Secretions Magnifiques – A Satirical Courtroom Review

Jane Doe [class representative, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated]  v. Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques– Case # 13-527319-CA

[The Bailiff]: “All rise! The Court is now in session, The Honorable Michael Marx presiding. On the docket is the class action lawsuit, Jane Doe [class representative, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated]  v. Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques– Case # 13-527319-CA. The complaint alleges sexual harassment hostile work environment, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Please state your name and business before the Court.”

[A small, dainty, very conservatively dressed blonde woman rises]: “I am Prudence Prim of the firm of Proskauler Rosybanks on behalf of the Plaintiff class.”

Saul Goodman. Source:

Saul Goodman. Source:

[A dandified man with a bad comb-over and a garish suit rises, and gives the jury a big grin]: “I am Saul Goodman, or, as you may know me, “Better Call Saul” representing the Defendant, Secretions Magnifiques from the house of Etat Libre d’Orange.”

[He points to the table where a balding, heavy-set man sits in a tight-fitting, food-stained Hawaiian shirt that barely holds together over his enormous, hairy stomach. His arms are covered with sailor tattoos, his legs are aggressively splayed apart, and his fly is open to reveal a lack of underwear. He belches, wets his fat lips, and blows a kiss to the attractive Juror #9 who visibly recoils in horror.]

"The Good Wife" snapshot via

“The Good Wife” snapshot via

[Judge Marx addresses the jury]: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. The Court thanks you for your time. You are here today to hear the civil class action complaint against Secretions Magnifiques. This is an employment law case. You cannot consider the role of Defendant’s employer, Etat Libre d’Orange, who will be tried separately. Also, I know it’s been impossible to sequester you against the recent media storm regarding the criminal charges being filed against Secretions Magnifiques for public lewdness and indecency. You cannot consider those issues. I repeat, you cannot. I will give you further instructions at the end of the trial. The Plaintiffs may now proceed.” [Bangs gavel.]


[Prudence Prim rises]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. He is the most notorious man in the niche perfume world. This is not hype. This is not a lawyer’s hyperbole. Secretions Magnifiques is notorious. Say his name to any even moderately knowledgeable perfumista, and watch them pale. His legend is such that people nickname him Secretions Gag-nifiques,and see how long they can take his scent before they run to vomit or scrub him off. Yes, some people actually do become physically ill from this vile wretch. We are here to seek justice from Secretions Magnifiques for his tortious conduct in rendering the environment around him hostile to all who have the misfortune to be in his presence. We seek compensation for the pain, suffering, and the nights in which a husband wearing Secretions Magnifiques lost the chance for consortium with his wife because she locked him out of the bathroom. Help us heal the emotional wounds left by this heinous man.



Let us start at the beginning. Secretions Magnifiques was created by Antoine Lie and was released in 2006. Etat Libre, in a statement that will fully damage them in their own lawsuit, confesses flat-out to his lewd, indecent, and morally repugnant nature. Their description brazenly and blatantly talks about sperm! Blood! And all sorts of other things that fine, upstanding citizens should not be subjected to in their workplace. How brazen are they, you ask? In their manufacturer’s sample, Etat Libre’s description of Secretions Magnifiques actually comes with the image of an erect penis spraying out semen! [Crowd gasps and starts to whisper. Secretions Magnifiques smirks, and rubs his crotch.]

That’s not even the half of it! This is Etat Libre’s full description of the fragrance:

Like blood, sweat, sperm, saliva, Sécrétions Magnifiques is as real as an olfactory coitus that sends one into raptures, to the pinnacle of sensual pleasure, that extraordinary and unique moment when desire triumphs over reason. Masculine tenseness frees a rush of adrenalin in a cascade of high-pitched aldehydic notes. The sensation of freshness is gripping. Then the fragrance reveals a metallic side, precise and as sharp as unappeased desire.

We are on a razor-edge… skin and sweat mingle, and tastes of musk and sandalwood. The slightly salt marine effect stirs, arouses, and sets your mouth watering. Tongues and sexes find one another, pleasure explodes and all goes wild. Confusion reigns supreme. A subversive, disturbing perfume. It’s love or hate at first sight. Sensuous jousting is rarely satisfied with half-measures…In between Don Juan and the Woman who offers herself, arms are laid down…who will be the first to surrender?

Sexual harassment I tell you, sexual harassment! And how does all this occur? Well, Secretions Magnifiques’ parts, according to Luckyscent, consist of:

Iode accord, adrenaline accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood and opoponax.

Secretions Magnifiques’ character is revealed from the very first moment he sidles up against your skin. I won’t give you my take; just read the company’s own admission against interest about what he smells like. It’s their words, not mine, when they talk about “blood, sweat, sperm, saliva,” and metallic notes. Still, there is plenty of testimony from those in the class who have suffered from Secretions Magnifiques.



