One Thousand Scents

Friday, July 24, 2009

What the?: Etat Libre d'Orange Encense et Bubblegum

“People have been cooking and eating for thousands of years, so if you are the very first to have thought of adding fresh lime juice to scalloped potatoes try to understand that there must be a reason for this.”

--Fran Lebowitz

The thing about Etat Libre D'Orange scents is not just that they're perverted--those épater-la-bourgeoisie labels and smutty names--but that they're perverse. Perfumery has been around for thousands of years, modern perfumery with its glorious synthetics for a little over a hundred, and nobody has previously thought of mixing the smells of bubble gum and incense. Nobody before Etat Libre D'Orange, anyway, with their Encens et Bubblegum.

It doesn't smell like bubble gum, though. They got that wrong. Bubble gum has a very specific, synthetic candy smell. It smells fluorescent pink. The first thing you smell in Encens et Bubblegum is a little closer to one of those scented Japanese erasers: sweet, fruity, a million miles from anything that nature has ever produced. If it smells like something you'd put in your mouth, it's a decent approximation of Adams Sour Gum, no particular flavour, just sour gum with a synthetic-fruit flavour. (Chewing gum and bubble gum don't smell the same, I hardly need point out.) This is soon joined by some sweetened flowers--mostly vague orange blossom--and some sweetish, smokeless incense.

After the top has faded a little, it's absolutely, single-mindedly linear. It's that sweet artificial-fruit scent and that subdued but sweet incense scent and that's it. For hours. Why is it so often the case that the things you love fade so quickly, and the ones you could live without (not to mention the ones you hate) just keep going and going and going?

It's not terrible. It isn't really much of anything, to be honest. It just is. The incense is very nice, but the whole composition is pointless: minor strangeness for its own sake. The ELdO scents aren't expensive, but I have a feeling that if you bought a half-ounce of Demeter Bubble Gum (which I haven't tried, but which almost certainly has to be closer to the mark than this) and one of Incense (which is pretty much identical to that in Encens et Bubblegum) and mixed them, you'd have something similar, probably better, for a lot less money.



  • Ha. I enjoy your take on this as well as the Lebowitz quote.

    The thing that's great is that there are probably people out there who just LOVE this scent. I really enjoy thinking of it that way. It's terrific that almost anything under the sun will find an audience and fanclub.

    Your reaction reminds me of how I felt about Delicious Closet Queen: just some generic, very synthetic-smelling concoction that wasn't offensive but wasn't wonderful either. Oh well, if it makes someone happy, more power to ELdO.

    By Anonymous Joe, at 6:33 PM  

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