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Friday, May 16, 2008

Etat Libre d'Orange Tom of Finland

By Tom

Etat Libre is an niche house with scents that range from raw and interesting to raw and unwearable. Their latest is an eponymous one commissioned by the Tom of Finland Foundation to help mark, well whatever. In any case I was very much looking to try it, since the notes of leather, tonka, vetiver and musks seem right up my dark alley (this dramatic device, for the uninitiated is called "foreshadowing").

The opening has a wild whisper of dark booziness to it, like the ghost of a shot of Jack Daniels, neat. A metallic rubberiness quickly joins in followed by a leather smell that smells a lot like the inside of the sort of boutique that used to be on Christopher Street or Santa Monica Boulevard before gentrification made them both become the be-Starbucksed, family-friendly, anodyne-gay boulevards they are today. There's a doublemint freshness to this that cuts the vague S/M aspect until the whole thing sort of collapses into a very wearable skin scent with a slight edge of leather.

As much as I hate to disagree with Patty I am left fairly unmoved by this one. Compared to other scents with the same notes it seems, well timid. For a scent that's supposed to evoke the whole leather-dude ethos Patchouli 24, Eau de Fier, Kolnisch Juchten or even for that matter Tabac Blond does this far more definitely. Do I hate it? No, it's quite nice. If it was reasonably priced and showed up at luckyscent, I might pop for a bottle.

I know that this was commissioned by the Tom of Finland foundation and that one has to be 21 or over to buy due to the outre graphics involved, but I have to ask, for whom is this intended? Real leathermen wouldn't be caught dead wearing anti-perspirant much less than something as nelly as cologne (don't ask how I know, just trust me on this), so why this wan juice for such provocative packaging? I think the boys in the Marais are going to sniff Secretions Magnifiques and think that it should be in the bottle with the hunky guy in the chaps instead of this, which could be titled "Ghosts of MePa".

I mean I like it, but at least on me it's way more Tom's of Maine than Tom of Finland...

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Blogger Ducks said...

Tom, delightful review and I wondered, I really did, if it would be too "nelly" for the intended image. I thought this one would be sort of vanilla-S&M "dress up" rather than the real deal.

Kind of like Green Day is "punk rock." There, I said it.

Does this disappointment in inauthentic copies of raw subculture make us more interesting old farts, or just old farts? ;)

2:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Divina said...

Ghostsofmepa??? ROFL! That's hillarious Tom! Even though you were not that impressed, you still managed to make me want to try this, you make the notes sound delightful.


5:36 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Well, I more or less agree with you. I like this, but it doesn't knock me out--and it's no match for KJ, Patch 24, etc. Mr. Lily, who is a big leather fan (that's leather FAN, not leatherMAN) didn't care for it at all.

7:38 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Tom of Maine. Definitely. That minty freshness.

Dude, how come they don't do a TofF called Dark Alley?! Heh heh.

8:21 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, thank you for reviewing this and making a trip to Bendels less necessary than I thought it might be. :) I agree with your categorization of Etat Libre d'Orange as "raw and interesting to raw and unwearable." I wish that they focused more on developing those raw ideas into something complex and special. The novelty of raw wears out rather too quickly.


8:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I wonder if this isn't a better fit for females? I really love wearing it, nd my brother likes it as well, but he's not a big leathery kind of guy at this point, so it's not so scary.

I still really like it, but it's not as fierce as the ones you mention, which works for me when I'm not feeling it.

9:59 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


interesting old farts. that's what I tell myself anyway...

11:11 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It's funny- it is a really nice cologne. What it is not is in any way dangerous or especially sexual.

11:13 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


that's it in a nutshell- I have to ask, if they'd called it something else you'd be more impressed, right?

11:14 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


that will be the flanker!

11:15 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I really wish the same thing. I have decants of a few and although I do wear them they are the perfume equivalent of the hot guy who you can't take to the company picnic..

Such a snob am I!

11:17 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Don't get me wrong (baby I don't swallow? bah-dum-pum! he's here all week, ladies and gents! Tip your waiter!)- I really do like it. I think it's just the name that's kinds charged for this gay man of an era that remembers that era.

I was three at the time of course...

11:26 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Begging your pardon, but the Disnification of American hasn't entirely killed NYC yet & the Leatherman is still holding fast on Christopher St ;)

So basically what you're saying is, this is more Stand & Model for the boys at the sweater bars in Chelsea than a memorial to the Lure (where no, you wouldn't have been permitted to wear it, & nice that you know that)? I'd actually be interested in sniffing if it wasn't for that minty fresh thing. Leathermint. Feh!

11:37 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey old farts...

in regards to sexual perfumes i think montale's mukhallat is spot on for setting some kinky environment... consider the 1950's filling station men's room if you will - condom dispensers and all... there's nothing quite like the smell of sanitation... so bravo montale and too bad etat libre

11:43 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Nope, you couldn't wear that at the Lure, no more than you could get away with a pair of Kenneth Cole boots

Not that I tried, mind you..

12:02 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I am going to go find that one right now!

12:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or open toed shoes. Or scented deodorant. Not that I tried either, mind you.

12:07 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Scented deodorant! Geesh!

I went once in an Argyle sweater vest and all-stars, just to see what would happen...

