|Etienne De Swardt|
It doesn't seem possible that Etat Libre D'Orange is only 10 years old. When it blazed its way onto the market in 2006 - in an opening salvo that contained the likes of Sécrétions Magnifiques, Rien, Jasmin & Cigarette, Vraie Blonde and Eloge Du Traitre - it cemented its reputation as a high-quality enfant terrible with such rapidity that it almost feels as though its anarchic swagger has been a part of the perfume scene for decades. It's a credit to the vision of its founder and creative director Etienne De Swardt that so many of his facetious fragrances are now considered classics of modern perfumery.
Several niche brands claim to be edgy, but at its best, ELDO has walked the walk unlike any other. Time and again, it has attached a novel concept, quirky imagery and an oddball name to the skills of fearless perfumers and produced bizarre, compelling works of olfactory art. As a result, it has become one of the most iridescent hues in today's busy perfume rainbow. Below you'll find what I consider to be its five most commendable achievements.
Please be sure to visit the Candy Perfume Boy and Basenotes for their own Super Scent lists. I have no idea which perfumes have made it onto their Top 5, so I'll be heading over to their sites right now. As always, feel free to add your own views below. Have I left out your favourite ELDO? Let me know!
Enjoy the list!
5. Like This (Mathilde Bijaoui; 2010)
You wouldn't think the realms of the bizarre and the romantic would have anything in common, but Bijaoui's award-winning Like This - created in collaboration with Tilda Swinton - forces you to reconsider. It entices some of perfumery's less popular players - carrot, ginger and pumpkin - to emerge from their hiding places, it places them upon a graceful spine and it creates an embrace worthy of the Rumi poem after which it's named. Fizzy love.
4. Eau De Protection aka Rossy De Palma (Antoine Lie & Antoine Maisondieu; 2007)
Perfume aficionados often describe their favourite scents as a layer of armour, and whilst I usually find that analogy unhelpful, nowhere is it more apt than in the case of Eau De Protection. It starts off as a straightforward rose soliflore - wide-eyed, approachable, hospitable - and even though it never quite loses sight of its central idea, it develops a metallic edge, a crystalline intelligence, as though asserting that it's capable of matching its friendliness with leonine ferocity. An uncompromising marvel.
3. The Afternoon Of A Faun (Ralf Schwieger; 2012)
Each time I spray this beauty, I feel I'm discovering it for the first time, such is the depth of its allure. Conceived as a tribute to Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes, it doesn't hold back on the vintage air of mosses and labdanum, but it's also a creature of the 21st century, using immortelle, incense and disconcerting green notes to propel its nimble dancer onto a gleaming, futuristic stage, somewhere between Moscow and Mars. Wear it... and feel those mind-altering Stravinsky strings cast an unearthly hue across your world.
2. Tom Of Finland (Antoine Lie; 2008)
On a technical level, Tom is remarkable for being the best showcase we've yet been given for a gorgeous Givaudan material called Safraleine, a Sahara-dry expression of leather, cedar and saffron. But in a visceral sense, it's fire in a bottle, an uninhibited, hip-grinding tornado of tanned hide, baked spices and furnace-dwelling wood. As a friend once remarked when we were discussing ELDO's scents, "Oh my God, Tom is just... it's just SOOOO hot!"
1. Rien (Antoine Lie; 2006)
Everything that's best about ELDO can be found in Rien: an ironic name linked to an ingenious concept and, most importantly, a blistering olfactory composition. In this case, De Swardt wanted a scent stuffed to seam-bursting point with all of perfumery's most assertive materials, so that a wearer's response to someone gasping, "What on earth is that perfume?" could be a smile and a quiet, "Oh... it's nothing." Lie rose to the challenge, using patchouli, leathers, aldehydes, incense and woods at a frightening concentration to produce a wholly distinctive homage to bombastic bitterness. Oh, and one spray lasts like... well, like nothing else.
Note: As per our Super Scent rules, the above list was chosen from ELDO's current line-up; discontinued scents weren't considered. Here's the brand's current portfolio, according to our reckoning: Antiheros; Archives 69; Bendelirious; Bijou Romantique; Charogne; Cologne; Dangerous Complicity; Delicious Closet Queen; Divin'Enfant; Don't Get Me Wrong Baby; Eau De Protection; Eloge Du Traitre; Encens & Bubblegum; Fat Electrician; Fils De Dieu; Jasmin Et Cigarette; Je Suis Un Homme; La Fin Du Monde; Like This; Malaise Of The 1970s; Noel Au Balcon; Nombril Immense; Putain Des Palaces; Remarkable People; Rien; Rien Intense Incense (could be counted as one with Rien, I suppose); Secretions Magnifiques; Afternoon Of A Faun; Tom Of Finland; True Lust; Vierges Et Toreros; Vraie Blonde. The new Hermann A Mes Cotes Me Paraissait Une Ombre wasn't released in time for us to consider it as a group. However, I have tried it and I can report that it wouldn't have made it onto my Top 5.