One Thousand Scents

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Strumpet Voluntary: Etat Libre d'Orange Putain des Palaces

To get this out of the way first, I don't know why "Putain des Palaces" translates as "Hotel Slut", but it does, apparently. Was there a hotel named Les Palaces or something? Since we get both "palace" and "hotel" directly from French, you'd think that "hotel" would be "hotel" and "palace" would be "palace", but no, just proving what an unbridgeable gulf there is between English and French.

Anyway, you're not here to read about etymology, you're here to read about perfume.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, not even a century, nice girls in North America didn't wear makeup and they didn't wear perfume. They might pinch their cheeks to bring up the colour, and they might wear a little eau de toilette in some innocuous lilac or apple-blossom scent, but to wear makeup or actual European perfume, the kind with a musky, animalic base that suggested sex, meant you were easy, and there was no middle ground. Virgin or slut: those were your choices. (Based on their perfumes alone, you could tell that the sluts were the ones having all the fun.)

A friend of mine had a delicious family saying that was dredged out whenever Mother or one of the girls was perfumed for a night out: "You smell like a whore's handbag." Etat Libre d'Orange's Putain des Palaces smells like a whore's handbag, in the best imaginable way.

After a bright, cheery mandarin-orange opening laced with aldehydes, PdP reveals itself to be a midcentury rose-and-violet perfume (it recalls vintage L'Interdit by Givenchy) with a heavy dusting of face powder. To some people, this will read as "old-fashioned" or even "old-lady", but they're not paying attention, they're not sticking around, because lurking just underneath is a slightly sweetened leather — could be the handbag, could be a well-used whip for all you know — and an ambery animal dirtiness with a decidedly sexual connotation: if this is old-fashioned, it's old-fashioned hussy. The only thing missing is a postcoital smoke (and Etat Libre d'Orange already has you covered there with Jasmin et Cigarette).

Putain des Palaces is so ineluctably feminine that there is something irresistible about the idea of a man unapologetically wearing it, someone stylish and masculine like English rugby player and all-around excellent human being Ben Cohen



or American actor Shemar Moore


because we expect men to smell like citrus and ozone (if they are under 35) or tobacco and barbershop (if over), and how terrific would it be to encounter a man confidently smelling like he'd teleported from the 1950s after having just spent some bedsheets time with a brazen lady?

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2 Comments:

  • I love etymology, AND the smell of handbags (whoever their owner may be), AND this post. :)

    By Blogger olenska, at 11:42 AM  

  • I'm an etymology putain too. And I have a full bottle of this. The top notes are actually too sweet for me (Broadway Nite is the best aldehydic rose-violet for my money) but I love the creamy-dirty drydown so much! I get more musk than leather and it smells VERY sweaty to me.

    By Blogger Elisa, at 4:45 PM  

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