Super Scent: The best of Etat Libre d’Orange

We have once again teamed up with Candy Perfume Boy and Persolaise for Super Scent. A semi-regular series where we each run down the best fragrances from a particular brand. Where my colleagues will judge based on their own opinion, Basenotes’ Top Scents are based on the opinions of Basenotes users.


This time the brand is: Etat Libre d’Orange

I was first aware of Etat Libre d’Orange in late 2006, when our then Paris correspondent, Michael Connor, submitted a piece about an exciting new french niche brand, where he wrote:

Yes, it’s all about sex. Now you could argue that all perfume is about sex, anyway, from Guerlain’s carnal Jicky via Caron’s gender-bending Tabac Blond right up to the sworn belief of many young men that the merest whiff of Aqua di Gio is enough to transform the primmest fresher into a lust-crazed Maenad.

However Etat Libre d’Orange believes that lowest common denominator marketing and the need for prude-appeasing cross-cultural appeal has sucked the sex out of the perfume industry.

As far as this house is concerned, the perfume industry needs a big, throbbing injection of lust to get back on its feet (or back on its back) again.

And sex is how pretty much the rest of the world came into contact with the brand, with Secretions Magnifique: A perfume described by Katie Puckrik as the ‘World’s Most Disgusting Perfume‘, and is reminiscent of blood, sweat, sperm and saliva.

In late 2007, Marian Bendeth described founder Etienne de Swardt as a “fragrance buccaneer”, though in 2014 de Swardt was feeling it was time for a change at ELDO telling Persolaise:

I think that I have to reinvent Etat Libre D’Orange a little bit,” he says. “I want to move the brand to a new era. I’m trying to find a new way to extend the brand’s visibility without corrupting the philosophy. I have 28 perfumes and I cannot add a 29th or a 30th. So I think this is the end of a cycle. And La Fin Du Monde is the final point of Etat Libre D’Orange 1.0, in a way. I want a new leap of faith for the brand. I don’t know how to express it.”

2016 celebrates the tenth year of Etat Libre d’Orange, and the company show no sign of stopping. Their most recent launch was Hermann à Mes Côtés Me Paraissait une Ombre, which was launched at the end of 2015.

So without further ado, here are the Five Super Scents of Etat Libre d’Orange based on the votes of Basenotes Members…

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5. Fat Electrician

  • Launch : 2009
  • Perfumer : Antoine Maisondieu
  • Comments : Fat Electrician is described by the brand as  a “semi-modern vetiver” and is inspired by an imaginary electrican, raised in Texas, now living in New Jersey.

Review of Fat Electrician by RUDOLFO512

As a vetiver lover I have tried all kinds of vetivers, dry, dirty, sweet, bitter, etc. In my opinion Fat Electrician is a dirty vetiver. As a matter of fact all I can smell here is vetiver and myrrh. There is nothing sweet in Fat Electrician. If you are a true vetiver lover this one is definitely for you. Etat Libre d’Orange brought out the true vetiver in Fat Electrician

4.Tom of Finland

  • Launch : 2008
  • Perfumer : Antoine Lie
  • Comments : Touko Laaksonen, also known by pseudonym Tom of Finland, was known for his homoerotic fetish art. Notes include Iris, vanilla, tonka bean and ambergris.
  • Review of Tom of Finland by Skipper

    After a series of trial-and-errors (including Knize Ten) I realized that traditional hardcore leathers were not for me. What I really wanted was the perfect suede – and this is it!

    The opening of Tom of Finland can admittedly be slightly overwhelming. There really is a lot going on here: boozy notes, rubber, smoke, leather, aldehydes, and more. But after half an hour ToF settles into a delightful vanilla/suede note on a dark background of smoky vetiver with a slight hint of rubber. Very subtle and just enough to keep the scent from becoming too sweet. This phase goes on forever and it just gets even better as the drydown sets in.

    Tom of Finland reminds of the fabulous Bulgari Black, but with less smoke and rubber. Or l’Essence de Cerrito with smoke instead of toothpaste-mint (which is nice, by the way). Or a masculine version of the great Cuir de Lance. But ToF is not a compromise – it stands firmly on its own feet. Suede heaven in a bottle!

    Forget all the hype about gay/straight, naughty marketing, condom smell, Village People and all the other stuff that leads the attention away from the scent itself. Tom of Finland is utterly wonderful and it stands a good chance of becoming my new signature scent. For the cold season at least.

    A bit expensive, but worth every penny. Try l’Essence de Cerrito (and add a bit of imaginary Bulgari Black) if you want a small and more budget-friendly foretaste of the real thing. Strongly recommended!