12:26 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michele and Tom, you two are on fire today. Please don't stop :-)

12:30 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


12:33 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tom... First, thank you for ending the silence! Not to be dramatic but a week is a lot for us junkies :) Secondly, I thought this was supposed to smell like a man who'd just come out of the shower. I don't remember where I picked that info up, but I'm sure I read it somewhere. Of course I wasn't expecting bright freshness but there is this funny smell of college bachelor pad that is like soap and musk and maybe a little moss, and that is the smell I was kinda expecting (without giving much thought to the notes exactly). Do you think, looking at it from that perspective, it's more successful, that is, as a natural man scent rather than an expression of manly leathery urges and desires :) hahaha.. that sounds funny... but anyway, I'm curious, if looking at it from that perspective, how successfully the fragrance comes across in creating this "out of the shower" effect, if at all. Thanks :D


p.s. I don't get what is "Ghost of MePa?" i wanna knowww!!! :)

1:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You made me realize that one day I am going to make a verbal gaffe and refer to my "Tom's of Finland toothpaste"... and luckily, I don't think any of my colleagues will understand why that is hysterically funny.

Somehow, I think even Old Spice (or maybe just Irish Spring) sounds like it would be more evocative of a leather bar than this ELd'O scent.

1:43 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Yes (you perspicacious thing you, that is what they sort of asked for and it is sort of what they got. I guess that my online whinge is half about the fact that this is all about me and I wanted something a little more revved up to go with the whole leather-daddy artwork and half that if I want to smell like a man who just took a shower, I would just take another shower..

"Ghosts of MePa" is an incredibly arcane reference to a movie called "Ghosts of Edendale" about a hill in East Hollywood haunted by cowboys. MePa is the trendy new abbreviation for the Meat Packing district of Chelsea, where the Mineshaft and the Meat Rack were in the 80's.


1:43 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think that's hysterically funny myself!

Actually, I'd love to see a Tom of Finland toothpaste- if they let one of us design the tube... ;-)

1:45 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

They wanted something that wouldn't interfere w/ natural odor, right? Have only smelled it very quickly, but was wondering if they maybe went too far in that direction.

9:03 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think that's exactly what happened

10:18 PM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Indeed! I think it's a pleasant scent, but. . . .I am (pretty clearly) not a gay man, but I wasn't 3 years old at the time, and I really expected something different. I have to say, though, that I don't get mint, for which I am grateful.

7:30 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

I haven't smelled the Tom of Finland. I kind of gave up on L'ELd'O a couple of months after they launched, for the very reasons you and Victoria state: they're raw and never seems to take a good idea to the point where it will seem well-achieved. As tough their releases were always rushed, rough and unfinished like drafts. It's still an interesting house, and not only for the novelty aspect of their marketing, but I wish they'd work just a bit harder on the juice rather than the promo.

11:36 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It's something to be grateful for, since it''s not a fresh-chopped mint like you'd find in a Tauer fragrance, it's an arch, frankly fake one. As if our leatherman had a stick of doublemint after his shower.

1:09 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


That's it exactly (coming from someone who publishes blog reviews that could use an extra edit or three...)

1:11 PM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

Hilarious review, Tom, and yes, I think you're right about this one. I like it too after having smelled it in the store - enough to want a sample - but it's a kitten of a leather scent. I envision it as light grey and soft like suede or cashmere. Relatives are Voleur de ciels (a bit sharper, leather/gasoline/mint) and Cumming (earthier, but same fluffy muted grey softness), both of which I like. I was prepared to not even try this one after the extremely dull copywriting about shower fresh generic man's cologne bla bla, but after reading the rave review at PerfumePosse I had to and I'm glad I did because, again, I like it, but yeah, it's pretty tame... But then it sort of fits Tom of Finland's cute cartoony drawing style - his pictures aren't really "raw" like a real deal leather scent. The guys DO look like they would smell shower fresh rather than sweaty... I can easily imagine them spraying on some ToF (or possibly something like the CdG Synthetic series) before stepping into their newly purchased shiny fetish wear.

1:38 PM EDT  
Blogger the oblitterati said...

Tmp00 - I loved your "hot guy who you can't take to the company picnic".

I wonder if in the spirit of Tom of Finland's clean scrubbed air-brush slick pencil drawings this isn't specifically designed as a sanitized S&M scent.

To my mind, Bulgari Black's rubber notes and CB's Cumming booze/rubber/leather combo speak more of leather daddies than Marina's description of this minty fresh thing, but there's certainly room for clean scrubbed fantasy even in porno-land.

3:07 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


As usual you have a fresh and very cogent point- stylistically TofF's drawings do have a fresh sort of look to them (even when they are depicting some outre stuff) with their lantern-jawed buffed-out fantasy men. Maybe this is perfect for them. Personally I prefer Cumming which manages to be stronger yet far slyer than this

8:46 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I have room for a clean-scrubbed fantasy myself... ;-)

8:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, I love this review! I'm with joe805 - one of these days I am going to slip up and say "Tom's of Finland" toothpaste, and then pray that no one within earshot understands the reference. :-D

Of all the new scent introductions that I would have pictured as as rough, tough and butch/leathery, I cannot imagine why it came out so tame and "clean." Maybe someone over at Etat Libre ought to crack open a bottle of Yatagan or Lonestar Memories so they can see how it's supposed to be done.

12:50 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being from Finland, I was delighted when I heard our great Tom of Finland got a scent named after him. Sorry to hear it is not as hot as it should be.

7:36 AM EDT  

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