Le Labo Ylang 49 : Perfume Review

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Andy takes Ylang 49 from Le Labo to task.  

I sprayed on Le Labo’s new Ylang 49 with many expectations. As my first introduction to the Le Labo line, I wasn’t sure what to anticipate. But surely, with a brand name that evokes scientific paraphernalia and sterile-looking packaging to match, I reasoned, this “floral chypre” had to be some kind of cleaned-up, angularly modern twist on the classic genre. As it would turn out, I was pleasantly surprised—instead of whisking me through a laboratory, Ylang 49 took me on a nostalgic walk through a shady, rain-drenched garden on a spring morning.

ylang-le-labo

True to its name, Ylang 49 opens with a glimpse of its namesake note, pairing the spicy floral with a touch of rose and some cool earthiness. I am reminded of the damp scent of a garden after a rainstorm, but as the fragrance warms up on skin, the rose takes center stage, and the damp earth transforms into a hint of warm, slightly mossy patchouli.

The rose garden eventually segues into an alcove of gardenias. Some gardenia notes can seem overwhelming; this one, though rich, is gentle, and drifts into the sweet, woodsy base of benzoin, sandalwood and vetiver. Benzoin adds a touch of vanillic sweetness to the sandalwood and vetiver, creating an appealing, smooth finish.

To me, Ylang 49 smells like a perfume from a bygone era. There is nothing that smells particularly modern about it, and I mean that in the very best of ways. As a floral chypre, it succeeds, though I find that the classic mossy notes smell more like a soft mirage created by patchouli. It evolves slowly on skin for hours, and while the sillage is gentle, Ylang 49 still feels sensual and enveloping.

Ultimately, if you are a fan of rich, complex floral chypres like vintage Balmain Ivoire, Ylang 49 might disappoint. However, in spite of its relative straightforwardness, Ylang 49 has a retro feel that might appeal to those who long for a fragrance evoking the past. Still, the appeal of Ylang 49 is more universal than that. Anyone in search of a new fragrance that doesn’t fit the descriptors of “clean” or “fresh” is likely to enjoy or at least appreciate Ylang 49.

Le Labo Ylang 49 lists notes of ylang-ylang, gardenia, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, benzoin, and sandalwood.

Sample: Le Labo

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38 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: What a poetic review! This kind of perfumes is rare nowadays, so this one is certainly worth a sniff. I like ylang ylang, but would appreciate a floral without that banana. Ironically, this is perhaps Ylang Le Labo! If I understand you well, ylang is not prominent; rose has the leading role.
    And that damp smell of a garden after a storm is so poetic, I won’t miss that! August 27, 2013 at 7:43am Reply

    • Andy: Yes, I think this one is certainly worth trying. For me, the rose stands out most prominently, but the ylang ylang is definitely felt, especially in the first few hours of wear. Nonetheless, it’s also in those initial stages that I get the damp garden feel, an earthy, spicy coolness blended with rose. August 27, 2013 at 10:31am Reply

  • Caroline: Wish I had had your experience. I adore floral chypres, but this was unrelenting patchouli on me. Had better luck with Lys 41, though it was a bit more coconut-intensive on me than on other reviewers. August 27, 2013 at 8:06am Reply

    • Andy: I thought Lys 41 was nice too. I also got that gourmand vibe that I think you’re referring to. In the end, I found it to be pleasant enough, but nothing remarkable. And since there are plenty of nice gourmand white florals out there for a much more palatable price, I can’t really imagine how Lys 41 stands out. August 27, 2013 at 10:49am Reply

    • annemariec: You and me both Caroline – I get a large and quite unpleasant patchouli note which prevents me from smelling anything else in Ylang 49. There is something in there almost like turpentine which I really dislike. Lys 41 is lovely, but quite coconut-y, probably too much. August 28, 2013 at 5:08am Reply

  • Lucas: I’m looking forward to try Ylang 49. There’s no place that would sell Le Labo in Poland but I guess I will eventually have a sample in my hands one day August 27, 2013 at 11:22am Reply

    • Andy: If you do get a chance to sample Ylang 49, I’ll look forward to reading your review of it! I loved your review of Iris Nazarena, and enjoyed seeing what you thought about it. August 27, 2013 at 12:11pm Reply

      • Lucas: Thank you Andy for your kind words on my review of Iris Nazarena. August 28, 2013 at 12:04pm Reply

