A Homecoming Dream


A review of Etat Libre d’Orange’s ‘Tilda Swinton Like This’

Sometimes, you can encounter a combination of disparate elements that in theory seem so utterly wrong and alien, you wonder how it can ever work. Scallops in a vanilla-white wine sauce, dark chocolate and curry, lavender cupcakes – all the things that shouldn’t work yet somehow do, sometimes beautifully, sometimes not.

Then come the occasions when you wonder why no one thought of it before. When idea and execution come together in a flux so seamless, the result seems like some elegant, effortless sleight-of-hand, and the rabbit out of that hat has orange fur with gold-brown polka dots and will redefine the word ‘rabbit’ for all time to come in your own mind. One singular combination – but it still has long ears, a fluffy tail and eats the carrots in your garden.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s ‘Tilda Swinton – Like This’ is one such rabbit. When it was released last year, I read the reviews and thought to myself: Pumpkin perfume? Gingerbread? Pumpkin pie? R-e-a-l-l-y now…

Famous last words. Because on May 5th, ‘Like This’ won the Fragrance Foundation France’s award – the perfume world’s equivalent of an Oscar – for best specialty/niche fragrance, a distinction I personally think Etat Libre richly deserves for several reasons.

For one thing, this isn’t anything like a Demeter. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s not about the pumpkin at all, or even anything normally categorized as ‘gourmand’. It could be me, but I don’t get anything resembling ‘pumpkin pie’ in the least – and that’s a good thing.

Right away, I get a tangy, sharp zing of mandarin and ginger, an electric bolt of summer, heat and all things ‘happy’ to my nose, but that’s just the beginning, there’s this indescribable crème brûlée scent of almost-burnt sugar and within moments, an earthier ribbon of vetiver and what I suspect might be that ‘pumpkin accord’ weave their way into the picture. I can smell neroli, too, and rose, say the notes, but the neroli is dancing a joyful fandango on my skin and I never notice that. What I most definitely notice is immortelle creeping in to the limelight like some sentient vine, shooting sunshine-yellow blooms unfolding in fast-forward on my skin to sing the song immortelle sings so well.

The worst thing I can say about ‘Like This’ is that if you hate immortelle, this probably won’t change your mind. I thought I did. I thought that maple syrup+curry were vastly overrated, and I thought I would hate this, but if it’s the vetiver, the heliotrope, that pumpkin thang, or just my ever-expanding olfactory horizons, I don’t care and know less, since I have to sit down. I feel dizzy, dizzy in a way that happens more frequently these days, in the grip of some inarticulate emotion that boils down to…happy. Not ecstatic, not delirious, not my usual overexcited puppy-dog mode, but happy-content, happy-comforted, happy-peaceful, happy in a way that makes me want to laugh at nothing more and nothing less than the simple, incredible pleasure of being alive in my skin, in this moment, in this company. I applied liberally this morning, and these thirteen hours later, a hint of skin-but-better still remains.

‘Like This’ is …a dream of a homecoming, when you have sampled a taste of all the adventures this world has to offer, and it was…enough. It’s when open arms reach out to hold you and draw you inside to a fireside and a perfect cup of Darjeeling with two warm gingersnaps on the saucer, and you feel body and soul come completely together for the first time in a long time, because you’re…home.

It’s that perfect, contented moment, a fleeting flower frozen in amber for eternity, that you will love and cherish always.

It’s like saying goodbye to a lover on a Sunday morning, when he pulls you close and asks: “What will it be like, when I see you again?”

And you grab his shirt and pull his head down to yours and brush a taste of firelight and spice across his lips and you say:

“Like this.

Notes: Yellow mandarin, ginger, pumpkin accord, immortelle, Moroccan neroli. Grasse rose, vetiver, heliotrope, musk

I have never drained a sample vial so fast in my entire life. If that’s not love…

Disclosure: Sample generously provided by Anthony of NkdMan, who gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Image: Fossil Mall

20 thoughts on “A Homecoming Dream

  1. Ahhhh, gorgeous writing, you short, curvy, hot-tempered troll goddess.

    A perfume that makes “you feel body and soul come completely together for the first time in a long time” is a rare perfume, and a gift. It was fate for you to meet Like This!

