New Perfume Review Courreges Hyperbole- Smoking Grace

As older brands find their way back in to the marketplace it has been a bit of a mixed bag so far. One brand which I would have labeled as not living up to its heritage was Courreges. This was the fashion brand started by Andre Courreges and he was responsible for the go-go boot as well as one of the designers who made the first mini skirts. These were part and parcel of his futuristic aesthetic which would flourish especially in the 1970’s when M. Courreges found his muse and his model in Grace Jones. Throughout the 1970’s he dressed the singer for many of her magazine covers. Courreges released a couple of fragrances during this time; Courreges Homme and Courreges Amerique, The brand would make another go at perfume in the 1990’s but by 2001 had given up again. M. Courreges would sell the brand in 2011 and the new owners wanted to give fragrance a third try. There have been a total of seven releases since 2012 and the first six played it safe with well-known genres done in workmanlike style. Nothing could be further from the name on the bottle. Late last year the seventh perfume was released; Courreges Hyperbole and this felt more like what a Courreges inspired perfume should smell like.

Grace Jones in Courreges circa 1969

Hyperbole reached back to have perfumers Jean Jacques and Antoine Lie be inspired by Ms. Jones and a 70’s collection of sportswear of the same name. What came out of that was a perfume that was going to take traditional masculine notes and make them feminine. As one who sees perfume as genderless I can’t speak to the success of the gender bending they were after. What they have produced is a perfume which is a sweet tobacco with real charms.

Andre Courreges (seated) surrounded by his Hyperbole Collection circa 1974

Hyperbole opens with a snappy blast of white pepper balanced against bergamot. The white pepper is more stripped down than its full-strength cousin black pepper. That makes it a nice companion for the bergamot. The tobacco source used in Hyperbole is tobacco flower. This is where I am guessing the perfumers are trying to feminize the tobacco. The problem is they use patchouli to take the flower into that more typical deeply narcotic place you find tobacco in perfume. Vanilla provides a complementary sweetness to wrap up the tobacco and push back against the patchouli.

Hyperbole has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

For the first time since Courreges has started producing perfume again Hyperbole feels like something which fits M. Courreges style. There is a 70’s feel to all of it. I can see Ms. Jones wearing Hyperbole with a cigarette drooping from her magenta colored lips.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provide by Air France.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Eris Parfums Ma Bete and Belle de Jour- Something Old, Something New

Making the transition from perfume enthusiast to brand owner and creative director is much easier to write than it is to achieve in reality. In my review of Eris Parfums Night Flower I previously recounted the story of how Barbara Herman has done this. Working with perfumer Antoine Lie she produced three debut releases. Today I am going to review the remaining two; Ma Bete and Belle de Jour.

Barbara_Herman

Barbara Herman

Ms. Herman’s passion for vintage perfume would be what eventually drive her to trying to make them like they used to. Ma Bete is the one of these first releases which wholeheartedly embraces a vintage aesthetic. If there is anything most modern perfumes shy away from it is the animalic. For a perfume which translates to “My Beast” this is not going to hold back in any way.

For a fragrance which wants to be “perfumed fur” M. Lie makes a smart choice to lead with a healthy dose of neroli lifted on the classic mix of aldehydes with a pinch of nutmeg. Neroli has become so safe in recent years. M. Lie reminds us that it has a feral nature all its own with its indigenous indoles. The neroli is here in such a concentration that the indoles provide the low growl, warning of the animal in the shadows. In the heart that stylish brute presents itself in a cloud of M. Lie’s “animal cocktail’. Pinned to its lapel is an iris which floats over the animalic nature. Patchouli and cedar provide the base accord with the patchouli in the ascendance. Ma Bete is a reminder that modern brands can still make them like they used to if they have the courage to do so. Ma Bete has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

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Antoine Lie

If Ms. Herman and M. Lie had just decided to do two more vintage smelling perfumes to finish this first collection it would have been redundant. Night Flower was an exercise in taking the long-lost ingredients of the past and finding a contemporary way to display them. Belle de Jour displays that there is a way to create a contemporary perfume using modern ingredients which can still carry the presence of vintage perfume.