[She nods to the bailiffs who helps several pale, wan, witnesses from Fragrantica walk, one by one, shakily to the witness stand. Many are covered with clothes stained by vomit, or have bile encrusted on their face from their bouts with Secretions Magnifiques. Some look green, a few are dry-heaving even as they give their statements. One witness had to be revived by paramedics after collapsing in the hallway outside Courtroom 3A.]

  • I have never smelt something more disgusting than this scent. It’s blood and metal and illness.
  • Blood and just unpleasant.
  • Mostly seaweed to me and dirty seawater. Tried to wash it off and its not coming off. I smell like I took a dip at the sea and have not showered in a few days. My fiancée told me I’m not allowed to sleep in bed tonight.
  • I have to join the legion of those who wish this concoction had never seen the light of day. Honest to gods, I violently wretched. An eggy, razor-sharp whiff that made me recoil and run for the toilet. Perhaps it’s the smell of fear, whatever. Sadistically, I swabbed my partner with it to test the reaction with his chemistry as we are rather different… same dismal result, with extra grudge!
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Source:

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Source:

  • Biggest mistake ever!!! This literally worked like a whisk in my stomach and for the very first time in my life I had to jump up and run to wash it off. I don’t get any of the notes listed, probably just a tiny bit of seaweed due to the aquatic fishy smell. It doesn’t smell like blood, saliva, sperm or sweat but all these blended together and preserved in a sealed jar for a century. [¶] Every home should keep a small vial of this as a first-aid emetic in case someone in your family had food poisoning. Also girls who want to shed a few extra pounds, look no further: use this on a daily basis will definitely suppress your appetite to none because it not only lingers on your skin but also in your mind. 
  • WARNING: Do not sniff this if you are pregnant or you will vomit. […]  it started smelling like urine. It reminded me of my little cousin who used to wet the bed. Now, it smells just like a neglected child who is forced to wear her mother’s generic hooker perfume to cover up the fact that nobody has given her a bath or washed her clothes in a very very long time. To add insult to injury, the child has been eating wet catfood straight out of the can and has some of the food stuck in her hair. […][¶] Calling this perfume “disgusting” is an understatement. It’s actually depressing and exploitative to the point that the stench made me want to call Child Protective Services. I won’t be letting my husband smell my hand; I love him too much to expose him to something this disturbing and putrid.

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, there are dozens more witnesses from Luckyscent who have similar tales. Take, for example, an experienced nurse who could not handle the flashback to the worst of her experiences in the health care field:

This reminds me of my days of working at the local public health hospital where I was tasked with the dubious honor of assisting those who were homeless and in need of medical care. The stench of this thing they call a perfume is just like the whiff i would get when my patients would peel off their pants. Smegma, body odor and yeast. […] RUN away!

I can see from your faces that you don’t believe me, that you think it couldn’t possibly be that bad. Well, I’m sorry to have to do this. Guards! Bring in the testers!”

[The guards set up two, tiny canisters at each end of the room. The jury shifts in their chairs nervously. A small phalanx of the judge’s clerks tiptoe in and discreetly set up small garbage cans at intervals along the gallery and the jury box. The Plaintiff’s attorney takes a deep gulp of air, holds her nose, points to the guards and nods.

Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.

Abstract Black Smoke via mobile-wallpapers

Three small whiffs of scent are released from each of the two canisters. The notes dance burst out like ghosts to hover in the air with a cold metallic clang as the room gets chilly. The notes hover there, white spectres who line up before the jury and wait for their scent to carry across the room. Very soon, half the jurors pale. Juror #3 starts to violently gag. The other half, however, merely stare back at the hovering aromas, fold their arms nonchalantly, and shrug. The ghosts look frustrated and disappointed. They lunge at the unimpressed jurors, one of whom distinctly mutters “eh” and yawns. The Defendant smirks, and scratches himself. 

His Honour, the Judge, decides enough time has passed for evidentiary analysis. He orders the ghosts back into their canisters, the windows opened, and the two solitary buckets filled with some dribbles of vomit to be removed. As a precautionary measure, he has the bailiffs hand out Pepcid anti-acid pills to everyone in the courtroom except the Defendant — whom he orders to zip up his fly and to stop adjusting himself. The Plaintiffs rest their case. The Court convenes for lunch, and then, upon its return, the Defense presents their case.]


Saul Goodman[The defense attorney, Saul Goodman, rises, points a finger at the jury and says]: “Piffle! Yes, Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is my response to the Plaintiffs’ case. PIFFLE! So my client doesn’t smell of roses and vanilla. Big whoop-di-do. So he’s different, original, obnoxious, extremely weird, and sticks to your skin forever. Is that a reason to sue him and ask for half a billion dollars in damages? Ha! Ridiculous. No, Secretions Magnifiques sucks, but he’s hardly as bad as the legend. 

