État Libre d’Orange Nombril Immense: Baby Soft Patchouli

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

“Baby-soft creaminess” might be one way to sum up Nombril Immense from État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter just “État Libre“). In French, “Nombril” means belly button, so the perfume’s name translates to “Immense Belly Button,” or “Enormous Navel.” It’s a name wholly in keeping with the whimsical, playfully avant-garde, often satirical, always provocative style of the French perfume house. I’ve frequently found that their attempts to shock or titillate don’t match up to the actual scent in question, and Nombril Immense is no exception. 

Source: Lenoma.ru

Source: Lenoma.ru

Nombril Immense is a unisex, patchouli eau de parfum that was created by Nathalie Feisthauer, and released in 2006. État Libre describes the scent and its notes as follows:

With ‘Nombril Immense’, the accent is on the exceptional quality of the patchouli. Exotic and precious, this fragrant wood from India literally captivates. ‘Nombril Immense’ is an invitation to introspection, to discover new emotions and open the mind to a new spirituality. Patchouli is a sacred wood in Hindu temples; it inspires meditation and leads the way to the shedding of one’s mortal coil in the effort to access timelessness. ‘Nombril Immense’ is an authentic piece of nirvana and it smells like bliss.

Composition: Patchouli, balm of Peru, vetiver, black pepper absolute, opoponax [Sweet Myrrh], bergamot, seed of carrot, kernels of ambrette absolute…

Source: howbenefitstea.com

Source: howbenefitstea.com

Nombril Immense opens on my skin with crisp, fresh bergamot and patchouli, followed by a gentle dose of sweet, nutty myrrh, all ensconced in a creamy, warm, slightly musky embrace. It’s very smooth, and is an extremely close copy of the drydown in Guerlain‘s L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme (which is a wholly unisex fragrance no matter what its name may say). Both fragrances have the same lemony, patchouli, creamy Chai tea accord, though Nombril Immense’s thinness and lightness renders it closer to L’Instant eau de toilette (or LIDG) than to L’Instant Eau Extreme (LIDGE). 

Source: Obsessivision Etsy Store. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: Obsessivision Etsy Store. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Nombril Immense feels extremely sheer, gauzy, and weak. This is no dense, chewy, molten patchouli with dark smoke, serious spiciness, leathered or toffee’d nuances. There is no cognac booziness, no earthiness, and no intensity either. A hardcore patchouli lover like myself might uncharitably call it an anorexic, socially tamed, submissive, and demure patchouli that is more suitable for a dainty tea on the Upper East Side. It certainly isn’t the rollicking, boozy patchouli of Jovoy‘s Psychedelique or Oriza‘s Horizon. However, I’m sure that those who despise actual patchouli would find Nombril Immense to be an extremely refined take on the note, and they wouldn’t be wrong. This is a baby-soft patchouli whose true, defining characteristics have been stripped out and replaced by creaminess. So much creaminess that, later on, the fragrance almost verges on the milky with the feel of a baby’s lightly musky sweetness.

Ten minutes in, new notes emerge on the scene, albeit in the most muted, muffled form imaginable. There are microscopic hints of toasted nuts, stemming in part from the sweet myrrh and the peru balsam, along with a stronger element of something vegetal that vaguely resembles carrots once in a while. The light touch of citrus remains, but there is no black pepper, vetiver, or spice. As a whole, the main bouquet is of creamy, milky patchouli with a touch of lemon in a bed of musky sweetness.

That’s really it for Nombril Immense. The perfume never veers from its core essence in any dramatic way, and the only substantial change is in sillage. Nombril Immense seemed to evaporate off my skin almost within minutes, with the weakest sillage imaginable after a mere 20 minutes. It feels like a baby scent, not only in terms of its cloud-like softness and milkiness, but also in terms of that sweet muskiness that hovers all around. Something about it really calls to mind a baby for me.

Source: vimeo.com

Source: vimeo.com

Less than 90 minutes in, Nombril Immense is a skin scent, and I felt sure it had vanished an hour later. To my surprise, however, extremely intense sniffs with my nose plastered right on the skin turned up a tenacious smear of scent. I essentially spent the next few hours looking like a crazed bloodhound as I attacked my arm to detect it, and I was consistently taken aback to find Nombril Immense was still there, chugging away as a wisp of milky patchouli with weirdly vegetal, warm muskiness. All in all, Nombril Immense lasted just a hair over 7 hours on my skin with 4 gigantic smears, but only 4.25 hours with a more normal application.

On Fragrantica, others report similar trouble with Nombril Immense’s sillage and longevity, but a few people really adored the fragrance. Let’s start with the numbers:

  • The votes for Sillage are: 11 for Soft (no skin trail at all); 6 for Moderate; 1 for Heavy; and 1 for Enormous.
  • The votes for how long Nombril Immense lasts on the skin break down to: 3 for Poor (30 min-1 hr); 5 for Weak (1-2 hrs); 3 for Moderate (3-6 hrs); and 5 for Long-Lasting (7-12 hrs).

I think the absolutely terrible sillage is partially responsible for some people thinking Nombril Immense has only 30 minutes to 2 hours of longevity. It takes a hell of a lot of work to detect it after the 2nd hour. Is it worth it? Not in my opinion.

Yet, a number of people on Fragrantica seem to really like Nombril Immense. Amidst all the talk about its total lack of sillage, a few people found the fragrance to be “soft, feminine and very comfortable,” or  a “[v]ery sexy, decadent patchouli[.]” One person wrote that Nombril Immense was “patchouli, patchouli, and more patchouli,” which is correct as there really isn’t much to the scent besides that one core note. Another found Nombril Immense to be the essence of innocence:

so unique, simply innocence. A baby. That’s what I have in mind. It just so motherly to me and it reminds me a lot of my childhood, I smell like this!! LOL. A bit of baby talcum powder and a hint of sun and sweat from playing outside for 5 hours and power nap time. LOL. I love this smell, I’m wearing it mostly night time though.

Source: funylool.com

Source: funylool.com

Others weren’t so excited. One commentator thought that Nombril Immense was pleasant, but had “that Etat drydown that IMO a number of their scents have that doesn’t thrill me – something too powdery about it (and ‘dirty’ at the same time).” A few others mentioned experiencing a baby powder note in the drydown as well. For one man, Nombril Immense took refined patchouli too far: “While some softness in a patchouli frag is appreciated by those of us who don’t want to smell like we slept in the woods for a few days, I do want some earthly edge.” In the eyes of one female commentator, Nombril Immense was a “more expensive version of Jessica Simpson‘s ‘Fancy Nights‘,” which hardly seems to be a positive endorsement.

I think how people react to Nombril Immense will depend largely on how much they love or hate hardcore patchouli. I find it hard to imagine that a true patch head will actually approve of Nombril Immense, though they may like it as a creamy, woody musk. In contrast, those who associate patchouli with dirty, sweaty, earthy hippies reeking of a head-shop aroma will probably think Etat Libre has created the best version ever. In my opinion, the average person nowadays doesn’t actually like patchouli in its true, original form, so this sort of denuded, de-fanged, baby patchouli is a much more approachable construct. However, that softness might also make the scent a little feminine in some men’s eyes, as it lacks any sort of edge.

At the end of the day, Nombril Immense is an affordable scent that’s pleasant, but has a lot of flaws. If you’re looking for a more complex version of creamy patchouli Chai Tea, I’d suggest the Guerlain L’Instant Pour Homme in eau de toilette. It has a light floral (jasmine) component which makes it wholly unisex; it’s an equally refined, creamy patchouli with discreet sillage; and you can find it for much less than Nombril Immense. If you want a more intense, serious, spicy, smoky version, then there is the superior L’Instant Eau Extreme eau de parfum version (which is also covered in that same Guerlain review). On the other hand, if you’re looking for something creamy and feminine, with a baby sweetness, milkiness, and softness, then Nombril Immense might be your comforting cup of tea.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Nombril Immense is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 1.7 ml/50 ml size and is priced at $80, €69, or £59.50. In the U.S.: Nombril Immense can be purchased from LuckyScent for $80 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, with samples for $3. It is also available from The Twisted Lily, and from MinNY. Outside the U.S.: You can purchase Nombril Immense directly from Etat Libre’s website where it costs €69.00, with samples available for €3.00. (There is also a Discovery Set or Coffret of 18 Etat Libre fragrances, all in 1.5 ml vials, sold for €39. However, Nombril Immense is not included.) The perfume is also available from Etat Libre’s London store at 61 Redchurch Street, as well as from its Paris one located at 69, rue des Archives, 75004. Elsewhere in the UK, I found Nombril Immense at London’s Les Senteurs for £59.50, with samples also available for purchase. In Germany, the perfume is available at First in Fragrance for €69. The site ships worldwide. In the Netherlands, I found Nombril Immense at ParfuMaria for €64. In Italy, it’s available at ScentBar, and in Russia, I think it’s sold at iPerfume, but I can’t read Cyrillic to see if it’s available for online purchase. For all other locations or vendors from Canada to the Lithuania and Sweden, you can use the Store Locator listing on the company’s website. Samples: you can order a sample of Nombril Immense from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.75 for a 1 ml vial. Samples are also available at a number of the vendors listed above.

Secretions Magnifiques – A Satirical Courtroom Review

Jane Doe [class representative, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated]  v. Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques– Case # 13-527319-CA

[The Bailiff]: “All rise! The Court is now in session, The Honorable Michael Marx presiding. On the docket is the class action lawsuit, Jane Doe [class representative, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated]  v. Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques– Case # 13-527319-CA. The complaint alleges sexual harassment hostile work environment, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Please state your name and business before the Court.”

[A small, dainty, very conservatively dressed blonde woman rises]: “I am Prudence Prim of the firm of Proskauler Rosybanks on behalf of the Plaintiff class.”

Saul Goodman. Source: Tv.com

Saul Goodman. Source: Tv.com

[A dandified man with a bad comb-over and a garish suit rises, and gives the jury a big grin]: “I am Saul Goodman, or, as you may know me, “Better Call Saul” representing the Defendant, Secretions Magnifiques from the house of Etat Libre d’Orange.”

[He points to the table where a balding, heavy-set man sits in a tight-fitting, food-stained Hawaiian shirt that barely holds together over his enormous, hairy stomach. His arms are covered with sailor tattoos, his legs are aggressively splayed apart, and his fly is open to reveal a lack of underwear. He belches, wets his fat lips, and blows a kiss to the attractive Juror #9 who visibly recoils in horror.]

"The Good Wife" snapshot via articles.philly.com.

“The Good Wife” snapshot via articles.philly.com.

[Judge Marx addresses the jury]: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. The Court thanks you for your time. You are here today to hear the civil class action complaint against Secretions Magnifiques. This is an employment law case. You cannot consider the role of Defendant’s employer, Etat Libre d’Orange, who will be tried separately. Also, I know it’s been impossible to sequester you against the recent media storm regarding the criminal charges being filed against Secretions Magnifiques for public lewdness and indecency. You cannot consider those issues. I repeat, you cannot. I will give you further instructions at the end of the trial. The Plaintiffs may now proceed.” [Bangs gavel.]

THE CASE FOR THE PLAINTIFFS:

[Prudence Prim rises]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. He is the most notorious man in the niche perfume world. This is not hype. This is not a lawyer’s hyperbole. Secretions Magnifiques is notorious. Say his name to any even moderately knowledgeable perfumista, and watch them pale. His legend is such that people nickname him Secretions Gag-nifiques,and see how long they can take his scent before they run to vomit or scrub him off. Yes, some people actually do become physically ill from this vile wretch. We are here to seek justice from Secretions Magnifiques for his tortious conduct in rendering the environment around him hostile to all who have the misfortune to be in his presence. We seek compensation for the pain, suffering, and the nights in which a husband wearing Secretions Magnifiques lost the chance for consortium with his wife because she locked him out of the bathroom. Help us heal the emotional wounds left by this heinous man.

Source: ichetkar.fr

Source: ichetkar.fr

Let us start at the beginning. Secretions Magnifiques was created by Antoine Lie and was released in 2006. Etat Libre, in a statement that will fully damage them in their own lawsuit, confesses flat-out to his lewd, indecent, and morally repugnant nature. Their description brazenly and blatantly talks about sperm! Blood! And all sorts of other things that fine, upstanding citizens should not be subjected to in their workplace. How brazen are they, you ask? In their manufacturer’s sample, Etat Libre’s description of Secretions Magnifiques actually comes with the image of an erect penis spraying out semen! [Crowd gasps and starts to whisper. Secretions Magnifiques smirks, and rubs his crotch.]

That’s not even the half of it! This is Etat Libre’s full description of the fragrance:

Like blood, sweat, sperm, saliva, Sécrétions Magnifiques is as real as an olfactory coitus that sends one into raptures, to the pinnacle of sensual pleasure, that extraordinary and unique moment when desire triumphs over reason. Masculine tenseness frees a rush of adrenalin in a cascade of high-pitched aldehydic notes. The sensation of freshness is gripping. Then the fragrance reveals a metallic side, precise and as sharp as unappeased desire.

We are on a razor-edge… skin and sweat mingle, and tastes of musk and sandalwood. The slightly salt marine effect stirs, arouses, and sets your mouth watering. Tongues and sexes find one another, pleasure explodes and all goes wild. Confusion reigns supreme. A subversive, disturbing perfume. It’s love or hate at first sight. Sensuous jousting is rarely satisfied with half-measures…In between Don Juan and the Woman who offers herself, arms are laid down…who will be the first to surrender?

Sexual harassment I tell you, sexual harassment! And how does all this occur? Well, Secretions Magnifiques’ parts, according to Luckyscent, consist of:

Iode accord, adrenaline accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood and opoponax.

Secretions Magnifiques’ character is revealed from the very first moment he sidles up against your skin. I won’t give you my take; just read the company’s own admission against interest about what he smells like. It’s their words, not mine, when they talk about “blood, sweat, sperm, saliva,” and metallic notes. Still, there is plenty of testimony from those in the class who have suffered from Secretions Magnifiques.

Source: nitestar.de

Source: nitestar.de

[She nods to the bailiffs who helps several pale, wan, witnesses from Fragrantica walk, one by one, shakily to the witness stand. Many are covered with clothes stained by vomit, or have bile encrusted on their face from their bouts with Secretions Magnifiques. Some look green, a few are dry-heaving even as they give their statements. One witness had to be revived by paramedics after collapsing in the hallway outside Courtroom 3A.]

  • I have never smelt something more disgusting than this scent. It’s blood and metal and illness.
  • Blood and just unpleasant.
  • Mostly seaweed to me and dirty seawater. Tried to wash it off and its not coming off. I smell like I took a dip at the sea and have not showered in a few days. My fiancée told me I’m not allowed to sleep in bed tonight.
  • I have to join the legion of those who wish this concoction had never seen the light of day. Honest to gods, I violently wretched. An eggy, razor-sharp whiff that made me recoil and run for the toilet. Perhaps it’s the smell of fear, whatever. Sadistically, I swabbed my partner with it to test the reaction with his chemistry as we are rather different… same dismal result, with extra grudge!
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Source: DenofGeek.com

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Source: DenofGeek.com

  • Biggest mistake ever!!! This literally worked like a whisk in my stomach and for the very first time in my life I had to jump up and run to wash it off. I don’t get any of the notes listed, probably just a tiny bit of seaweed due to the aquatic fishy smell. It doesn’t smell like blood, saliva, sperm or sweat but all these blended together and preserved in a sealed jar for a century. [¶] Every home should keep a small vial of this as a first-aid emetic in case someone in your family had food poisoning. Also girls who want to shed a few extra pounds, look no further: use this on a daily basis will definitely suppress your appetite to none because it not only lingers on your skin but also in your mind. 
  • WARNING: Do not sniff this if you are pregnant or you will vomit. […]  it started smelling like urine. It reminded me of my little cousin who used to wet the bed. Now, it smells just like a neglected child who is forced to wear her mother’s generic hooker perfume to cover up the fact that nobody has given her a bath or washed her clothes in a very very long time. To add insult to injury, the child has been eating wet catfood straight out of the can and has some of the food stuck in her hair. […][¶] Calling this perfume “disgusting” is an understatement. It’s actually depressing and exploitative to the point that the stench made me want to call Child Protective Services. I won’t be letting my husband smell my hand; I love him too much to expose him to something this disturbing and putrid.

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, there are dozens more witnesses from Luckyscent who have similar tales. Take, for example, an experienced nurse who could not handle the flashback to the worst of her experiences in the health care field:

This reminds me of my days of working at the local public health hospital where I was tasked with the dubious honor of assisting those who were homeless and in need of medical care. The stench of this thing they call a perfume is just like the whiff i would get when my patients would peel off their pants. Smegma, body odor and yeast. […] RUN away!

I can see from your faces that you don’t believe me, that you think it couldn’t possibly be that bad. Well, I’m sorry to have to do this. Guards! Bring in the testers!”

[The guards set up two, tiny canisters at each end of the room. The jury shifts in their chairs nervously. A small phalanx of the judge’s clerks tiptoe in and discreetly set up small garbage cans at intervals along the gallery and the jury box. The Plaintiff’s attorney takes a deep gulp of air, holds her nose, points to the guards and nods.

Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.

Abstract Black Smoke via mobile-wallpapers

Three small whiffs of scent are released from each of the two canisters. The notes dance burst out like ghosts to hover in the air with a cold metallic clang as the room gets chilly. The notes hover there, white spectres who line up before the jury and wait for their scent to carry across the room. Very soon, half the jurors pale. Juror #3 starts to violently gag. The other half, however, merely stare back at the hovering aromas, fold their arms nonchalantly, and shrug. The ghosts look frustrated and disappointed. They lunge at the unimpressed jurors, one of whom distinctly mutters “eh” and yawns. The Defendant smirks, and scratches himself. 

His Honour, the Judge, decides enough time has passed for evidentiary analysis. He orders the ghosts back into their canisters, the windows opened, and the two solitary buckets filled with some dribbles of vomit to be removed. As a precautionary measure, he has the bailiffs hand out Pepcid anti-acid pills to everyone in the courtroom except the Defendant — whom he orders to zip up his fly and to stop adjusting himself. The Plaintiffs rest their case. The Court convenes for lunch, and then, upon its return, the Defense presents their case.]

THE DEFENSE:

Saul Goodman[The defense attorney, Saul Goodman, rises, points a finger at the jury and says]: “Piffle! Yes, Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is my response to the Plaintiffs’ case. PIFFLE! So my client doesn’t smell of roses and vanilla. Big whoop-di-do. So he’s different, original, obnoxious, extremely weird, and sticks to your skin forever. Is that a reason to sue him and ask for half a billion dollars in damages? Ha! Ridiculous. No, Secretions Magnifiques sucks, but he’s hardly as bad as the legend. 

[Judge Marx interrupts him:] “Mr. Goodman, is your defense essentially that Secretions Magnifiques … er… “sucks,” as you put it, but he simply doesn’t suck that much????!”

[Saul Goodman:] “No, your Honour, not exactly. Well, yes, I am saying he doesn’t suck that badly, but my main argument is that the evidence presented to the court cannot be considered reliable because it is the result of mass hysteria driven by preconceptions that have conditioned the subjects to smell what they were told to smell. In short, it’s all Etat Libre’s fault for creating this ridiculous legend in the first place, and my client is not to blame for the social conditioning.”

[The Judge blinks, takes a closer double look at the huckster facade put up by Goodman, then nods at him to continue.

Source: Amazon.uk

Luca Turin. Source: Amazon.uk

[Saul Goodman gives him a small wink and grins:] “I call my first witness, the Honourable Luca Turin, perhaps the most famous, respected fragrance critic in the world, to repeat his 5 Star rave of Secretions Magnifiques in the perfume bible, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide:

  • Stupendous secretions! The Dada name has me drooling. The fragrance is both less and far more than I expected: It’s not an animalic (supposedly) raunchy thing that works on the assumption that we collect soiled underwear or frequent the same nightclubs as cats and dogs. It is, however, an elegant fresh floral in the manner of Parfums de Nicolai’s Odalisque, given a demonic twist by a touch of a stupendous bilge note, which, my vibrational nose tells me, can only be a nitrile. I remember years ago mounting an impassioned defense of a forgotten Quest material called Marenil, which smelled just like that: oily, metallic, entirely wrong, and begging to be used intelligently. I’m delighted to see it was possible.

Now, I can see my learned colleague yearning to make some objection about how Luca Turin’s views are purely academic and involve intellectual nostalgia about certain unusual synthetics. So I will call to the stand the perfume blogger, Kafkaesque, who has often disagreed with Mr. Turin’s views on fragrances.”

[Witness is sworn in, and Goodman starts the direct:] “Kafkaesque, let me ask a simple question: Do you agree with Mr. Turin in light of your experience with Secretions Magnifiques?”

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

[Kafkaesque]: I don’t agree with Mr. Turin’s gushing rave, but I share his view that Secretions Magnifiques is certainly much less than I expected, and hardly the scent of soiled underwear or urine. I didn’t experience the bilge or sea-water note that he describes, but I did detect a nitrile aroma similar to that which Mr. Turin says was used in Serge LutensIris Silver Mist. To quote his review of that fragrance, he wrote that the Lutens’ fragrance was dominated by a “seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival. The result was the powderiest, rootiest, most sinister iris imaginable[.]” Secretions Magnifiques, on my skin, has a metallic, clanging, chilled vodka and powdered floral note that is extremely similar to what I experienced with Iris Silver Mist, and it is a large part of Secretions Magnifiques for me. 

Source: free-background-wallpaper.com

Source: free-background-wallpaper.com

But let me start at the beginning. Secretions Magnifiques opens on my skin clanging of steely metal with a floral, powdered undertone like iris. It is followed by more metallic blood, then a milky note that is chilled and alcoholic, as though iced vodka had been swirled in, along with some sweetness. It is all cold steel, cold vodka, cold milk, blood, and floral sweetness, in an extremely off-putting, unpleasant mix. But it also made me think, to use your terms, “Big Whoop-di-do.”