        • Andy: Of course! I loved your review title, too. I have grey eyes, so I am a bit partial! 🙂 August 28, 2013 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Andy,

    This is what I find to be paradoxical about Le Labo fragrances. At first it appears it wouldn’t enter one’s mind to enjoy or explore their line beyond that first sniff, but then it is transformed into something as provocative as what your review characterizes, which ultimately leads me to want to check out Ylang 49. Am I missing something? What relevance does the 49 have? August 27, 2013 at 11:34am Reply

    • Andy: No, I don’t think that’s so unusual. I actually wasn’t very curious about Le Labo perfumes before trying Ylang 49, and even still this line is not at the very top of my list of brands to discover. However, I did think Ylang 49 was very impressive, and of their recent launches (like Lys 41 and Limette 37), definitely the most interesting one for me. August 27, 2013 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Lindaloo: The number in Le Labo fragrances indicates the number of ingredients. The name indicates which ingredient is dominant by weight/volume, but not necessarily which note ends up dominating the fragrance. August 27, 2013 at 3:08pm Reply

      • Andy: How interesting! I knew the part about the number of ingredients, but didn’t understand exactly how the names were decided upon—thank you! August 27, 2013 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Tara: I bought this one unsniffed on the rave review of Denyse at Grain de Musc and I was not disappointed. I love the mossy floral patchouli in this and it lasts and lasts on me. Wishing I had bought a larger bottle now! August 27, 2013 at 11:48am Reply

    • Andy: Glad to hear you’re enjoying this perfume! I also have you found the lasting power to be very good. August 27, 2013 at 12:22pm Reply

  • mough: Thanks, Andy, for the positive and lovely review. I bought a full bottle of Ylang 49 and LOVE it. It’s, like you said, from a bygone era, and as a floral chypre, it’s one of my favorites and in heavy rotation. It reminds me, in that old-fashioned way, of Amouage Beloved. So cheered to read a good review; I found some sad reviews from people who hated it. August 27, 2013 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Andy: I haven’t read many other reviews of Ylang 49 yet, but I’m glad to agree with you—Ylang 49 is beautiful! August 27, 2013 at 12:25pm Reply

    • solanace: I was thinking Amouage, as I was reading Andy’s review! August 28, 2013 at 4:58am Reply

  • Alicia: A very interesting fragrance, Victoria. Thank you for your review. For over a month I will be absent from your blog, as I am departing for Buenos Aires, and then for a ranch north of the city, where I will stay as long as the enticements of the Colon theatre in the city allow (I am an opera and ballet fanatic). Since you were interested in the hotel where I stayed in Lisbon, here is the one where I always go in Buenos Aires. Somewhat younger than the Portuguese Avenida Palace but same style: http://www.lhw.com/hotel/Alvear-Palace-Hotel-Buenos-Aires-Argentina August 27, 2013 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: This is Andy’s review, Alicia, but thank you so much for the hotel recommendation too. I’ve never been to Buenos Aires, so I’m jotting it down in my “travel” notebook. Who knows when some of these tips might come in handy!

      We will miss your comments! I wish you a wonderful trip and hope that you will share some of your discoveries with us when you return. August 27, 2013 at 2:51pm Reply

    • Andy: Yes, we will miss seeing you in the comments! Have a safe and adventurous trip! August 27, 2013 at 5:04pm Reply

  • Laurie Isabella Blair: Maybe the best “personalized to ME” review I’ve ever read…I live in Connecticut, U.S.A. — where can I get a sample?? August 27, 2013 at 1:19pm Reply

    • Andy: I just checked the Luckyscent website, and they have samples of Ylang 49. I love that moment when I read about a perfume that sounds really promising—I love it even more when I then fall in love with the perfume itself! I hope you have good luck with Ylang 49, and I’d love to hear what you think of it! August 27, 2013 at 5:13pm Reply

      • Alicia: Thank you so much, Andy. I didn’t realize that I was invading your blog. Your good wishes are coming with me to Buenos Aires. August 27, 2013 at 5:35pm Reply

        • Andy: No worries! You didn’t by any means intrude upon the post. Your trip sounds fantastic, best wishes! August 27, 2013 at 6:27pm Reply

