Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bijou Romantique by Etat Libre d'Orange

A while ago I stopped by at the Etat Libre d'Oranges website and saw that their 2 new scents, "Bijou Romantique" and "Fils de Dieu du riz et des agrumes" are now available for ordering. Of course I couldn't resist and now I've had the chance to try them out.

Now, Etat Libre d'Orange are known for their, eeeh,  vivid, so to say, sales texts but there is nothing explicit in their description of Bijou Romantique:

"This is the portrait of a lady. She can be seen in the feminine cameo, in the soft, delicate profile, in the dreamy image of an incandescent beauty. What once was shell has been carved in relief by a devoted artisan, to emerge as an idealized woman. Jewels, too..."

I think this is a spot on description, Bijou Romantique does indeed come across as a cameo, only ELdO forgot to mention that it's a 15 foot tall cameo, made of  cream and powder, fixed on a slab of granite.

Bijout Romantique starts as a big cloud of pastry cream. There is white chocolate, vanilla, a hint of strawberry milkshake and lots of fluffy whipping  cream, fresh from the farm. There is a powdery cosmetics note in there as well, getting along just fine with the cream. Even though it's full of sweet confectionery notes, BR never gets cloying or overly sweet, its very well balanced. As the scent wears the sweetness evaporates. Steely iris is revealed and the powder moves towards chalk dust, blue ink, faint pencil shavings and cold stone. At the extreme drydown, after a good nights sleep, there is a beautiful vanilla and tobacco accord lingering. A very nice transition!

I keep keep having these associations to how a womans life in the 19th century might have been. As the scent starts out she's a young girl, sweet, all smiles and eager to see what life has in store for her. Maybe she marries that handsome captain. He sails his ship on the seven seas, she sits at home, waiting for him, doing needlepoint, raising children, everything appropriate for a decent woman of her standards. But deep down inside she wonders, is this all? I have everything a woman can wish for but I'm still not happy? Lets see if we can tight up that whalebone corset one inch more, that might push those silly thoughts right out of my head!

The children grow up, time goes on. Her husband always had a bit of a drinking problem and after he's killed in a brawl she realizes there was a gambling problem as well. He has gambled away everything they had and then some more, leaving her dirt poor. She takes up a position as a governess in order to pay back the debts and gets pneumoconiosis from all the chalk dust she breathes in, trying to teach those dumb, despicable kids to read from the blackboard. By now, there are no smiles to be seen. Life has hardened her. Her hair is gray and the children call her a witch when they think she cannot hear. Unfortunately she dies before it is discovered that she's the rightful heiress to a grand fortune. One that had allowed her to pay back all debts and then live in luxury for the rest of her life.

So, what is my verdict of Bijou Romantique? Well it is a big time "lady"-scent indeed. I'm sure fans of powdery cosmetic type of scents will love it, it does remind me of a tamer, but more sophisticated, version of Labdanum 18. I might be the wrong person to review it as I still haven't "got" the powder thing but who knows, a few more wears of BR and maybe "powder" will show up on my list of acquired tastes for spring 2012?

Official notes: Bergamot & Italian lemon, pink berries essence, ylang-ylang, sage, iris of Tuscany, evee, coconut JE, vetiver from Haiti, benzoin, vanilla...

Pic:  Fuckyeahcameos (where else?) and Wikipedia


  1. I loved your description of this poor lady's life - and death : - ( - and the perfume itself sounds interesting for sure. I like powder up to a point, and I see there is ylang ylang in there, and I am a sucker for ylang, and also love iris and vanilla.

    Have not come across "evee" before, and pink berries I usually avoid, but your description makes me definitely intrigued, especially the scent's later stages.

  2. Wow, I would say this fragrance really moved you, even if you are not too sure about its powdery aspects appealing to you. And I can see how the fragrance's development inspired your story. Brilliant analogy, but I was wondering ... did it make you a bit sad to wear it, when you got to its drydown?

  3. Vanessa, evee is a new one for me too. On the little note that came with the sample there is a R with an ring around it after the name, so I'm guessing it's a registered name for a synthetic molecule, but I tried google it and I can't find any mentions of it anywhere.

    The pink berries I think correspond to that strawberry milkshake note I'm getting in the beginning. It's very faint and doesn't last that long, so I wouldn't be too worries about it. Ylang, on the other hand (as well as the citrus and the sage) I'm not getting at all. My experience with BR is quite different than what the official notes imply, but I find it an intriguing scent, well worth trying out :)

  4. Suzanne, yes, wearing BR was quite an experience! It's one of those "I don't know if it's good or bad but I still can't stop sniffing my wrist"-type of scents :)

    I understand how my description of the latter part might come across as rather tragic but I wouldn't say I felt sad. It DOES feel like a sobering up from the first part. What I was getting was grey hair combed back into a tight bun combined with the chalk dust. That made me think about 19th century governesses. And I recently read an historic article about how, even though their lives are romanticized in literature now, many of them lived under appalling conditions - totally at the mercy of their employers. So, I think it was that article that shone through in the story.