Friday, March 23, 2012

Etat Libre d'Orange Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes: fragrance review

Despite allusions to Messianic status and references to a Far Asian dish full of endemic ingredients, Fils de Dieu is neither incense-based, nor is it foody in smell. Instead it shoots clarity, modernity and prized complexity into an age-old structure, the classic oriental perfume, making it shed its abundant sunshine like a golden ray shimmering onto yellow butterflies flying over the spring blooms in the balcony. Forget the controversy factor and scare-the-horses impact of the niche brand's infamous Sécrétions Magnifiques. This one is instantly (and easily) likeable stuff you will get serious milleage off; which I'd think defeats the brand's "perfume is dead, long live perfume" manifesto, but there you have it: they need to make wearable stuff too I suppose. Fils de Dieu is among their most approachable. 

Biko rice cupcakes from the Philippines
Etat Libre d'Orange describes its latest fragrance Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes (its full name meaning “Son of God of rice and citrus”) as "the one who brings on the light, the sunshine", drawing from the Philippines lore (its alternative name was Philippine Houseboy). Perfumer Ralf Schwieger (of Lipstick Rose fame), set to task by the brand's head Etienne De Swardt, took the basic structure of a classical oriental built on tart citrus and creamy ambery and vanillic notes (see Shalimar or even better the more legible Shalimar Light) and renovated it into a modern creation that registers as totally urban, totally effarvescent, totally wearable. But that's not to mean it wears thin or minimalist: the projection of the mouilletes on my library is reaching me, diffusing with gusto, in the bedroom and the sillage trailing off my chiffon blouse is enough to entice the neighbour meeting me round the corner to ask what I am wearing. "It's Fils de Dieu", I reply rather self-consious. "Oooh, sounds like one of those delectable things only you carry around here!" she replies with a resigned sigh. I oblige and write the name down along with intrstructions on where to get some.

That is the effect the new Etat Libre d'Orange fragrance has: uplifting, inviting, alluring, radiant. Despite the lack of heft its vanilla background has (forget thick, "burnt" too foody vanillas, this is nuanced and sophisticated), the tenacity of musk, the crushed flower petals and the profusion of leathery castoreum (reminiscent of a FarEast massage parlour) accounts for a composition that will get you noticed throughout the day. If the equally inviting Etat Libre d'Orange Archives 69 and their universally liked Like This is any indication, the French brand is following a certain kind of compositions quite purposefully lately. 

But the interesting thing about Fils de Dieu is the masterful playing of contrast and the injection of herbal into the classic oriental motif: the ginger (in itself having a citrusy facet) pairs with other hesperidic notes, notably sharp lime, starting with bracing, mouthwatering freshness (not unlike the bergamot-rich head note of Cologne Bigarade in the F.Malle line). There's the subtle and brief fennel-like note of shiso and then the perfume swims confidently into plush comfort through the milky-rice note of coconut-milk steamed rice. The zen-like effect of savoury rice cooking on the stove was perhaps most famously explored by niche brand Ormonde Jayne in Champaca: there's something home-bound and soothing about that smell and Linda Pilkington had revealed to me in an interview that she had envisioned it inspired by her Chinese neighbours cooking rice at their appartment every evening. Etat Libre had injected a rice note as a hint in their previous Putain de Palaces. But in Fils de Dieu the progression melds effortlessly into an intimate, gourmand aftertaste with lots of coriander (orange-saffron like, almost), a metallic nuance and suede, sultry leathery notes which retain the fragrance deliciously on both skin and cloth.

Etat Libre d'Orange Fils de Dieu, du Riz et des Agrumes is available from Henri Bendels, MiN New York and online from Luckyscent and Les Senteurs.

Notes for Etat Libre d'Orange Fils de Dieu:
Ginger, coriander leaves, lime, shiso, bergamot, Jungle Essence coconut, rice note, Jungle Essence cardamom, jasmine, cinnamon, French May rose, tonka bean, vetiver, musk, amber, leather, castoreum.

photo via


  1. Bevfred13:47

    Great review! Now I must try this, except that it's not available anymore in Toronto. But I shall find it....want.

  2. Bev,

    thanks for the nice compliment.
    You definitely should, it's so easy to like, but why is it not available in Toronto? It's so new!

    Anyway, there are people splitting it I think on Scent Splits, check it out ;-)

  3. Anonymous18:14

    All ELdO perfumes are wearable. And I enjoy many of the line! Secretions Magnifiques is the only exception - red-herring manifesto-mix.

    Eventually, I'll get a sample to try it. Your review was very helpful. Otherwise enticing reverie reviews, with scenery, are just a joy to read, not a guide to select what to try. :)

  4. From what I read here and after trying Fat Electrician and Like This I have the feeling that ELdO are changing their style a little. Their first releases smelled perfume-y, tongue-in-cheek, cartoon-y, very interesting though. These last releases seem more serious.

  5. A,

    thanks, that's a great compliment to read! I'm glad that the reviews do provide practical benefits.

    I kinda was repulsed by the gimmick approach of the line in the names initially, but I found liking a lot of their fragrances, or at least respecting the structural approach: they're well thought-out.

  6. Chris,

    this is my feeling as well. Putain de Palaces was quite something I recall when first sampling and the name was very very interesting indeed (how wonderful to us Latin-influenced speakers), but they have "softened" somehow now. For good or bad, it will show soon. Still, some of these more serious approaches are solidly well built which is a good sign.

    I guess one needs to draw attention upon themselves initially in order to catch interest in a sea of releases. ;-)

  7. I am really looking forward to trying this one. I did like Like This. I went through a couple samples but then never felt the urge to buy. Im hoping this will be love!

  8. Stephan14:44

    I'm just wondering about the meaning of this name. The website of ELdO does not use any comma in in the name. So I think they meant the Son of the "Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes". And thus there won't be ant connection to Jesus the Son of God, no matter that the Philipines are catholic. Can you please shed some light on this for me ? Your post about this fragrance is very interesting, as always.

  9. Anonymous03:28

    I got hungry just reading about it, haha!
    I'm Filipino, so the rice and coconut ingredients intrigued me, as the original name( I wish they named it Philippine Houseboy, but Son of God sounds much more interesting).
    Nevertheless, I'm getting it!
    Thank You! :D


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