Photos: Etat Libre d’Orange + Tilda Swinton ‘Like This’

Celebrity fragrances have always annoyed the h*ll out of me. I hold little interest in smelling like a famous person, and even less in smelling like what a marketing team has decided this famous person can adequately sell to the public (i.e. me). Antonio Banderas? Forget it. Beyonce? Not for me. Fifty Cent? Please stop.

So while our favorite NYTimes scent critic gushed over Britney Spears Midnight Fantasy, I wasn’t buyin’ what seemed to me a cynical and unholy alliance of pop-culture fame whores and corporate marketing budgets, which is why it was so surprising when smartly offbeat Scottish actress Tilda Swinton rolled up her androgynous sleeves and strode into the celebrity perfume fray, teaming up with the French niche fragrance company Etat Libre d’Orange to produce an homage to maligned gingers everywhere.

Etat Libre d'Orange Like This

Titled ‘Like This’ and labeled this whole idea of orange by Swinton herself, the good news about ‘Like This’ is that it doesn’t require an attachment to its celebrity face to appreciate it on its own artistic merits.

To sum it up briefly, the scent leaps out the bottle in a tumult of spicy ginger and mandarin peel, then gallops over the course of several hours into a spiced, roasted pumpkin gourmand (though more pumpkin seed than pumpkin flesh) before finally being put out to pasture in a field of fiery immortelle (aka the everlasting flower, and an arguable nod to the film role that made Swinton famous).

Etat Libre d'Orange Like This

The composition’s scent notes are listed as: yellow mandarin, ginger, pumpkin accord, immortelle, Moroccan neroli, rose de Grasse, vetiver, heliotrope and musk, yet the effect, for me, was mostly one of spicy ginger and a hot, dry immortelle, with the pumpkin accord playing a faint second fiddle from way back in the cheap seats. And since we’ve finally broken the grip of chill, overcast weather here in Seattle, I’ve been able to wear ‘Like This’ out into the sun, where the dry, earthy immortelle in the base responds with gusto. And I like it!

I honestly thought I was going to hate the whole darn thing. I haven’t been much a fan of Etat Libre d’Orange fragrances, with their often juvenile marketing annoying me to the point of pretty much ignoring the bulk of their releases. I had no intention of seeking out a sample of ‘Like This’ when I read about its upcoming release (my aversion to both celebrity perfumes and Etat Libre d’Orange resulting in a perfect storm of “meh” in the brain), but Abigail at The Posh Peasant tossed in a sample when I ordered the group of perfume decants for the Spring Vanity Bash, so I shrugged, thought “Why not?”, sprayed some on and about fell over in immediate and surprised delight.

Etat Libre d'Orange Like This

Of course, the amount of delight in your suprise might vary according to how much you appreciate the scent of ginger. To illustrate this point, the Dan-half of the Perfume Pen Pals series (over at Katie Puckrik Smells) writes this: “I had feared (Like This) would smell like pumpkin pie and, thankfully, it doesn’t. But it does smell like ginger, a lot, the potency of which somehow pushes it into bug-spray territory. It smells like a spice rack and a pesticide rack.”

So, obviously, not everyone’s a fan of the fiery, nose-tickling blast of gingerosity that heralds the opening of ‘Like This’, though I didn’t find the introductory phase’s mix of ginger and mandarin at all reminiscent of chemical warfare — oddly enough, it’s my favorite aspect of ‘Like This’ and I find myself surreptitiously refreshing with a spray here and another spray there throughout the day just to prolong the experience (god help anyone else like Dan who wanders within twenty yards of me).

Etat Libre d'Orange Like This

The packaging for ‘Like This’ is, thankfully, not overtly prurient like other Etat releases, though the ring of fire design at the center suspiciously resembles a mash-up of solar flare, immortelle crown and . . . well, the ginger monologues. But the bottle is a better quality glass than I expected (it has some heft and catches the light wonderfully), and while the atomizer leaks a little, the spray is fine and disperses nicely across the skin. There’s also a little paper insert included that unfolds to reveal the poem, ‘Like This‘, the inspiration for the scent’s title.

*Note: The once and former English major in me is kind of tickled by that.

Longevity is excellent (6-10 hours, depending on how generously you spray), and the long drydown is perhaps the one and only instance where I think I’ve truly appreciated the immortelle note in a fragrance. In all other instances, I’ve grit my teeth and rode it out. Here, I actually enjoy it — maybe because it manages to avoid the maple-syrup and fried ham aspect that most other immortelles seem to unfortunately reference (imo).

Etat Libre d'Orange Like This

But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some other opinions:

Angela at Now Smell This: “Like a vintage Harris tweed woven with threads of pea green, turquoise, putty, and aubergine, it sounds scary but makes a gorgeous blend: untraditional, yet natural — even inevitable — once you experience it.”

The Scented Salamander: “The structure of the perfume is like a one-note ginger scent showcased by a series of supporting variations around it.”

The Non-Blonde: “Maybe the oddest thing about ‘Like This’ is that it’s not weird at all. It’s just very very good.”

Tom at Perfume Smellin’ Things: “There’s nothing foody about it, despite the pumpkin. The immortelle isn’t the moist, maple syrup variety and the ginger and the orange are as effacing as the rose and vetiver. It’s probably the best thing that’s come out of Etat Libre, and perhaps the first thing of theirs that I really want to purchase.”

I couldn’t agree more. A bottle of ‘Like This’ is now sitting in my bathroom cupboard, which is saying a lot for how intently I’ve avoided celebrity perfumes and the Etat Libre d’Orange fragrance range in the past.

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