When you write extensively about any subject it is inevitable that you are asked if you want to be more than an observer. Perhaps the most ubiquitous question I get is some variation of “Do you ever want to make a perfume?” I can honestly say, as of today, my answer is absolutely positively, “No!” I suspect anyone who writes about fragrance is asked this question. In the case of Chandler Burr I know it took many years for that “no” to turn to a “yes”. Over the last year, Mr. Burr did take the position of creative director for the new Etat Libre D’Orange You or Someone Like You.
The fragrance is based on Mr. Burr’s 2009 novel of the same name. Working with perfumer Caroline Sabas, they wanted to focus on one of the protagonists. An Englishwoman named Anne who observes her Los Angeles milieu from her aerie in the Hollywood hills. When I interviewed Mr. Burr about the new creation he mentioned he wanted to create “a specific scent, the scent someone like Anne would wear, an Angelino Englishwoman high in the hills in the blue air.” He is also a proponent of describing perfume as belonging to specific descriptive genres. For You or Someone Like You he wanted it to be a combination of “Luminism, Minimalism, and contemporary Romanticism” He is also an ardent believer that in talking about the art of perfume it shouldn’t be reduced to the ingredients and the focus should stay on the overall effect. I am going to honor that by spending the next paragraph describing You or Someone Like You in that spirit. Then I will dishonor that by spending the next paragraph, after that, doing my usual reductionist analysis.
I grew up in South Florida, and while it is not LA, You or Someone Like You captures what I consider the artificial light which infuses both places. Namely most spend too much time in their car moving from one sterile air conditioned space to another. The Luminism in You or Someone Like You is the ever-present sun reflecting off windshields and glass. It is sharp and artificial further separating one from the natural. To hammer this home there are some aspects of that world trying to pierce the glass but the AC keeps it at bay with glossy chilly laminar flows.
To create the sterility of processed cool air Mme Sabas uses mint as a keynote around which is folded some of the fresher green grassy notes as in, perhaps, the hexenal family. It forms that feel of being inside a car stuck in traffic as the smells of someone mowing their lawn come with the filtered air. More of that kind of green vegetal quality comes through but in quieter ways. Even lighter florals are present but these are synthetic expansive versions of the natural essential oils which further enhances this artificiality at the core of You or Someone Like You.
You or Someone Like You has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I think Mr. Burr completely succeeded in making a perfume within the Luminism and Minimalism schools; I found little Romanticism present. Which is probably for the best because I was much more connected to the chill and glass; finding something more expressive would have been less appealing.
Once Mr. Burr got around to saying “yes” he has, with Mme Sabas, created a fragrance true to what he believes perfume can aspire to.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle received from Europerfume.