Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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Le Labo Gaiac 10: Elusive and, Thus, All the More Real

June 26, 2011:

When you close your eyes and you go to sleep
And it's down to the sound of a heartbeat
I can hear the things that you're dreamin' about
When you open up your heart and the truth comes out

You tell me that you want me
You tell me that you need me
You tell me that you love me
And I know that I'm right
'Cause I hear it in the night

I hear the secrets that you keep
When you're talking in your sleep

A couple days ago I was wearing my sample of Le Labo Gaiac 10 and driving in the car when an old pop song by The Romantics—“Talking in Your Sleep”—came on the radio, not only transporting me back to 1983, when I was in college, but also insinuating its way into my thoughts about the fragrance. Gaiac 10 represents a new direction in perfume tastes for me, as it’s definitely not the kind of thing that would have interested me a year ago. This über-spendy, Tokyo-exclusive fragrance is a vaporous scent of wood, light incense and white musks; everything about it is clean, transparent and linear. In other words, an uneventful scent—to the degree that I would have once thought of it as unworthy of my time. But if there is anything I’ve learned over the years since I first started this perfume blog, it’s that tastes are not set in stone, and if you continually press yourself to try new things—not just once but again and again over time—you really do start to expand your appreciation in ways you once couldn’t fathom.

I’m now on my second sample of Gaiac 10, thanks to a sweet lady who loves it too. Though it’s doubtful that I will ever purchase a bottle based on its price and exclusivity—it’s just not worth it for such a simple fragrance, in my opinion—there is, nevertheless, something I crave about it. Despite the fact that white-musk is the dominant note in this composition, there is nothing laundry-like about it: here is the scent of lightly piney wood and cool, humid air swaddling a city that is clean and atmospherically misty, in the way that cities close to the sea seem to be. And here is the scent of a dreamy secret—the kind of secret that is also clean, not dirty, and the thing you believe in (or want to) even though it has not been expressed in anything other than a sleepy, only half-conscious whisper. On days when I am in need of not only quietude, but something more than that—a sense of intimacy, of loving reassurance that is felt deeply and privately, rather than spoken—there is something in the make-up of Gaiac 10 that delivers it to me.

Created by perfumer Annick Menardo and launched in 2008, Le Labo Gaiac 10’s list of fragrance notes is as minimalistic as the fragrance smells, consisting of white musks, olibanum, gaiac wood, and cedar. Gaiac wood, as described by the company website, “is a very hard greenish wood that isn’t as dry as cedar and that is subtle, profound and stable.” Despite the fact that Gaiac 10 is very soft and that I’m one of those people who is anosmic to certain musks, I can smell this fragrance on my skin for at least four hours before I need to reapply it. Granted, there is not a lot of sillage with this scent, but that’s the point here: this is a skin scent in every sense of the word. Its wispy, cirrus cloud of scent not only hugs the skin but reminds me of the après le bain smell of a person about to sink into slumber on cool, crisp linens. It’s a fragrance that is not so much sexy as it is about quiet closeness: the kind of intimacy that doesn’t make pronouncements or promises but that is calming and centering all the same.

Sometimes that’s all I want from a fragrance these days, maybe because I already have a good number of complex, carnal perfumes in my collection of bottles, and very few that follow that less-is-more concept. Gaiac 10 is a soulful fragrance that perhaps reflects other changes in my tastes these days. I admire its privacy and the promises it keeps and will only surrender in drowsy capitulation. If Gaiac 10 were a person, it wouldn’t have a Facebook page, wouldn’t be declaring its love on Oprah’s couch, wouldn’t make promises it couldn’t keep, and might even keep a lover guessing. The more I think about that, I’m okay with the fact that it’s exclusive to the city of Tokyo. It’s fitting—and I rather like that some things will always be exclusive (and elusive) and the stuff of dreams.

Le Labo Gaiac 10 is available only at the Le Labo boutique in Tokyo—and though I don’t know what it costs in Japanese Yen, for a while it sold in the US (with sales benefitting Japan after the devastating earthquakes this past April) for a cost of $260 for 50 ml.

Lyrics excerpted from The Romantics 1983 hit song, "Talking in Your Sleep," written by songwriters George Canler, Mike Skill, Wally Palmar, Jimmy Marinos and Pete Solley.

Image: Photo of Sleeping Hermaphroditus from the Louvre Museum in Paris is from