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

The metallic notes are the most interesting, the floral ones are a bore, and my real problem with the fragrance is something else entirely: Synthetics. The least offensive are the subtle aldehydes lurking about, undoubtedly from that mis-named “adrenaline accord” referenced in Etat Libre’s statement. They describe it as “a cascade of high-pitched aldehydic notes. The sensation of freshness is gripping.” As usual, Etat Libre goes too far. It’s not “high-pitched,” and the sensation is hardly “gripping,” but then, they always exaggerate. Plus, they may like aldehydes more than I do. 

Bounce Fabric SoftenerMy bigger problem lies with the white musk in Secretions Magnifiques’ base. It combines with the aldehydes to create a clean, almost laundry note, along with a slightly fresh sweetness. Eventually, it starts to become one of the most prominent parts of the scent, smelling much like Bounce fabric softener sheets that you throw in the dryer, though it also has a horrible, metallic hairspray undertone. I cannot bear any of it. That said, the freshness of the aroma seems like an ironic opposite to the lewdness of the spraying semen pictured in Etat Libre’s imagery, and certainly contrary to the accounts of dirty “smegma” and urine offered by some of the Plaintiffs’ witnesses here today.

Thirty minutes in, the cold, clean synthetic freshness of Secretions Magnifiques mixes with the metallic notes and a milk aroma that starts to feel a little sour and curdled. The result does churn my stomach a little and it does render me a little queasy. Strangely enough, the part of my arm where I applied the fragrance almost feels cold. Perhaps I’m a little suggestive, but it feels as though the chilled metallics and the nitrile’s vodka-like feel have cooled my arm. The power of imagery only goes so far, however. I am known to be an extremely suggestive vomiter who will start heaving even at a mere mental visual or image. And yet, I hardly felt like vomiting over Secretions Magnifiques. To paraphrase your comment, it sucks, but it doesn’t suck that bad.

Part of it may be a question of skin chemistry. I don’t smell semen or seawater, though there is something slightly salty about the concoction. The blood isn’t hugely significant on my skin, and feels more like the drop you’d have in your mouth if you accidentally bit the inside of your cheek. There is no coconut, though there is that milky aspect to which I referred earlier. As for the purported “sandalwood,” it’s wholly synthetic — a subtle haze of beige, generic woods that doesn’t even rise to the level of ersatz, wannabe Australian sandalwood. 

Source: overstock.com

Source: overstock.com

In less than two hours, Secretions Magnifiques turns into a synthetic, sweet, floral, aldehydic, woody musk. The blood note largely vanished after 90-minutes, the metallic element warmed up and became softer, and the whole fragrance turned smoother. It’s soft and sweet with the milky note having deepened into cream, backed by those abstract, amorphous beige woods and an equally abstract, chilled, floral note that vaguely resembles iris. It’s well-blended, but the whole thing smells simultaneously cheap and somewhat like refined, fresh, clean soap with — as Mr. Turin noted — a somewhat demonic, metallic twist thrown in for shock value.

Secretions Magnifiques remains that way for hours and hours. The reports of the fragrance’s frightening longevity are completely accurate. Secretions Magnifiques was still going strong on my perfume-consuming skin at the 13th hour when I gave up out of sheer boredom and washed it off. It seemed quite capable of lasting another 10 hours on me — and smelling of clean, fresh Bounce laundry sheets with abstract, sweet, slightly milky, woody floral musk is not my cup of tea. All in all, it’s an unappealing scent, but Secretions Magnifiques is hardly as vile as I had expected.”

[Saul Goodman:] “Then, how do you account for all the negative reports?”

[Kafkaesque:] “There are a few things to consider. First, for all the negative reports on Fragrantica given by the Plaintiffs, there are at least as many indifferent and underwhelmed reviews, if not more so. A few madmen even think Secretions Magnifiques is a beautiful masterpiece that they love, but I personally think that goes too far. The thing to consider are the many, many reports that essentially mirror this comment from a Fragrantica poster:

How terrible is this fragrance? To me, it’s nothing on par with some of the horror stories written below. I don’t really care for it, but that’s because it just smells awkward. These notes do not compliment one another and don’t make for a particularly nice perfume.

The other thing to consider is skin chemistry. Some people’s skins will bring out the more unpleasant sides. Yet, I firmly believe that a tiny portion of the negative reviews might be very different if the fragrance were smelled blindly. If people did not know they were testing Secretions Magnifiques — with all the visuals and legendary horrors surrounding that name — I think they’d find the fragrance to be merely an extremely unpleasant scent. They wouldn’t be driven to vomit, or to perceive semen.

Our brain filters aromas through a host of different factors, including imagery and pre-set knowledge. If you’re absolutely convinced that you’re going to smell urine and semen because that’s what you’ve been told again and again, then you may well end up doing so. However, if you go in with a blank slate, I suspect that some would get primarily a metallic, slightly salty, synthetic, fresh, abstractly floral fragrance that was extremely weird, unappealing, and mismatched, but nothing to actually gag over. In short, for some, the aroma may be a snowball that turned into an avalanche because of Etat Libre’s presentation and because of the subsequent social conditioning. It’s partially Pavlovian conditioning due to (not so) subliminal messaging, and partially an issue of the Collective Consciousness Theory. Again, I stress, this does not apply to everyone because skin chemistry does play a role, but I think social conditioning may apply to some of the people who have issues with the scent. They smelled what they expected to smell, and what they were told they would smell. A self-fulfilling prophesy turning into perceived reality.”

[Kafkaesque steps down, and Saul Goodman turns to the jury.] “Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to put aside your preconceived notions, and to really think about what you smelled in this courtroom today. Think about prophesy, social conditioning and mass hysteria as an explanation for some of the testimony you heard from the Plaintiffs, and discount their claims. Yes, my client is an ass, and a cheap, vulgar, synthetic lout. Yes, he sucks, and I wouldn’t want to smell like him. But, really, Whoop Di Do! There are a lot of unpleasant fragrances out there on the market. Don’t believe the hype, and let your verdict be a clear message to others that a perfume company’s marketing is not the same as reality. By all means, have them stay far, far away from Secretions Magnifiques. I certainly would! But objectivity and fairness require that you find him innocent of these extreme charges. Thank you.”

[The Defense sits down, the Judge gives his instructions, and the Jury leaves for its deliberations. They return six hours later, and a tired Jury Foreman (who has drenched himself in an entirely different fragrance, perhaps as a shield against the smell of Secretions Magnifiques) hands the bailiff a slip of paper.]

THE VERDICT:

Judgment for the Plaintiff.

Compensatory Award: $4.75, or the starting price of a sample test vial of Secretions Magnifiques from Surrender to Chance.

[The decision was 5 to 4: five jurors voted to convict the very second they set foot in the jury room. They refused to even try on the perfume for additional tests, and couldn’t get past the witness accounts. The legend was just too great. However, four jurors agreed with the “Whoop di Do” theory, and found the evidence against Secretions Magnifiques to be largely self-fulfilling prophesy. They didn’t like the fragrance and certainly would never wear it, but they simply didn’t think it amounted to the level of a vomitous, social nightmare. They won out in the discussions of the jury award, refusing to award serious damages, let alone half a billion dollars worth.]

*   *   *

Disclosure: This is not intended to be a proper depiction of a trial, Legal Procedures, or the law. It is a parody that is meant only in fun, though the essence of the perfume is accurate.

État Libre d’Orange Rien: Bondage Leather

Candice Swanepoel in "Strict" by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

Candice Swanepoel in “Strict” by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

A cool chick, dressed in fake leather that she’d bought at a cheap, second-hand store. By day, she worked in the industrial backrooms of a carpeting warehouse, trying to get the smell of dust and sanitized, synthetic cleaners out of her hair. With her torn fishnet stockings and combat boots, she exuded an air of toughness like the black whip she wielded at nights, in her other job, as a dominatrix at an exclusive BDSM club downtown. The clean scent of her slightly musky skin was coated with powder, the palest of pink roses, a touch of iris, and a sharp sweetness. The pale delicacy of it all contrasted with the feral meow of the raunchy cat smell that lingered under the fake leather, and with the incense that she loved to burn. On her evening breaks at the club, she would lounge nonchalantly against the wall, her long leg in its black patent, thigh-high stiletto boot crooked behind her as she restlessly flicked the whip to the side, and did her best James Dean with each long drag of her cigarette. When men asked her name, she would coldly reply, “Rien.”

Source: Lenoma.ru

Source: Lenoma.ru

Rien is a leather and aldehyde fragrance from the quirky, eccentric French niche house of État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter just “État Libre“). It is an eau de parfum created by Antoine Lie and released in 2006. The fragrance gives a nod at Robert Piguet‘s legendary Bandit, but without the latter’s famous green-black hues from galbanum. It also shares similarities to L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s Dzing! and Molinard‘s Habanita. Like all those fragrances, Rien is a love it-or-leave-it proposition. I hated it. Deeply.

État Libre describes Rien and its notes as follows:

RIEN, THE STORY…

Nothing is Everything. Do not believe what you first see… under the demureness of the name, there is the spicy savor of blackcurrant bays and the musky notes of blond suede. ‘Rien’ is a second skin perfume, a perfume that clings to the body and perseveres in the mind. Like venial sin on the verge of becoming mortal, it is irresistible and resolutely pervasive. As light as mohair and as precious as cashmere, the fragrance envelops skin with a powdered caress. It has the meticulous elegance and hypnotic beauty of a modern Dorian Gray, in a feminine/masculine version. An entrancing fragrance that leaves an unforgettable imprint. Utter charm, utterly charismatic. The vanilla/opium accord of the drydown reinforces the addiction. ‘Rien’ is an essential. A perfumer’s confession

Rien.

Incense, rose, leather, cistus [Labdanum], oakmoss, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes…

I’m a bit confused by the fact that some of the notes mentioned in État Libre’s story aren’t included in the notes. “Blackcurrant bays?” Apart from my ignorance as to what constitutes a berry’s “bay,” there is also the issue of Luckyscent listing a few additional or separate elements. For example, it lists mousse de chene (which is technically different from mere oakmoss), in addition to styrax (a vanillic resin) and iris. If Luckyscent is correct, then the complete list of notes would look more like this:

Incense, rose, leather, iris, labdanum, mousse de chene, styrax, oakmoss, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes.

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

Rien opens on my skin with aldehydes and a nuclear blast of black-green. For once, the aldehydes don’t translate on my skin as pure soap and foam, but rather as something fizzy, sweet, and with a wax candle undertone. They also have a salty, nose-tickling smell that is enormously similar to Alka-Seltzer tablets dropped in water.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

The green note smells sharp — so much so that it almost resembles galbanum more than mere oakmoss. Yet, despite its pungent, bitter acridness, it clearly has the traditional musty, grey mineralized feel of lichen. It’s an extremely cold note that has a mineral and metallic clang to it, along with a salty quality that obviously carried over to impact the aldehydes. The grey-green moss is also infused by incense, though it is not the usual dark, black, smoky kind. This is more like the mentholated, medicinal, almost anise-like tonalities of myrrh, but without its cold, white, High Church feel. The overall combination feels as sharp as the crack of a black-and-green leather whip across raw flesh. Have you seen those old films like “Mutiny on the Bounty,” where mutineers or slaves were whipped as punishment across their backs? That’s the crack you feel here with Rien’s opening. 

