New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange Remarkable People- The Joy of Cardamom

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Etienne de Swardt the owner and creative force behind Etat Libre D’Orange is one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. His fragrances perfectly mirror his personality. They both carry a broad pleasure in provocation while having a laugh at the absurdity of it all. The ability to not take it so seriously has led to some seriously amazing perfumes from Etat Libre D’Orange. The other thing I like about the brand is M. de Swardt has steadfastly kept from developing an identifiable olfactory trademark which represents the brand. One reason for that is he keeps working with a number of the best perfumers in the business. Inviting them to run away with him for a good time making a new perfume. For the latest release, Remarkable People, M. de Swardt convinced perfumer Cecile Matton to go for a ride with him to make an exuberant paean to those who choose to be unconventional.

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Etienne de Swardt

Mme Matton is collaborating with M. de Swardt for the first time. Remarkable People is actually the re-branding of the 2010 release called Josephine Baker made exclusively for European Sephora. It was made in small quantity and has been long discontinued. I never got the chance to try it because I hadn’t quite developed my system of getting European perfumes into my hands. Now with it as a part of the permanent collection it will see a little more exposure. I can honestly say I see very little of the chanteuse in this perfume and so the name change I think is for the better. What I do get is a perfume which is a good companion to last year’s Cologne. Both carry an infectious joie de vivre throughout. Remarkable People has a bit of a cologne architecture early before turning woodier at the end.

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Cecile Matton

Remarkable People opens with a fabulous mix of grapefruit and cardamom. The cardamom in particular is noteworthy for the way it melds with the slightly sulfurous quality of the grapefruit. I love cardamom in perfumes and Mme Matton has definitely found my sweet spot with the early moments of this one. Jasmine provides a floral change of pace before Mme Matton brings back the spices with a pinch of black pepper and curry as extracted via Mane’s Jungle Essence Process. This makes the curry presence less hirsute and more cleanly polite while still retaining some bite. The cardamom also remains into the heart to mix with all of this. The base is sandalwood and labdanum combined with one of Mane’s proprietary synthetics Lorenox. Lorenox is described as “woody, ambery, leathery, and aromatic.” In Remarkable People it is the leathery quality that comes out most directly.

Remarkable People has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

There have been a number of new perfumes this year which have made me smile due to their desire to be fun. I should’ve expected M. de Swardt to be one of those who could keep the party rolling. Remarkable People should put a smile on any perfume lover’s face.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Etat Libre D’Orange at Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Etat Libre D’Orange True Lust- Etienne de Swardt’s Mash-Up

There is a branch of music where a producer or artist takes two different styles of music and combines them into a new version; this is called a mash-up. Musical examples of this are the combination of The Beatles White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album by producer Danger Mouse to become The Grey Album. Or one that got a lot of radio play was the combination of Numb by Linkin Park and Encore by Jay-Z who released and performed it live. When it works it illuminates something new from both source materials. It is a reason why some people layer perfumes as they look to create a whole experience from two or three fragrances to fill in the spaces. Now we have the first perfume mash-up with the release of Etat Libre D’Orange True Lust.

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Etienne de Swardt

Creative Director Etienne de Swardt is playing the part of the producer as he takes two of his previous perfumes 2006’s Putain des Palaces by perfumer Nathalie Feisthauer and 2012’s Dangerous Complicity by perfumer Violaine Collas and combines them.  For True Lust it is a mash-up of the softly floral aspects of Dangerous Complicity, along with the rum, with Putain des Palace’s animalic dry woods. What M. de Swardt says he wanted was, “a marriage of mystery, an uneasy merger of hearts and minds and flesh.” What is surprising is True Lust works for me on that level as each of the perfumes serve to fill in the empty space the other one left which results in something both recognizable and unique.

The early going of True Lust is all Dangerous Complicity as the ginger and rum which opens that perfume opens this perfume. The violet of Putain des Palaces arrives fairly quickly. Right here is a good example of why True Lust works. The ginger and rum have a boozy kind of energy but the violet tempers it with a bit of edgy floralcy. The heart is a mix of the floral hearts of both originals as muguet, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, and osmanthus combine. While all of these notes are in one or the other of the perfumes in True Lust they come together in a way different than they presented themselves previously. This is the moment of the perfumed mash-up where the harmonies are overlaid to the point that you know this is something new from something old. The base is mostly the animalic leather of Putain des Palaces matched with the sandalwood of Dangerous Complicity. This time it is the leather of Putain des Palaces which ends up on top, pun intended.

True Lust has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

True Lust is a perfume for people who love smelling like they are wearing perfume. What I mean by that is by taking two different sources and bringing them together it can’t help but be very extroverted and out there. If you like your perfume well-behaved and demure this is not what True Lust is serving up. It is bringing you a Technicolor perfume experience and if you’re in the mood for it, it is awesome. I wanted an old-time broad shouldered perfume experience and True Lust delivered it.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.

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

New Perfume Review Etat Libre d’Orange Cologne- The Nice Side of The Rogue

One of the great pleasures of the recent Esxence in Milan was my first opportunity to meet Etienne de Swardt, the owner and creative director of Etat Libre d’Orange. As he calls himself on the website “Troublemaker & Perfumer”. He is most definitely one of the Bad Boys of perfume and that is his charm. While speaking with him I felt there was always a barely suppressed laugh behind his smile. He is definitely in on the joke, he is actually the joker incarnate. As we sat down for him to show me the latest releases I was ready for the typically double entendre name followed, usually, by a perfume that is very good to spectacular. He slid across the table a brochure which had this on the front, “We’ve given you decadent, we’ve given you outrageous and now we give you nice.” This is the tag line for the new Cologne (A Nice Scent).

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Etienne de Swardt

M. de Swardt told me this was the fragrance he would like to use as the gateway fragrance to the rest of the collection. Because of the style of that collection this is not a trivial task. He asked perfumer Alexandra Kosinski to collaborate with him on Cologne. As I’ve written about previously we really are in the middle of a Colognaissance and Cologne fits right into this reinvention of the venerable form. Mme Kosinski goes with a spine of citrus/floral/animalic but it is done in a very Etat Libre d’Orange way. Yes Cologne is nice but way down underneath it all lurks the rogue who sticks his head up at the very end.

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Alexandra Kosinski

While cologne as a perfume architecture is pretty straightforward what separates the newer modern colognes is the choices made to fill out that architecture. For Cologne Mme Kosinski makes an inspired choice to start with blood orange supported by bergamot. Blood orange adds a tinge of bitter underneath the juicy sweet and it really is made to be a cologne ingredient. The heart is a floral transition of orange blossom and jasmine. Mme Kosinski keeps the florals on the light side but what I liked was she didn’t use versions of these notes that were bereft of their indoles. Beneath all that loveliness there is just a tiny hint of something less wholesome. This leads to a base which is definitely meant to let the more primal urges become more apparent as Mme Kosinski combines a leather accord and wraps it in musk. It is not a boisterous version of these notes but it picks up on the indoles and shows that even A Nice Scent can be a little dangerous.

Cologne has 4-6 hour longevity and average sillage.

I am looking forward to this summer to let many of these new colognes I’ve been reviewing the chance to come out and play in the heat. I’ve been sending some time arranging all of them on a shelf for the sunny days to come. When Cologne (A Nice Scent) becomes available in June this will go right to the front of that shelf. M. de Swardt and Mme Kosinski have succeeded admirably in adding to the burgeoning Colgnaissance and to creating the perfect introductory fragrance for Etat Libre d’Orange.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s note: If Cologne (A Nice Scent) makes you want to explore the line more check out my Etat Libre d’Orange 101 article for five I think you should start with.

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