Etat Libre d’Orange – First Impressions

This post originally planned on being a Facebook post. Realising how fun this was, I shifted to a blog post. Enjoy!


Today is Etat Libre d’Orange testing day. No official #SOTD really, just a bit of this and a bit of that. I will start by stating that these names are rather – challenging, albeit humorous.

“Etat Libre d’Orange is an ambitious, audacious perfumery — passionate, exuberant, liberated.”

“Etat Libre d’Orange (“Free State of Orange”) is a French perfume house founded by Etienne de Swardt in 2006. With a motto of Le parfum est mort, vive le parfum!”(“Perfume is dead, long live perfume!”), the house has quickly established a reputation for its daring and unusual compositions with controversial names and images.”

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Photo by http://minnewyork.com/


First Impressions:

I started with ‘Fils de Dieu du riz et des agrumes’, once called ‘Philippine Houseboy’. This is an extreme ‘piss-take’ on ingredients often found in the Philippines. Lime, coconut, ginger, and rice recall the humid nature of the country, amongst the cultural tropical delights. An animalic gourmand, a castoreum note hides itself amongst the foodie notes of above with spicy notes of cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, coriander seed, and tonka. A gourmand done well, with sweet musks and animal ending. Too bad I’m not the biggest fan of gourmands.

‘Like This’ in collaboration with Tilda Swinton – recalls what Swinton likes smell wise in terms of home. Sweet, warm, and spicy, you’ll find gingery immortelle, tangerine, and sweet earthy pumpkin. Another gourmand, this time abstracted to near-perfection.

‘Je suis un Homme’. I am a man! Masculinity in the form of dry, dry woods. Clove, cognac, animal notes, leather, and patchouli add to this; an intriguing dusty lemon-citrus note opens.

‘Putain des Palaces’. Hotel Slut (pardon me!). A femme fatale, perhaps a modern-day prostitute? She dresses for seduction, and undresses for profit. Cheap makeup and lipstick… This smells of makeup powder, slightly plastic lipstick, and a cautious creaminess. Animal notes recall the obvious…

‘Jasmin et Cigarette’. Yes, those two notes in domain. Glamorous Hollywood stars from yesteryear wearing expensive jasmine perfume tainted with swirls of cigarette smoke. Perhaps overall the result is better than what it initially was. A tainted perfume? Not here. Perfect tongue in cheek.

‘Delicious Closet Queen’. This is getting jocular. A play between the stereotypes of a man and a woman, intersecting at a ‘Queen’ in the figurative closet. Hairspray, lipstick, and powder open (violet, musk, raspberry) underpinned with ‘manly’ notes of vetiver, leather and sandalwood. A man with glamorous hair and fruit-flavoured pink lip gloss. Delicious.

‘Rien’. Despite being a messy fragrance, Rien is praised for highlighting leather notes unsweetened. For example, aldehydes, famed for their sparkle instead tickle the nose in a bitter fashion here. Totally unpleasant, but somehow totally captivating and intriguing. Big and bold, it’s incense, leather, aldehydes and patchouli predominantly with a sweeping addition of oakmoss.

‘Encens et Bubblegum’. Polar opposites clash as the seriousness of incense meets the playfulness of bubblegum. This candy-like fragrance opens with a loud peach and strawberry like note, and from then on it collapses. I am reminded of Lipstick Rose and Chanel’s new Misia, but without the complexity or the venerability.

‘Bendelirious’. Wow! What an opening! Sweet cherry and champagne! “Surrounded by art, artists, art connoisseurs, she points to a painting: an iris bouquet, a bowl of cherries, a bottle of champagne, illustrations encompassed in a leather frame, and in her presence a still life”. Fun and games have to end… and this collapses fairly quickly.

‘Antiheros’. Here, bias is in domain. I adore lavender, and this is an incredibly simple fragrance of soapy lavender – like soap. Whilst this lacks complexity, it makes up for in volume with a very mild undertone of cedar and musk for extra cleanliness. “Take me as I am”, says Mr. Humble.

‘Malaise of the 1970’s’. Plum, prune and pepper harmonise on an old shaggy rug. “Inspired by a wealth of seventies pop culture references, from Star Wars to The Stranglers, Malaise of the 1970s captures the resistant and tumultuous spirit of the times. A metallic juice that resonates like the twang of a guitar string, its sharpness reminiscent of safety pins fastened to tartan. A distillation of rebellion, music and raw emotion.”  … What? Despite that, great citrus opening. Pleasant.

‘Archives 69’. Like dry pine needles immediately shifting to fruit with a bitter camphorous note. Sour in a nice way, complex in a respectable way. Odd counterpoints make for a structured fragrance, shifting into orchid, paprika, and plum territory. I like it for its weirdness.

