Could Rien possibly get any bigger? Yes and no. Soon after it bulldozed its way onto the market in 2006, the scent became the very definition of a perfumery juggernaut. Tickled by the idea of making an enormous fragrance and calling it 'Nothing' (partly so as to confuse any hapless passersby asking, "What are you wearing??!!?") Etienne De Swardt and Antoine Lie put together one of the most fiendish, most ostentatious, most unsweetened green-mossy-woody-spicy-aldehydic leathers of all time. As many of you will no doubt be aware, the stuff is lethal. It fires its heat across a 3-mile radius. It contains a warehouse-load of some of the fragrance world's most heavy-hitting ingredients. And it has a half-life to rival that of uranium. Once it latches onto its prey, it never lets go. It resists sweat, wind, rain... and even frantic scrubbing beneath steaming showers. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I adore it, but I don't wear it as often as I'd like to, because it is very much the signature scent of Persolaise Junior #3, who is positively gaga about it.
So when the news emerged that Etat Libre D'Orange were releasing a stronger version of it, a tremor of fear shot through my spine. An even more intense Rien?? Surely the world was not yet ready for such a beast. Well, the snarling creature has now arrived, but it turns out to be something of a surprise, because it isn't actually as monstrous as we might have expected. With what could be seen as a sly riposte to our prejudicial natures, De Swardt and Lie have avoided what would have been a simplistic 'let's crank things up to 11' approach and have instead chosen to take their lead from the word at the centre of their new creation's name: intense.
Rien Intense Incense is still big, it's still loud and still makes you question whether it's possible for a perfume to be too long-lasting. But what sets it apart from the original version is a more focussed concentration, rather than a mere increase in size. The expansiveness of its parent's onslaught has been fine-tuned to a precise laser beam. All the elements are still present and accounted for - the roasted wood, the scorched hide, the muscular galbanum - but their force is more single-minded, as though shorn of any excess energy. Apparently, the original's formula didn't work when its concentration was simply increased from 20% to 30%; Antoine Lie was obliged to return to the drawing board and tweak various proportions. The result of his efforts is curiously sweeter than the 2006 incarnation: the incense facet is, indeed, more pronounced, but so is a sturdy rose note, as well as a relatively sensuous, balsamic drydown.
The folks at ELDO reportedly planned Rien Intense Incense as a limited edition for the Middle Eastern market (where its Sumo-sized floral-leather heart would almost certainly have been a massive hit). However, the initial response to their new creation was so enthusiastic that they decided to make it available worldwide. I have to say I'm very pleased, not because RII is an oversized Rien (there really was no need for an oversized Rien; it's quite oversized enough) but because its tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred, post-modern, nouveau-Orientalism adds something genuinely new and interesting to the Rien story. I hope it's here to stay. And as for Persolaise Junior #3... well, he's already branded it onto his Christmas list.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Etat Libre D'Orange in 2014.]