One Thousand Scents

Friday, February 22, 2013

Burning Up: Etat Libre d'Orange Noël au Balcon

Since most of the East Coast is getting slugged by winter, I figured it was appropriate to bring up this Christmas-themed fragrance, even if I am a couple of months late.

The name "Noël au Balcon" is the first of half of a French proverb meaning that if Christmas is warm enough to enjoy on the balcony, you'll be spending Easter in front of the fireplace. Consequently, you would expect it to smell Christmasy, and it does: it's reminiscent of Guerlain's Winter Delice in its unabashed use of spices, in this case red pepper and cumin, meant to suggest skin heated by a roaring fire in the hearth. It has a lot of projection: it's not shy about its hot-skin yumminess.

Here's the thing, though: it is extremely single-minded in its pursuit of this idea. Extremely. There are other facets to Noël au Balcon, but once the Christmas-fruit top has fled, all you're left with is an insistent spiciness, which begins to wear on you after a while. And it just keeps going: eight hours later, it's closer to the skin, but it's still just this endless barrage of hot spices. You can enjoy a square or two of gingerbread with candied orange peel on top, but if you have to eat the entire pan, and then another and another, sooner or later you're going to get sick of it.

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