Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Scent Sample Sunday: Like This

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, the scent created by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui in collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton, in 2010. It must still sell well, as it still has its own page on the ELDO website. It isn’t necessarily a fragrance I would have associated with Ms. Swinton, a brilliant actress who is known for playing eccentric, complicated characters and for her striking, almost androgynous looks. ELDO’s website calls it ” cozy, skin-hugging sweetness nestled with soft florals and unique, orange citrus notes.” Here is the longer description from ELDO, which sound as if it was written by Tilda:

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 favorite poem of all time. It restores me like the smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse my scent sense is fed by. It is a poem about simplicity, about human-scaled miracles. About trust. About home. In my fantasy there is a lost chapter of Alice in Wonderland – after the drink saying Drink Me, after the cake pleading Eat Me – where the adventuring, alien Alice, way down the rabbit hole, far from the familiar and maybe somewhat homesick – comes upon a modest glass with a ginger stem reaching down into a pale golden scent that humbly suggests: Like This

Smoke/rain/gingerbread/greenhouse. Yes, Like This evokes all of those.  The listed notes are ginger, pumpkin, tangerine, immortal flower, Moroccan neroli, rose, spicy notes, vetiver, woody notes, musk, heliotrope. When I first spray it, the opening is pleasantly tangy with ginger and tangerine — lightly spicy and citrusy, not sweet. If this ginger is gingerbread, it is not the sugary kind — it’s more like a ginger snap (one of my favorite cookies). The combination of tangerine notes and neroli reminds me of a very particular kind of greenhouse: an orangery, a glass enclosure where Europeans in cooler climates could grow trees in huge pots, that produced prized citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. At “Now Smell This“, reviewer Angela wrote:

I imagine Bijaoui looking at the Etat Libre brief, trying to come up with some common theme between the redheaded Swinton and Rumi and hitting on Orange. Orange hair, the orange of the sun, saffron monastic robes, fading day. Then, with this visual inspiration she found a way to connect orange scents: pumpkin, neroli, mandarin, immortelle, and ginger. The crazy thing is, it works.

I’ve read elsewhere that Ms. Swinton had just dyed her hair orange for her role in the movie “I Am Love” when the fragrance collaboration began, and may have actually requested the references to orange. How fascinating the creative process is! Like This is warm and beautiful, like the image of Swinton’s character in that movie, Emma, the midlife spouse of a rich Italian aristocrat, who falls in love with a much younger man.

Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

Tilda Swinton in “I Am Love”, 2010.

Given the powerful roles Ms. Swinton has played in the movies about Narnia and the Avengers, coziness, warmth, and home might not come immediately to mind in relation to her, but a cozy scent is what she asked ELDO to create:

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.

The floral notes take over from the citrus, but the ginger continues like a glowing thread through the composition, and the floral notes are well-balanced with spices, woody notes, vetiver, all of which keep the fragrance dry and vivid. This would smell lovely on either men or women, it is truly unisex.

Kafkaesque reviewed Like This when it was released and concluded it is “definitely intriguing and it also really grows on you!”, although she didn’t see herself buying a full bottle. Her review includes more details about the creative process behind the fragrance. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” gave it four stars out of five; she found it darker and smokier than I do, calling it “a strange and unconventional blend … a cross between the woody richness of Serge Lutens Douce Amère and the smoldering darkness of Donna Karan Chaos, with plenty of its own surprising elements.”

I agree with Kafkaesque that Like This is intriguing and that it grows on you. I hadn’t really planned to wear it three days in a row this week, but I did, and I enjoyed it every time. It lasts well on my skin, enough that I can spray it on in the evening and still smell its warm base notes on my wrist the next morning. It is the kind of fragrance that other people won’t recognize but most will find very pleasing, especially up close.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by a fragrance that wasn’t what you expected in one way or another?

Scent Sample Sunday: Vraie Blonde

Scent Sample Sunday: Vraie Blonde

For National Fragrance Day this past week, I chose to wear Etat Libre d’Orange’s Vraie Blonde, mostly for its note of pink champagne. It turned out to be a prescient choice, because we went to an engagement party last night for a friend’s daughter, and the happy couple was toasted with flutes of pink champagne! Vraie Blonde was created by Antoine Maisondieu in 2006 and it is still sold through the website and other retail outlets, so it has clearly found its fan club. The copy on the brand’s website says:

She has all the assets of platinum blond seduction. A full-fledged décolleté, shapely hips and a sensuous catlike walk. A perfectly curvaceous body in a sequined lamé dress, a Technicolor version of the American dream! Accords of ambergray, fur and white pepper evoke an excess of luxury, the flashiness of casinos, women in sheath dresses and Marilyn naked under a mink coat. Is she a real blonde?

To know the answer one will have to wait for nudity… Flushes of aldehydic notes fill the bedroom air, a tribute to the perfume the star wore at night, red-hot kisses enhanced by a bubbling thirst-quenching pink champagne note that leaves one panting. One feels like biting into this lovely sugared almond. Everything a brunette ever dreamed of!