  • Show all reviews of Tom of Finland
  • Where to buy Tom of Finland


3. The Afternoon of a Faun

  • Launch : 2012
  • Perfumer : Ralf Schwieger
  • Comments : Inspired by the Nijinsky ballet of the same name.
  • Review of The Afternoon of a Faun by ClaireV

    Doesn’t smell like any of the listed notes in my opinion! I just read the note pyramid they have here on Basenotes, and I honestly don’t know what the hell they are talking about. Myrrh, leather, benzoin – I give up, because I don’t smell any of that.

    Afternoon of a Faun is NOT an oriental, powdery, spicy leather as the notes might suggest. Nope, this one muscles its way into the green chypre category with an overall vibe halfway between a drenched forest and a bowl full of crushed iris roots. It’s described as an aromatic, spicy scent on Fragrantica and as an incense-leather oriental here, but actually, it comes off as a scorched-earth chypre.

    It shouldn’t work. But the contrast of wet, bitter green iris and the dry woods is all kinds of addictive.

    I love the way it takes me on a ride every time I put it on. It reminds me somewhat of a vintage No. 19 pure parfum I had from the 1950’s which had turned badly – it shares something of that singed woods and burned coffee smell the parfum had. But in contrast, Afternoon of a Faun smells really good to me.

    Right away, the strangeness of the immortelle note is apparent. It adds a sticky, savoury syrup note, like sugared hay boiled down in whiskey. This has the effect of injecting the chilly green halls of No. 19 with streaks of autumnal warmth. So, for once, you have a damp, mossy chypre that smells….warm, human, sunny almost. It makes this an exceedingly comfortable wear without sacrificing an ounce of its stylish swagger, like a pair of fabulous, wide-cut slacks that are both comfortable and capable of making you look like Marlene Dietrich.

    I love, love, love the textures at play in Afternoon of a Faun too. The opening is sort of damp and glazed, like the patina from old wood that you’ve just loving rubbed with oil. The immortelle adds a spicy, vegetal syrupy feel, and orris butter a creamy, rooty smell and texture. It is sweet, but also dry and slightly spicy, like good old wood.

    In the dry down, the most amazing transformation in texture takes place – it sheds any sticky or wet feel it may have add, and becomes dry and smoky, like ash smouldering in the grate. At this stage, the immortelle smells like slightly burned coffee, which is a wonderfully dry, aromatic smell that I really enjoy.

    In fact, I feel comfortable characterising this as a dry, smoky iris perfume with a significant green/woody aspect to it. It smells like a real chypre too, even without oak moss, so hats off to the folks at ELDO for proving that you can still produce a fantastic perfume that smells like the real deal rather than a sad sack imitation of what once was.

  • Show all reviews of The Afternoon of a Faun
  • Where to buy The Afternoon of a Faun

2. Rien

  • Launch : 2006
  • Perfumer : Antoine Lie
  • Comments : Rien means ‘nothing’ in French, it is described as “a second skin perfume, a perfume that clings to the body and perseveres in the mind”. A stronger version named, Rien Intense, was launched in 2014

Review of Rien by federfigo5

You’re alone in the desert, wearing an expensive leather jacket and burning incense in a campfire. At times, from a long-forgotten oil well somewhere in the middle of the desert, you get a slight fascinating whiff of crude petroleum.

This is Rien. An absolute masterpiece of modern perfumery, cleverly blended and always surprising overtime you wear it.

OUTSTANDING LONGEVITY (once I sprayed my wrist and after over 24 hours I could still smell it) and incredible village: the only “problem” with Rien is that everyone won’t be able to help smelling you.

Review of Rien Intense by Francolino

this is Rien Beast Mode.. having nearly finished the small bottle I replaced it with two large flacons of this high octane juice!

1. Like This

  • Launch : 2010
  • Perfumer : Mathilde Bijaoui
  • Comments : Created in collaboration with actress and artist, Tilda Swinton.

Review of Like This by rbaker

“Another superficial product utilising shallow celebrity-based marketing strategies” crossed my mind when I applied it to my skin. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the delightful opening blast, with its orangey-herbal opening, a bit of pumpkin added, and a well-integrated ginger note interwoven in the whole of the top notes. Unlike in some scents where the ginger clearly dominates – Creed’s Tabarôme Millesimal comes to mind – here the ginger is not an olfactory soloist, but more of a team player.

The dry down turns floral, and it is really an immortelle dry down, although a discrete neroli adds brightness to it. Then later, unlike many other scents whose best parts are usually the top notes, ‘Like This’ remains convincingly impressive by serving up a lovely vetiver note. It has an earthy touch, but it is not all earthy smokiness like in the ‘Fat Electrician’; it is quite a balanced vetiver, albeit more on the earthy than on the fresh side of the vetiver spectrum. Add in a pleasant white musk and the base it a delight too.

The performance is brilliant with moderate village, excellent projection and a stupendous longevity of fifteen hours on my skin – wow!

A very nice scent for spring days, this is well blended and a top performer.


Further Reading:

You can read Candy Perfume Boy’s ELDO Super Scent here, and Persolaise’s Super Scent here.

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