Belle de Jour begins with a lovely juxtaposition of coriander and orange blossom. Baie rose complements the pungent coriander. The unusual pairings continue in to the heart as Egyptian jasmine is matched with pimento. This is not a vintage accord but it has a faux-antique feel to it. I’m not sure if I would have necessarily gone there if I wasn’t sort of trending towards it but when I was wearing Belle de Jour it was how it felt to me. The base accord is where the present day really arrives as M. Lie uses seaweed absolute as his keynote with musk and cedar. This is a domesticated kitten compared to Ma Bete. The animalic is present but it is also given a fresh twist with the seaweed absolute. I really enjoyed the final hours of Belle de Jour as I wore it. Belle de Jour has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

These three debut scents as a collection are a laudable effort from Ms. Herman and M. Lie. It seems like the enthusiast has completed the transformation from enthusiast to creative director,

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Eris Parfums.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Eris Parfums Night Flower- The Consequence of Vintage

For those of us who get serious about acquiring perfume there are many stages. One of the later stages is after you have devoured what is current someone presents you with a discontinued vintage fragrance. What tends to happen after that is there is a lot of conversation about how they don’t make perfume like that anymore. Eventually you start scouring online and actual auctions looking for these elusive treasures. Anyone who has many bottles in their collection inevitably has a few which are older than they are.

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Barbara Herman

Barbara Herman was one who went through this phase too. Except she harnessed the fervor and expressed it in some very different ways. One of those ways was the blog she founded in 2008 called Yesterday’s Perfume. Over the last eight years she has written about the classics of the past. She would then take that drive a step further and authored a book called “Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume” which she published in 2013. One significant thesis in both her blog and her book is Ms. Herman believes the mainstream perfume industry has abandoned the pursuit of both art and commerce in favor of solely the latter. So she took it one step further if the mainstream wasn’t going to do it; she was.

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Antoine Lie

In 2014 she got started with an Indiegogo campaign to design and produce a single scent with perfumer Antoine Lie. After making her goal she began the process of turning her design into a reality. A funny thing happened on that path the single release turned into three releases. Earlier this year she released three perfumes under her new brand Eris Parfums. I really like all of the three debut releases but the one which really dug itself deep was Night Flower.

One of the great tragedies of contemporary perfume is the cleaning up of the majority of it. The strong components that make vintage perfume so unique have been waylaid. It is a casualty of focus groups who associate those stronger notes and accords as being synonymous with their grandmother. It Is the one thing Ms. Herman and M. Lie got spot on as they dust off those powerful ingredients and bring them back into play. For Night Flower the three notes are birch tar, tuberose, and leather.

Where Night Flower captured me was from the top accord of bergamot, cardamom, and birch tar. Every time I wore Night Flower this early stage felt like the most exotic tar baby imaginable. The heart is a soft leather accord mixed with a very restrained tuberose. I wonder how many mods there were with different volumes of tuberose before deciding on a less exuberant effect. The reined in tuberose is the most contemporary part of Night Flower. An earthy effect is created in the base by patchouli, tonka, and musk.

Night Flower has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I want to comment a bit on the sillage. In most vintage perfumes they are very likely to leave a vapor trail. All of the Eris Parfums, but especially Night Flower, have a much quieter demeanor. They are not skin scents but you also won’t leave a reminder of where you’ve been walking behind you.

I have a great deal of admiration for what Ms. Herman has achieved here. Lots of people talk; few actually do. Ms. Herman has done what all of us who have fallen in love with vintage perfume say we want to do. She has made one like they used to in Night Flower.

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: If you live in the Washington DC Metro Area Ms. Herman will be making a personal appearance at Arielle Shoshanna (2920 District Avenue Fairfax, VA 22031). She is having a trunk show displaying all three of the Eris Parfums line on Saturday June 11 from 1-5 Pm and Sunday June 12 from 12-4PM. It is a great opportunity to meet Ms. Herman in the intimate setting of Arielle Shoshanna.  

New Perfume Review Puredistance White- Soft Focus

I really appreciate the effort Jan Ewoud Vos puts into every new release from his luxury perfume brand Puredistance. We went all of 2014 without a new release and when I received the press package for the latest, White, there was a reason. Mr. Vos had been collaborating with perfumer Antoine Lie on White. It was due to be released contemporaneously with Black, also by M. Lie, which was the last release. What is great was instead of pushing something out to satisfy a timeline Mr. Vos and M. Lie thought they could do better and so they returned to the beginning of the creative process.

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Jan Ewoud Vos

If Black was all about introspection and inward exploration; White was meant to be all about happiness and outward joy. There is no mention about what the discarded draft of White was centered on. The version which ended up carrying the name takes one of the more common supporting notes in many perfumes and gives it a starring role.