Vraie Blonde is a FUN scent. It is bubbly and pretty and it doesn’t take itself very seriously. In fact, it reminds me of Jayne Mansfield, another platinum blonde bombshell and contemporary of Marilyn Monroe, in her most famous role: Hollywood star Rita Marlowe, in the comedy “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”

The film, based on a hit Broadway play in which Jayne Mansfield also starred, is a farce about how a hapless junior advertising man, played by Tony Randall, gets ensnared in a starlet’s scheme to make her TV star boyfriend jealous, by pretending that he is her new love interest. In return, she agrees to become the “face” of his client, “Stay-Put Lipstick”, as her own PR promotes her as “the most kissable” star in Hollywood. Yes, it’s a very silly film, but it is oh so funny! And a big part of the reason it is still so funny is Jayne Mansfield, who fully understands and uses the comic potential in her blonde bombshell image, even more fully than Marilyn Monroe (a gifted comedienne overshadowed by her tragic life and death). While Jayne Mansfield also died in tragic circumstances, people who knew them both often said that Monroe’s vulnerability was real and deep, while Mansfield had a more resilient, tougher attitude that allowed for more self-mockery.

In “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?”, Jayne Mansfield basically played an exaggerated version of herself: a voluptuous, platinum-from-a-bottle blonde starlet whose ditzy exterior and mannerisms concealed a determined and strategic will.

One of the funniest scenes in the movie shows her in a bubble bath, reading “Peyton Place” and shrewdly discussing her publicity with her trademark breathiness and mew, like a kitten, at the end of her sentences.

Like the film, Vraie Blonde is a light-hearted romp. It opens with the sparkle and bubbles of aldehydes, combined with a soft, peachy top note that is just right and not too sweet. I also smell a light powder note, like one of those swansdown powder puffs sometimes found with vintage powder boxes.

pink powder puff

Swansdown powder puff, from VintageInTheShires, http://www.etsy.com

A pink rose hovers nearby, while a touch of white pepper spices things up — just like the 1950s calendar girls and centerfolds, who were considered naughty back in their day, and who now seem impossibly wholesome by today’s standards.

Blonde movie star Jayne Mansfield as a centerfold model.

Jayne Mansfield, centerfold.

Jayne claimed the color pink as her “signature” color, which was something starlets did back then. She took it all the way, in line with her exaggerated public persona: painting her Hollywood mansion pink and outfitting it with pink fixtures and lights, even pink fur in its bathrooms, driving a pink convertible, and of course, wearing pink frequently in public. In fact, her “Pink Palace” had a fountain filled with pink champagne!

As Vraie Blonde dries down, a synthetic ambergris note emerges, listed as “ambergray”, which provides a pleasantly sensual but light note of warm skin, with suede notes to evoke the luxurious furs we associate with Hollywood glamor of the past. The peach and rose notes persist, however, tinting the fur with shades of pink.

I’m really enjoying my Scentbird decant of Vraie Blonde! It’s a lively, charming fragrance with a sense of humor. And really, what’s not to celebrate about that?

Do you have any borderline kitschy fragrances that remind you of movies or other entertainment?

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden in the musical War Paint

War Paint; image by Joan Marcus for Town & Country magazine

Happy National Fragrance Day!

Happy National Fragrance Day!

It’s National Fragrance Day in the UK! In fact, this whole week is National Fragrance Week. The Jasmine Awards have been announced, and if you’re in the UK, there seem to be many special offers, draws, etc., listed on the Fragrance Foundation’s website.

What will you wear today to celebrate fragrance? I’m thinking about Etat Libre d’Orange’s Vraie Blonde, which I just got in my Scentbird subscription, for its note of pink champagne. It’s sparkly and delightful!

Scent Sample Sunday: Noel Au Balcon

Scent Sample Sunday: Noel Au Balcon

In an earlier post focused on Bond No. 9’s I Love New York for Holidays, I mentioned that I had also been getting a lot of holiday use from Etat Libre d’Orange’s Noel Au Balcon. As January is now almost over, together with the winter holidays, I’d better post about it!

Now Smell This says that the name refers to an old French saying: “The proverb ‘Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison’ means that a warm Christmas — warm enough to spend on the balcony — will be followed by an unseasonably cool Easter (requiring ‘firebrands’).” (I actually think the phrase “tisons” here is more likely to refer to the embers of a fire that require poking to stay warm, as in “tisonner le feu”).  That review also notes that “the expression ‘avoir du monde au balcon,’ or ‘the balcony is crowded,’ is a reference to a shapely bosom.” So basically this fragrance’s name, true to ELDO traditions, is a play on words meaning something like Christmas among the warm, if not smoldering, bosoms. I love it!

And I really like the fragrance a lot. It opens with notes of apricot, honey, and orange. To my nose, the apricot is very noticeable, sweetened by the honey but not too much. The middle notes are supposed to be chili pepper, cinnamon, and orange blossom, and it does get spicier than the opening, but to me the spice is not very strong and it complements the apricot and honey instead of superseding them. Base notes seem to be patchouli, musk, cistus, vanilla, and another aromatic spice which I’ve seen listed either as cinnamon or caraway.

Reviewer Tammy Schuster wrote a hilarious review on CaFleureBon, complete with references to her “redneck Christmases” in the mountains of North Georgia. As she notes, Noel au Balcon is a fun date that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is just here to make sure everyone, including her, has a good time. Speaking of time, this scent lasts a good long time, too, without being overwhelming.  On me, the apricot, honey, and vanilla are the strongest and most lasting notes, with warm musk, patchouli, and spices chiming in but not dominating. In short, for a winter holiday fragrance, Noel au Balcon has plenty of “sugar and spice, and everything nice”, and a warm, come-hither smile full of good cheer.

Featured image by Earl Moran.