[Judge Marx interrupts him:] “Mr. Goodman, is your defense essentially that Secretions Magnifiques … er… “sucks,” as you put it, but he simply doesn’t suck that much????!”

[Saul Goodman:] “No, your Honour, not exactly. Well, yes, I am saying he doesn’t suck that badly, but my main argument is that the evidence presented to the court cannot be considered reliable because it is the result of mass hysteria driven by preconceptions that have conditioned the subjects to smell what they were told to smell. In short, it’s all Etat Libre’s fault for creating this ridiculous legend in the first place, and my client is not to blame for the social conditioning.”

[The Judge blinks, takes a closer double look at the huckster facade put up by Goodman, then nods at him to continue.


Luca Turin. Source:

[Saul Goodman gives him a small wink and grins:] “I call my first witness, the Honourable Luca Turin, perhaps the most famous, respected fragrance critic in the world, to repeat his 5 Star rave of Secretions Magnifiques in the perfume bible, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide:

  • Stupendous secretions! The Dada name has me drooling. The fragrance is both less and far more than I expected: It’s not an animalic (supposedly) raunchy thing that works on the assumption that we collect soiled underwear or frequent the same nightclubs as cats and dogs. It is, however, an elegant fresh floral in the manner of Parfums de Nicolai’s Odalisque, given a demonic twist by a touch of a stupendous bilge note, which, my vibrational nose tells me, can only be a nitrile. I remember years ago mounting an impassioned defense of a forgotten Quest material called Marenil, which smelled just like that: oily, metallic, entirely wrong, and begging to be used intelligently. I’m delighted to see it was possible.

Now, I can see my learned colleague yearning to make some objection about how Luca Turin’s views are purely academic and involve intellectual nostalgia about certain unusual synthetics. So I will call to the stand the perfume blogger, Kafkaesque, who has often disagreed with Mr. Turin’s views on fragrances.”

[Witness is sworn in, and Goodman starts the direct:] “Kafkaesque, let me ask a simple question: Do you agree with Mr. Turin in light of your experience with Secretions Magnifiques?”



[Kafkaesque]: I don’t agree with Mr. Turin’s gushing rave, but I share his view that Secretions Magnifiques is certainly much less than I expected, and hardly the scent of soiled underwear or urine. I didn’t experience the bilge or sea-water note that he describes, but I did detect a nitrile aroma similar to that which Mr. Turin says was used in Serge LutensIris Silver Mist. To quote his review of that fragrance, he wrote that the Lutens’ fragrance was dominated by a “seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival. The result was the powderiest, rootiest, most sinister iris imaginable[.]” Secretions Magnifiques, on my skin, has a metallic, clanging, chilled vodka and powdered floral note that is extremely similar to what I experienced with Iris Silver Mist, and it is a large part of Secretions Magnifiques for me. 



But let me start at the beginning. Secretions Magnifiques opens on my skin clanging of steely metal with a floral, powdered undertone like iris. It is followed by more metallic blood, then a milky note that is chilled and alcoholic, as though iced vodka had been swirled in, along with some sweetness. It is all cold steel, cold vodka, cold milk, blood, and floral sweetness, in an extremely off-putting, unpleasant mix. But it also made me think, to use your terms, “Big Whoop-di-do.”



The metallic notes are the most interesting, the floral ones are a bore, and my real problem with the fragrance is something else entirely: Synthetics. The least offensive are the subtle aldehydes lurking about, undoubtedly from that mis-named “adrenaline accord” referenced in Etat Libre’s statement. They describe it as “a cascade of high-pitched aldehydic notes. The sensation of freshness is gripping.” As usual, Etat Libre goes too far. It’s not “high-pitched,” and the sensation is hardly “gripping,” but then, they always exaggerate. Plus, they may like aldehydes more than I do. 

Bounce Fabric SoftenerMy bigger problem lies with the white musk in Secretions Magnifiques’ base. It combines with the aldehydes to create a clean, almost laundry note, along with a slightly fresh sweetness. Eventually, it starts to become one of the most prominent parts of the scent, smelling much like Bounce fabric softener sheets that you throw in the dryer, though it also has a horrible, metallic hairspray undertone. I cannot bear any of it. That said, the freshness of the aroma seems like an ironic opposite to the lewdness of the spraying semen pictured in Etat Libre’s imagery, and certainly contrary to the accounts of dirty “smegma” and urine offered by some of the Plaintiffs’ witnesses here today.

Thirty minutes in, the cold, clean synthetic freshness of Secretions Magnifiques mixes with the metallic notes and a milk aroma that starts to feel a little sour and curdled. The result does churn my stomach a little and it does render me a little queasy. Strangely enough, the part of my arm where I applied the fragrance almost feels cold. Perhaps I’m a little suggestive, but it feels as though the chilled metallics and the nitrile’s vodka-like feel have cooled my arm. The power of imagery only goes so far, however. I am known to be an extremely suggestive vomiter who will start heaving even at a mere mental visual or image. And yet, I hardly felt like vomiting over Secretions Magnifiques. To paraphrase your comment, it sucks, but it doesn’t suck that bad.

Part of it may be a question of skin chemistry. I don’t smell semen or seawater, though there is something slightly salty about the concoction. The blood isn’t hugely significant on my skin, and feels more like the drop you’d have in your mouth if you accidentally bit the inside of your cheek. There is no coconut, though there is that milky aspect to which I referred earlier. As for the purported “sandalwood,” it’s wholly synthetic — a subtle haze of beige, generic woods that doesn’t even rise to the level of ersatz, wannabe Australian sandalwood. 



In less than two hours, Secretions Magnifiques turns into a synthetic, sweet, floral, aldehydic, woody musk. The blood note largely vanished after 90-minutes, the metallic element warmed up and became softer, and the whole fragrance turned smoother. It’s soft and sweet with the milky note having deepened into cream, backed by those abstract, amorphous beige woods and an equally abstract, chilled, floral note that vaguely resembles iris. It’s well-blended, but the whole thing smells simultaneously cheap and somewhat like refined, fresh, clean soap with — as Mr. Turin noted — a somewhat demonic, metallic twist thrown in for shock value.

Secretions Magnifiques remains that way for hours and hours. The reports of the fragrance’s frightening longevity are completely accurate. Secretions Magnifiques was still going strong on my perfume-consuming skin at the 13th hour when I gave up out of sheer boredom and washed it off. It seemed quite capable of lasting another 10 hours on me — and smelling of clean, fresh Bounce laundry sheets with abstract, sweet, slightly milky, woody floral musk is not my cup of tea. All in all, it’s an unappealing scent, but Secretions Magnifiques is hardly as vile as I had expected.”

[Saul Goodman:] “Then, how do you account for all the negative reports?”

[Kafkaesque:] “There are a few things to consider. First, for all the negative reports on Fragrantica given by the Plaintiffs, there are at least as many indifferent and underwhelmed reviews, if not more so. A few madmen even think Secretions Magnifiques is a beautiful masterpiece that they love, but I personally think that goes too far. The thing to consider are the many, many reports that essentially mirror this comment from a Fragrantica poster:

How terrible is this fragrance? To me, it’s nothing on par with some of the horror stories written below. I don’t really care for it, but that’s because it just smells awkward. These notes do not compliment one another and don’t make for a particularly nice perfume.

The other thing to consider is skin chemistry. Some people’s skins will bring out the more unpleasant sides. Yet, I firmly believe that a tiny portion of the negative reviews might be very different if the fragrance were smelled blindly. If people did not know they were testing Secretions Magnifiques — with all the visuals and legendary horrors surrounding that name — I think they’d find the fragrance to be merely an extremely unpleasant scent. They wouldn’t be driven to vomit, or to perceive semen.

Our brain filters aromas through a host of different factors, including imagery and pre-set knowledge. If you’re absolutely convinced that you’re going to smell urine and semen because that’s what you’ve been told again and again, then you may well end up doing so. However, if you go in with a blank slate, I suspect that some would get primarily a metallic, slightly salty, synthetic, fresh, abstractly floral fragrance that was extremely weird, unappealing, and mismatched, but nothing to actually gag over. In short, for some, the aroma may be a snowball that turned into an avalanche because of Etat Libre’s presentation and because of the subsequent social conditioning. It’s partially Pavlovian conditioning due to (not so) subliminal messaging, and partially an issue of the Collective Consciousness Theory. Again, I stress, this does not apply to everyone because skin chemistry does play a role, but I think social conditioning may apply to some of the people who have issues with the scent. They smelled what they expected to smell, and what they were told they would smell. A self-fulfilling prophesy turning into perceived reality.”

[Kafkaesque steps down, and Saul Goodman turns to the jury.] “Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to put aside your preconceived notions, and to really think about what you smelled in this courtroom today. Think about prophesy, social conditioning and mass hysteria as an explanation for some of the testimony you heard from the Plaintiffs, and discount their claims. Yes, my client is an ass, and a cheap, vulgar, synthetic lout. Yes, he sucks, and I wouldn’t want to smell like him. But, really, Whoop Di Do! There are a lot of unpleasant fragrances out there on the market. Don’t believe the hype, and let your verdict be a clear message to others that a perfume company’s marketing is not the same as reality. By all means, have them stay far, far away from Secretions Magnifiques. I certainly would! But objectivity and fairness require that you find him innocent of these extreme charges. Thank you.”

[The Defense sits down, the Judge gives his instructions, and the Jury leaves for its deliberations. They return six hours later, and a tired Jury Foreman (who has drenched himself in an entirely different fragrance, perhaps as a shield against the smell of Secretions Magnifiques) hands the bailiff a slip of paper.]


Judgment for the Plaintiff.

