Etat Libre d’Orange Rien (Nothing) : Perfume Review

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Rien

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Anyone familiar with the provocative aesthetic of Etat Libre d’Orange will suspect at once that the fragrance named Rien (Nothing) is likely to be a dramatic mélange. The first whiff of the fragrance proves that one’s suspicions are indeed correct—Rien is a blast of civet and leather, with bitter green and earthy iris notes weaving a dark tapestry. Bold, dramatic, overwrought, it hits all of its accords at once. Yet, those who love classical fragrances and leather notes will find Rien thrilling, since it offers a glimpse into the vanishing grand parfum tradition—challenging, complicated, and memorable. Rien has the complexity of Clinique Aromatics Elixir, the intelligence of Chanel No 19, the brashness of Robert Piguet Bandit and the sensuality of Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan. It is exciting in its blend of classical themes and modern effects.

Created by Antoine Lie in 2006, Rien was his challenge and his rallying call against the restrictions on raw materials and the standardization of effects in modern perfumery. As he explained recently in an interview with Denyse of Grain de Musc, “I indulged myself…I was tired of all the restrictions on raw materials. You can’t use castoreum, galbanum, oak moss, large quantities of patchouli, or iris because it’s too expensive. So I took all those notes and I tried to rewrite them in a modern way.” The lovers of classical perfumery with its rich, complex effects will at once feel an affinity for Rien, which opens on a vibrant accord of aldehydes, galbanum and iris. The starchy metallic timbre that aldehydes lend to fragrances in large doses can tend towards aloof and cold, yet this is not true for Rien. While it suggests a certain sophistication, the composition does not shy away from the heavy hitters of the perfumer’s palette—spices, animalic notes, patchouli and heavy ambers.

As the shimmery veil of aldehydes dissolves into a general fresh sensation, Rien segues into the seductive and smoldering domain. The chocolate bitterness of patchouli married with spicy leather notes and the inky darkness of oakmoss gives the composition a femme fatale aura. A few rose petals, a whisper of incense smoke, a foil of dark musk, and Rien becomes a delightful valse-fantasie of different impressions. One moment, I imagine myself in a sari shop in Delhi surrounded by the scent of warm silks and sandalwood incense. The next, I think of Anouk Aimée in A Man and A Woman, with her character simultaneously conveying strength and fragility and wrapping herself in cigarette smoke, cashmere and leather.

The leathery amber drydown of Rien suddenly puts everything in perfect harmony—the elegance, the mystery, the seductive, and I find myself unable to resist it. While I generally think of this style of perfumery as melancholy, since nothing is more bittersweet than the reminder of the things from the remote and elusive past, Rien has a streak of playfulness to make it joyful. It is a pleasure to wear, especially on days when I do not mind a perfume with an attitude, and it has a fantastic sillage. For all of its challenging facets, I get a surprising number of compliments on Rien. The most recent one I have received captures the spirit of this perfume perfectly: “it smells devastatingly seductive!”

Etat Libre d’Orange Rien includes notes of aldehydes, rose, cumin, black pepper, patchouli, iris, leather, oakmoss, amber, labdanum, incense, and styrax. Available from Henri Bendels and online from Luckyscent. $80, 50ml

Sample: my own acquisition

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48 Comments

  • Lavanya: This sounds absolutely gorgeous! And this line seems priced lower than most niche lines. Thanks for the review, V- will have to try this! May 10, 2011 at 4:30am Reply

  • Olfactoria: The antithesis of Rien for sure! This sounds like a must-smell, even though it does not NOT sound like a must wear at all for me. it makes me very curious in any case. Great review! May 10, 2011 at 4:51am Reply

  • Linda: Thank you! This sounds really wonderful, and appeals in all ways… I’m going to order unsniffed!
    Best wishes,
    Linda May 10, 2011 at 5:04am Reply

  • ines: When I get home, I’m putting on my sample. I don’t remember what it smells like even though I know I tried it some years ago (that is probably the reason why I don’t remember anymore). :) May 10, 2011 at 5:23am Reply

  • Nancy C.: Well, since you mentioned three of my favorite scents in the same breath (AE, #19, Bandit), this is number one one on my list of have to try. Thanks! May 10, 2011 at 6:33am Reply

  • bee: you really convinced me to re-try my sample, I don’t remember rien at all, fact which seem to suit the name, but not the scent, apparently (I bought jasmin & cigarette out of that sample session)! May 10, 2011 at 7:03am Reply

  • Alice C: I pulled out my sample, because I didn’t ‘get’ any of that my first try. I guess it’s just not for me. Iris is usually metallic and dirty on me (not in a good way), so it may be good that I’m not getting that part amplified. I don’t get any single note though. It sort of reminds me of the feel of Bvlgari Black–but I may like Black a little better. May 10, 2011 at 9:23am Reply

