Le Labo Pin 12 Vintage Candle (thanks Camelia)

My home this morning is scented with Le Labo's Pin 12 candle. It was burning last night in various rooms and this morning, sitting down to breakfast, I was reminded of the scent of the pine forest that sprawled next to my grandparents' holiday home in Mallorca, where I spent most Summers growing up. 

The pine trees used to mix with the sunshine and the close-by ocean breeze and come up and tickle your cheeks while you were eating breakfast on the patio. That was long ago now and the overnight scent of Le Labo's Pin 12 candle, as if by magic, brought all that back to me this morning at breakfast time, even though breakfast was taking place bang in the centre of London and it was raining and the skies were grey like early Wim Wenders' movies. 

My initiation into Le Labo has been slowly coming on over the past year. I had been interested in what Le Labo do for a while, but hadn't found a 'way in' to the brand. It seemed elusive and mysterious (which I now realise was the point: read this interview and you'll see why) and like a rare bird you need to get to know and figure out from a distance, before actually crossing the grass to engage with it.  

That process of tip-toeing closer happened gradually, helped by the opening of a London boutique at 28A Devonshire Street, London W1G 6PS. Given that I pass by that boutique at least once a day, I began to look forward to walking by and having a beautiful hint of a scent reach out of the boutique the way fabulous baking smells reach out and wave to you when you pass by certain patisseries, and boulangeries in Paris. 

Le Labo are so headily and admirably devoted to what they are doing that it's like the boutiques themselves wear the most beautiful perfumes and when you are on the street, outside one of their boutiques, you pick up on this, like you're close to somebody - for example, on a train, on a bus, on a plane, in a queue - wearing the most beautiful scent. 

The next stage of my getting closer to what Le Labo do was their setting out of a fragrance pump (a brilliant idea) at the doorstep to their petite London boutique. The pump invited you to apply a drop or two of whatever extraordinary scent they had in the pump onto a sample strip. I got into the habit of squeezing a few drops onto one of the sample strips and then slipping it into my wallet and then the scent of a gorgeous lavender, for instance, would rise up at checkouts and make paying bills in shops seem entirely less transactional. 

Once that scent became part of my daily life, it felt like it was incrementally becoming time to tip-toe closer to the 'rare bird'. What happened next was my sister gave me a gift of a vintage Le Labo candle titled Petit Grain 21. For a long time, I had been deeply stuck in a groove of only liking A.P.C's Fleur D'Oranger, as it reminded me of three spectacular trips to Morocco in recent years, where the scent of orange blossom seemed to be waiting everywhere we went, whether that was Essaouira, Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca or Tangier. 

But then came Le Labo's Petit Grain 21, which seemed to bring the fragrance of orange trees (brief confession: I am obsessed with orange trees) from Morocco, Spain and the South of France, right into my home and thickly and giddily, rather than gently referencing it the way the A.P.C candle did. And just like that, Le Labo, as good as hypnotised me with their spectacular, sensory experience.   

In early February, that Petit Grain 21 candle came to an end and several days later, its fragrance was no longer playing its sun-baked music about my home. Sad face. Being self-employed, I always need motivational tricks to power on and with a project coming towards a very intense deadline, I made a deal with myself that when I finished the project and had decompressed for a few days, I'd treat myself to a new Le Labo vintage candle. 

Yesterday turned out to be the day when I felt like playing that 'treat to self' card (you can only play this card when the moment's just right), so into the Le Labo boutique I went, my daughter in tow. For her - and for me - the boutique was like a playground, with its little labelled bottles and even tinier labelled bottles and heady aroma. 

Knowing only that I wanted to try a different vintage candle - the way the vintage candles are packaged makes me think of Tom Waits albums for some reason - but not sure which one, we were talked through possible options by Camelia, who was so warm, so passionate about Le Labo, that she made us feel like she'd invited us over to her home to hang out. Guided by her recommendation, we went for Pin 12 over Calone 17

When we got home and unwrapped the candle, there's something nice (comforting?) about the label telling you the date you bought it and who prepared and sold it to you - explaining of course, how we came to know that Camelia is called Camelia. That Camelia's name was on the candle label seemed to please my daughter to no end - she thought this was great and kept chanting/ singing, 'Camelia, Camelia'.  

I'm a huge fan of process, whether it's how an actor prepares for a role, what inspired an album or how a product is made and ends up on sale - so a personalising label hand-applied onto a Le Labo purchase, speaks directly to me because I like knowing the name of the person who helped me in a boutique/ shop, just as I always like to know the name of a waiter or waitress in a restaurant: I don't like it when the world feels anonymous

I do what I do (journalism, blogging, writing commercial non-fiction books) because I'm endlessly fascinated by people - their stories, what makes them tick, what prompts change, how they relax, what they read, what kind of exercise they do, how they eat. How we each go about the weirdness of being alive is what makes life interesting/ exciting to me. I'm always looking for human stories, for connections, for intimacy in everyday encounters which shrink down the world. 

And for these reasons, I like the consumer chain poetry of lighting a Le Labo candle that was made by a company that cares absolutely about the quality of that candle and which evokes a scent which is a beautiful scent that we can find in the natural world (childhood memories of that sun-dazed pine forest in Mallorca coming back to me vivid and clear even as I type this post) and which, on top of all that, also celebrates the person, in this case, Camelia, who recommended and sold that candle to us. 


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