Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Next! Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma. This is Sigrun’s favorite from the line, and I’d have to say that it’s mine too. This is one of those rose-and-patchouli combos that is supposed to be a fierce rose, but to my mind, it’s more than that. Forget Rossy de Palma! This cunning rose is the equivalent of a young Loretta Lynn singing Fist City with a big ole country smile on her pretty face. Yes, in the same way that Loretta looks friendly as all-get out when she starts signing, “You’ve been makin’ your brags around town that you’ve been a-lovin’ my man,” this rose scent starts out the same. It’s so jammy and attractive, you don’t realize you’re sidling up so close to something that might pack more of a punch than you reckoned. Oh sure, it’s a little spicy, too, at first. Just enough to give you a little giggle, like when Loretta says “I’m not sayin’ my baby’s a saint, ’cause he ain’t, and that he won’t cat around with a kitty.” But what starts out as a sweet and pretty rose getting just a little bit sassy with some ginger and pepper, suddenly becomes a rose-and-smoky-chai-tea combo that will either put some hair on your chest or yank some out of your head. “If you don’t want to go to Fist City, you better detour ‘round my town, ‘cause I’ll grab you by the hair a-the head and I’ll lift you offa the ground,” warns Loretta. The same could be said by this rose scent, which is exactly why I like it.

Fragrance notes: Ginger, black pepper, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, benzoin, incense, cacao and patchouli.

Down-Home Mini Reviews of the Etat Libre d'Orange fragrances
Rien, Rossy de Palma and Noël au Balcon

(With Some Sweet Swedish Commentary Thrown In for Good Measure)

Last, but not least: Etat Libre d’Orange Noël au Balcon. I wasn’t going to mention this one because I thought, well hell, this smells like L’Artisan Tea for Two, and I already own Tea for Two, so why bother? But then I did a side-by-side testing of the two and realized they’re every bit as different as they are similar. Tea for Two is the smokiest of tea scents, with lots of ginger and honey, and Noël au Balcon is more like Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. Which is to say there’s lots of ginger and honey, and some of the same spices that I smell in Tea for Two, but in place of smoky tea, there is some very feminine smelling tangerine and apricot fruitiness, especially in the early stages of wear. Sigrun says, “I get hyacinth and saffron (though those are not among the official notes) and LOTS of honey. It's the equivalent of a red velvet dress for Christmas, the fabric is thick and dense but shows off all curves in their glories.” I say, I don’t get the saffron, but other than that, Sigrun hit the nail on the head. This is Dolly Parton, all sweetness and light and bosomy fullness, singing one of her darker numbers, the incomparable Jolene.

“Your beauty is beyond compare, with flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green,” are the words Dolly made famous about a woman so damn beautiful, she could instantly rob you of your happiness if she lifted an eyebrow anywhere in the vicinity of your man. I do believe that Dolly was pretty well-endowed, even in her early days with Porter Wagoner, but you can probably bet that she wouldn’t blink about going up a cup size or two if confronted with the likes of Jolene. In a similar fashion, Noël au Balcon knows how to fill a loving cup.

Fragrance notes: Tangerine, vanilla, honey, orange blossom, apricot, red pepper, patchouli, musk, cistus, cinnamon, nigella, amber.

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  • Photo of Lyle Lovett was lifted from the site  Bottle image is from
  • Videos are from the YouTube channels of Geepereet, kkilljjooy and Freddy Carpenter, respectively.
  • And in case you were wondering, yes, I really do like country music, and lots of other kinds of music too.

Recently I got a package full of perfume samples—all of them from the perfume house of Etat Libre d’Orange—from Swedish perfume blogger Sigrun. Getting a package from Sigrun is like getting a note from my bff who is seated three seats down and one row behind me in supervised study hall. (And I did once have to spend a couple weeks in supervised study hall, after I got caught skipping school and forging notes from my mother.) Not only does this package travel a long way to get here, but it is every kind of fun once it arrives, allowing me access to the brilliant yet absolutely pure and sincere way in which Sigrun analyzes things. Her packages spur a small flurry of emails in which she quite often impresses me with her zingy, one-or-two-sentence fragrance descriptions, as they are not only humorous but totally hit the mark in terms of what I smell too. (Her description of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois as smelling like “dolled-up earwax” has more than a grain of truth to it—and I say that as someone who actually likes Miel de Bois.) Even so, her humor is never biting or sarcastic, and her blog reviews are, by turns, funny, poignant and sweet. In a word, charming (as demonstrated here).

She’s the kind of girl who gets me, so I decided to review three of the fragrances she sent by comparing them to my favorite country songs. Groan if you want, but country music really hits the spot when I am in need of a good laugh, a good cry or just deliciously entertaining thoughts. There’s a line in a Miranda Lambert song I’ve sung too many times for my husband’s listening pleasure, because it just felt so good to twang along to, “My cousin saw you on the street, with a redhead named Bernice.” (And then to wonder what it would be like to be that woman, Bernice, since redheads are often traffic-stopping kinds of women—especially the long-legged ones—and there is something deliciously old-fashioned about the name Bernice, and I like the way those two concepts collide in my brain.) I also love the old-timey, dyed-in-the-wool country singers who either cry in their beer (if they’re men) or issue curt ultimatums (if they’re women) and who wear rhinestone suits and white cowboy boots while they’re doing it. I rarely take exception to these songs, except maybe when Loretta Lynn sings “Don’t come home a-drinkin’ with lovin’ on your mind,” because it seems to me that if he’s been a-drinkin’ like a fish all evening, he’s not going to be good for much else, Loretta. You certainly don’t want him a-hangin’ your curtain rods when he comes home in that state, but lovin’ might not be so bad.

Ok, first up! Etat Libre d’Orange Rien.  When a fragrance takes as its name the French word for “nothing,” you know it’s anything but. Sigrun says of this fragrance: “Rien is a badass, to say the least. It reminds me of Bandit as it packs a lot of leather, but it's also different as it's very aldehydic (those aldehydes, go with everything) has more wood and less greenery. I'm picturing a woman wearing leather pants and a jacket with nothing underneath, driving her car at maximum speed in the woods of Northern Sweden.” And you know, she’s right! Smell this scent from a distance on another person and you get leather, a whiff of camphor that reminds you of a whoosh of cool air, and a lot of wood. Smell it up close on your own skin, though, and I can only say that Rien puts the ass in badass. Up close, this thing smells animalic and urinous, and yet it's coupled with an aldehydes-meets-mothballs smell that is so brisk, it makes one feel like there is movement … a motor somewhere in the picture. If Lyle Lovett smelled this scent, I have a feeling he’d be singing “She’s hot to go, she’s ready! She's hot to go right now.” That song is not exactly polite, and neither is this scent, and yet they both speak to a sense of urgency that sometimes takes precedence over aesthetics.

Fragrance notes: Incense, rose, leather, iris, labdanum, mousse de chene, styrax, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes.

Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances can be purchased at But if you live in Sweden, head over to Sigrun’s site, ‘cause she sells samples and decants from this line, and she can give you a lickety-split summary of the rest of the Etat Libre d’Orange perfumes without breaking a string on any banjo. [Update: Sometime in late 2015, Sigrun removed her decanting site from the Internet, and though she no longer is writing about perfumes, you can still read her posts at her original site, Fragrant Fanatic.]

October 31, 2012: