March 17, 2012
Of all the possible intersections of visual and olfactory art it seems like movies and fragrance is one of the most fruitful. When I get lost in a movie I imagine the smells of what I’m seeing up there on the big screen. The less familiar the milieu being depicted the further my imagination travels. The one part of the world that I have not traveled in at all is Asia and the South Pacific. The closest I come to experiencing the smell of that part of the world is through its cuisine. The new fragrance from Etat Libre D’Orange is inspired by both the cuisine and cinema of the islands of Southeast Asia.
Founder of Etat Libre D’Orange Etienne De Swardt tasked perfumer Ralf Schwieger with creating this fragrance, Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes (Son of God, rice, and citrus). M De Swardt gave M Schwieger two films to use as a visual brief for this new fragrance. M Schwieger illuminated this effort in a quote from his interview with EIC Michelyn Camen:
For ‘Fils de Dieu/Philippine Houseboy’ Etienne gave me two films to watch: ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’ by John Huston and ‘The Masseur’ by Brillante Mendoza. The fragrance thus was inspired by Asian cuisine (hence the rice), a Philippine massage parlor (castoreum!) and the body lotions coming with it (musk) all that enveloped in a tone of sepia just like in the Huston movie. The fragrance is quite fresh and not that difficult, I personally like to wear it very much.
I’ve never seen either of the cinematic inspirations cited by M Schwieger but when I wore Fils de Dieu I was reminded very strongly of another movie set in that part of the world; the 1982 movie ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ directed by Peter Weir. In that movie an Australian reporter and a British Embassy worker begin a dangerous sexual liaison set against the turmoil in 1965 Indonesia prior to the overthrow of President Sukarno. There is a tangible tension and humidity that seems to seep off the screen plus the passion of the protagonists is consummated during steamy tropical nights. Fils de Dieu feels like the olfactory companion to this movie, for me.
The Asian vibe is accentuated right from the top notes of Fils de Dieu as a tart lime and smooth shiso leave no doubt about what part of the world your nose is located in. Ginger and coconut join in to add a tropical facet to the early going. The shiso and the coconut really are the stars in the top notes. M Schwieger chooses only one floral note for Fils de Dieu; jasmine. He surrounds the jasmine with a steamed rice accord and a spicy duo of cardamom and cinnamon. The rice accord is beautifully realized and M Schwieger uses it to add a palpable humidity to the heart of Fils de Dieu. The base notes are animalic but kept exquisitely balanced and well controlled. Leather, musk, and castoreum create a slightly sexual accord over a healthy foundation of vetiver and amber.
Fils de Dieu has outstanding longevity and average sillage.
Etat Libre D’Orange is a perfume house known for wearing its sexuality on its sleeve; with Fils de Dieu the sexuality is much less aggressive and all the more sensual for that restraint. Combine that with the Asian foodie notes and you have a fragrance which triumphantly creates a sexual gourmand fragrance. Fils de Dieu is the best Etat Libre D’Orange fragrance since Like This and it is my favorite fragrance of the first quarter of 2012.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Fils de Dieu supplied by MinNewYork.
–Mark Behnke, Managing Editor