • carmencanada: I agree this is a terribly annoying concept. I mean, it’s not as though aldehydes were grown in Dallas, is it? How does Yann Vasnier’s treatment of aldehydes in this compare to, say, Divine’s L’Ame Soeur? With Chanel Cuir de Russie though in a totally different way, L’Ame Soeur was my gateway to aldehydes, a note I’m coming to appreciate after much initial resistance. February 7, 2007 at 1:40am Reply

  • Jason: Ha! carmencanada is right – its not as if Dallas invented aldehydes! That had me laughing…

    It is interesting to note that Aldehyde 44 feels modern – even my favourite aldehydic fragrances (No 22, No 5, Arpège) make me think of my grandmother. It would be interesting to smell it. However, since I am never likely to make it to Dallas in this lifetime, it is purely theoretical.

    The whole ‘perfume for a city’ concept strikes me as gimicky, and frankly discriminatory. I mean, I can understand limited distribution because of supplier difficulties and small markets, but this is just limited distribution for its own sake. It’s not like I’m going to catch a flight from Sydney to L.A. and another one to Dallas just to smell this. That they would expect me to do so if I wanted to purchase, let alone SMELL Aldehyde 44 is just rude. February 7, 2007 at 2:10am Reply

  • Leopoldo: I think Yann Vasnier is exceptionally talented, so I’ll need to somehow, some way, sniff this… February 7, 2007 at 3:29am Reply

  • aryse: Victoria I agree with you about aldehydés. That was a very great discovery for the perfume. They are however threatened currently because some scientists regarding them as harmful for the environment.
    Ernest Beaux began his career at the imperial court of Russia and he used already aldehydés in its first perfumes but in small quantity. When he created N° 5 for Chanel, he quite simply used of it for the first time with a very large quantity. That is why N° 5 is regarded as the first aldehydé of perfumery.
    For Baghari, it is indeed a very great perfume as all those of Robert Piguet.I have the 2 versions and, if I prefer the first, I must admit that the new is also very good.
    But, in my opinion, the best aldehydé what exists is RIVE GAUCHE by Saint-Laurent, a wonderful, classic, elegant and timeless fragrance.

    And, of course, it will be interesting to test in a few days Bel Respiro, a green and fresh aldehydic (picture of spring) of the new Chanel collection. February 7, 2007 at 4:47am Reply

  • Victoria’s Own: Another aldehyde fan here! But this sounds like so much work, I’m rebelling. I hate this concept selling. February 7, 2007 at 4:49am Reply

  • ~vanilla girl~: The Aldehyde in No5 is what I had found so unique,I recall way back smelling it and wondered “what is this different scent” not hating it but not liking it for a long time but I kept going back to sniff it and now it is the first Aldehyde that I own, of many more I hope in my collection. February 7, 2007 at 7:53am Reply

  • Gail S: Is it available already or one of those “coming soon” perfumes? Maybe I could make a short trip on my next long set of days off to check it out. I am quite fond of No. 5, No. 22 and Rive Gauche so it appears that I like aldehydes. Looking forward to it! February 7, 2007 at 8:12am Reply

  • Marina: I’ve been rebelling since I heard about Tubereuse 40 🙁 This new city-specific scent sounds wonderful, unfortunately. February 7, 2007 at 8:28am Reply

  • Christina H.: What a wonderful review! I’ve got to either get myself or hubby down to Texas to get some of this! It’s sounds right up my alley. I also love aldehydic florals very much . I still am greatly p.o’ed that they make this city exclusive. February 7, 2007 at 8:31am Reply

  • Elle: Wasn’t particularly fond of Tubereuse 4O, so had very high hopes that I could also give this one a pass. NY is definitely on my travel radar, but, frankly, Texas is not. But you’ve convinced me that I am going to *need* this scent. By doing these as city exclusives, all they’re really accomplishing is creating a gold mine for ebay sellers w/ connections in those cities. I’m actually very grateful to those sellers who make these scents available, but my issue is w/ Le Labo for not realizing that this is a misguided idea. Sign me up for the rebellion. February 7, 2007 at 9:13am Reply

