Perfume Review. The Tale of Two Cistes: Le Labo Ciste 18
A couple of days ago, on Now Smell This, I read about an exciting new perfume line, Le Labo. The novelty of the line consists in the fact that, when you purchase the scents, the fragrances are mixed right there and then (maturated essential oil is mixed with alcohol and water). What was more thrilling for me (after all, hard as I try, I cannot truly comprehend the point of such a system) was the names of perfumers who created Le Labo’s maturated oils: Alberto Morillas, Annick Menardo, Daphne Bugey, Frank Voelkl, Françoise Caron, Michel Almairac, Mark Buxton, and Maurice Roucel. One of Roucel’s Le Labo creations was Ciste 18, “a strong concentration of oriental notes, with animal intonations of civet and castoreum". (Now Smell This) Animalic and done by Roucel? I had to have Ciste 18 straightaway.
When my little bottle arrived, stylishly clad in its “primitive” brown cardboard box, with a lab-like personalized label, I sniffed the sprayer... Musc Ravageur! I sprayed…Musc Ravageur! The following are my notes from that first sampling: “Sweet, rich, spicy musk, golden goodness very reminiscent of Musc Ravageur, only less “animalic” (i.e. I smell less musk here) and a little less spicy. Next, soft patchouli note creeps in, and it is a lovely accord, not dry and pungent, but actually sweet, with an almost chocolaty undertone. After that, Ciste 18 becomes a delicate, slightly powdery vanilla and musk blend, this time reminiscent of Guerlain’s Cuir Beluga. The name “Ciste” means cistus (rock rose, the source of labdanum) in French, and I know that cistus/labdanum is a tricky note, a chameleon, and can smell of a variety of things, most often, on my skin at least, of amber and incense on a vaguely floral background, however I do not detect any labdanum here. “
I told everyone who cared to listen that Ciste 18 smelled like Musc Ravageur…That night, after a shower, I applied Ciste 18 again… It was a completely different scent. It started with an unsweetened citrus note mixed with a green, herbal accord (rosemary, angelica?), it was a rich, buttery green fragrance, like an Angelique part of Angelique Encens. The greenness subsided and the scent went through a soft, slightly powdery, vanillic stage and then musk came into play. Unlike the golden spicy musk of Application No. 1 above, this note was dry, almost leathery (due to castoreum?) and this time the scent did have a light ambery undertone. Neither of the “versions” was as animalic as the description led me to believe. The "second" Ciste 18 was less robust, had a little less kick to it, but it was a more refined, smoother composition. I must add that I have worn this enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a “primitive” brown cardboard box several times since and, although it was somewhat closer to the scent I experienced on the second application, it has never been completely the same. I could probably devote an entire new blog to recording the permutations of Ciste 18 on my skin…but I won’t.
From the golden, spicy muskiness of Application No. 1 to the understated, quiet, slightly animalic elegance of Application No. 2…will the real Ciste 18 please stand up?
To find out what Ciste 18 is going to be like on your skin, please visit or call Le Labo:
233 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012
11am-7pm, Appointment only on Monday
Ciste 18 retails for $45.00-$180.00, depending on the size. And on the question whether Ciste 18 is full bottle worthy for me…I will most probably buy more when my small bottle runs out (which will be soon since I keep applying and reapplying trying to figure out this elusive scent). I cannot resist a good mystery.