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

Civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

Some other notes stir and whimper submissively under this aggressive barrage of sharpness. There are subtle flickers of a pale, pink rose and of a slightly powdered iris hiding fearfully in the base. More defiant is the feral meow of the civet, sounding like a cat in heat as it lets off a sharp, bitter, animalic note. I’m not one of those people who always thinks civet smells like a “cat’s anus,” but something about the note in Rien strongly conjured up that pejorative term. Civet is a note that cannot be naturally harvested any longer due to animal cruelty and abuse issues, so the aroma is commonly replicated by synthetic versions. In Rien, it might be some very cheap stuff, because the civet feels not just animalic, but so sharp that it could cut you. Then again, given the rest of the fragrance, it’s undoubtedly intentional….

Source: ellequebec.com

Source: ellequebec.com

The most interesting parts of the fragrance to me are the leather and the mousse de chene. Let’s start with the former. There is something very synthetic about the leather, almost intentionally so, because the material smells like new, unworn, black patent shoes mixed with the cheap, plastic-y smell of fake, plastic leather, or “pleather.” As a lawyer in San Francisco, one of my areas of speciality was sexual harassment defense, and I gained some working knowledge of BDSM and sex clubs, as well as every possible kinky twist that you might imagine in a city as sexually open as San Francisco. When I wore État Libre’s Rien, all I could think about was bondage leather, whips, and rubber outfits in San Francisco (and a truly bizarre case). Here, however, the material always has a slightly powdered, dusty, rubbery, plastic, industrial undertone to it. I wouldn’t be particularly fond of the aroma, in and of itself, on the best of days, but when combined with the waxy, fizzy, nose-tickling aldehydes, the acrid, black incense, and the crack of the oakmoss, it’s really is not my cup of tea.

"Evernia Prunastri" lichen moss. Source: via supermoss.com

“Evernia Prunastri” lichen moss. Source: supermoss.com

And let’s talk about that oakmoss. Mousse de chene is actually a specific type of oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) which is an oakmoss absolute according to The Aroma Connection blog, and, in some people’s eyes, seems to be considered the “true” oakmoss. It’s a grey lichen which grows on trees and has an intensely dank, pungent, fusty aroma that can also be salty and smell like tree bark. Still, the truth is that “real” oakmoss of any type is essentially banned out of perfume existence, so substitutes are used. There is a very interesting, detailed, and somewhat technical discussion of the different types of oakmoss on The Aroma Connection, including the various synthetic versions or additives thereto. The site also helpfully provides the following aroma description:

It should also be mentioned that a range of commercial oakmoss products exists, some offering a warm, leathery-mossy character, whilst others offer have woody, mossy – almost marine-like aspects.

Here, both types of aromas are present. The oakmoss has a sharp mossy, salty character that smells quite distinctly like the bark of a tree, but it also has a leathery quality to it. Later, it turns warmer, but the opening moments of Rien are really a whack on the head with its colder, sharper aspects that are further amplified by the black pleather and acrid smoke.

Thankfully, about forty minutes, Rien starts to soften its sharp edges, turning smoother, sweeter, and a hair less insolently hostile. There is a gentle warmth stirring deep in its depths, aided by the slow awakening of patchouli along with vanillic touches from the styrax. Unfortunately, these more positive aspects are off-set by a soft, sweet, musky smell that feels like the aroma of newly placed, industrial carpeting in an office, or rolled up carpet in a warehouse somewhere. It’s a smell that is sharp, musty, dusty, almost glue-like, but also sanitized clean. I blame it on the combination of the aldehydes with the oakmoss, along with some help perhaps from white musk. Atop this dusty, somewhat industrial, musty, clean bouquet is a sprinkling of sweet powder; it’s not quite vanillic, but it’s definitely not like iris or makeup powder either.

Source: ehow.com

Source: ehow.com

At the 75-minute point, Rien’s base is a mix of cloyingly sweetened, dusty oakmoss with bondage leather, rubber, that sanitized industrial aroma, and some patchouli. The whole thing is wrapped up with sharp myrrh-like incense smoke, and even sharper animalic civet. The syrupy brown sweetness now filling the oakmoss juxtaposes sharply with its more pungent, mossy, mineralized aspects. The juxtaposition grows even more contrary when you add in the synthetic, “office clean” vibe and the dominatrix’s rubbery, black leather. I can’t bear any of it.

Source: Thriftcore.com

Source: Thriftcore.com

I’m also having extremely pained flashbacks to L’Artisan‘s Dzing!, a fragrance that almost made me lose my mind with its extremely similar dusty scent mixed with synthetic, cloying sweetness. Dzing! reminded me of those cheap trinket, tourist shops you find in Tijuana where the smell of plastic toys and shoes from China mixes with dust, vanilla air freshener, clean notes, rubber, and sweetness. Both perfumes are intended to be leather fragrances but, to me, the “leather” in Dzing! smelled solely of cheap, industrial plastic accompanied by cloying, synthetic, vanillic sweetness. It’s nowhere near as bad in Rien — the aroma is more dusty pleather than hardcore, pink plastic with glue and chemical undertones — but the two fragrances share enough synthetic similarities to make me wince. 

At the end of the second hour, Rien’s combination of aldehydes with plastic leather remains the dominant feature, but the oakmoss recedes a little. Slowly rising to take its place is the patchouli, resulting in a discordant dusty-musty-soapy-patchouli combination. The amber also becomes more prominent, though it never once feels like labdanum with its wonderfully nutty, rich, sometimes dirty, resinous characteristics. Instead, the amber here is just a generic, vague, muted warm glow in the base, infused with myrrh smoke, styrax’s vanillic hues, the feral animalic skank of the civet, and those godawful industrial synthetics. Is there no end to this nightmare?

The perfume continues its subtle shifts. Slowly, Rien transforms into a bouquet of clean, musky, supposedly “skin” tonalities with aldehydic underpinnings, accompanied by fruited notes from the patchouli. There is powder that feels a little like that in makeup, thanks to the orris, but it also resembles powdered vanilla. The sharpness of the synthetic civet vies with the swirl of equally sharp dark smoke, which now feels more like frankincense than bitter myrrh. And the floral elements grow more prominent.

By the start of the fourth hour, Rien is a soft blur of clean, musky, aldehydic skin infused with muted floral notes of rose and iris, as well as a fruited elements that resembles dried raspberries. The smoke and plastic leather wrap it up like a bow, creating a bouquet that calls to mind the sharp, powdery, fruited, black leather, florals and smoke of Molinard‘s Habanita eau de toilette. (A combination that resulted in my struggling enormously with Habanita as well, by the way, and which ended in me disliking it immensely.)

Rien’s undercurrent of animalic, almost urinous civet remains unabated, as do the prickly, biting synthetics in the base, but Rien has (thankfully) lost its aura of freshly cleaned, commercial carpeting. The reason may lie in the growing warmth and amber in the fragrance’s foundation, which has finally managed to diffuse some of the oakmoss-aldehyde-pleather combination’s bite. At the same time, the sillage drops, and the whole bouquet hovers just an inch above the skin. Rien is still extremely potent when smelled up close, and I suspect the synthetics are the reason why.

So, to summarize, we’ve gone from Bandit to Dzing! to Habanita. No matter how much I may dislike the fragrance, I have to give Rien credit for pulling off so many clever referential nods in a row. Rien remains in its Habanita-like phase for a few hours before reaching its last stage near the end of the seventh hour.  At that point, Rien is really just powder on my skin with a slightly floral nuance and quite a bit of stale sourness. The bloody fragrance sets me free just after the tenth hour when it finally dies away. I rushed to put on some Puredistance M, so that a leather fragrance I actually enjoyed would wipe the bad taste away.   

Sons of Anarchy photo via wall321.com.

Sons of Anarchy photo via wall321.com.

As noted earlier, Rien is one of those difficult fragrances that people either love or hate. To balance out my perspective, I thought I’d share the views of The Non-Blonde who accurately describes the fragrance as “edgy” in a review which reads, in part, as follows:

It’s dirty, animalic, leathery, and smoky. There’s a hint of hot asphalt and burnt rubber, the kind you get when notes of black leather, cistus, and cumin come together. But Rien is also directly connected to Robert Piguet’s Bandit, not just in the smoke, leather and uncompromising oakmoss, but also in the softening that happens when the fragrance unfolds and gives a peek at its floral heart (more apparent in Bandit’s extrait concentration).

I used to think of Rien as very butch. I’m not so sure nowadays, though it is completely gender neutral. Rien is urban, has a distinct and deliberate synthetic twist– rubber, smoke, and some metallic parts, but also very human and warm. Wearing Rien is like taking a whiff of skin warmed under the biker’s leather jacket. […]

Rien can be downright dangerous in large amounts. I’ve noticed it the very first time I tried it and I maintain this view to this day. It’s one of my favorite perfumes from ELdO, but its non-perfuminess and the medicinal quality it takes when sprayed lavishly can be a major turn-off for those who don’t appreciate its style and heavy dusty leather boots.

I think we detect very much the same thing, particularly as Rien does have a whiff of warm skin under a biker’s leather jacket, in addition to ties with Bandit and the “deliberate synthetic twist” that she noted. I may have different terms and aroma sensations for the synthetic parts, since Rien was more sanitized, industrial office carpeting on my skin than asphalt, but the synthetic and urban feel is very much the same. Where we part ways is that she happens to think Rien is “daring and seductive,” while I simply hate it. Profoundly. And, no, I did not apply a lot. It doesn’t take much to be deluged by Rien’s abrasively acrid, synthetic, extremely sharp weirdness.

People’s assessment of Rien on Fragrantica is generally very consistent in terms of how the fragrance manifests itself on people’s skin, but there is a big split as to whether people actually like the final result. Some consider Rien to be a “masterpiece” precisely because of its difficult notes. Others found it to be utterly unbearable. Some examples of the range in perspective:

  • it’s suede and little else. Smells like a department store leather jacket area. Also has a nice hint of industrial carpet. Ever walk into a new office? Yep, that’s what I’m smelling. Not something I’d want to wear. I don’t smell anything animalic or balmy or like incense or wood. JUST ALDEHYDES.
  • Truly the bizarro spiritual successor of Magie Noire and Aromatics Elixir! It smells yellow, pissy, leathery, turpentine-like, but also like patchouli and clean earth. At times it smells like a corrupted Chanel No. 5, with muted and expensive-smelling florals. A masterpiece with unbeatable strength and longevity, great in hot or cold weather, and devastatingly sexy on men and women alike. If you want to project a certain fuck-off image then you must have it. Vastly superior to the more timid Bandit, I must say.
  • All I smell is brand-new snow tires in a garage. [¶] And I can’t scrub it off. Must be those 60,000+ mile steel-belted tire models. I just might have to wrap my wrist in a towel and duct tape it up…so that I might get to sleep tonight.
  • strong aldehydes, remining me of grandmas classical perfumes, and the heavy leather scent. There is also a strong animalistic note and the animalistic and oakmoss notes clash with something industrial, plasticky.
  • I’ve read quite a few of the reviews here and mostly I see negative remarks. All I have to say is – ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY? This is one of the most magnificent perfumes I have ever smelled! And believe me I have smelled (and owned) a lot of great perfumes. Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, Guerlain’s Mitsouko (which is my most favorite scent ever!), L’Heure Bleue ( some say old-fashioned, I say classic) -I could go on and on, but I won’t. [¶] Anyway, my point is I would put Rien in the same line up as any of the greats. It is a masterpiece of perfumery. And this is said by a 56 year old woman, who only a couple of years ago was afraid to go out of her Guerlain, Chanel, Dior comfort zone.

There is the same sharp split at Basenotes. The negative reviews talk about such things as how Rien is “mainly a piercing, industrial note like glue, solvent or hot light bulbs. A woody-spice note in an quirky mutant, sci-fi vein. Hot plastic, volatile glue… really not my scene.” The positive ones rave about how Rien is a challenging, strange beauty that has ties to everything from Habanita, Bandit, and Dzing!, to such famously skanky or urinous fragrances as Kouros and Bal à Versailles. On both sites, I get the impression that men generally seem to outnumber the women in terms of loving Rien, so I’d definitely not worry about the fragrance being very feminine in nature.

How you feel about Rien may depend on how you view certain notes. If you’re someone who is ambivalent about Bandit, please be aware that the leather here is much more intense, not as smooth, and is significantly more synthetic or industrial in feel. If you dislike aldehydes, industrial notes, black rubber, synthetic plastic aromas, incredibly sharp civet, urinous elements, and/or super mineralized, dusty, pungent oakmoss, then stay away. On the other hand, however, if you’re someone who loves oakmoss fragrances that are very animalic, skanky, aldehydic or dusty, then I’d definitely recommend you giving Rien a test sniff. (But do not blind buy!) If you go one step further and genuflect before the altar of Bandit, Habanita, or Kouros, then Rien should absolutely be your next stop. I’m sure you’ll enjoy cracking that whip to the feral yowls of the civet!

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Rien is an eau de parfum that is most commonly available in a 1.7 ml/50 ml size, but which can also be purchased directly from Etat Libre’s website in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle as well. The prices listed there are in Euros: €69.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. Etat Libre offers worldwide shipping, and free delivery to or within France. In the U.S.: Rien can be purchased from LuckyScent for $80 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, with samples for $3, and from MinNY. You can also purchase it from Parfum1 in the large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $149. The site offers free domestic shipping, with international shipping available for a fee. Outside the U.S.: You can purchase Rien from Etat Libre’s new London store at 61 Redchurch Street for £60, as well as from its Paris one located at 69, rue des Archives, 75003. Elsewhere in the UK, I found Rien on Amazon UK for £58.49 for the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle through a third-party vendor . It is also sold at London’s Les Senteurs for £59.50, with samples also available for purchase. In Germany, Rien is available at First in Fragrance in the small size for €69. The site ships worldwide. In the Netherlands, I found it at ParfuMaria in the large 100 ml size for €119. In Italy, it’s available at ScentBar and in Spain, it’s sold at The Cosmeticoh. In Russia, Lenoma carries the full Etat Libre line. For all other locations or vendors from Canada to the Netherlands and Sweden, you can use the Store Locator listing on the company’s website. Samples: you can order a sample of Rien from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.75 for a 1 ml vial.

Perfume Review – État Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu

He brings the sun.

etat libre d'orange fils de dieu perfume bottle and boxBringing the warm joyousness of the sun by way of a perfumed ode to the Asian tropics — an ode that sparkles with the very brightest of zingy, crisp citruses; that luxuriates in the creamy sweetness of sticky coconut Thai rice; and that strokes you with the velvety headiness of jasmine, before turning into a soft, golden, amber embrace. That is the journey offered by Fils de Dieu, a unisex eau de parfum from the whimsical, playfully avant-garde, often satirical, always provocative French perfume house, État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter just “État Libre“). The perfume’s full name is actually Fils de Dieu, Du Riz et Des Agrumes which means “Son of God, of Rice and of Citruses” and, to make matters a little more confusing, used to be called Philippine Houseboy. (Terrible name! Thank God for the change.)

Fils de Dieu was created by Ralf Schweiger, and was released in 2012 to much acclaim, landing in the Top Five of CaFleureBon‘s Best Perfumes of 2012 list. The perfume veers far outside the parameters of my usual style or preferences, but I actually like it and think it would be a great, easy, casual summer scent.

État Libre describes Fils de Dieu and its notes as follows:

He brings the sun.

Fils de dieu comes from the Philippines to spread a message of warmth and enlightenment. Here, find an innocent wisdom that points to dreams and liberation. This is the golden eye that reflects beauty and conflict, rapture and pain. Fils de dieu is an emotional fragrance, a scent that requires a sympathetic connection between the server and the served, the giver and the taker, and the willingness to exchange roles.

Composition : Ginger, coriander leaves, lime, shiso, coconut JE, rice, cardamom JE, jasmine, cinnamon, may rose, tonka bean, vetiver, musk, amber, leather, castoreum…

I have no idea what “JE” stands for, but let’s move on. What caught my attention with Fils de Dieu is how it can be many different fragrances in one. I tested it twice — once in chilly, air-conditioned temperatures, and once in muggy warmth. The first time, and with the impact of the cold, I noticed Fils de Dieu had three, distinctly separate stages that can be summed up essentially as follows:

Stage One: Almost all crisp, aromatic citrus cologne notes – about 90% citrus, 8% lemongrass-y vetiver, and 2% jasmine;

Stage Two: Primarily jasmine in nature – about 75% jasmine, 15% citrus, 5% lemongrass-y vetiver, and 5% other notes;

Stage Three: A whole other perfume — fluctuating levels of vanilla and amber for the most part, followed by spices, a dash of castoreum, and flickers of other elements.

Yet, it was an entirely different matter when I turned off the air-conditioning (which was a painful experience given where I live), and let the tropical humidity do its work. In the sort of thick, wet air that must resemble Fils de Dieu’s Philippine inspiration, the perfume bloomed to become the sort of scent it was clearly intended to be: a slightly sweet ode to Thai food, interspersed with exotic, tropical, heady jasmine, custardy vanilla, citrus, spices, and sensuous warmth.

THE FIRST TEST:

Let’s start with the first test, where Fils de Dieu bewildered me by being a crisp, citrus cologne for the entirety of its opening. The perfume starts on my skin with fresh shiso that smells minty, just lightly peppery, and incredibly fresh. Within seconds, it is joined by zesty lime and bergamot, both shining brightly with an almost translucent radiance.

Source: onlyhdwallpapers.com

Source: onlyhdwallpapers.com

Fils de Dieu quickly softens, with the citrus notes fading to slightly more muted levels, and flecked with a bright rose tonality, along with the merest hint of airy jasmine. Then, the citrus comes back, stronger and heartier than ever, only this time headed up by bergamot. As always, its main companion is the lime, which feels a wee bit bitter now. Rounding out the top three notes is vetiver which has a very lemongrass-like nuance here, instead of its more common, rooty, dark, or earthy characteristics. Five minutes later, a rice note creeps in. It’s milky, barely sweetened, and evocative of boiled jasmine. The note is so insubstantial, however, that it really takes vociferous inhalations to detect it for the brief moments that it’s there.

For the next 90 minutes, Fils de Dieu is nothing more than a masculine sort of cologne on my skin. It’s citrus, more citrus, a dash of vetiver, a few drops of jasmine, and that mysteriously vanishing rice note. There is a minute, tiny, faint hum of synthetics at the base — something I’ve noticed in all Ralf Schweiger’s fragrances to varying degrees — but there are no spices, no vanilla, and absolutely no coconut whatsoever. I actually felt a little cheated, given all that I’d heard about Fils de Dieu’s supposed resemblance to Thai Curry. Well, not on me, at least not under chilly temperatures… Over time, the strength of the main notes varies (and, sometimes, the jasmine feels much more dominant), but, ultimately, there is no escaping the citruses and the cologne impression.

Rice stalk via nsf.gov

Rice stalk via nsf.gov

Then, 2.25 hours in, Fils de Dieu changes. Parts of my arm now emit faint traces of really sweet, boiled rice infused with jasmine; another part wafts jasmine with amber and a touch of castoreum; and a third (much smaller) part is simply nothing more than lemongrass vetiver and cool lime. It’s bewildering. Clearly, Fils de Dieu is a beautifully blended, well-crafted fragrance that reflects different notes at different times. But, for the majority of this test, it was “fragrant” in the most aromatic sense of the word, as something that was primarily citrus and jasmine in nature.

Salted Caramel & Nutella Rice Krispie Treats. Source: The Mini Baker. (Click on photo for link to website and the recipe.)

Salted Caramel & Nutella Rice Krispie Treats. Source: The Mini Baker. (Click on photo for link to website and the recipe.)

The slow progression of the scent continues, morphing slowly into its third and final phase. Around the third hour, Fils de Dieu turns into jasmine fragrance with a sweet, dry vanilla that has a lightly perfumed finish and the merest hint of cinnamon. At the four-hour mark, however, the perfume has a complete metamorphosis, turning into an ambery butterfly with an almost boozy edge. It’s plush, nutty, infused with cardamon and cinnamon, and has a distinctly toffee undertone. The rice note pops up again, but this time it’s toasted; it smells a little like Rice Krispies would — if they were covered by toffee, cinnamon and amber.

Source: layoutsparks.com

Source: layoutsparks.com

The amber is beautiful here, with the sort of rich depth that you’d normally find in ambergris — but without the salty, marshy, slightly sweaty characteristics of the element. I chalk the rich depth of the note to the castoreum which definitely accounts for the subtle tinge of sweet musk lurking around Fils de Dieu’s edges. Underneath the amber is the lightest suggestion of leather that feels very smooth, supple, warm, as if it had been burnished by sweet resins. There is no longer any vanilla to distract from all the gold, bronze, umber visuals. As time passes, the perfume continued to soften and the notes turn more abstract.

A little short of 8.25 hours in, Fils de Dieu finally fades away, nothing more than musky, ambered sweetness. Its sillage was moderate at the start, continued to drop after the first hour, and then faded away to a skin scent around the middle of the fifth hour. The truly astonishing thing, though, is the degree of change. Between the spices, the languorous, castoreum-infused resins, the sweetness, and the plush richness of the scent, Fils de Dieu did a complete 180 from its opening as a crisp, citrus cologne. You couldn’t get a more drastic change — which is why I decided I needed to test the perfume under very different conditions.

SECOND TEST:

For my second test, I turned off the air-conditioning, opened the windows, and let the humidity of the muggy swamp outside invade my office. The heat wave has left, so the difference in internal temperature according to the thermostat only seems to be about 16 degrees, but the humidity is easily close to 90%. And what a difference that made to Fils de Dieu! It suddenly turned into the fragrance that it was supposed to be.

Shiso Leaf and Lime. Source: Sweetfineday.com (Link to website embedded within photo.)

