This scent feels like a pop culture reference, like an Andy Warhol picture turned into a smell. Eternally youthful and almost offensive vibrancy from this anarchic perfume house for rebels and flaneurs.
Black pepper, ginger, Bulgarian rose, bergamot, jasmine, benzoin, blood accord, patchouli, incense, cocoa.
It is impossible to not be charmed by the wonderfully provocative eccentricity of Etat Libre d’Orange who make scents which are weird, wonderful, and just far enough left of the middle that you really do end up pondering what it is that you have smelled. Their marketing spiel is some of our favourite around. Here’s a bit from the description of Eau de Protection so you can see what we mean:
“At Etat Libre d’Orange, the Virgin rarely wanders far from the Whore. Perhaps she is one and the same. Warmed by the fire of this woman, the noses have embraced a fanciful vision. They have created for her a perfume of protection, a refuge on the battlefield of love.”
And this about Etat creator Etienne De Swardt:
“With his manwhore attitude, he has surrendered to his own narcissism, and this arrogant pathology is the gateway to Etat Libre d’Orange.”
That’s such fun to read that it must have been a complete blast for the marketeer who got to write it.
There is a valid point in amongst this smoke and mirrors though and that is that the Etat perfumes are a little bit strange, like life. The scents often have a slightly transgressive edge and don’t normally follow the regular conventions of ‘make something appealing to as many people as possible’. They’re a lot of fun, but they aren’t for the faint hearted.
Eau de Protection is one of those scents which, right from the get go, feels like it is evoking something very familiar but which it is really hard to pin down. We pondered it for ages whilst testing and it finally hit us: cola bottle sweets.
The start of the scent, for us at least, was a huge blast of cola bottle sweets, warmed and stickied by being carried about in a little white paper bag for too long. It feels quite childish, quite familiar, and a little bit manufactured, much like those childhood sweets are (ok, yes, we still eat them too despite childhood being a distant memory for us now!).
The scent smells very much like the colour of a freshly poured glass of cola too; sticky, syrupy, but – at the start at least – wet, refreshing and like it will give you a caffeine boost. There’s something vaguely citrusy in there which adds a slightly sour feel. It could well be the scent of freshly grated ginger, sharp and tangy before you notice that it is warming as well.
The overall feel of the top notes of the scent are very pop culture-ish. It feels like you could be smelling something disposable, of-the-minute, fast and cheap and whilst in a lesser scent that could be off putting, here you know that Etat are toying with you, conjouring up ghosts of your childhood past, only to whip aside the curtain and reveal something else entirely.
Eau de Protection settles a lot in the middle of the perfume and becomes less playful, and a little more serious. In the heart we get more of the sweet sugar syrup vibe, warmed by the ginger and pepper. It still reminded us of cola bottles for quite some time, but it does start to feel more like a protective potion than just frippery.
Rose is the note that the brand champion in their blurb, and yes, we could make out rose at points throughout the scent, but its a very peculiar, ripe and strange rose. It never really breaks out and shows itself fully, but it hangs around in the background like a sulky teenager, moodily swinging its arms about. There’s a certain indolic feel to it, like a rose with the indolic molecules turned up so high that its almost not a rose any more. A rotten rose, a rose which was beautiful but is turning back to mulch now. That feeling of time passing leading to decay, is a really interesting one to observe in a scent. Hats off to them for creating something capable of that.
Between the top notes and the heart notes, the scent really transitions from being very wet and thirst-quenching, to a kind of mid-point neutrality of neither-wet-nor-dry. This continues to move in the base which in turn becomes much drier and far more powdery. If you just smelled the base you would imagine that it had been that dry and powdery throughout.
The base loses some of the cola bottle vibe, and also turns down the volume on the decaying rose, but we get a much saltier thread coming through instead. We couldn’t find the listed blood accord in the scent at all, but at times the salty base smelled a little like salt crystals drying on human skin after a particularly sweaty workout. It references that Etat decadence, sensuality and carnality that the brand are famous for.
The lingering note we kept catching as we tested the scent was of milk. Like the rose, it wasn’t a comforting, wholesome note though. Here it smelled again like something corrupt, something soured. Not unpleasantly so, but the perfume made us feel a bit uneasy all day, indeed, rather like we were in a fairytale land and we must find the talismanic Eau de Protection to save us from something evil that was lurking just out of sight.
The other stuff
The longevity of the scent is good. It lasts all day after a morning application. It does reduce in volume as the day goes on, but each time we tested we could still catch it well into the afternoon or early evening.
The sillage, or projection, of the scent was moderate to good. We felt that it would extend to around handshake distance or a little further depending on the wearer and the amount applied. At times the projection seemed a little underpowered, and we couldn’t work out why, compared to any of the other tests, as nothing significant had changed. It just seemed to be that some days it liked to project more than others, strangely.
In terms of the gender this is best suited to, we could see it appealing to anyone who liked spicy, slightly floral scents, but particularly cola bottles. The florals aren’t very loud, the spices aren’t overpowering, cola bottles are loved ubiquitously, so we could see it wearing well on many people.
We felt that this scent would wear best in the Autumn when the air turns a little cooler and you want to be snuggled up somewhere.
Eau de Protection is available from Bloom Perfumery London, where it is priced at £115 for 100ml EdP, or £82 for 50ml of the same.
You can also buy Eau de Protection from the Etat Libre d’Orange web boutique.
We were kindly given a sample of this fragrance by a friend and supporter of The Sniff.