Compensatory Award: $4.75, or the starting price of a sample test vial of Secretions Magnifiques from Surrender to Chance.

[The decision was 5 to 4: five jurors voted to convict the very second they set foot in the jury room. They refused to even try on the perfume for additional tests, and couldn’t get past the witness accounts. The legend was just too great. However, four jurors agreed with the “Whoop di Do” theory, and found the evidence against Secretions Magnifiques to be largely self-fulfilling prophesy. They didn’t like the fragrance and certainly would never wear it, but they simply didn’t think it amounted to the level of a vomitous, social nightmare. They won out in the discussions of the jury award, refusing to award serious damages, let alone half a billion dollars worth.]

*   *   *

Disclosure: This is not intended to be a proper depiction of a trial, Legal Procedures, or the law. It is a parody that is meant only in fun, though the essence of the perfume is accurate.

État Libre d’Orange Rien: Bondage Leather

Candice Swanepoel in "Strict" by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

Candice Swanepoel in “Strict” by Mert & Marcus for Interview Magazine September 2011.

A cool chick, dressed in fake leather that she’d bought at a cheap, second-hand store. By day, she worked in the industrial backrooms of a carpeting warehouse, trying to get the smell of dust and sanitized, synthetic cleaners out of her hair. With her torn fishnet stockings and combat boots, she exuded an air of toughness like the black whip she wielded at nights, in her other job, as a dominatrix at an exclusive BDSM club downtown. The clean scent of her slightly musky skin was coated with powder, the palest of pink roses, a touch of iris, and a sharp sweetness. The pale delicacy of it all contrasted with the feral meow of the raunchy cat smell that lingered under the fake leather, and with the incense that she loved to burn. On her evening breaks at the club, she would lounge nonchalantly against the wall, her long leg in its black patent, thigh-high stiletto boot crooked behind her as she restlessly flicked the whip to the side, and did her best James Dean with each long drag of her cigarette. When men asked her name, she would coldly reply, “Rien.”



Rien is a leather and aldehyde fragrance from the quirky, eccentric French niche house of État Libre d’Orange (hereinafter just “État Libre“). It is an eau de parfum created by Antoine Lie and released in 2006. The fragrance gives a nod at Robert Piguet‘s legendary Bandit, but without the latter’s famous green-black hues from galbanum. It also shares similarities to L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s Dzing! and Molinard‘s Habanita. Like all those fragrances, Rien is a love it-or-leave-it proposition. I hated it. Deeply.

État Libre describes Rien and its notes as follows:


Nothing is Everything. Do not believe what you first see… under the demureness of the name, there is the spicy savor of blackcurrant bays and the musky notes of blond suede. ‘Rien’ is a second skin perfume, a perfume that clings to the body and perseveres in the mind. Like venial sin on the verge of becoming mortal, it is irresistible and resolutely pervasive. As light as mohair and as precious as cashmere, the fragrance envelops skin with a powdered caress. It has the meticulous elegance and hypnotic beauty of a modern Dorian Gray, in a feminine/masculine version. An entrancing fragrance that leaves an unforgettable imprint. Utter charm, utterly charismatic. The vanilla/opium accord of the drydown reinforces the addiction. ‘Rien’ is an essential. A perfumer’s confession


Incense, rose, leather, cistus [Labdanum], oakmoss, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes…

I’m a bit confused by the fact that some of the notes mentioned in État Libre’s story aren’t included in the notes. “Blackcurrant bays?” Apart from my ignorance as to what constitutes a berry’s “bay,” there is also the issue of Luckyscent listing a few additional or separate elements. For example, it lists mousse de chene (which is technically different from mere oakmoss), in addition to styrax (a vanillic resin) and iris. If Luckyscent is correct, then the complete list of notes would look more like this:

Incense, rose, leather, iris, labdanum, mousse de chene, styrax, oakmoss, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes.



Rien opens on my skin with aldehydes and a nuclear blast of black-green. For once, the aldehydes don’t translate on my skin as pure soap and foam, but rather as something fizzy, sweet, and with a wax candle undertone. They also have a salty, nose-tickling smell that is enormously similar to Alka-Seltzer tablets dropped in water.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

Dried oakmoss or tree moss.

The green note smells sharp — so much so that it almost resembles galbanum more than mere oakmoss. Yet, despite its pungent, bitter acridness, it clearly has the traditional musty, grey mineralized feel of lichen. It’s an extremely cold note that has a mineral and metallic clang to it, along with a salty quality that obviously carried over to impact the aldehydes. The grey-green moss is also infused by incense, though it is not the usual dark, black, smoky kind. This is more like the mentholated, medicinal, almost anise-like tonalities of myrrh, but without its cold, white, High Church feel. The overall combination feels as sharp as the crack of a black-and-green leather whip across raw flesh. Have you seen those old films like “Mutiny on the Bounty,” where mutineers or slaves were whipped as punishment across their backs? That’s the crack you feel here with Rien’s opening. 

