The best perfumes are those that have a transportive quality. They take you to another place in space or time, linking back to often forgotten memories or cementing themselves as catalysts for new memories. Perfume is often referred to as “liquid emotion” because of this ability to conjure up the past and one often finds that a single spritz is all that is needed to play out forgotten moments right in front of your nose.
I grew up in a small village surrounded by fields, farmland and woods so much of my formative years was spent exploring the countryside, climbing trees and getting as muddy as possible with my siblings. To this day I don’t think there is anything quite like the smell of an English wood; the cool, damp of earth, the fusty wetness of moss and sweet, mineralic quality of tree bark. It is the smell of childhood.
Those punky rebels at Etat Libre d’Orange in collaboration with performance artist Mx Justin Vivian Bond and perfumer Ralf Schwieger have created a perfume that captures the spirit of a forest walk. Named The Afternoon of a Faun after Nijinksy’s controversial ballet, the theme of the fragrance is the “relationship between the suggestive fantasy and seductive reality”  and what better genre of fragrance to explore suggestion, fantasy, seduction and reality than the classic chypre?
Top: Bergamot, Pepper and Incense
Heart: Rose, Immortal Flower, Orris and Jasmine
Base: Namibian Myrrh, Moss, Leather and Benzoin
How Does it Smell?
The Afternoon of a Faun’s opening act is a song of rose. It is a dewy, earthy rose that feels relatively bright to begin with, almost like sweet rose water in fact, but deepens in time to something much richer and garden-esque. Accents of galbanum (it definitely has more than a hint of Chanel’s austere N°19), bergamot and pepper also bring out the sharpness of the rose hinting at the danger of the thorns.
Things are rosy for quite some time in these woods but slowly and surely the mossier, more chypre-like nuances take centre stage. Chypres are funny old things, they usually have a standoffish feel to them that, whilst being unquestionably beautiful, puts them at a distance from the wearer. The Afternoon of a Faun is somewhat different, it shakes things up with a measured does of immortelle (curry spice) which adds an incredibly human warmth, placing the humans alongside the animalic fur of the faun, meaning that this chypre is anything but aloof – it is magical and alive.
The Afternoon of a Faun intensifies further in the base with dank notes of mossy, myrrh and leather clouding together to shroud one in darkness as one steps blindly in to the farthest depths of the trees. The air is thicker here at the heart of the forest but it is more comforting than oppressive and has just the right level of headiness to simulate the feeling of your pulse beating in your ears.
To say I was bowled over by The Afternoon of a Faun would be a severe understatement, the truth is that I fell head over heels in love with it. But seeing as I don’t wish to bombard you with too much hyperbole I will simply say that Etat Libre d’Orange have succeeded in creating a real chypre (which is no mean feat considering the IFRA ban on oakmoss) that adds something unique to the genre.
Is it as beautiful and erotically charged as Nijinksy’s choreography? Beautiful yes, but the erotica is kept to mere hints which may come as shock from a brand who purvey scents that smell of spooge and have names such as ‘Hotel Slut’. To put it another way, The Afternoon of a Faun is by far the best thing the house has come up with to date.
The Afternoon of a Faun is available in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £99.
Sample via Escentual*. Notes via Escentual.  etatlibredorange.com. Image 1 artinthepicture.com. Image 2 etatlibredorange.com. *Affiliation.