Seven years after it launched, Etat Libre d'Orange has gained quite a bit of respect as a solid creative line that offers interesting and original perfumes with a modern flair and a classic structure. The early antics and provocations are nearly forgotten, and every new release is anxiously anticipated. It's a good time to look back at one of ELdO's first perfumes, one that has always made me cringe because of its name: Delicious Closet Queen. Too many of my friends have heartbreaking stories about the days before they felt safe to come out, and believe me, there's nothing delicious about that. The only delicious queens are the fabulous and lively drag queens who celebrate gender-bending and take pleasure in what they do. Let this perfume be about them, instead.
Delicious Closet Queen marries traditional men's cologne notes (violet leaf, geranium, leather) with the scent of powdery sweet makeup products. When you first spray it seems like you're in Grey Flannel territory, and I mean it in the best vintage way. The violet leaf note is the most dominant, sheer and green, looking at the mirror and finding a 70s mustache. But this Queen is more than that, and soon you smell warmer creamy notes, powdery iris, sweet rose scented lipstick, cold cream and buttery leather. It really is delicious, though much lighter than these notes could have been. As a matter of fact, the fragrance has such a clear pitch and a clean feel that you could easily wear it to the office without offending anyone.
I wish Etat Libre d'Orange would create an intense a Nuit version of this, that would take the adorable Queen all the way over to dark side. But I guess that not doing it is exactly the point. It's what makes Delicious Closet Queen so subversive and fun. I still hope they'd at least change the name at some point.
Notes: violet leaf, citrus, geranium, iris butter, cedar, patchouli, vetiver, strawberry, rose absolute, sandalwood, leather, tonka bean, benzoin, opoponax.
Etat Libre d'Orange- Delicious Closet Queen ($80, 50ml) is available at Twisted Lily, Luckyscent and MiN NY.
Photo of Danny La Rue by James Jackson, 1970, via The Guardian.