Civet. Source:

Civet. Source:

Some other notes stir and whimper submissively under this aggressive barrage of sharpness. There are subtle flickers of a pale, pink rose and of a slightly powdered iris hiding fearfully in the base. More defiant is the feral meow of the civet, sounding like a cat in heat as it lets off a sharp, bitter, animalic note. I’m not one of those people who always thinks civet smells like a “cat’s anus,” but something about the note in Rien strongly conjured up that pejorative term. Civet is a note that cannot be naturally harvested any longer due to animal cruelty and abuse issues, so the aroma is commonly replicated by synthetic versions. In Rien, it might be some very cheap stuff, because the civet feels not just animalic, but so sharp that it could cut you. Then again, given the rest of the fragrance, it’s undoubtedly intentional….



The most interesting parts of the fragrance to me are the leather and the mousse de chene. Let’s start with the former. There is something very synthetic about the leather, almost intentionally so, because the material smells like new, unworn, black patent shoes mixed with the cheap, plastic-y smell of fake, plastic leather, or “pleather.” As a lawyer in San Francisco, one of my areas of speciality was sexual harassment defense, and I gained some working knowledge of BDSM and sex clubs, as well as every possible kinky twist that you might imagine in a city as sexually open as San Francisco. When I wore État Libre’s Rien, all I could think about was bondage leather, whips, and rubber outfits in San Francisco (and a truly bizarre case). Here, however, the material always has a slightly powdered, dusty, rubbery, plastic, industrial undertone to it. I wouldn’t be particularly fond of the aroma, in and of itself, on the best of days, but when combined with the waxy, fizzy, nose-tickling aldehydes, the acrid, black incense, and the crack of the oakmoss, it’s really is not my cup of tea.

"Evernia Prunastri" lichen moss. Source: via

“Evernia Prunastri” lichen moss. Source:

And let’s talk about that oakmoss. Mousse de chene is actually a specific type of oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) which is an oakmoss absolute according to The Aroma Connection blog, and, in some people’s eyes, seems to be considered the “true” oakmoss. It’s a grey lichen which grows on trees and has an intensely dank, pungent, fusty aroma that can also be salty and smell like tree bark. Still, the truth is that “real” oakmoss of any type is essentially banned out of perfume existence, so substitutes are used. There is a very interesting, detailed, and somewhat technical discussion of the different types of oakmoss on The Aroma Connection, including the various synthetic versions or additives thereto. The site also helpfully provides the following aroma description:

It should also be mentioned that a range of commercial oakmoss products exists, some offering a warm, leathery-mossy character, whilst others offer have woody, mossy – almost marine-like aspects.

Here, both types of aromas are present. The oakmoss has a sharp mossy, salty character that smells quite distinctly like the bark of a tree, but it also has a leathery quality to it. Later, it turns warmer, but the opening moments of Rien are really a whack on the head with its colder, sharper aspects that are further amplified by the black pleather and acrid smoke.

Thankfully, about forty minutes, Rien starts to soften its sharp edges, turning smoother, sweeter, and a hair less insolently hostile. There is a gentle warmth stirring deep in its depths, aided by the slow awakening of patchouli along with vanillic touches from the styrax. Unfortunately, these more positive aspects are off-set by a soft, sweet, musky smell that feels like the aroma of newly placed, industrial carpeting in an office, or rolled up carpet in a warehouse somewhere. It’s a smell that is sharp, musty, dusty, almost glue-like, but also sanitized clean. I blame it on the combination of the aldehydes with the oakmoss, along with some help perhaps from white musk. Atop this dusty, somewhat industrial, musty, clean bouquet is a sprinkling of sweet powder; it’s not quite vanillic, but it’s definitely not like iris or makeup powder either.



At the 75-minute point, Rien’s base is a mix of cloyingly sweetened, dusty oakmoss with bondage leather, rubber, that sanitized industrial aroma, and some patchouli. The whole thing is wrapped up with sharp myrrh-like incense smoke, and even sharper animalic civet. The syrupy brown sweetness now filling the oakmoss juxtaposes sharply with its more pungent, mossy, mineralized aspects. The juxtaposition grows even more contrary when you add in the synthetic, “office clean” vibe and the dominatrix’s rubbery, black leather. I can’t bear any of it.



I’m also having extremely pained flashbacks to L’Artisan‘s Dzing!, a fragrance that almost made me lose my mind with its extremely similar dusty scent mixed with synthetic, cloying sweetness. Dzing! reminded me of those cheap trinket, tourist shops you find in Tijuana where the smell of plastic toys and shoes from China mixes with dust, vanilla air freshener, clean notes, rubber, and sweetness. Both perfumes are intended to be leather fragrances but, to me, the “leather” in Dzing! smelled solely of cheap, industrial plastic accompanied by cloying, synthetic, vanillic sweetness. It’s nowhere near as bad in Rien — the aroma is more dusty pleather than hardcore, pink plastic with glue and chemical undertones — but the two fragrances share enough synthetic similarities to make me wince. 

