What happens when Etat Libre d'Orange does an oriental perfume? You get a hyper-oriental with all the big guns thrown in with abandon. Just the way I like it. And, yes, this massive iris-benzoin thing is very romantic.
Like many other Etat Libre d'Orange fragrances, Bijou Romantique is a modern creation that respects the past and relies on it. There are references to some classics, such as Shalimar: lemon over an ambery vanilla that greets you as soon as you spray or dab Bijou Romantique. But there's more going on there. We're talking ELdO, so there has to be some synthetic weirdness to remind us that the modern world is rough and edgy with some unsavory characters that might invade your cozy corner. I get a whiff of cheap hairspray and a damp basement for a minute or two before the door closes on that bad part of town and I'm back in a plush room where I'm served the best iris-flavored chocolate.
I'm a sucker for iris-patchouli blends and love that perfumer Mathilde Bijaou (Etat Libre d'Orange Like This) fortified it with vetiver for more earthiness. Here's where I get another glimpse of vintage/classic: there's something quite dirty going on behind the well-heeled iris: every time I wear Bijou Romantique I get a reminder of Bal a Versaille, of all things, one of the biggest (and most wonderful) skank queens that ever existed.
In the end, Bijou Romantique is a dark gourmand. It's rich, sweet (coconut-chocolate truffles!), and slightly decadent. Guys who enjoy big ambers and chocolaty patchoulis should ignore the name (I was just as skeptical about it, fearing a pink sugary fondant) and spray themselves to their heart's desire. They'll be immediately transported to lush brocaded interiors with gilded furniture where they'll be served exquisite confections. And since this is a) a fantasy, and, b) a perfume, calories and guilt do not exist.
Notes: Italian lemon, pink pepper essence, ylang-ylang, clary sage, Tuscan iris, Jungle Essence coconut, Haitian vetiver, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla.
Etat Libre d'Orange- Bijou Romantique ($99, 50ml) is available from Luckyscent, MiN NY, and Parfum1.
Art: Les Coquelicots by Leon Comerre.