Etat Libre d’Orange’s Secretions Magnifiques (2006)

Etat Libre d’Orange's Secretions Magnifiques (2006)
Etat Libre d’Orange’s Secretions Magnifiques (2006) © Victor Wong

Note: The piece of writing contains adult subject matter, reader’s discretion is advised. ‪#‎hehe‬

Dismissing or making fun of Secretions Magnifiques is easy. Trashing it entertainingly requires some flair and effort. But I am here to say why I like this fragrance, as you know, like for every thousand haters of John Water’s movies there’s at least a fan. (A friend told me that I was the second person he knew who liked Secretions Magnifiques and I asked if he was the first one and he said yes.)

But first, I want to say something about the smell of human secretions, particularly semen.

When I was studying in university, I lived in a dormitory. I had two very good friends who also lived in the same wing of the complex, and we frequented each other’s rooms for instant noodles and study notes. One evening Dave wanted to return a computer game he had borrowed from Tony and go to the cafeteria together afterwards. We knocked on Tony’s door a few times, and many minutes later he let us in. Dave put down the computer game on his desk and started sniffing, “wow, what smells so fragrant here?” Tony immediately said in an annoying voice, “hey, let’s go.”

Well, I was pretty certain we had just smelled Tony’s secretion magnifique – post-masturbation paper tissue clean up in the waste basket next to his desk. It was very awkward, of course, but now I think about it, isn’t it amusing that Dave’s candid reaction of Tony’s secretion was “what smells so fragrant”?

I have never given much thought about the smell of semen, but now I think it has two aspects – the easily spoiled milky smell of protein, and something that smells fragrant and musky. And this is why I think the perfumer of Secretions Magnifiques, Antonie Lie, has successfully captured the essence of the smell of bodily secretions and reinterpreted it in an artful way in the form of a perfume – a mix of something fragrant (iris aldehyde floral accord) and something repulsive (seaweed / coconut milk / metallic accord).

Some reviewers say that Secretions Magnifiques smells like semen but I think that’s just their imagination. No, it doesn’t smell like semen. It’s a floral perfume with a disturbing high dosage of metallic accord. Luca Turin praised Secretions Magnifiques in his 5-star review (which I thought was over-blown) and he described it as a “nautical floral”, which to a certain degree I agree. (The nautical part probably comes from seaweed.)

I fell deeply in love with the coconut iris accord of Secretions Magnifiques, which is absolutely beautiful and powdery. If that accord is to be extracted and released as a perfume I would instantly buy it, only until a few weeks later I would be bored with it. It is this crazy combination of floral and metallic notes that make this perfume a fun challenge to wear. This is not a beginner’s perfume; (similar examples such as Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle, Amouage’s Opus VIII) it is for those who have a broad palette for unusual perfumes and challenging accords. When I am bored, I crave for a spray of Secretions Magnifiques on the back of my hand. But never more than three sprays. Never.

Etat Libre D’Orange’s Like This (2010)

Etat Libre D'Orange's Like This © Victor Wong
Etat Libre D’Orange’s Like This © Victor Wong

If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,
or what “God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.

The above verse is taken from the poem “Like This” by Rumi. Rumi is a 13th-century Persian Islamic poet, and his work has been translated into many of the world’s languages (source: wikipedia). If my interpretation is anywhere close to his idea of a “God’s fragrance”, that fragrance would be the human pheromones, the scent of attraction, the scent of the living. I think that’s absolutely ingenious, insightful, open-minded and unexpected.

So what does “Like This” smell like? Is it as poetic as Rumi’s “God’s fragrance”? Well, it turns out it smells like a slice of pumpkin pie. Next time when you host a Thanksgiving dinner, wow your guests by offering them a chance to smell “God’s fragrance” inexpensively – “Close your eyes, now take a sniff.” When they open their eyes, they see a spoonful of pumpkin pie filling you just scooped out of a can and placed under their noses.

Of course, “Like This” smells much more than a slice of pumpkin pie; the pumpkin pie smell is actually part of the dry down of the perfume. The opening is a sweet, vegetal, fresh ginger scent that guarantees to wake you up. But shortly after, the awakening notes turn warm and cozy (rose, pumpkin, sweet immortelle, musks) and it begs you to go back to bed or hug something. Look around, nothing good in sight? Hug yourself. “Like This” is a homey, cuddly scent, but you need to know if the one you want to snuggle with likes pumpkin pie, because I had once served someone a slice who did not like the smell of pumpkin spice but too polite to say no, and he looked like he had just dropped an egg on the kitchen floor every time he took a bite.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s La Fin du Monde (2013)