  • March: I’m fond of aldehydes in general, and I think Baghari (the new is all I’ve smelled) doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. Thinking if I know anyone in Dallas… February 7, 2007 at 9:27am Reply

  • Jennifer: Sounds dreamy and utterly out of my reach. February 7, 2007 at 11:15am Reply

  • AngelaS: I know I’m in the minority here, but I kind of like the idea of city exclusivity for a scent. I like knowing that some things are beyond my reach, sort of like in the pre-internet days. (Of course, maybe I’m just happy because of the money I end up saving!) February 7, 2007 at 12:12pm Reply

  • greeneyes: Lovely review. I want to try this NOW. Barney’s Dallas! If only I were home. I’ll have to call and see who I can get to go over there and sniff for me. Another thing to dislike about Atlanta. I’ll live with No. 22 for now I guess, and give Baghari another sniff. February 7, 2007 at 12:15pm Reply

  • newproducts: Oh, my. This sounds right up my alley! But it’s only available in Dallas?! I do have a friend in Austin. Maybe I could persuade her to do a little shopping in Dallas. 🙂 February 7, 2007 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Robin: Great review of a beautiful (if not at all “me”) fragrance. And the picture is a perfect fit — if I looked like that, I could probably wear Aldehyde 44, LOL… February 7, 2007 at 1:16pm Reply

  • msjustine2u: Would you describe this as heady? The tuberose makes me nervous…. February 7, 2007 at 1:18pm Reply

  • Linda: I’ve been about to write several times recently but somehow events have conspired! As always I was fascinated by your review and eager to try the fragrance, BUT… Never mind: I feel privileged that the small town where I live has two department stores and a few chemists, so all is not lost. I love aldehydes: please could you tell me whether I am correct in thinking that Jicky was one of the first perfumes to use them? Also (showing my ignorance here!) please, what does “indolic” mean? Your beautiful writing actually makes me want to get up in the morning! Warmest wishes, Linda February 7, 2007 at 3:35pm Reply

  • machula: oh, this is so disappointing, after reading your reviews,i often have a hellish desire to get the potion and smell it, but alas, residing in central europe makes it impossible so often… February 7, 2007 at 3:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, Aldehyde 44 is more voluptuous than L’Ame Soeur, which is more along the lines of No 5. The woods facet that is present in No 22 is more pronounced in Aldehyde. It is a very fine fragrance, and the one I imagine returning to again and again. February 7, 2007 at 6:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Jason, I find that beautiful scents are so difficult to find these days that this concept just does not make sense to me. Then again, I have no nostalgia for the pre-internet age.

    Aldehyde 44 definitely takes the classical route, yet the base notes are very different from what you might expect in a traditional floral aldehydic. February 7, 2007 at 6:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Leopoldo, I agree, Yann is very talented. February 7, 2007 at 6:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Aryse, Rive Gauche is simply outstanding! It is among my favourite aldehydic fragrances. I do not much care for the reformulated version, but the original is amazing.

    I am also very much anticipating the new modern takes on the classical aldehydes in general. February 7, 2007 at 6:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: V, I do not find it compelling either. The perfume, on the other hand, is amazing. February 7, 2007 at 6:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: S, the aldehydes in Chanel No 5 are very interesting, and the amazing floral heart also makes a big difference. The precious jasmin de Grasse, rose de mai, outstanding ylang-ylang. Alone they would have been too rich, but aldehydes give this heart a marvelous form. February 7, 2007 at 6:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Gail, my friend who lives in Dallas said that she got a sample already, so I take it that it is available. Maybe, calling first is a good idea. February 7, 2007 at 6:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, I liked, but not loved Tubereuse 40. This fragrance, on the other hand, is perfect for me. February 7, 2007 at 6:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, I would love to hear your thoughts, if you make it to Dallas. I think that you will like it very much. February 7, 2007 at 6:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I never make to Dallas either. But then again, if you call Barneys will they refuse to ship it to you? February 7, 2007 at 6:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, Baghari is wonderful. It is one of my favourites from 2006. I rarely see it mentioned, but it deserves more recognition. February 7, 2007 at 6:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Jennifer, it is wonderful! I am disappointed in the city specific concept. February 7, 2007 at 6:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Angela, when I was growing up, everything was difficult to find–you had to stand in line for bread, butter and other things we take for granted here. I have no desire to go back to that lifestyle. Granted, perfume is not bread, but I find beauty to be just as essential. February 7, 2007 at 6:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Greeneyes, No 22 is one of my favourite Chanel fragrances. It is such a gem. February 7, 2007 at 6:46pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: N, having friends in the right places helps! I recall days when a friend of mine would bring me Serge Lutens from Paris. Ah… February 7, 2007 at 6:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, don’t we all wish that! 🙂 February 7, 2007 at 6:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: MsJ, no, it is not at all heady. The floral heart primarily cushions the impact of aldehydes. It is lovely and ethereal, without being limpid and pale. February 7, 2007 at 6:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, that is a great question, thank you for asking. I just added a definition of indoles above:
    *Indoles are organic compounds, which are naturally presents in white flowers (such as jasmine, orange blossom) and human feces. At high concentration, they have a very strong fecal odour, but in low doses, which is how indoles are normally used in fragrances, they attain a fascinating floral character, rich and sensual.

    From what I read, aldehydes were first used in a fragrance by Poiret, Parfum de Rosine called Le Fruit Defendu. Jicky was among the first to use a synthetic material, vanillic, although the very first fragrance to use a synthetic material was Fougere Royal by Houbigant (1882). February 7, 2007 at 6:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Machula, I am sorry to hear that. However, have you ever corresponded with Patty of Perfume Posse. I know that she has an extensive collection of samples, which she sells on Ebay. She ships worldwide. February 7, 2007 at 6:55pm Reply

  • AHTX: Hello All,

    Well not to brag about it, but *I* live in Austin and have been thinking about driving to Dallas for a sniffing tour. Perhaps I could serve as an emissary for some of you? Not sure about how to work all that out as I am new to the swapping/paypal world, but feel free to contact me directly. I don’t really have any interest in becoming an e-bay gold-digger–well, not yet anyway…

    My first official comment on your wonderful, wonderful blog, Victoria, though I sent you an overgrown comment-turned-e-mail in response to your article on choosing scents earlier today. Thank you so much for your wonderful work.

    A. February 7, 2007 at 7:04pm Reply

  • Judith: Oh, I can’t wait to try this–and I WILL be getting some of it soon. YV is very good with aldehydes, I think, so he was an excellent choice for this fragrance! Dallas, on the other hand, is (as many have remarked), not such a great pick! Still. . .as long as one has friends scattered all over the globe, anything is possible! Thanks for the lovely review, V. February 8, 2007 at 7:54am Reply

  • Style Spy: So happy to hear Baghari get some love — it’s a gorgeous frag and I agree it’s underappreciated. I sniffed it for the first time on my last trip through Dallas and bought a bottle on the spot — not my usual M.O. at all, but I liked it that much. I also sniffed the A44 and loved it, but did not buy a bottle on the spot because it is sooooo spendy. However, I’m going to Dallas this weekend to rectify that error. My palms are sweaty just thinking about it.

    Dallas is a surprisingly good place to visit. I’m an Austinite, so of course I feel very strongly that my home is best, but D-Town has a lot of good stuff to recommend it. There are a lot of wonderful museums in the DFW area, fantastic restaurants, and excellent retail oportunities. I visit pretty regularly. You could pick way worse places to spend a long weekend. February 8, 2007 at 11:44am Reply

  • DDJ: From the Le Labo site today, 01-14-14:

    “Our beloved partner Barneys New York is closing their Dallas store on March 2nd and this saddens us as we loved our Le Labo counter there and loved our Dallas exclusive, Aldehyde 44, even more !
    Staying true to our word, yet with tears in our eyes – if there is no Dallas, there can’t be any Aldehyde 44…
    And even though nothing lasts forever, we might as well leave with a bang. To bid Dallas farewell, we will be selling Aldehyde 44, one last time, online and in our stand alone stores until March 31st.

    The king is dead, long live the king.” January 14, 2014 at 7:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh well… Thank you for the news. January 14, 2014 at 7:58am Reply

  • DDJ: lol… not much news afterall, I guess.

    After I posted I found that it had been announced almost a year ago.

    I’m just a newbie on the loose… January 14, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

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