Shiso Leaf & Lime. Source: Sweetfineday.com (Website link embedded within photo.)

Once again, Fils de Dieu opens as a citrus scent with the brightest of green notes. There is shiso leaf with its lightly peppered, minty aroma, followed by lemon and bergamot – both as airy, fresh and bright as a blade of grass. A quiet sweetness soon infuses the notes, turning them into something warmer, richer, and less crisp. Hints of vetiver, still with a lemongrass nuance, creep in. So do the lightest hints of vanilla and ginger (something I never detected at all in my first test).

Coconut Lime Rice Custard. Source: medifoods.co.nz -

Coconut Lime Rice Custard. Source: medifoods.co.nz –

But then, it all changes, and far more quickly than it did the first time around. No less than twenty-five minutes into the perfume’s development, Fils de Dieu turns into a scent that is primarily sweet rice boiled in coconut cream and sprinkled by a light veil of jasmine! The bergamot, lime, and light green herbs are still there, but they are mere seasoning to accentuate the main dish.

Double boiled coconut cream dessert via womenworld.org.

Double boiled coconut cream dessert via womenworld.org.

The rice note is strong, sweet and lactonic, infused by coconut that feels, simultaneously, both like the light, delicate milk, and the richer, buttery cream. At the same time, there is a strong flutter of lemon-tinged coriander leaves at the back; the ginger feels slightly sweetened; and the vanilla takes on an eggy, custard richness that’s speckled with lime. Good heavens, what a sharp contrast! Fils de Dieu remains that way for hours and hours, fluctuating only in the degree of some of its notes, but never changing its primary essence. On occasion, cinnamon will make a small appearance, but that’s about the only difference.

Coconut Lime Rice Pudding Brulee via Becks & Posh blogspot. (Click on photo for the recipe and website link.)

Coconut Lime Rice Pudding Brulee via Becks & Posh blogspot. (Click on photo for the recipe and website link.)

Then, around the end of the fourth hour, there are changes. The rice note goes from milky sweet to something that is toasted and, again, strongly calls to mind Rice Krispies. It is covered with a light toffee and with a vanilla note that is still custardy but, now, it also has a powdery aspect to it. All the notes sit atop a base of plush amber that has been enriched by the warm, light, musky, velvety aspects of castoreum, along with cardamom and cinnamon. It’s all very muted, light, soft and very sheer — and quite a contrast to the rich, heavier, deeper base of Fils de Dieu during the cold temperature test.

Clearly, the humidity sucked all the richness out of the amber marrow because the drydown never reached the same depths with the heat. Starting in the sixth hour, the perfume feels more like simple, generic, uninteresting amber with some sweetness and musk. In its final moments during the second test, as in the first, Fils de Dieu was just sweet muskiness, and nothing more. Oddly enough, the heat seemed to extend the lifespan of the scent which lasted 11.25 hours on my skin, instead of 8.25. I can’t quite understand it because it seems like it should be the reverse, unless the heat just makes the musk bloom. As for the sillage, it was even softer than usual with the heat.

OVERALL:

The differences in the test show something beyond just the impact of climate. They demonstrate just how well-blended the fragrance can be, throwing off different notes under different conditions. In all cases, however, the perfume didn’t feel wholly and completely gourmand in nature, despite the foodie resemblance to certain Asian dishes. The simple reason is that Fils de Dieu isn’t massively sweet; the citrus elements help ensure it never verges on the cloying and keep an element of freshness about the scent. And it really is a very fragrant one, in the best sense of the word.

Is Fils de Dieu revolutionary, edgy, and funky? Absolutely not! Is it cozy, comforting, incredibly easy to wear? Definitely. I don’t know how often one would normally want to smell like Fils de Dieu’s more rice-centered notes, but I think the perfume’s different personalities give one some options. Its more zesty, aromatic, citrus freshness in cold temperatures makes me think that those who want to avoid a “foodie” scent can use it in cooler weather, while those who enjoy the sweetly lactonic, rice and jasmine aspect can opt for the summer months to let it really bloom. 

There seems to be quite a bit of love for Fils de Dieu in the perfume community, but there are also plenty of people who don’t find it all that interesting. For example, Now Smell This was distinctly unimpressed, with Kevin writing:

Fils de Dieu opens with gingery lime, and “green” coriander and pungent shiso leaf. As the sprightly opening notes begin to disappear (and they disappear fast), the scent of “nutty” coconut makes a brief appearance and then…? Fils de Dieu begins to disappear. Was that IT?

Fils de Dieu is one of those scents that falters and then makes a comeback. After the opening fizzles, the comeback notes are mild jasmine, hazy vetiver, dry, tonka bean-scented rice (to my nose, this is more a toasted rice note, not steamed rice or rice pudding) and…leather (the most “background,” powdery, see-thru leather note you can imagine). Fils de Dieu’s rose note is very mild; it disappeared quickly on my skin, but I could detect it on my shirt for hours. Fils de Dieu’s base notes smell of shamefaced musk (certainly not the bold castoreum I was expecting) mingling with a light amber-y accord. […][¶]

Fils de Dieu is only semi-tropical and, for me, doesn’t conjure a houseboy, a sunny god, or the Philippines (or any Southeast Asian locale).  Fils de Dieu does remind me of old-style, lightly spiced white floral feminine French perfumes from long ago.

I wonder if he tried it with the air-conditioning on? Like him, I smelled nothing tropical in my first test either, though I did have that wonderful drydown with the chilly temperature which seems infinitely better than what he got. Oddly, CaFleureBon‘s experience seems to be a mixture of both of mine together:

The Asian vibe is accentuated right from the top notes of Fils de Dieu as a tart lime and smooth shiso leave no doubt about what part of the world your nose is located in. Ginger and coconut join in to add a tropical facet to the early going. The shiso and the coconut really are the stars in the top notes. M Schwieger chooses only one floral note for Fils de Dieu; jasmine. He surrounds the jasmine with a steamed rice accord and a spicy duo of cardamom and cinnamon. The rice accord is beautifully realized and M Schwieger uses it to add a palpable humidity to the heart of Fils de Dieu. The base notes are animalic but kept exquisitely balanced and well controlled. Leather, musk, and castoreum create a slightly sexual accord over a healthy foundation of vetiver and amber.

Over on Basenotes, the tropics and food also seem to be the main conclusions of the day — but few consider Fils de Dieu to be as nuanced or as good as CaFleureBon did. Most of the commentators talk about Thai food or curries, though one found Fils de Dieu to be primarily citruses and vanilla that turned a little coconut-y at the end to create an average, spicy oriental that, in his opinion, veered sharply from État Libre’s best. Food — and rice, in specific — are also the focus at Fragrantica where, unlike at Basenotes, the posters generally seem to adore Fils de Dieu. One commentator found the fragrance to be primarily jasmine and vanilla, but the majority experienced the full complement of notes, with a number talking about the rich, musky, amber drydown.

I don’t like very foodie scents and I cannot abide anything gourmand, but I would wear Fils de Dieu. Granted, not all that often, but it’s an easy, uncomplicated comfort scent in my opinion, and I enjoyed different parts of each of its split personalities. For me, the sweet, heady jasmine and the zesty, fresh citruses prevent the fragrance from verging too heavily into either problematic category. Once Fils de Dieu loses its purely shiso-lime-bergamot facade, the overall bouquet keeps you coming back for one more sniff. Plus, it’s thankfully not sweet enough to be a true dessert scent. And, it’s very affordable, too! That said, I would not recommend Fils de Dieu to someone who dislikes even minor foodie elements in their perfume, nor to someone looking for a highly complex, sophisticated scent. Also, I think that a man who doesn’t like sweeter floral fragrances may find Fils de Dieu to be a little feminine in nature, despite the citrus top notes. But if you’re looking for a casual, cozy, sunny fragrance, give Fils de Dieu a try. You just may want to turn decrease the air-conditioning when you do so….

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Fils de Dieu, du Riz et Des Agrumes is an eau de parfum that is most commonly available in a 1.7 ml/50 ml size, but which can also be purchased directly from Etat Libre’s website in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle as well. The prices listed there are in Euros: €69.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. In the U.S.: Fils de Dieu can be purchased from LuckyScent for $80 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, with samples for $3, and from MinNY. You can also purchase it from Parfum1 which offers free domestic shipping. (International shipping is available for a fee.) Outside the U.S.: You can purchase Fils de Dieu from Etat Libre’s new London store at 61 Redchurch Street, as well as from its Paris one located at 69, rue des Archives, 75003. Elsewhere in the UK, I found Fils de Dieu on the NkdMan site for £52.50 for the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle and with free UK delivery. It is also sold at London’s Les Senteurs for £59.50, with samples also available for purchase. In Germany, Fils de Dieu is available at First in Fragrance in the small size for €69. The site ships worldwide. In the Netherlands, I found it at ParfuMaria in the large 100 ml size for €119. In Hungary, I found it at Neroli Parfums, while in Italy, it’s available at ScentBar and in Spain, it’s sold at The Cosmeticoh. In Russia, I think it’s sold at iPerfume, but I can’t read Cyrillic to see if it’s available for online purchase. For all other locations or vendors from Canada to the Netherlands and Moscow, you can use the Store Locator listing on the company’s website. Samples: you can order a sample of Fils de Dieu from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.75 for a 1 ml vial.

Perfume Review – Tilda Swinton, Like This by État Libre d’Orange

Tilda Swinton has dreamed of a perfume.

That is how Etat Libre d’Orange (“ELDO”) starts to describe the perfume that they made in homage to (and in collaboration with) the talented, eccentric, British actress.

Not a girly juice, oh no. A radical fragrance that soothes the fire under the milky skin. A warm perfume, cooled by ginger. If this perfume was a light, it would be an orange glow. That’s what it is. Moreover, if you remove a letter Tilda Swinton Redfrom the word ‘orange’, you have orage – ‘storm’ in French – and that suits her. On the surface, the elements are rousing. On the inside, the fire is tamed, it burns gently in the fireplace of her Scottish home. The fire purrs, the ginger is crystallized, the milk is warm. The room is a sanctuary. She said: I want a cozy perfume. And I hear the word ‘Cosi’ too. Comme ça. Like This. This perfume is her offering, inspired by a poem of Rumi, Like This. And in terms of this uncommon woman, I also hear: And like nothing else. It’s like this – punctuated with a bewitching smile.

Tilda Swinton Like ThisTilda Swinton, Like This (which is also, alternatively, called “Like This,” “Like This, Tilda Swinton,” or “Like This… Tilda Swinton“) is the actress’ interpretation of her favorite Rumi poem. As she explains, she doesn’t even normally like scents in a bottle — but she adores Rumi and, now, the “cozy” comfort of her eponymous fragrance:

I have never been a one for scents in bottles. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote : If anyone wants to know what «spirit» is, or what «God’s fragrance» means, lean your head toward him or her. Keep your face there close. Like this. […]

This is possibly my favourite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/ greenhouse my scent-sense is fed by.

