Monday, 20 June 2011

Etat Libre d'Orange - Archives 69, Tilda Swinton Like This and Secretions Magnifiques

With giving us the exciting news that they're now offering a range of scent sample packs, now seems a good time to review three fragrance samples they sent me from the avant garde French fragrance line Etat Libre d'Orange ("free orange state"?). "Avant-garde" is putting it mildly. "Anarchic" might be more on the money. The philosophy is unbounded creativity, and the breaking of olfactory taboos. Needless to say I was very keen to try them out.

The first (I'm going from the sublime to the... well, you'll see) is Like This, an award-winning ginger bouquet designed in collaboration with actress Tilda Swinton. This is beautiful. It's rich, indulgent, showy, but crisply precise in its notes, the foremost of which is a nostril-bracing ginger that fanfares out on application but gradually dries down to a gentle, soft whisper that's both comforting and sensual. The bright orange packaging features quotes from the Sufi poet Rumi. Notes; yellow tangerine, ginger, pumpkin, immortelle flower, Moroccan neroli, Grasse rose, vetyver, heliotrope and musk. Like This, £74 for 50ml EDP at

Next is Archives 69. This is perhaps Etat's signature fragrance, and is named after their HQ at 69 rue des Archives, Paris. It opens with a medicinal sharpness, a bit like TCP, with a sour, almost bitter citrus smell running alongside, very much at odds with it. Then there's a sweeter smell, a fresh, minty edge, and the warring factions are overlaid (but not united) by something quite floral. It's a paradoxical thing. It's compulsive - you keep sniffing in the hope of understanding it. The chances are you won't - it never quite resolves its inner conflicts. Perhaps that's what the perfumer was aiming for. Notes; tangerine, pink berries, C02, pepper leaf, orchid, prune, incense, camphor, benzoin, patchouli, musk. Archives 69, £105 for 100ml EDP,

Finally, Secretions Magnifiques. This scent is infamous among online perfume enthusiasts, who make "reaction videos" of themselves smelling this odour (I'm not going to call it a perfume). Here's Katie Puckrick "enjoying" Secretions Magnifiques. The stated aim of the fragrance is to call forth impressions of blood, sperm, sweat, saliva and milk. Not to say that it contains those, or smells of them as such, but that's the vibe the perfumer Antoine Lie was going for. As is evident from the artwork - a drawing of a gushing phallus. Cute. Secretions Magnifiques opens with deceptive subtlety, a wispy "meh" sort of floral note. Then it gears up. A stomach-turning medley of sour milk appears, and a screechingly, cloyingly metallic odour, very like the taste of blood when you bite your tongue while chewing. The smell reminds me of the horrible odour I get from certain lotions when they react with my skin - a really "off" smell. I've yet to pin down the ingredient that does this on me but Secretions Magnifiques definitely has it in spades. Notes; Iodised accord (fucus, azurone), adrenaline accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood, opoponax. Secretions Magnifiques, £52 for 50ml EDP,

You can try all of the fragrances from Etat Libre d'Orange in the Discovery Set. It costs £24.95 and contains a voucher for £24.95 off any fragrance in the collection (so the samples are effectively free).

Disclosure - 10ml vials of each fragrance received as PR samples

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