Thursday, March 29, 2012

Etat Libre d'Orange Bijou Romantique: fragrance review

~You let yourself be impressed by that sailor with the pierced ear?
~But no...
Caïn to Pandora Groosvenore (nicknamed "bijou romantique" by said sailor) in Hugo Pratt's La ballata del mare salato/ La ballade de la mer salee comics book starring Corto Maltese

The French have a saying "le parfum bijou" denoting both the literal sense (a perfume carried in a jewel receptible) and the metaphorical (a fragrance that adorns and highlights the beauty of its wearer). Bijou Romantique by Etat Libre d'Orange comes with little of the irreverence that the French brand exhibits and plenty of the beautyfying factor. I'd call it féérique myself (fairy-like, fairy-made). It's delicate, lovely, and oddly savoury, breaking the impression we have of oriental gourmand (i.e. dessert-like) perfumes into tiny slivers, much as it was done with Etat Libre d'Orange Fils de Dieu, their other new release for 2012. Bijou Romantique stops just short of being "skanky" or "dirty" (in a good way) -see Amaranthine by Penhaligon's- offering a deceptive "bombshell" fragrance for those women (and the adventurous men sharing it) who demand that their perfume acts as morale boosting for those approaching them. An appeal as timeless as the beauty whose virtue has a "price far above rubies", a Scriptures phrase that serves as the motto for the company.
Composed by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui it's no wonder; it was Mathilde who signed the critically acclaimed Tilda Swinton Like This, you see, and she's also the composer of that controversial ~but eminently interesting~ accord of fig and caviar in Thierry Mugler's Womanity.

With Bijou Romantique Bijaoui offers a nuanced composition that hovers on the precipice between savory and sweet, rich and satisfying, exploiting the subtle chocolate-like facets of iris and vetiver and contrasting them with the natural creaminess of vanilla and benzoin resin with a fresh lemony top note. Laboratoire Mane’s captive Evee ® molecule bridges the gap between the sweet elements and the soft rosy spices. As Bijaoui explains herself in an interview on French TV: "My luck at Mane is to have an important team of researchers constantly developing new molecules and finalizing new extraction techniques. Thanks to their extraction technique called "Jungle Essence" we perfumers at Mane, were able to create a new olfactory family, the sweet/savory family. The Jungle Essence technology allowed us to extract scents never extracted before: fig and caviar. Jungle Essence offers new possibilities, new scents, using ingredients non extractable through conventional methods. (nuts, coconut…) The Jungle Essence process produces a natural extract. This extract can be directly used in perfumed or flavoured compositions."
In Bijou Romantique the proceedings take on a darker, more complex character in the main plot, thanks to the inclusion of a musky-woody background where the sweet-liquorice note of patchouli is clearly detectable. Patchouli is of course a beloved niche fragrances element, coming back from the hippie 1960s with a vengeance, but in contrast to Nobril Immense by the same company where it's too potent, too sweet, here it's nuanced with the protagonist: the ripe fruity note of tropical ylang ylang and the soft rosy nuance of pink pepper.

Tender, inviting and multi-facetted, Bijou Romantique is like a nostalgic cameo pinned on the edge of a low neckline. Farewell Pandora!

The transparency and cozy gourmand factor of Bijou Romantique is sure to entice those who liked The Different Company's Oriental Lounge or Fendi's discontinued (but marvellous) Theorema and might be of interest for anyone exploring niche gourmand perfumes (such as the Micallef line Les Notes Gourmandes or those by Les Néréides)

Notes for Etat Libre d'Orange Bijou Romantique:
Bergamot, Italian lemon, pink pepper essence, ylang-ylang, clary sage, Tuscan iris, Jungle Essence coconut, Haitian vetiver, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla.

Bijour Romantique is available as Eau de Parfum 50ml at the official site, Henri Bendels, MiN New York and online from Luckyscent and Les Santeurs.

pic via and


  1. AlineV14:53

    Very fun review, thank you for providing it, I was curious about this one. Say, is this too powdery? You know I can't do the powdery sweet stuff like Loukoum and all those of that ilk, thanks.

  2. Stephan09:36

    Your recent posts about the new ELdO fragrances are indeed very interesting, as always. With regard to your March 23rd review of their "Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes", I'm just wondering about the meaning of this name. The website of ELdO does not use any comma in its name. So I think they meant the Son of the "Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes", or the Son of the God of Rice and Citrus. And thus there won't be any correlation to Jesus, the Son of God, no matter that the Philipines are catholic. Could you please shed some light on this for me ?

  3. A,

    you're welcome and thanks for stopping by again!

    I wouldn't put Bijou Romantique in the same ballpark as Loukhoum (I assume you mean the Keiko Mecheri one? or the Lutens Rahat one?) under any circumstances. They're quite different. Here the powderiness is slight and more mineral/chalk-like than sweet. It's a tender, but definitely there floriental with gourmand nuances.

  4. Stephan,

    Thanks for the kind words. The latest releases have been very inviting, they will prove popular I bet.
    As to comma: excellent point! It does seem that they refer to the Philippines in a religious way, the alternative name of the other fragrance being Philippine Houseboy (yeah, I kid you not), but whether it's a reference to the Catholic credo, I guess I let myself get influenced by the past of the land (all those historical missionaries coming into it and the re-enactments of Holy Week etc.). I believe they don't mean it that way, so it should be without a comma, lest anyone thinks differently. I have left the comma out now.


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