The simple feelings of “home” and nature were Ms. Swinton’s precise goal in creating the perfume — and I’m emphasizing that for two reasons: 1), because this perfume won’t be for everyone as it is quite… er… unusual; and 2) because the aromas of a kitchen are fundamental to the essence of Tilda Swinton Like This:

My favourite smells are the smells of home, the experience of the reliable recognisable after the exotic adventure: the regular – natural – turn of the seasons, simplicity and softness after the duck and dive of definition in the wide, wide world.

When Mathilde Bijaoui first asked me what my own favourite scent in a bottle might contain, I described a magic potion that I could carry with me wherever I went that would hold for me the fragrance – the spirit – of home. The warm ginger of new baking on a wood table, the immortelle of a fresh spring afternoon, the lazy sunshine of my grandfather’s summer greenhouse, woodsmoke and the whisky peat of the Scottish Highlands after rain. I told her about a bottle of spirit, something very simple, to me : something almost indescribable, so personal it should be. The miracle is that Mathilde made it.

Like This was released in 2010, and contains the following notes:

Yellow mandarin, ginger, pumpkin accord, immortelle, Moroccan neroli, rose de Grasse, vetiver, heliotrope, and musk.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle is such a key part of this perfume (and such a hugely polarizing note) that it’s worth a brief explanation for those unfamiliar with the name. As Fragrantica explains, immortelle is a flowering plant from the Southern Mediterreanean area which has the smell of either: maple syrup, caramel, fenugreek spice, curry and/or toasted bread. The essential oil “has a strongly straw-like, fruity smell, with a honey and tea undertone.”

Immortelle. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

Immortelle. Source: The Perfume Shrine.

I tested Like This three times, with slightly different outcomes for the opening and longevity. The first time, the perfume started with an airy (but strong) note of fresh, yellow citrus that almost immediately turned sweeter and more floral in nature. The overall image is that of a dry, slightly woody, yellow floral with honeyed sweetness and some dried hay undertones– which is precisely what Immortelle is like in large part. The citrus note isn’t exactly lemon, but it’s not really tangerine, either. It’s more like very honeyed lemon for the first five minutes.

Source: GumaGumalu.com Free Recipes. (Click link for a Carrot Milkshake Recipe.)

Source: GumaGumalu.com Free Recipes. (Click link for a Carrot Milkshake Recipe.)

Soon thereafter, Like This turned milky or lactonic with candied ginger, milky notes, light musk and an airy element of what felt like honey-sweetened vegetables. It wasn’t pumpkin, and it took me a little while to pinpoint it, but it turned out to be glazed carrots. I know Tilda Swinton Like This is supposed to evoke gingerbread houses and pumpkin but, to me, the note was definitely caramelized carrots. It’s actually a lot more attractive than it sounds, especially when combined with the floral elements.

Tilda Swinton Red HairLess than 30 minutes in, Tilda Swinton Like This (honestly, I’m never sure what I’m supposed to call this perfume!) becomes deeper, smokier and woodier as the immortelle starts to bloom. The milky elements fade as a slightly burnt note creeps in, along with a maple syrup accord. A little over an hour later, “Like This” turns into a complete skin scent that is the immortelle’s yellow flower, along with musk over a dry woods element and the merest dusting of maple syrup. It’s all orange-yellow and brown — and that’s about it. By the second hour, I thought it had died completely. Really. It seemed to have vanished. So, I began a test on my other arm when, to my surprise, faint traces of the scent popped up on the first arm a little later before fading away completely at the four-hour mark.

My second test started like the first with that citrus note that rapidly morphed into something sweeter and more floral. Again, the citrus was sweet and turned into tangerine around the five-minute mark, adding a soupçon of tartness under the combination of honey. Again, there were fragrant yellow flowers; candied ginger; and dry, wooded herbals that almost feel like the stems of the immortelle mixed with some hay. This time, however, there were no milky notes that evoked a sweetened, carrot chai. In contrast, there was now the definite scent of heliotrope, adding a candied violet undertone to the scent, along with very noticeable, lemon-nuanced vetiver, and the faintest hint of rose concentrate.

That rose note was a key part of both the second and third tests of Tilda Swinton Like This. It’s never a wholly distinct, individually clear note but, rather, intertwined with the carrot. I know irises can sometimes have a carrot-like undertone, but do roses or heliotrope? Perhaps it’s how the “pumpkin accord” translates to my nose when mixed in with the honeyed syrup aspects of immortelle and the roses, but I’m telling you, Tilda Swinton Like This smells of roses and yellow immortelle flowers heavily intertwined with caramelized carrots — all atop a foundation of dry woods, vetiver, and nutty, butterscotch-like, maple syrup.

Tilda SwintonI realise it all sounds terrible. I mean, honestly, what a combination! It’s as eccentrically odd and chameleon-like as Tilda Swinton herself. And, yet, in some crazy way, it actually works. Forget about the individual notes and just think of a very sweet, but simultaneously dry, honeyed floral scent of pink roses and yellow flowers. Imagine mimosas, almost, if you want. Now, try to think that underneath that, there is something that’s a little bit like warm, sweet carrots and nutty syrup (in lieu of the usual honey). But it’s not incredibly heavy or sugary, because there are some dry, hay-like notes, a woody element and a little bit of fresh green from the vetiver. That is the essence of Tilda Swinton, Like This.

The perfume remains that way for quite a while until, finally, the dry-down starts around the third hour and “Like This” morphs into light, sheer, maple syrup with musk. Whatever happened in terms of the 2-4 hour duration during my first test didn’t repeat itself the second or third time around when “Like This” lasted 9.5 hours and 8 hours, respectively. A change in the dosage was responsible. On all three occasions, however, the perfume had incredibly moderate to low sillage during the first hour, and soon thereafter becomes a skin scent. If you don’t put on a lot and if you’re anosmic to musk, it may appear to be much more fleeting in nature than it actually is. What is a little surprising is that the perfume is moderately strong despite being an airy, sheer scent that lies right on the skin.

Source: The Sweet Life at TheSweetlifeonline.com. (For Pumpkin bread pudding with maple sauce recipe, click photo. Link embedded within.)

Source: The Sweet Life at TheSweetlifeonline.com. (For Pumpkin bread pudding with maple sauce recipe, click photo. Link embedded within.)

I think your skin chemistry will greatly impact how this perfume smells on you, given the unusual combination of notes and the tricky aspect of the immortelle. On me, the flowers came to the forefront with the vegetable, ginger and syrup in the background. On others, however, particularly those commenting on Fragrantica, the situation was reversed. The vast majority talked about ginger and pumpkin up front, with the flowers nestled in the background. A good number also found the perfume to be primarily orange and/or ginger, with pumpkin not being so dominant. A few mentioned the immortelle as a floral note, (as opposed to immortelle manifesting itself as maple syrup), and a handful found that the heliotrope and vetiver were also dominant. Some of the comments may be helpful:

  • Upon first spray, the floral notes (heliotrope particularly) and spices are in equal balance, but as the perfume settles on my skin, the ginger, pumpkin, and immortelle become the stars of the show for several hours. [¶] Toward the end of the dry-down, Like This becomes a feminine, honeyed floral (yes, the floral notes re-emerge!). It is reminiscent of Annick Goutal’s Sables at this stage (an immortelle soliflore), but lighter and less syrupy. And finally, a hint of earthy, slightly leathery vetiver emerges. What a gorgeous ride this one takes you on!
  • The orange-ginger combination does give this fragrance a hint of just baked gingerbread, but dominant immortelle neutralises the sweetness and makes it too herbal to become a foodie dessert scent. I don’t get any pumpkin at all, not much rose either. Vetyver is another prominent note, along with clean musk make Like This a perfect unisex scent […]
  •  Even though I don’t pick up any of the pumpkin (which was what intrigued me from the reviews) it is absolute magic on my skin. I thought that freesia was my favorite floral, then I thought it was peony, then rose…now I’m certain it’s actually immortelle. LIKE THIS begins so incredibly with the immortelle, and as it dries down the tangerine and the heliotrope & ginger show in stunning form. I ordered a FB within minutes of putting this on.
  • Very light and grassy in a dried way, with a feeling of milky coffee in the back. I really wanted to smell pumpkin, but I don’t really detect that on my skin. The ginger and tangerine are just faintly there, as additions rather than strong presence, and overall it’s a nice but strange scent. It’s a mood almost more than a perfume.

I chose those comments to show you that Like This isn’t perhaps as gourmand as you may think from the description and notes. And, yet, there are plenty who find it very “foodie” — though they seem to be quite enamoured as well. As I said up above, it will really depend on how you feel about immortelle and how it manifests with your particular skin chemistry.

Those who shudder at the very thought of the note may want to consider The Perfume Posse‘s impressions of the scent:

it starts off a little citrus-ish, the ginger and heliotrope waves some flags to let you know it’s not gonna be like that. There’s a little bit of a tinnish feel in the open. And then the nutty pancake syrupy immortelle buzzes – not loud, soft and wafty, like a smoky tendril. The tin is gone, and it starts warming up in some fabulous ways that make my toes curl. I’m not sure I get pumpkin exactly, but there is this pulpy-ness blended into the immortelle that feels like pumpkin with some spice. Pumpkin pie, almonds and pancake syrup without the calories or sweetness. But it’s not really foody. Gourmand quality to it, but just not that. It’s warmer, richer, but completely light and wispy. I would … [never]  believe a perfume with this list of notes would be light and floaty. But it is. Warm, rich, light, floaty and a great big soft hug.

I tried Like This three times in part because I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. (Plus, what initially seemed to be a 2 hour duration in the first test made it easier.) And I’m still ambivalent. It’s definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you! I love the floral aspects of it on me, including the yellowness of the immortelle. And, honestly, that rose concentrate backed by sweet carrots is pretty damn cool! I’m less crazy about the flower’s maple syrup undertone as it manifests itself here. I know I wouldn’t wear Like This if it was primarily pumpkin, ginger, and maple syrup — but that is not what it is on me. However, that is precisely how it appears on a large number of people, so clearly this is a perfume that needs testing (on your actual skin) before purchase. For myself, I don’t think I would ever buy “Like This.” But if a decant or bottle fell into my lap, I would wear it. On occasion….

I think…

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tilda Swinton Like This is an eau de parfum that comes in two different sizes and which can be purchased directly from ELdO’s online boutique. The prices listed there are in Euros: €79.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. The company also offers two different Discovery Sample Coffrets for different prices. In the U.S., Tilda Swinton Like This can be purchased from Lucky Scent for $99 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, along with samples for $4. You can also purchase Like This from MinNewYork, or C.O. Bigelow. The larger size of the perfume (100 ml/3.4 oz) is carried at Parfum1 where it costs $149, but shipping is free. In the U.K, you can purchase Like This from Les Senteurs for £74.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle; samples are also available. In Europe, Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances can be found at First in Fragrance which sells the 50 ml bottle of Like This for €79, along with samples and a Discovery Set of 10 perfumes in 10 ml vials. Samples can also be purchased from Surrender to Chance, the site where I obtained my vial. The price starts at $5.99 for 1 ml.

Perfume Review – État Libre d’Orange Tom of Finland: “Beyond Sexuality”

tom4

Source: Etat Libre d’Orange’s website.