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Antoine Lie

M. Lie chooses a particularly bright bergamot to lead into a pairing of Rose de Mai and orris. M. Lie keeps this very light and slightly powdery. It has a very expansive footprint in the early moments as it seems to just suffuse itself throughout my awareness. I like a powdery floral and it did make me smile. I would guess if you are not a fan of powdery florals it might be more challenging. The star of White comes up through the powder as tonka not only arrives, it takes over. Tonka is most often used as a way of adding warmth and a slight bit of sweetness into a fragrance it is used in. M. Lie takes tonka, and using it in overdose, gives it a platform from which you can’t ignore it. The tonka used here, from Venezuela, rewards the scrutiny. By having it in high concentration the hay-like coumarin, the nutty character, and the slightly vanillic sweetness all have a more noticeable effect. If this was left in overdose it would become cloying and annoying. Instead M. Lie like an olfactory cinematographer softens the focal point by the addition of sandalwood, vetiver, and patchouli. They take that tonka and blur the edges making it just right while still retaining its starring role. A lovely cocktail of musks are the finishing touches to White.

Puredistance White has 24 hour longevity and average sillage, more than you might expect from a fragrance at 38% concentration.

White reminds me of waking up from a summer afternoon nap as the late afternoon sun flows into the room giving everything a soft glow. Mr. Vos wanted a perfume which would make one smile; I also found White to be a deeply comforting scent as well. It produced a smile of pure contentment each time I wore it.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Puredistance.

Mark Behnke

Comme des Garcons 101-Five to Get You Started

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When you ask the question about where niche perfume started there are historical time-based answers. If you ask me when niche started I would answer it began in 1994 with the release of Comme des Garcons. For the last twenty-one years Comme des Garcons has continued to be the trendsetter within the niche perfume sector. A very large reason for this is the same Creative Director, Christian Astuguevieille, has over seen every fragrance with Comme des Garcons as part of its name. Part of what makes his approach so successful is he also seeks out interesting co-collaborators to add fresh new vision leading to unique perfumes. If you think about many of the long-standing trends in the independent/niche perfume area Comme des Garcons and M. Astuguevieille were there first. It is why every new release is anticipated for the possibility that the beginning of what is next has arrived. It is a huge line of nearly 100 releases. Here are five which will give you an idea of what this brand is all about.

Perfumer Mark Buxton did the original Comme des Garcons in 1994. Five years later he would compose Comme des Garcons 2, which I believe to be one of the greatest perfumes of the last 50 years. Mr. Buxton took the set of aldehydes deemed unpleasant. By placing those in a matrix of equally quirky notes he created a perfume equivalent of “Revenge of the Nerds”. The ear wax smelling aldehydes, cumin, coriander, mate, and angelica. These unloved notes came together in an accord of intense beauty. A swirl of spices as cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaf transition to a base of dark notes meant to convey a feeling of inkiness. In 2015 this seems like a normal set of notes. In 1999 it was an act of bravado by Messrs. Astuguevieille and Buxton. If I am right about niche starting in 1994 with Comme des Garcons it was Comme des Garcons 2 which displayed its potential to be something amazing.

Throughout the Naughts Comme des Garcons released series exploring themes and by 2007 they wanted to do an exploration of “luxe”. Luxe: Patchouli by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu is the best of this. M. Maisondieu chooses to explore every facet of patchouli. Early on a collection of vegetal notes, fenugreek and parsley, enhance the herbal nature. Oak and opoponax the slightly resinous facet. Finally a base of sandalwood and vetiver take it into the deep woods of high quality patchouli. I dare anyone to say this reminds them of Woodstock ’69.

Christian-Astuguevieille 

Christian Astuguevieille

Over the last few years M. Astuguevieille has reached out to all manner of collaborators to create perfume co-productions. Early in 2008 he collaborated with Monocle publisher Tyler Brule to oversee Commes des Garcons X Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu created the perfect Japanese aesthetic of a meditative perfume. Hinoki is really a study of woods of all kinds. From freshly cut pines releasing a camphor-like scent into the air. Clean hinoki wood provides a lilting heart before a sturdy base of vetiver and incense. All of this is kept transparent and incredibly engaging for being so light. I liked it fine when I first tried it but it has risen greatly in my estimation over the years and is another huge artistic success for the brand.