‘The Afternoon of a Faun’. Love this one. Dry and green calling to mind the bitter opening of Caron’s Yatagan, descending into dry herbal and grassy territory with a touch of old wooden pews. I get a raisin and myrrh accord anchored with leather and immortelle flower.

‘Vraie Blonde’. Cheap champagne compounded with peach. “A perfectly curvaceous body in a sequined lamé dress, a Technicolor version of the American dream!” Ambergris, fur, and white pepper certainly highlight an excess of luxury as the champagne tops it all off. Sickly at times, but enjoyable.

‘Don’t get me wrong baby (I don’t swallow). Sigh. An absolute laugh. Expecting some bizarre accords, we get what the name suggests – a pink toned innocence. White florals and marshmallow. Great for young girls, but I wouldn’t tell their mothers what they are wearing. Epitome of innocence.

‘Vierges et Toreros’. Staggeringly great tuberose opening, demonstrating why this fragrance has been labelled as carnal. Bolstering that feature, lots of pepper and leather make an appearance, eventually smelling like cheap plastic toys …and tobacco.

‘Elode du Traitre’. A true contemporary Yatagan given a bit more space with the addition of florals and crisp peppery notes. Masculine conservative; masculine flashback.

‘Bijou Romantique’. Yum yum vanilla.  Sugary in the style of Prada Candy, with incense, benzoin, and vanilla referencing Shalimar. The iris powder note reminds me of Cacharel’s Lou Lou and the smell of the sillage a bit like Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle. Of all ELdO’s, I would let my grandmother wear this one. Absolutely wonderful – a guilty treat.

‘Divin’Enfant’. A rather ingenious creation – this purposeful ‘breakdown’ in structure is temperamental like a baby. Sweet and marshmallow-like in the beginning, gentle with orange blossom, under this angel a demon is revealed. Tepid coffee, leather, and tobacco, symbolising sleepless nights. I like the concept, unfortunately it could be better.

‘Eau de Protection’. Much like Rose Poivrée by The Different Company with far less used underwear present.

‘Dangerous Complicity.’ A lovely take on Chinese osmanthus, which is known to seduce. Following this (naturally) is tea, then a comforting liquor and herb accord found similarly in Tom Ford’s Rive d’Ambre. Tinges of amber and woods spiced with a bit of leather also remind me of some Amouage Library Opus works.

‘Nombril Immense’. A ridiculous name for a swell patchouli scent. Consider the patchouli here a train, with different notes appearing at different times at different stops. Green; citrus; amber; pepper; spice; vetiver. Immensely good.

‘Tom of Finland’. A simply wonderful masculine, great idea, highly erotic. “Gay leather fetish biker gang” made into a scent.  Bold! Virile! Leathery! “Clothing became a jewel-case that serves to reveal the true erotic power of the flesh”. Pepper, saffron, cypress, galbanum, fresh air, clean leather, soap, forests, vanilla, tonka. Amazing!

‘Fat Electrician’. Odd vetiver and chestnut creme. A skankified Vetiver Tonka (Hermessence).

‘Charogne’. Strong buttery lily with a mild root beer note akin to Tuberuse Criminelle (Serge Lutens). Touch of incense and something slightly saline too. The vanilla reveals itself wrapped around leather.  Very chemical, and I like it. Also a bit like Vanille Galante (Hermessence) with less sickliness.

‘Noël au Balcon’. The release for this is gold: “This girl is a gift for well-behaved men. The one who bursts into a party and suddenly makes you want to believe in Father Christmas. Half way between a flirtatious temptress and a dancing queen, temperature rises just by her presence. To hell with “global warming” She’s here to have fun, no matter what. Heavenly lightness in December…”. It smells sweet yet sexy – honey, tangerine, and touch of chilli, but very dull.

‘Rien Incense Intense’. A vile mess. Avoid.

‘Cologne’. Wonderful cologne structure made interesting with blood orange and lifted into mild perpetuity (cologne-wise) with leather and musk. A nice fragrance; unexpected.

‘Secretions Magnifiques’. Milky, metallic, like chlorine pools. Yes, it smells of ejaculate. Sigh. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a hidden marine floral note alloyed with blood and saliva. Great prank for friends.

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Photo by Etat Libre d’Orange.


ELdO is artsy niche at its best. A respected alternative house that is happy to take risks, and for that, I thank them. My 5 favourites are (in no order): Tom of Finland, Antiheros, Jasmin et Cigarette, Cologne, and Like This.

The meritorious award goes to Delicious Closet Queen, taking real life elements and associations and clashing them. Brilliant story telling found when smelling.

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