Appearances can be deceiving. The impact of the unexpected, of a surprise twist, is one of the reasons why the thematic device of “appearance versus reality” has been such a great constant in literature. From the classical comedies of Rome’s Plautus to such Shakespearean tragedies as Othello, and all the way up to today’s Harry Potter, the unexpected, ironic twist has had power.

What works so well in literature is not, however, always so effective in perfume. Here, appearances can lead to certain expectations and a crushing, critical sense of disappointment as a result. To wit, Chanel‘s recent Coco Noir which has been panned as neither a real relative of Coco nor anything noir. (It isn’t.) Similarly vaunted expectations must have come with Tom of Finland (ToF), a

Some of the marketing for Tom of Finland.

Some of the marketing for Tom of Finland.

unisex scent by the avant-garde, perfume house, État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter ELdO). And there is similar disappointment. This is not a terrible, ghastly scent. In fact, it is extremely whimsical. You might even say that it is intentionally fun, deliberately misleading for artistic reasons, and performance art. To that extent — and on an intellectual, artistic level — I admire its philosophy and whimsy. But I cannot consider it as more than a novelty act, and I certainly would never wear it.

The perfume is inspired by the life, art and philosophy of an actual person, Tom of Finland, the pseudonym of a Finnish artist called Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991). Wikipedia tells me that Tom (as I shall call him to avoid confusion with his fragrance) was an artist

notable for his stylized androerotic and fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture. He has been called the “most influential creator of gay pornographic images” by cultural historian Joseph W. Slade. Over the course of four decades he produced some TF13500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits with tight or partially removed clothing. [… He published] explicit drawings and stylized his figures’ fantastical aspects with exaggerated physical aspects, particularly their genitals and muscles. He is best known for works that focused on homomasculine archetypes such as lumberjacks, motorcycle policemen, sailors, bikers, and leathermen.

… There is considerable argument over whether his to-1depiction of ‘supermen’ (male characters with huge sexual organs and muscles) is facile and distasteful, or whether there is a deeper complexity in the work which plays with and subverts those stereotypes. For example, some critics have noted examples of apparent tenderness between traditionally tough, masculine characters, or playful smiles in sado-masochistic scenes. [Others, however, call his work] …’masturbation pieces.’

Tom died in 1991 and the Tom of Finland Foundation was established, “dedicated to protecting and preserving erotic art and erotic arts education.” In that vein, they commissioned ELdO to make a perfum representing the artist’s work. The result was released in 2008.

According to ELdO’s website, there is a story and mood that goes with the perfume:

The water slips over him as if sliding down a marble rock, sinking into the grooves of his muscles, vanishing into his pores. This is fresh, pure water, with top notes of aldehydes and lemon, a water that washes away the sins of the night and leaves the skin luminous. Tom of Finland feels clean, like a shaving from a cake of soap. It is an ode to the beauty of the male body and to the radiance of the natural self. For this man, clothing becomes a jewel-case that serves to reveal the true erotic power of the flesh. Tom of Finland is a breath of fresh air, offering unrestricted access to the immense outdoors, the depths of the forest, with notes of birch leaves, cypress, galbanum and pine at its heart. Straight, gay… these words are irrelevant here. Tom of Finland is beyond sexuality – he is sex, in all its fullness and magnitude, open and erect. Fantasy clings to him like his leather jacket, with suede, musk, and ambergray in the base notes. His belt is fastened with an accord of pepper and spicy-fresh saffron, tangled with a blond suede sensuality on a vanilla bed of tonka bean and iris. This is a man who wants to play, to love, to die and be reborn, again and again.Tom of Finland is a tribute to tomorrow’s glorious possibilities.

This is a fresh, pure water that can wash away the sins of the night. Clothing becomes merely ornamental, an insignificant wrapping paper that only serves to cloak the true erotic power of the flesh. This is a man who wants to play, to love, to ravish, and to be free of all inhibitions. Tom is sex. [Emphasis in the original.]

What a story! I have to say, on a purely artistic, theoretical and intellectual level, I’m rather impressed. Alas, if only the result matched the story. One should not judge a perfume by its rather lyrical, romantic story or by its marketing…

Tom of Finland - the safe bottle.

Tom of Finland – the safe bottle.

The notes in the perfume are listed as:

Aldehydes, lemon, birch leaves, pine, safraleine, pepper, cypress, galbanum, geranium, vanilla, tonka bean, orris, vetiver, pyrogened styrax, suede, musk, ambergray.

As the extremely amusing, snarky and snide review in Now Smell This (NST) underscored: “Men, as you spray on Tom of Finland don’t be afraid; keep in mind it ‘has no sexual orientation’. ”

I think women need to heed the same lesson. In fact, they should ignore all references to this as a men’s fragrance because it is most definitely the most feminine “leather” I have ever smelled! I put “leather” in quotes because, on me, this is cherry-vanilla soda with a massive dose of white confectioner’s sugar and a faint hint of suede. But we should start at the beginning.

ToF opens on me with a strong burst of citrus and soap. It’s mostly lemon with some orange and a hefty dose of soap from the aldehydes. (You can read more about aldehydes along with many of the other notes in ToF in my Glossary.) A minute in, I smell the leather. It is just like the leather in a new leather jacket, except that it turns into lemon-leather within seconds. And, seconds after that, it turns into vanilla-lemon-leather with a hint of some sweet fruit that — to my utterly disbelieving nose — really smells like cherry. I take a second, then a third look at the notes. Nope, no cherry listed. No fruit at all, in fact.

So, I turn to Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez because I know that they’ve given this 4-stars. (Something which, by the way, underscores my daily reminder about how often and intensely I disagree with the honourable Luca Turin!) In the book, Ms. Sanchez classifies ToF as a “saffron cologne” and writes predominantly about how the use of a new saffron synthetic from Givaudan has been playing “understudy” to sandalwood. The latter is now so scarce that its cost is essentially outside the reach of most commercial perfumers. As a result, they have essentially turned to the “dusty-milky” scent of saffron, via Safraleine, to replicate some of the notes. Ms. Sanchez concludes by saying: “[t]his saffron-lemon cologne has the unerring crisp dryness of the old Monsieur Balmain and brings to mind clear mountain weather with visibility to China or the feeling of cool hands on a fevered forehead.”

I think it’s Ms. Sanchez who is fevered. And what about my bloody cherry-vanilla-leather cola?  How does one explain that? I peer back through the perfume notes and continue to sniff my arm. The soapy musk and styrax reminds me faintly of the dry-down in Narcisco Rodriguez For Her, but that’s no help. Yes, I smell geranium, but surely that’s not responsible? I also smell the saffron about 5 minutes in. It’s a sweet woodiness that is charming, but it is overwhelmed by the cherry-cola with its somewhat nauseating vanilla that is banging me over the head. Forty minutes in, that unfortunate concoction is joined by notes of strong anise and licorice. And I feel extraordinarily queasy.

Then, suddenly, an hour and a half in, the whole shrieking kit-and-caboodle has shrunken to a wilting, shrinking violet — all faint vanilla, suede, faintly woody saffron simpering and fluttering its eyelashes in the corner. Not too long after that, it fades to its dry-down: a simple — but excessive — powder note. Powdered vanilla, powdered iris — it ultimately matters not one whit. It’s too much damn powder!

I am dazed by the contrasts and the speed with which they occurred. Thankfully, I am not the only one. As that deliciously snarky NST review commented:

Tom of Finland is a smooth, sleek and sheer leather scent that softens considerably as it ages on the skin; it becomes a bit powdery and sweet and wears down to wan saffron, tonka bean/vanilla/benzoin and iris notes — imagine a brand new black leather trench coat morphing into a pastel purple and pale yellow cashmere sweater. Tom would be appalled (he didn’t care much for ‘girly-men’)[.]  […] I realized its leather notes were fleeting and I didn’t like its gauzy, perfume-y, vanillic phase of development.

Etat Libre d'Orange Tom of Finland cologneMany people have complained that État Libre d’Orange Tom of Finland lacks roughness, toughness and any hint of male “body aromas” one would imagine emanating from a Tom of Finland-type man, but to me, the Tom of Finland man, like the fragrance, is clean (almost wholesome), wrinkle-free/smooth, and pale. For those who bemoan the lack of funk in this version, perhaps a Tom of Finland “rough seXXX” flanker will be forthcoming. [Emphasis added.]

I honestly can’t put it better than they did, so I won’t even try. NST absolutely nailed the review, right down to the gauzy vanilla dry-down. The only point on which I differ is the longevity — but that’s my issue. ToF lasted under 4.5 hours on me, though the NST reviewer (and others) had a very different experience. Given how my body consumes perfume, it would be safe to say that ToF is a probably extremely long-lasting scent in its dry-down notes, though the opening sillage seems to fade rapidly on everyone.

This is obviously a problematic perfume for a number of people, and yet, it is met with much love on Fragrantica. One Fragrantica commentator, d-d-d-drew, astutely noted that it was a perfume with a sense of humour, an intentional, inside joke:

I think it’s kind of an inside joke. First, the balls to make a fragrance out of something that is so taboo, so iconic in gay, leather subculture, and to put it all out there for the public to whiff, experience, judge, love, or hate. It’s deliciously outrageous. […]

If you’re familiar with Tom of Finland art, it’s hyper-masculine, often exaggerated, but there’s still a “pretty” side to it. It’s both hard and soft at the same time; together the muscle, leather, and boots are juxtaposed often with a knowing embrace, a mischievous smirk, or a flirtatious wink.

I very much agree, though I still don’t like the perfume very much. Tom’s art was hyper-stylized, hyper-sexualized and over-the-top — perhaps as a symbolic statement towards the (at that time, in the 1950s) very underground, hidden, quiet gay world. It was about being larger than life in a free, open way and confounding expectations. Perhaps, ultimately, he was making a point about how there should be “no sexual orientation,” no categories and little boxes to which people are confined. Hence, the over-the-top masculinity of his art (which is perfectly paralleled in the marketing for the perfume) is really, as the ELdO story put it, about going beyond all expectations and all appearance. “Straight, gay… these words are irrelevant here. Tom of Finland is beyond sexuality.” Or, to put it in perfume terms, “masculine, feminine, hard leather or soft vanilla powder…. it doesn’t matter. It’s beyond any one category and all encompassing.”

I fully applaud the theory, and I admire the clever twist by ELdO that concretely carries out Tom’s goal of subverting stereotypes and categorization. They pulled the carpet out from under everyone. It’s rather clever, if you think about it. But when one puts aside intellectual and theoretical admiration, one is left with a perfume that is fun as a one-time experiment, but not (for me) to actually buy and wear. All in all, I think it is nothing special and, I’d even argue, not particularly good.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tom of Finland can be purchased directly from ELdO’s website. The prices listed there are in Euros: 69.00 € for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle and 119.00 € for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for 3.00 €.  In the U.S., ToF can be purchased from Lucky Scent for $90 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. It sells samples for $3. You can also purchase it from Parfum1 where it costs $90 but shipping is free. (I don’t know what Lucky Scent’s policy or prices are on shipping.) Samples can also be purchased from Surrender to Chance, the site where I obtained my decant.