  • Style Spy: I was inspired by Denyse’s review the other day and pulled out my decant of this,which I hadn’t worn in ages. I do love the beginning – the blast of aldehydes and the cool wallop of iris and all the spiciness. But after a pretty short time it dries down on me to nothing but a really stabby, pinchy, bitter rubbery thing that seemed hell-bent on killing me, and not softly. Days later, I still feel a little traumatized. I’ve been wearing big yummy tropicals ever since to comfort myself. May 10, 2011 at 10:11am Reply

  • Victoria: ELdO is definitely among better priced niche lines. It is esp impressive given the quality of the materials I notice in their fragrances!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:23am Reply

  • Victoria: It is not a crowd pleaser, to be sure! Yet, it is definitely worth exploring, esp for those who love Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum and Cabochard.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:24am Reply

  • Victoria: I would not recommend buying with sampling first, because it is not an instant love (and it was not for me–all of these animalic and green notes are challenging.) Yet, it is a beauty and is worth discovering.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:27am Reply

  • Victoria: I am glad I revisited it. My first impression was not that positive, as I have a love and hate relationship with leather and civet notes. Then I wore it for a whole day, then again and again… :)
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:30am Reply

  • Victoria: It does not necessarily smell like all of those, but it has their character and some main elements.

    This is a fragrance on which my SO comments positively, completely unprompted.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:31am Reply

  • Victoria: Jasmin et Cigarette was my first ELdO acquisition too. I still love it and wear it often. Rossy de Palma is another love.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:32am Reply

  • Victoria: I am laughing at that description! Yes, it is not a suave seducer, that Rien. :)
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 10:34am Reply

  • Victoria: I can see Black now that you mention it. it also takes me into the direction of Bandit and Mon Parfum. All of us perceive scents differently, which is why it is a pleasure to share thoughts with all of you here. May 10, 2011 at 10:38am Reply

  • dleep: I am going to have to find a sample of this. It sounds wonderful! May 10, 2011 at 12:36pm Reply

  • minette: i love the story you weave, and all those notes, but i don’t remember loving this the one time i sniffed it… but that may be because we were going through various of the etat libre line pretty quickly and all at once. sounds worth a second look. May 10, 2011 at 2:37pm Reply

  • mary: reading the comments I must absolutely look for a sample somewhere in Holland or by first in fragrance. I will let you know when I have tried it. May 10, 2011 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: Do let me know what you think! It takes some time to grow on you, be warned! :)
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 3:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: The first time I smelled it, it rather shocked me. Then I also was overwhelmed by smelling the whole line, so I did not get a very positive impression. I'm so glad that I revisited though. Now, it is an intense love affair. :)
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: I hope that you will enjoy it, or at least, find it intriguing. It is such a unique fragrance.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 10, 2011 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Austenfan: The review on Grain de Musc first got me interested in this fragrance and fragrance house. Now you have added to this with your glowing review of Rien. Which other fragrances apart from Rien would you recommend from this line?
    ELdO has the option of ordering samples from their own site. From your other reviews you seemed to like Rossy de Palma and Putain des Palaces. And of course I have to try Like This. May 10, 2011 at 4:25pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Thanks for the link, V.! Rien was actually instant love for me, but I must admit I’d missed out on the principle of its construction until Antoine Lie explained it to me: that it was a collage of the overdosed notes in classic perfumery. I must say I enjoy its roughness… But then I’ve always loved the more brutal end of the olfactory spectrum. May 10, 2011 at 4:29pm Reply

  • Ceci: I wonder if I had a sample that went bad? When I tried Rien, it was nothing but civet and leather, with a mineral and metallic edge that made me feel queasy. Your review lists all these wonderful notes and complexities, but really all I got was a civet-leather duet. Why such a difference? May 10, 2011 at 7:01pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Hi, Victoria-
    Based on your lovely review, Rien sounds like an absolute “must sniff” although I confess, I loathe Aromatic Elixir. (Clinique does brilliant skincare, but I have never liked any of their scents.) It does sound like an Autumn/Winter fragrance, though. I can’t imagine that those leather and skin notes are any more comfortable in hot weather than a leather coat! But, I must confess, I find the notion of a “brutal” perfume wickedly exciting. Merci,Carmencanada. May 10, 2011 at 7:07pm Reply

  • Grusheczka: I love this line, and I adore this fragrance. Another recent favorite of mine from the line is Vierges et Toreros, a sexy, animalic leather tuberose blend. They have quite a few gems in the line, although there are a couple of them that I can’t wear at all. Thanks for the great write-up! May 10, 2011 at 9:03pm Reply

  • Cooper: After reading your description, i really want to try this fragrance. The Lucky Scent website doesn’t list oak moss at a note, do you know if the formula has been changed? May 10, 2011 at 10:12pm Reply

  • dee: Just when I thought I had my wish-list under control, and all the lemmings at bay… well, at least a sample won’t cost much.

