Monday, January 14, 2008

Charogne and Rossy de Palma by Etat Libre d’Orange : Perfume Reviews

Even though both Charogne and Rossy de Palma are no longer considered that new, these mid-2007 releases by Etat Libre d’Orange are indeed quite new to me, since they took their sweet time to become available here in the Netherlands. I have been most curious about them both for a long time now, so finally, reviews of both!


Charogne’s name and promo are both as unique and as controversial as they come. I doubt there has ever been another perfume touting a name as tasteless as one that literally means “Carrion” nor has there probably ever been a promo as disputatious, eyebrow-raising, or disdain promoting (Although Tom Ford admittedly did a mighty good job of producing the most polemical advertisements of 2007). Both Charogne’s name and promo have come under a lot of fire for being offensive, and for some, even vulgar. I feel a little sheepish, thus, admitting that I didn’t really care. Yes I did want to smell Etat Libre d’Orange’s interpretation of a cadaver. And yes, even though I was aware their official description was perverse, its gimmicky nature left me rather cold. It was all about the juice for me and I felt otherwise completely emotionally uninvolved. Charogne’s opening is very sweet, almost candy-like, teetering just a step away from being cloying. Slowly, the jus calms down to reveal less sweetness, less intensity, more nuanced softness. Even though violet is not among the official listed notes, the lasting impression is that of fragrantly aromatic violets and roses left in a vase to rot. This smell of decomposing, aromatic vegetation is at once prevalent and subtle. This is, surprisingly perhaps when taking the last two sentences into consideration, a very wearable fragrance: there’s absolutely no need to fear that you’ll be going around smelling like a rotting beast that just emerged from a swamp! The aforementioned, dark decadence seems to be a thick vein, running, or rather snaking its way down the middle of this composition, surrounded by vanillic goodness, lightly perfumed with soft leather - soft kidskin, like a shiny, buttery glove. All this is weighed down by heavy musk that is felt deep within – it goes straight to the stomach, if that makes any sense. There is incense: a certain beautiful smokiness, tenderly placed, harmonious and unobtrusive – detectable when smelling close to the skin. The marketing doesn’t do this perfume any good, other than giving it a perverse controversy value meant to stir emotion... “Blissful pestilence” is the most unfair description of this perfume I’ve come across, in fact. The fragrance itself is neither blissful nor pestilent. It is deep, sexy, thoughtful. It is at once almost gourmand with its rather candied sweetness, yet at the same time serious and sophisticated. The heaviness, the darkness of the perfume needs to be counterbalanced with ethereal fabrics and romantic jewelry. The only gothic aspect that befits it, is perhaps a dark red lipstick on dewy skin, the lips quietly mouthing poetry under candlelight at midnight. All in all, I find the much-maligned Charogne to be interesting, deep and addictive.

Rossy De Palma:

The first, fleeting impression is soft rose on a canvas of freshly turned, rich soil. Soon though, the earthiness almost completely disappears, giving way to a thornier, spicy rose. The spiciness tingles the nose, while a strange, green accord keeps it fresh. This greenness is almost a sensation, or perhaps an image – like a powerful green vine, gripping the thorny, spicy rose in its tangling embrace. Adding to the fresh spiciness, a very interesting ginger accord that veers away from the sometimes soapy “aftertaste” I’ve come to associate it with, and instead gives a surprising far-eastern feel to the fragrance. Unfortunately all this does not last long. Half an hour or so later I’ve completely lost trace of everything green and spicy, as well as –most regrettably might I add- any trace of the beautiful, surprising ginger note I fell in love with. Rossy de Palma becomes all about the rose and a light, fragrant patchouli that manages to be woody and leafy at the same time, but unfortunately lacks depth and sensuality. If you are a rose lover, go ahead, smell this one, it is not bad. But chances are you won’t find something to fall in love with in this one: the rose is rather flat and the patchouli uninteresting – there are others that do the rose-patchouli theme much, much better. For a combination that could have been toe-curlingly good, Etat Libre d’Orange missed the mark with this one. One interesting thing I do have to mention though, is that hours after application, the drydown takes you by surprise: It is a lovingly soft combination of cacao and benzoin that leaves you with a warm, gentle vanillic impression that is oh-so-comforting.


italian girl said...