As much as I like Hinoki later in the same year Commes des Garcons X Stephen Jones by Antoine Maisondieu, yet again, would be even better. The press materials described it as “a violet hit by a meteorite”. That kind of description is made for eye rolling and derision. Instead M. Maisondieu not only realizes it but he makes one of the best modern violet perfumes ever. This is a perfume of accords. A hot mineral accord to evoke the meteorite. The smell of burning plastic and wood to evoke the house it has crashed into; and a ridiculous abstract violet accord at the heart for all of this to cling to.

M. Astuguevieille wanted to make a perfume which captured the British fashion icon Daphne Guinness. Ms. Guinness was a friend of the late Alexander McQueen. M. Astuguevieille would ask perfumer Antoine Lie to capture this bigger-than-life personality as a perfume called Daphne. This was the beginning of the Retro Nouveau trend and Daphne is right there at the leading edge of it. M. Lie mixes bitter orange and incense into a heart of rich orris and tuberose. The base uses oud, patchouli and vanilla. When I first tried Daphne it felt like a perfume from 70 years ago but it also smelled like a perfume from today too. This is what Retro Nouveau means.

An exploration of the Comme des Garcons perfumes is almost a perfume education all by itself. I think it is almost required reading if you love perfume. The five above are a great place to start.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Comme des Garcons Pharrell Williams Girl- Celebuscent the CdG Way

There is probably nobody hotter than Pharrell Williams right now. His song “Happy” was the song of the last year. He is one of the new coaches on “The Voice”. It only seems natural that he would want to make a fragrance, too. Except he hasn’t gone to the usual suspects to collaborate with. He has chosen Comme des Garcons to be the brand which he will share his name with. From the moment this was announced I was actually looking forward to see how Comme des Garcons and their Creative Director Christian Astuguevieille would approach their first celebuscent.

First choice was to bring in perfumer Antoine Lie. M. Lie is as close as there is to an “in-house” perfumer at Comme des Garcons. He has an intimate understanding of the Comme des Garcons aesthetic and this would allow Mr. Williams to give his input to lead to the best kind of collaboration. Now that I have Comme des Garcons Pharrell Williams Girl my faith was confirmed. This is a celebuscent done the CdG way.

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Antoine Lie

Girl opens on a fantastic duet of lavender and white pepper. Lavender is about as safe a note to use in perfume as there is. The white pepper makes it a bit less safe. What is also nice about the white pepper is it enhances the herbal quality of lavender and keeps it from being boring. This leads to a heart of iris and violet together with styrax. This is a good example of what you would not find in a typical celebuscent. The iris and violet, sure. The styrax, not likely. Just like the white pepper with the lavender on top the styrax adds a contrasting foundation to the more common notes. This is what you find in other Comme des Garcons fragrances regularly. The base of Girl is almost becoming a Comme des Garcons trademark as a woody cocktail of vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood provide the finishing touches.

Girl has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

There is nothing as pleasing as having one’s faith in creativity confirmed. M. Astuguevieille is one of only a few creative directors who could have seen this through. M. Lie was able to create something which feels modern and kinetic. Mr. Williams has something with his name on it of which he can be proud. I also need to mention the bottle by artist KAWS. When you take the whole package together this is as good as it gets for a celebuscent. It makes me clap along because I know what makes me happy and can’t nothing bring me down.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Comme des Garcons.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Fragrance Republ!c 01/05, 01/06, 01/07, & 01/08- The Second Quartet

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It has been almost a year since I joined the Fragrance Republ!c. For those unfamiliar with the concept behind Fragrance Republ!c it is an effort to allow some of the biggest perfumers working the opportunity to work on special small batch perfumes. This time the perfumers are allowed to create their own brief and encouraged to go where their creativity takes them. The perfumes are then shared with the membership of Fragrance Republ!c and I receive a new 15mL bottle as each creation is released. I look forward to my new box every time it arrives as a perfumer who I admire gets to try out an idea they have wanted to try. Fragrance Republ!c is the subscription service for the perfume lover who already has a lot of perfume and wants to try something which goes in a different direction form the purely commercial. This review will cover the latest four released over the first part of 2014: 01/05 by Antoine Lie, 01/06 by Karine Chevallier, 01/07 by Jean Claude Delville, and 01/08 by Jean-Christophe Herault.

Antione_Lie

Antoine Lie

01/05 was given the name “Eau Verte” by M. Lie and what he wanted to accomplish was to create perfume made up of overdoses of notes used to make up the fresh fragrances so ubiquitous on the market. Now if he had just overloaded the perfume with a bunch of explosive green notes it just would’ve been a loud boisterous mess. Instead he chose to use the wormwood used in absinthe as his nucleus and then puts into orbit around it electrons of mint, star anise, oak moss, galbanum, and vetiver. These are in overdose so there is no missing these notes and they each find a place to complement the wormwood at the heart of the perfume. I found 01/05 to have an off-kilter kind of freshness and the more I wore it the more I found it to be just the right perfume for the summer.

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Karine Chevallier

Mme Chevallier was enchanted by a Persian lime raw material she encountered while attending the World Perfume Congress. It was this she used to make the centerpiece of 01/06. What caught her attention about this particular lime was besides the typical citric zest it also has floral facets of rose and lavender, creamy coconut, and woodiness. From when she smelled it she knew she wanted to pair it with vetiver to tease out that woody quality. She also wanted to use fig to get the creamy coconut quality. All of this rests on a base of sandalwood. This comes off very simple on a strip but it absolutely soared when I wore it. The full impact of this very special lime at the heart of 01/06 completely comes alive and each of the notes Mme Chevallier chose to go with it work seamlessly.

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Jean Claude Delville

The inspiration for 01/07 was the “grace of a woman”. In M. Delville’s olfactory world this woman is wearing a sheer cotton dress edged with black, the antithesis of the little black dress. 01/07 opens on a fresh cotton accord that has been washed with mandarin blossom fabric softener. It has a softness that the best cotton gets from being used. This opening is everything I want from a Fragrance Republ!c experience. M. Delville is able to go to an extreme in creating this textured fabric based accord. Since this is a woman we are talking about orchid and freesia make up a sweetly floral heart before a soft mix of cashmere woods and white musks add that bit of sensuality. The outline of black on the figurative white dress I spoke of at the beginning of the paragraph.

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Jean-Christophe Herault

Osmanthus was the ingredient M. Herault wanted to explore in 01/08. I have always loved the fantastic nature of osmanthus to be floral but also to carry distinct aspects of apricot, leather, and tea along with it. When in the hands of a skilled perfumer they can take that chameleon-like nature and play to it. M. Herault does exactly that as he first allows you to appreciate the osmanthus in its pristine glory before letting other notes start to attract your focus elsewhere. Bergamot and apricot bring you to the fruity character. Violet leaf brings forward the tea. Jasmine and orange blossom get their white flower bluster out to turn fully floral in the heart. Finally, the leathery quality forms a faux chypre with a deep patchouli. Of the eight fragrances which have been released 01/08 is my favorite so far.

If what I’ve written has made you curious a sample program is now available on the Fragrance Republ!c website where you can try any three of the releases from 01/01 through 01/07 for the cost of shipping. I would recommend checking out the three you think sound best to you. This is really one of the great new initiatives for perfume lovers.

Disclosure: This review was based on the bottles I’ve received from being a member of Fragrance Republ!c.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange Rien Intense Incense- More is Better

From the moment of their inaugural releases in 2006 Etat Libre D’Orange promised to be a prominent player on the niche scene. Nothing that has happened in the nearly eight years since those first releases has changed. Etat Libre D’Orange continues to expand their boundaries. For 2014 they are throwing us a curveball; first with the completely “nice” Cologne. The next release for the fall is also something different as it is the first flanker in Etat Libre D’Orange’s history. The fragrance that Creative Director Etienne de Swardt chose to re-visit; Rien.

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Antoine Lie

Rien was one of the original set of eleven fragrances released at the end of 2006. Perfumer Antoine Lie created a leather fragrance that had at its heart leather with the glare of chrome wrapped in a Stygian depth. It was one of my favorites of the original collection and to this day is one of my five favorite fragrances in the line. As I wrote in my Etat Libre D’Orange 101 it is the most approachable challenging fragrance I know. M. Lie provides just enough comfort for Rien to allow the wearer to explore their personal limits of what smells good.

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Etienne de Swardt

For 2014 M. de Swardt has asked M. Lie to re-invent Rien as Rien Intense Incense. If there was one consistent comment from many who tried Rien was that the incense note was more of a suggestion than a prominent participant. For Rien Intense Incense there is no chance you can miss it as the incense is intense, as advertised. M. Lie manages to do this without throwing the whole composition out of balance. If you loved Rien, Rien Intense Incense is proof to the adage that “more is better”.

Rien Intense Incense opens with the same metallic kinetic aldehydes paired with cumin and black pepper on top of the leather accord. The pepper and the cumin are upped in concentration and it makes the chrome more brilliant and the Stygian aspect even deeper. The rose, orris, and patchouli add the same amount of herbal floralcy as was found in the original. There is no hint of a powdery quality even with the increased concentration.  Finally the frankincense bolstered by higher amounts of labdanum, and styrax impose their will. If incense was understated in Rien, not here. This has that metallic quality of the best frankincense and it recapitulates the same character from the aldehydes in the top notes. As Rien Intense Incense heads into its final stage it is bitter leather over a smoking censer.

Rien Intense Incense has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

So often when a fragrance comes out in “intense” form it is just a case of amplifying the notes and a bit of re-balancing. What M. Lie has done with Rien Intense Incense is to take one of the less prominent notes from the original and by moving it to the foreground has re-imagined his original composition beautifully. I will always love Rien for its imagination at the time of its release but Rien Intense Incense is a better fragrance from top to bottom. Yes indeed, more is much, much better.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

Etat Libre d’Orange 101- Five to Get You Started

One of the perfume lines which lives up to the ideals behind niche perfumery is Etat Libre d’Orange. There is almost no other niche brand which so fearlessly pushes the boundaries. Owner and creative director Etienne de Swardt is audacious in the perfumes he oversees for his label. Right from the first eleven fragrances released in the fall of 2006 he laid down a marker that Etat Libre d’Orange was going to be very different. In those first releases is the perfume widely regarded as the worst smelling perfume ever, Secretions Magnifiques. Just do a search and you will see videos of people pulling horrified faces and blog or forum posts plumbing new depths of verbiage trying to describe the experience. I, personally, think it is a masterpiece of perfumery but it is really only for those ready to approach it on its own terms instead of as a rite of passage.

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Etienne de Swardt

Because of Secretions Magnifiques there are many who are wary of exploring the other fragrances in the line and that is a shame because I believe Etat Libre d’Orange is one of the best niche lines on the market. There is not a boring fragrance in the collection and many of them are exciting for the singularity of their existence. If you’ve been wanting to give Etat Libre d’Orange a try and want to sort of slowly expose yourself to the aesthetic and attitude of the line I have five suggestions which might make things a little easier.

Fat Electrician was released in 2009 and was composed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu. M. Maisondieu created a fantastically nutty vetiver by combining chestnut cream with the vetiver. It is bracketed by fulsome olive leaves on top and sweetly resinous myrrh and opoponax in the base. This is vetiver given a new twist.

Fils de Dieu was released in 2012 by perfume Ralf Schwieger. Hr. Schwieger created a Technicolor fragrance which pays homage to all things Southeast Asian. It percolates early with a palpable humidity which contains lime, ginger, shiso, cardamom, coconut and rice. By the end it turns into a sensual accord of leather, vetiver, and castoreum. One of my top 5 new fragrances in 2012.

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Like This was released in 2010 by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui. Like This was Tilda Swinton’s celebuscent and she chose to collaborate with Etat Libre d’Orange. If every celebrity labeled fragrance was as good as Like This that segment of the market would be less looked down upon. Mme Bijaoui uses immortelle as the core of Like This and then proceeds to swaddle it in layers of ginger, tangerine, neroli, pumpkin, vetiver, and musk. This all comes together gloriously and Like This has been my Thanksgiving fragrance for the last three years.

Noel au Balcon was released in 2007 also by Antoine Maisondieu. Based on the name this is supposed to be for the Holiday Season but I wear it year-round because it is an easy to wear honey focused fragrance. M. Maisondieu uses the honey as a matrix to trap apricot and tangerine along with labdanum and cinnamon. It all eventually releases to vanilla, vetiver, and musk base.

Rien was released in 2006 by perfumer Antoine Lie. Of all of the very challenging Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances I think Rien is the most approachable. M. Lie created a dynamic intense fragrance which starts with the fizz of aldehydes which reveal a cumin and pepper-laced rose before ending on a leather and frankincense base. It is sharp and piquant and resinous and animalic and completely gorgeous. Of all of the first releases it was Rien which really sealed my enjoyment of the line.

M. de Swardt has a very arch sense of humor which plays itself out over the labels and names of the fragrances but if you can put aside your wariness because of Secretions Magnifiques and your raised eyebrows at the names and imagery an exploration of Etat Libre d’Orange is as good as it gets in niche perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these perfumes that I purchased.

Mark Behnke