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.

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.