Yellow mandarin, ginger, pumpkin accord, immortelle, Moroccan neroli, rose de Grasse, vetiver, heliotrope, and musk. These are the notes of Like This, the latest fragrance from Etat Libre d'Orange. Sounds like a train wreck, doesn't it? It's not. Like a vintage Harris tweed woven with threads of pea green, turquoise, putty, and aubergine, it sounds scary but makes a gorgeous blend: untraditional, yet natural — even inevitable — once you experience it.
Inspired by Tilda Swinton and a poem from Rumi, perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui created Like This. Both Swinton and Rumi set a mighty high bar. The Rumi poem talks about the Resurrection and the fragrance of God, as well as relatively minor things like the sky and love. He is such a popular poet and philosopher that quotes from his work probably show up more often than anyone else's as part of the automatic signature line on emails. Swinton has blazed a singular artistic path of intelligence, sensitivity, and almost extraterrestrial beauty. (April is National Poetry Month. Do yourself a favor and click over to the Etat Libre d'Orange website to hear Swinton read the Rumi poem.)
I imagine Bijaoui looking at the Etat Libre brief, trying to come up with some common theme between the redheaded Swinton and Rumi and hitting on Orange. Orange hair, the orange of the sun, saffron monastic robes, fading day. Then, with this visual inspiration she found a way to connect orange scents: pumpkin, neroli, mandarin, immortelle, and ginger. The crazy thing is, it works.
Like This's mandarin and neroli are apparent at first spray, but they are muffled by a diffusive, almost cardboard-like note (the pumpkin?) that keeps Like This from feeling too citrus or sweet at first. Fendi Theorema smells much sweeter and orange-y initially than does Like This. Sometimes I think I smell a hint of civet, too, dirtying Like This up. Other times I can't smell it at all. The maple-curry scent of immortelle is more prominent than ginger as the fragrance wears on, although dried ginger is definitely present.
Over time, Like This sweetens to a burnt sugar, like the crispy top of an immortelle crème brûlée. A dose of moderately clean musk and wood keep it from smelling like food. The rose and vetiver are lost on me, although their watery crispness undoubtedly lighten Like This's sweet warmth. Like This wears close to the skin and lasts four or five hours.
Despite its unusual combination of notes, Like This is easy to wear. Other perfume lovers who smell it lift their noses from my arm and say, "It smells nice on you." People without a lot of perfume experience tend to simply say "It's lovely." No one who has smelled it on me has demanded to know where he or she could get some. Like This doesn't call attention to itself and isn't a challenging or assertive fragrance. But lately I've been loving perfumes that don't wear me, and Like This has been in heavy rotation, especially with the cooler spring weather. Its quiet but fascinating play of notes keeps me interested but not distracted.
Not everyone will want to wear Like This. Like Swinton (and I wish more like Swinton) I'm a pale redhead with a penchant for creamy colors and thick textures. Like This fits right in. If a clear, light jasmine is more your thing, you might not make Like This a daily choice. It could be too sweet or too, well, "orange" for you.
I don't know about the dreamy world of Rumi and how it connects to Like This. But I can see Tilda Swinton wearing Like This and a battered tweed jacket and climbing the Scottish countryside in the late afternoon. She's headed home, to an Italo Calvino novel, black tea, shortbread, and a peaty fire. Her scarf smells delicious.
Etat Libre d'Orange Tilda Swinton Like This is an Eau de Parfum and comes in a 50 ml spray bottle. It hasn't yet been released in the United States. I bought mine at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs gift shop in Paris. For general buying information, see the listing for Etat Libre d'Orange under Perfume Houses.