  • Alicia: Thank you, Victoria. I’ll be taking with me several Amouage, Nehema, and Le Temps d’une Fete (which you recommended to me when I was praising Odalisque, and I fell inn love with it). It will be the transition to spring there. By the way,this week I was trying several Penhaligon’s for women, and was impressed by none, although I liked one for men, Sartorial. For the price I rather have any in my French Collection and even some Estee Lauder. Au revoir, Victoria; I’ll be back. August 27, 2013 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Jennifer C: What a coincidence.. I am wearing some of my Ylang 49 sample today. 🙂 I’ve tried a few Le Labos, and while most haven’t interested me all that much, this one is pretty great. I really liked Lys 41 as well, though when it comes right down to it, I’d be more likely to buy Ylang 49. It kind of reminds me of Agent Provocateur, but less bitter and longer-lasting. August 27, 2013 at 6:39pm Reply

    • Andy: Yes, I’m wearing Ylang 49 today too (if I can, I usually like to wear the perfume on the day I have a review for it). I too liked Lys 41, but didn’t find it as satisfying as Ylang 49, which seems far more unique to me. August 27, 2013 at 6:45pm Reply

  • Aisha: Oh my goodness! Yet another sample to get a hold of! I’m going to go bankrupt if I continue reading this blog. 😉

    I just ordered some Chanel, Atelier and one Parfums de Nicolai sample. I will add this to my (almost embarrassingly long) “wish list.” I love your description, “…damp scent of a garden after a rainstorm.”

    *sigh* So many interesting perfumes to try, so little money… 😉 But I love this new journey I’m on! August 27, 2013 at 7:24pm Reply

    • Andy: Since I’m relatively new to perfume, I do quite a bit of sampling myself, and I definitely sympathize with sometimes feeling like there’s so much to try out there! Have fun with all your new samples! August 27, 2013 at 8:27pm Reply

  • Annikky: Andy, you make it sound really good – especially the part with gardenia and woods. I haven’t had much luck with Le Labo (didn’t really like any of the samples I ordered, even the iris) but I’ll seek out Ylang 49 and I’m curious about Lys 41, too.

    Am I right in thinking that Ylang and Eau Moheli are quite different in character? August 28, 2013 at 4:44am Reply

    • Andy: The gardenia and warm woods aspect is probably my favorite stage of Ylang 49. It is at this point in the development that the perfume begins to sweeten a bit and become really smooth and comfortable.

      I haven’t tried Eau Moheli yet, but I would assume they are quite different. Ylang 49 has a prominent rose accent, and as others have commented, a hefty dose of patchouli too for the first several hours. On me, it lasts and lasts, while my understanding of Eau Moheli is that it is something of a light (albeit lovely) interpretation of ylang ylang? August 28, 2013 at 7:07am Reply

      • Annikky: Yes, at least on me, Eau Moheli has this lovely ylang-ylang opening, but pretty soon it just goes “puff” and I’m left with something vaguely nice. I detect no rose and while there is some patchouli, it’s very soft. August 29, 2013 at 6:21am Reply

        • Andy: Thank you for the input on Eau Moheli. I’m interested in trying it, since I really love ylang ylang as a perfume note (and if you ever have the chance, the real flowers smell absolutely incredible!). August 29, 2013 at 7:22am Reply

  • solanace: Your review is beautiful and very enticing, Andy. I love old style floral chypres and this will be the first Le labo I’ll try. (I have to buy all my samples, living in Perfume Mordor, and I sympathize with Aisha. This perfume habit is a little like the book habit many of us share, in the sense that it just feels right – but go explain to the bank! 😉 Anyway, Ylang 49 is now on top of my list.) August 28, 2013 at 5:11am Reply

    • Andy: This may certainly be appealing to you. What really struck me about Ylang 49 is that, if I had smelled it blindly, I probably would have thought it was a vintage perfume of some sort. It has a very nostalgic feel to me.

      I’m somewhat new to perfume and have to buy most of my samples too (on a small student’s budget), so I definitely understand where you’re coming from. 🙂 August 28, 2013 at 7:17am Reply

  • JCParodi: My absolute favorite floral fragrance, I can’t wait for spring/summer to wear again, all I wore last summer and still have about half a bottle left, perfect for a man, such as Me!!! March 1, 2014 at 3:39am Reply

    • Andy: I tried Ylang a few days this past summer, and I love the way it really “blooms” off the skin in the warmth. It makes such a distinctive fragrance for men! March 1, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

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