Le Labo Citron 28 (Seoul city exclusive)


Le Labo was the first niche perfume boutique that I walked into early last year after my conscious decision to delve into the world of fragrance. I was taken by the industrial lab chic aesthetic and the soft, enveloping miasma of Santal 33 mixed with other perfumes that had been sprayed in the store. Most of the scents were deceptively simple, such that I thought they were meant to be layered with each other. After working through their full discovery set, I settled on Ylang 49 as a firm favorite and Lys 41 and Santal 33 tied in second place. To my wallet’s relief, I never liked any of the “city exclusives” enough to be tempted (although Tabac 28, last year’s new offering for Miami, warranted repeat sniffs).

As such, I didn’t expect too much from Citron 28, this year’s new Seoul exclusive. I’d long been warned that Le Labo creations often don’t smell like what it says on the tin—or bottle, as it were. I knew better than to think it would resemble anything like Korean “citron tea,” which is basically yuzu marmalade in a large jar that you stir into hot water for a cozy drink to soothe the throat.

Still, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to smell it during the month of September, when the city exclusives “become ethically non-monogamous” as Le Labo’s tongue-in-cheek non-advertisement Le Journal puts it. (This newspaper-lookalike publication is tagged as “the only free thing you’ll get here” in the stores.)

The shop visiting experience was of course quite different. No testers—anything you wanted to try had to be handed to you on a generously saturated blotter by the sales associate, and you had to keep your mask on the whole time inside the store. Despite the dousing, I could not smell Citron 28 through my mask (although I could smell other perfumes), and the sales associate refused to spray some on my (sanitized upon entry) hand to try it on skin.

I took the scent strip outside the store—still not expecting much—and snuck a bare-nosed sniff on the street. WHAT THE… This smelled NICE! Oddly familiar, but intriguing enough to make me turn right back around and buy an arbitrarily overpriced 1.5-mL sample vial for USD$12 (hands down the most expensive sample I have ever bought).

Did I mention it seemed familiar? Given the restrictive conditions, I didn’t have the luxury of re-smelling all the fragrances I thought it might resemble to compare, but from memory, I thought it could be related to Neroli 36 or even the uber-clean Fleur d’Oranger 27. Maybe Bergamote 22 if I could remember it better (it was a runner-up in terms of likes). This also definitely had the DNA of all Le Labo perfumes, whatever that base might be (some comments on Fragrantica suggest tea/musk or cedarwood/musk. Someone also noted a similarity to Another 13, and I think that’s fairly accurate). I find it pleasant and “present” throughout the wear, meaning that it’s concentrated enough to be fleshly and not like a ghost in the air.


Citron 28 opens lemony, but sweet white florals (mostly jasmine) have the citrus on a short leash and appear almost simultaneously to make it absolutely clear that this perfume is not about the lemon. The woody elements of cedar and musk are just as jealous and stay close like bodyguards. It’s a well structured harmony, and I think I smell Ambroxan as a backdrop, although this is not listed. Conversely, ginger is a listed note, and I didn’t recognize it in isolation at first, but I believe it lifts the blend to add brightness and a touch of heat to an otherwise cool perfume. It comes out more distinctly in the day-old drydown on a scent strip.

Overall, I would say Citron 28 is worth trying, but not especial enough for me to consider a full bottle purchase. I’ll make my sample last.






18 thoughts on “Le Labo Citron 28 (Seoul city exclusive)

  1. Maybe one day I’ll get used to it and would change my mind, but in the situation you’ve described, no matter what perfume it was or how much I’d like to try it, the moment they refused to spray it on my arm, I would have turned around and marched right out of the store. If you think of it, all they sell for hundreds of dollars is glorified hand sanitizer! Their (and most others’) perfumes would pass the FDA compliance with flying colors being mostly composed of alcohol. So there is absolutely no reason for them not to spray It on you. If they can come close enough to hand you a blotter, they can definitely do a contactless spraying on your wrist!
    I was contemplating a purchase of the smallest Vanille 44 bottle in September but missed it by a couple of hours (I remembered a deadline after a midnight, went to the site – and didn’t see it any longer). Now I’m revengefully glad I did because charging $12 for the tiny sample while refusing to experience it on your skin for free while you’re there in the store offends me. And with the falling sales of perfumes, good luck to those who made these stupid rules: Le Labo isn’t Chanel, they won’t sell just thanks to the name.


    1. Now I’m curious, are other places allowing them to spray testers on customers’ skin? A few days ago I went to Sephora – not for perfume, but I stopped by the fragrance section and asked the sales associate if he could spray some Love Osmanthus on a blotter for me (I had smelled it before but forgotten the scent, and realized this time it wasn’t memorable for me). He said they could do that but weren’t allowed to make decants and with some back and forth I gathered that they didn’t want to risk giving people something to take home in case the source bottle was contaminated. He may also have said they weren’t allowed to spray on skin, but I wasn’t fully listening as I took that for granted already.


      1. To be honest, I don’t know if anyone else sprays perfumes on skin or makes decants, but I read an article that described guidelines for future cosmetics testing, and since customers wouldn’t be allowed to touch testers, SAs were supposed to clean their hands with alcohol, get the product on an applicator and pass it to the customer to try. If they can give you a blush or a foundation to test on skin, perfume should be a no-brainer! Contaminated?! I think they all are missing that it contains ore than 80% of alcohol (with the CDC recommendation and FDA approval for hands sanitizer being 60%). And Sephora doesn’t mind providing pre-packed samples (at least with purchase) – so, not to pour alcohol into a vial seems like an arbitrary limitation.
        Anyway, not doing anything at all, in my book, is better than selling an overpriced sample hiding behind “regulations.” Companies will have to evolve or will die.


        1. Hopefully the guidelines will become more sensible, to your point about the alcohol. They weren’t allowed to swab other products to try on skin, either – I wanted to try a skin cream and they could only swab it to show me what it looked like (very thick) but not let me try it.
          The overpriced sample has always been overpriced because it’s a “city exclusive” – regular samples are $6 (still more than many other brands). Even the SA agreed that they should all be $6…


          1. I know about the samples, and, in general, I understand that those were expensive – otherwise people would just buy samples and never go for a bottle. But in the new reality, when you already made a trip, they should either have a smaller, single application samples at hand or at least have a policy that you can redeem the price of a sample against the FB purchase. Perfumes are supposed to be sampled! Otherwise people will stick to what they already know and like. But we’ll see how it goes 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Every September, all the city exclusives are available in all the Le Labo stores (including those in Saks, I’ve heard) and online. Of course, it’s “manufactured scarcity,” considering they have all the materials to formulate them already in the stores all year round!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great overview. I enjoyed last year’s Tabac 28 too. I’ll try this new one if I can, but I’m guessing I’ll probably have the same impression as you.

    Liked by 1 person

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