    ; )

    Rien sounds like it’s right up my alley, and with a five star recommendation, who could resist? Another lovely review, thank you so much!! May 11, 2011 at 1:02am Reply

  • Victoria: Also Jasmin et Cigarette, besides the ones you mentioned. It is excellent and very memorable. Vierges et Toreros is also worth trying for an interesting leather and tuberose effect. I love this line–very creative, unusual and with lots of character. Exactly what 80% of today’s niche fragrances miss! May 11, 2011 at 10:42am Reply

  • Victoria: The first time I smelled it, it was such a strange reaction for me–as if I were smelling classics in reverse. When I read your interview, it made such perfect sense! I think that he definitely accomplished the task, and I love the result.

    As I mentioned in the post, I am surprised how many compliments I get on Rien. My husband never fails to comment completely unprompted whenever I wear it, and he was the one who suggested that maybe I need a full bottle of it. :) May 11, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • Victoria: It is leather and civet above all, and the first impression is definitely that. As it dries down on the skin, all of the other facets come through. Like fragrances of its type, Rien certainly needs several trials.
    Of course, all of us perceive scents differently. May 11, 2011 at 10:46am Reply

  • Victoria: I do too! It is exciting and challenging, and this is what makes it unique. May 11, 2011 at 10:46am Reply

  • Victoria: Overall, I find that ELDO is exactly what niche perfumery should be–memorable, avant-garde and different. The fragrances I do not like from the range tend to be the tamest ones. May 11, 2011 at 10:54am Reply

  • Victoria: Cooper, I am not sure if it has been changed, but I smell a mossy note in my sample, which is from this year. May 11, 2011 at 10:55am Reply

  • Victoria: Dee, if you like leather, moss and dry-animalic notes, then it will definitely please. Some people do not care for the green, metallic notes, but I find that they add a fresh, uplifting edge. All in all, definitely worth sampling! May 11, 2011 at 10:56am Reply

  • Carla: Oh now I really must actively get a sample of this, rather than requesting a sample with luckyscent orders. It sounds so wonderful! Funnily enough, I just put A Man and a Woman on my netflix list over the weekend. May 11, 2011 at 11:35am Reply

  • Victoria: I love that film and even have a soundtrack for it. Might watch it again when I get home tonight.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 11, 2011 at 12:09pm Reply

  • allyn: realy nice line of fragrance i have just sugested it to my sisters May 11, 2011 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Thank you! May 11, 2011 at 4:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is definitely worth exploring! May 11, 2011 at 7:25pm Reply

  • violetnoir: Really? I love AE and wore no. 19 for years back in the day. I have to admit that Bandit is not my cup of tea, although Fracas is.

    Hugs! May 11, 2011 at 10:11pm Reply

  • columbine: i visited their shop about 6 months ago but i was not taken in by any of the scents i tried, sadly…but seeing that i am not the only one with that first reaction, i should perhaps try again :-) May 12, 2011 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hmm, I am not sure if Rien would be your cup of tea… Still, it should be sampled, if you have a chance. May 12, 2011 at 1:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: They are the kind that grow on you, mostly because the compositions do not go down the route of an easy top note that most modern fragrances do. Worth revisiting though! May 12, 2011 at 1:11pm Reply

  • ash: Hi, de-lurking and adding to the discussion a bit late here, but I’m curious to know if I’m alone in thinking Rien smells like a somewhat rounder, softer version of Kouros? May 17, 2011 at 11:50am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you for de-lurking then!

    I can see that, especially given the civet-leather notes.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 17, 2011 at 1:06pm Reply

  • Julien: I caught a whiff of it at my last passage at the Printemps Hausman.
    “Vol de nuit” I said in myself. My pre LVMH edt of Vol de nuit. Iris, basalm, leather. Glorious!
    I shared the discovery to my friend, but she recoiled. Such an obvious beauty need an acquired taste? I would not have imagined so.
    She shied away and let me no time to spray it.

    The comparison brings an unfortunate humour, cause the actual vol de nuit edt, according to my last tries, shifts toward a thin lavender something.
    I can’t believe my nose, not yet. Cause this is so not VDN. But indeed Guerlain-lvmh could be tempted to simplify it into a masculine mild lavender, less costly.
    Altogether, my main suspicion is Guerlain’s toning down its classicals, they’re like fading away. September 9, 2012 at 3:24am Reply

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