    I don't like immortelle or anything maple smelling, so this is not the scent for me, but I don't need to wear Like This to enjoy it, with a review ummm..like this 😉

  2. I'm in the “Not Like This” camp, I'm afraid. All I could smell was ambroxan and imortelle, the former being favored only in small doses in the right scenario, and the latter… never. I really wanted to love it, though, because I love Tilda so, and have for so long. I cannot reconcile the fragrance with the woman, they don't go together in my heart. However, I was thrilled to hear that ELdO received that award. As a perfume house, I think we can all agree that they kick major ass.

  3. WOW! When I wore Like This, I thought, “yum, this is nice.”

    But I think that I need to go dig out my sample, and try it again while re-reading this review!

    I want to go to there.

  4. JoanElaine! How wonderful to have you back! Well, if you don't care for immortelle, you won't care for this one, but at least you can read the review! And thank you for that, too!

  5. Carrie – I'm so sorry. That's the luck of the draw, I guess…Like you, I love Tilda, I have since Orlando blew my mind all those years ago. But yes, I do believe Etat Libre deserved their award, for this is truly…anti-trend and original, and some of us fell in love…

  6. B, I'm quite happily surprised! So I'm not the only one, eh? 😉 But I'm glad you liked what you read!

    I think I may cry when my sample vial is altogether gone. It was so, so, so…good, even on a chilly spring Sunday! (and Thursday, and Friday, too!)

    I received an email from Anthony, my facilitator in all things Etat and Libre, and he liked it so much, he forwarded the link to Etat's HQ in Paris! I'll keep you posted!

  7. Sounds magical and like just my kind of thing. I've been curious about it for awhile now — there's been so many favorable reviews. And since you're one of my scent twins, I have to try it now. 🙂

  8. Suzanne. You must. No, really. You must. I wouldn't recommend it on a hot, muggy day because the immortelle would kill you, I suspect, but on a blustery, cool or even a rainy day, it would be perfect! Do let me know what you think!

  9. Muse, here's how I review. I obtain – by means fair or foul, depending on your perspective! 😉 – a sample. I always take an initial sniff just for first impressions, and they're not always favorable, either.

    Next, I spend a full day with a full application – after a shower, from morning to evening – to see how it goes. I'm not one of those who carry a notebook around and write down a phrase here and there, because I'm firmly in the “stand-up improv” school of writing. It just works better for me that way. It's when I overthink I get in trouble…

    If I have a handle on it, I then sit down, after Spider-Man Jr. is in bed and the house is quiet, with a pot of Earl Grey, the perfume in question, and my iPod loaded with a very specific playlist – the one that says—“Music to write by”. Ready, steady…go! Open up Word, and…

    A big sniff, maybe two…What's the story here? What associations do I get, how do I feel when I smell it, where does it take me?

    I write a sentence. And another. I keep going until it's done, which can take anywhere from an hour to three. Spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical bloopers are eradicated, and I check for redundancies. Next, open up Blogger, cut-and-paste and…voila! Tweet, Facebook and I'm done.

    The hard part is to trust in the process and just…go with the flow. I'm not shooting for the Pulitzer, you understand, I'm just out to write out my own brand of different, and see where I end up.

    Piece of cake! (Mostly! 😉 )

  10. Tarleisio,
    I'm still not sure if I want to try this perfume (I will some day, just don't feel like paying for that sample right now) but I enjoyed reading your review.
    Also, I want to mention that I think that your comment on how you write your reviews deserves its own post.

  11. Beautiful review of this scent – I love your scene setting – but sadly in my case this one was like, not love! The elements were just a bit disparate, and the herbiness bothered me, but I give it top marks for quirkiness. And for what is technically a celeb scent that is pretty good going!

  12. Thank you for your comment, Undina! Do you know, I believe you're right – and instead of another review, I will indeed write a piece on —How Not To Write A Perfume Blog…;-)

  13. And I have to say, Vanessa, that I very much like their choice of celebrities..Rossy de Palma of so many glorious Almodovar movies – and Tilda Swinton, who is…a goddess. Another thing I like about it is that's not anything like everything else out there – and that quirkiness, as you say, should be applauded, too!

  14. I'm about to open my second bottle of “Like This”.
    Considering I wear so many perfumes, that's quite a statement of use.
    I've been adoring this scent since it launched, but I can see how some might not like it. It really needs to work with your body chemistry. Considering all the compliments I get when wearing it, it obviously works with mine. For that, I'm very glad.

  15. It's one of those, scents, isn't it, Molly? If it works for you, it's almost like a drug, and if it doesn't…

    It certainly surprised me! I'd go FBW at the drop of a piece of plastic if I could! What surprised me even more was the entire Etat Libre line – and another unusual one is coming up for review! But first…

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