Etat Libre D'Orange's La Fin du Monde © Victor Wong
Etat Libre D’Orange’s La Fin du Monde © Victor Wong

My previous boss, who majored in geography and loved history, liked to share his knowledge in those subjects with people around him. Just before my vacation to visit the Yellowstone Park, his eyes lit up and enthusiastically told me that the Yellowstone National Park was a massive collapsed super-volcano. At a bar, he said that the TV show Fear Factor (in which contestants were asked to do dangerous/gruesome things to win) was an indication of the imminent end of the great American civilization because history repeats, and the Americans were acting like the citizens of the Great Roman Empire before it fell – they had nothing better to do but entertain themselves with stupid, senseless, brutal and humiliating game shows. I didn’t think the American civilization would end like the Romans, nevertheless it was a very interesting chat…

Now I must say that I have a fascination with the “end of the world”. Of course, I don’t want it to happen, and I don’t think it will happen, but living in a First World country comfortably and being a complacent middle class citizen, it is thrilling to occasionally think about it. (In 2003 Toronto and some neighboring cities had a massive blackout and the whole city was paralyzed; at nighttime the sky was pitch black and we lit candles and used mini propane stove for cooking. It was an experience of a lifetime 🙂

When Etat Libre D’Orange announced “La Fin du Monde” in 2013 (The End of the World), I was quite excited. Like watching the trailer of a disaster movie, I “previewed” the perfume by reading its notes on Fragrantica – gunpowder (war and violence), popcorn (explosion and movie theatre junk food), carrot seeds and sesame (“what the F?”), vetiver, sandalwood and cumin (reliable actors), I could tell it’s a going to be a creative nonsensical B-movie perfume. When I first wore La Fin du Monde, I was smiling from ear to ear because it smelled ridiculously silly yet perfectly fine; deliciously oily yet inedible (sesame and popcorn), strange yet familiar (carrot seed/gunpowder and vetiver/sandalwood/iris/freesia); really the top notes of the perfume are a joke but the middle and base notes are serious and sincere.

Sometimes when my friends want to watch a movie at my place, I choose the common denominator – a disaster flick or a brainless comedy; similarly, when I have friends who want to smell some niche perfumes, I will definitely bring out “La Fin du Monde”.

Etat Libre D’Orange’s Dangerous Complicity (2012)

Etat Libre D'Orange's Dangerous Complicity © Victor Wong
Etat Libre D’Orange’s Dangerous Complicity © Victor Wong

“Coco, What is your aspiration in life?”, asked the teacher.

“I want to be admired forever. I want to be elegant, modern and sophisticated.”

“Very good, very good. What about you, Tresor?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, I just want to be, like, happy. I want romance and sweet love. My mom has told me I have assets. I just want to walk into a room and everyone notices me.”

“Ok… great, but you didn’t have to speak so loud. Now what about the one sitting in the corner? What’s your name?”

The student tilted her head, and started speaking slowly and seductively with a deep feminine voice. “I want strangers to have dangerous affairs with me. I want to liberate them with forbidden love. I am desire.”

Suddenly there was a short moment of silence. Shalimar contemptibly whispered, “Yeah, you go, girl.”

There’s a roaring laughter in the classroom. Aventus and Tom Ford stood up and shouted, “Fuck yeah!! Let’s do it right here!”

The teacher said, “Well, you have to work much harder, particularly in Longevity and Sillage class.”

The student stood up and pushed the chair in. “You don’t understand me, and I don’t need you to understand me. I don’t need this class. Remember me, my name is Dangerous Complicity, and I am proud to be a skin scent.”

As she walked out of the room, a very light trail of scent reminiscent of a mixture of some nice but indistinct powdery and white floral perfumes followed her.

Notes include: Cognac, Ginger, Coconut, Jasmine, Soft Leather, Sandalwood.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s The Afternoon of a Faun (2012)

Etat Libre D'Orange - The Afternoon of a Faun (EDP, 100ml)
© Victor Wong

Oakmoss Green Man

This chypre perfume is so dense and rich, wearing it is like being trapped in a steamed-up kitchen with all the windows and doors shut and the kettle filled with oak moss, myrrh and amber is boiling.

The Afternoon of a Faun is a distant relative of Mitsouku who lives in the forest and he doesn’t like to talk to anyone younger than 30.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s Charogne (2008)

Etat Libre d'Orange's Charogne.

Etat Libre d’Orange’s Charogne.

The top notes are very beautiful florals… when all is dissipated, the unusual leather, incense, cardamon take control and turn the scent completely odd and old-smelling, like a bouquet of wilted flowers stuffed in an antique leather luggage. I wear it occasionally.