At the end of the second hour, Rien’s combination of aldehydes with plastic leather remains the dominant feature, but the oakmoss recedes a little. Slowly rising to take its place is the patchouli, resulting in a discordant dusty-musty-soapy-patchouli combination. The amber also becomes more prominent, though it never once feels like labdanum with its wonderfully nutty, rich, sometimes dirty, resinous characteristics. Instead, the amber here is just a generic, vague, muted warm glow in the base, infused with myrrh smoke, styrax’s vanillic hues, the feral animalic skank of the civet, and those godawful industrial synthetics. Is there no end to this nightmare?

The perfume continues its subtle shifts. Slowly, Rien transforms into a bouquet of clean, musky, supposedly “skin” tonalities with aldehydic underpinnings, accompanied by fruited notes from the patchouli. There is powder that feels a little like that in makeup, thanks to the orris, but it also resembles powdered vanilla. The sharpness of the synthetic civet vies with the swirl of equally sharp dark smoke, which now feels more like frankincense than bitter myrrh. And the floral elements grow more prominent.

By the start of the fourth hour, Rien is a soft blur of clean, musky, aldehydic skin infused with muted floral notes of rose and iris, as well as a fruited elements that resembles dried raspberries. The smoke and plastic leather wrap it up like a bow, creating a bouquet that calls to mind the sharp, powdery, fruited, black leather, florals and smoke of Molinard‘s Habanita eau de toilette. (A combination that resulted in my struggling enormously with Habanita as well, by the way, and which ended in me disliking it immensely.)

Rien’s undercurrent of animalic, almost urinous civet remains unabated, as do the prickly, biting synthetics in the base, but Rien has (thankfully) lost its aura of freshly cleaned, commercial carpeting. The reason may lie in the growing warmth and amber in the fragrance’s foundation, which has finally managed to diffuse some of the oakmoss-aldehyde-pleather combination’s bite. At the same time, the sillage drops, and the whole bouquet hovers just an inch above the skin. Rien is still extremely potent when smelled up close, and I suspect the synthetics are the reason why.

So, to summarize, we’ve gone from Bandit to Dzing! to Habanita. No matter how much I may dislike the fragrance, I have to give Rien credit for pulling off so many clever referential nods in a row. Rien remains in its Habanita-like phase for a few hours before reaching its last stage near the end of the seventh hour.  At that point, Rien is really just powder on my skin with a slightly floral nuance and quite a bit of stale sourness. The bloody fragrance sets me free just after the tenth hour when it finally dies away. I rushed to put on some Puredistance M, so that a leather fragrance I actually enjoyed would wipe the bad taste away.   

Sons of Anarchy photo via

Sons of Anarchy photo via

As noted earlier, Rien is one of those difficult fragrances that people either love or hate. To balance out my perspective, I thought I’d share the views of The Non-Blonde who accurately describes the fragrance as “edgy” in a review which reads, in part, as follows:

It’s dirty, animalic, leathery, and smoky. There’s a hint of hot asphalt and burnt rubber, the kind you get when notes of black leather, cistus, and cumin come together. But Rien is also directly connected to Robert Piguet’s Bandit, not just in the smoke, leather and uncompromising oakmoss, but also in the softening that happens when the fragrance unfolds and gives a peek at its floral heart (more apparent in Bandit’s extrait concentration).

I used to think of Rien as very butch. I’m not so sure nowadays, though it is completely gender neutral. Rien is urban, has a distinct and deliberate synthetic twist– rubber, smoke, and some metallic parts, but also very human and warm. Wearing Rien is like taking a whiff of skin warmed under the biker’s leather jacket. […]

Rien can be downright dangerous in large amounts. I’ve noticed it the very first time I tried it and I maintain this view to this day. It’s one of my favorite perfumes from ELdO, but its non-perfuminess and the medicinal quality it takes when sprayed lavishly can be a major turn-off for those who don’t appreciate its style and heavy dusty leather boots.

I think we detect very much the same thing, particularly as Rien does have a whiff of warm skin under a biker’s leather jacket, in addition to ties with Bandit and the “deliberate synthetic twist” that she noted. I may have different terms and aroma sensations for the synthetic parts, since Rien was more sanitized, industrial office carpeting on my skin than asphalt, but the synthetic and urban feel is very much the same. Where we part ways is that she happens to think Rien is “daring and seductive,” while I simply hate it. Profoundly. And, no, I did not apply a lot. It doesn’t take much to be deluged by Rien’s abrasively acrid, synthetic, extremely sharp weirdness.

People’s assessment of Rien on Fragrantica is generally very consistent in terms of how the fragrance manifests itself on people’s skin, but there is a big split as to whether people actually like the final result. Some consider Rien to be a “masterpiece” precisely because of its difficult notes. Others found it to be utterly unbearable. Some examples of the range in perspective:

  • it’s suede and little else. Smells like a department store leather jacket area. Also has a nice hint of industrial carpet. Ever walk into a new office? Yep, that’s what I’m smelling. Not something I’d want to wear. I don’t smell anything animalic or balmy or like incense or wood. JUST ALDEHYDES.
  • Truly the bizarro spiritual successor of Magie Noire and Aromatics Elixir! It smells yellow, pissy, leathery, turpentine-like, but also like patchouli and clean earth. At times it smells like a corrupted Chanel No. 5, with muted and expensive-smelling florals. A masterpiece with unbeatable strength and longevity, great in hot or cold weather, and devastatingly sexy on men and women alike. If you want to project a certain fuck-off image then you must have it. Vastly superior to the more timid Bandit, I must say.
  • All I smell is brand-new snow tires in a garage. [¶] And I can’t scrub it off. Must be those 60,000+ mile steel-belted tire models. I just might have to wrap my wrist in a towel and duct tape it up…so that I might get to sleep tonight.
  • strong aldehydes, remining me of grandmas classical perfumes, and the heavy leather scent. There is also a strong animalistic note and the animalistic and oakmoss notes clash with something industrial, plasticky.
  • I’ve read quite a few of the reviews here and mostly I see negative remarks. All I have to say is – ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY? This is one of the most magnificent perfumes I have ever smelled! And believe me I have smelled (and owned) a lot of great perfumes. Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, Guerlain’s Mitsouko (which is my most favorite scent ever!), L’Heure Bleue ( some say old-fashioned, I say classic) -I could go on and on, but I won’t. [¶] Anyway, my point is I would put Rien in the same line up as any of the greats. It is a masterpiece of perfumery. And this is said by a 56 year old woman, who only a couple of years ago was afraid to go out of her Guerlain, Chanel, Dior comfort zone.

There is the same sharp split at Basenotes. The negative reviews talk about such things as how Rien is “mainly a piercing, industrial note like glue, solvent or hot light bulbs. A woody-spice note in an quirky mutant, sci-fi vein. Hot plastic, volatile glue… really not my scene.” The positive ones rave about how Rien is a challenging, strange beauty that has ties to everything from Habanita, Bandit, and Dzing!, to such famously skanky or urinous fragrances as Kouros and Bal à Versailles. On both sites, I get the impression that men generally seem to outnumber the women in terms of loving Rien, so I’d definitely not worry about the fragrance being very feminine in nature.

How you feel about Rien may depend on how you view certain notes. If you’re someone who is ambivalent about Bandit, please be aware that the leather here is much more intense, not as smooth, and is significantly more synthetic or industrial in feel. If you dislike aldehydes, industrial notes, black rubber, synthetic plastic aromas, incredibly sharp civet, urinous elements, and/or super mineralized, dusty, pungent oakmoss, then stay away. On the other hand, however, if you’re someone who loves oakmoss fragrances that are very animalic, skanky, aldehydic or dusty, then I’d definitely recommend you giving Rien a test sniff. (But do not blind buy!) If you go one step further and genuflect before the altar of Bandit, Habanita, or Kouros, then Rien should absolutely be your next stop. I’m sure you’ll enjoy cracking that whip to the feral yowls of the civet!


Cost & Availability: Rien is an eau de parfum that is most commonly available in a 1.7 ml/50 ml size, but which can also be purchased directly from Etat Libre’s website in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle as well. The prices listed there are in Euros: €69.00 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, and €119.00 for a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. Samples are also available for €3.00. Etat Libre offers worldwide shipping, and free delivery to or within France. In the U.S.: Rien can be purchased from LuckyScent for $80 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, with samples for $3, and from MinNY. You can also purchase it from Parfum1 in the large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle for $149. The site offers free domestic shipping, with international shipping available for a fee. Outside the U.S.: You can purchase Rien from Etat Libre’s new London store at 61 Redchurch Street for £60, as well as from its Paris one located at 69, rue des Archives, 75003. Elsewhere in the UK, I found Rien on Amazon UK for £58.49 for the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle through a third-party vendor . It is also sold at London’s Les Senteurs for £59.50, with samples also available for purchase. In Germany, Rien is available at First in Fragrance in the small size for €69. The site ships worldwide. In the Netherlands, I found it at ParfuMaria in the large 100 ml size for €119. In Italy, it’s available at ScentBar and in Spain, it’s sold at The Cosmeticoh. In Russia, Lenoma carries the full Etat Libre line. For all other locations or vendors from Canada to the Netherlands and Sweden, you can use the Store Locator listing on the company’s website. Samples: you can order a sample of Rien from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.75 for a 1 ml vial.