Shocked that a perfume could be named anything associated with a rotting corpse.. Baudelaire's poem not withstanding..why would a perfume company want any connotation or associtation with death????????????Personally, I don't care if smells wondrous, I will pass. I dont know if that is logical, but I don't think perfume affects people logically.

D. any opinion on The Commes de Garcon series on Incense???

tmp00 said...

well, wasn't this sort of this houses schtick? Silly names with some nice fragrances to back them up (well, except for that awful secretions thing that smelled like bloated corpse..)

I'm interested in smelling these, just not enough to go out of my way for samples.

Thanks for doing so, and as usual thanks for an informative and witty review!

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
I am really interested in these fragrances: I first read about them about a year ago, and must admit I was pretty disgusted in their names (the secretions one and another called "putain"-something) and presentation. I haven't yet found them in England but expect that Harrods might stock them. Certainly your descriptions do not match with their names, but I would like to sniff! As always, thank you for your lovely writing,

leopoldo said...

Linda - they're available at Les Senteurs.

I need to try Charogne - it sounds very tempting. Thanks for your great review.

Divina said...

Dear Italian Girl,

I loved the GdC Incense Series! As a bonus, I found it much, much more long-lasting than most of the other CdG scents. (this is my prob with Comme des Garcons btw..I fall in love with the scents and then they last about 2 seconds..grrr! The sweet series was especially fleeting, to my chagrin...)

Divina said...

Hey Tom! Yes, apparently that's part of the line :P You know when I first got acquainted with it, I wanted to be more optimistic or I don't know what.. and tried to regard the names as more intellectual, with deeper meaning. But I was of course, SO wrong :P It's all about the shock value, but hell I really don't give a damn if the juice is good. Marketing is marketing and I find myself just as annoyed with advertising whether it has to do with swimmingpools of gold, promises of sex, success, or whether it has to do with shocking me into attention. It is just as irritating either way, isn't it? One takes advantage of our weaknesses and promises lies, lies, lies...the other knows we are desensitised due to the overload and tries to snap us into attention.. Bleh.

Divina said...

My dearest Linda, I am glad you enjoyed! Putain des Palaces is indeed another one, but I did not find the name disgusting in that instance, just intriguing. ELO might have been better off keeping it at that, they seem to have angered a lot of people with all the gimmicky names and descriptions :P But the scents ARE good :) I think maybe my favorite is Nombril Immense which smells very chic to me. (and what an awful name, again)

Divina said...

Lee, thank you for your kind words! I'd love to hear your impressions after you try Charogne.

david lincoln said...

I am loving CHAROGNE. I just called my buddy Gerard at BENFEL'S NYC and placed my order.

CHAROGNE is strange... but strange/good. I get fruit, ginger, decaying flowers, musk and that bright plastic-y, 1960's-smelling leather. Yes, this fragrance IS a little insolent... and, indeed, if I didn't know its name I also might actually come up with an allusion to corpses or funerals. But lovely, gorgeous corpses & funerals, haha.

CHAROGNE is an outrageous name, but this is not new in perfumery; imagine how the name MY SIN must've sounded to prim matrons of America's Bible Belt of the 1950's?

As for a "death" connotation: surely you remember that the French have always called orgasm "Le petit mort" ?

Divina said...

Hi David and welcome to Fragrance Bouquet :) Oh gawd, you're so funny, I had to laugh so hard when I read your comment about My Sin in the Bible Belt! Yes, you're right, it must have sounded just as shocking - let's not forget the US and Europe to a lesser extent went through a period of extreme puritanism after the war and in the 50s this was still the case!

As I have said before here on FB, I really don't get offended by Etat Libre d'Orange's names or ad copy. Nor do i get pissed off and consider them gimmicky as many do. In the same way I don't get offended or pissed off at Killian's ad copy... I wrote a whole piece about that if you are interested... take a look here: