When I read the initial announcement for Etat Libre d'Orange's release of Bijou Romantique, I had a feeling that I would enjoy this perfume; now that I've tried it a few times, I'm happy to say that it has fulfilled all my expectations. Bijou Romantique was developed by perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui (whose earlier Like This is one of my favorite Etat Libre fragrances), and its composition includes notes of bergamot, Italian lemon, pink berries essence, ylang-ylang, sage, iris of Tuscany, EVEE (apparently a molecule from Mane's laboratories), coconut JE, Haitian vetiver, benzoin, and vanilla.
According to the Etat Libre d'Orange website and other sources, Bijou Romantique's inspirations are diverse and colorful. They include cameo jewelry; a phrase from the Old Testament, "Her price is far above rubies" (Proverbs 31:10); a line from the French writer Alfred de Musset, "J'ai souffert souvent, je me suis trompé quelquefois, mais j'ai aimé" ("I have suffered often, sometimes I have been mistaken, but I have loved," from On ne badine pas avec l'amour, 1834); and (via Luckyscent) a reference to the cult comic-book series Corto Maltese. Got all that? (If there's also a sexual double-entendre in the name or concept, as there often is for Etat Libre, I may be missing it.)
So, what do we have inside the bottle? Bijou Romantique is a rich, feminine, oriental fragrance that feels, dare I say it, almost classical. Overall, the fragrance is so harmoniously composed that I have a difficult time separating one element from another, or even describing Bijou Romantique as a whole. Its top notes of lemon and bergamot are bright but not sharp. There's a hint of something peppery, and a whiff of ylang-ylang's camphoric white floral; otherwise, the composition unfurls slowly and smoothly as a warm, well-rounded blend of balsam and spice with a lustrous vanillic finish, a touch of powderiness, and a smoky-sweet thread of benzoin running through it. It's elegant and a little mysterious, but still approachable — and yes, romantic.
For me, inhaling Bijou Romantique feels like relaxing back into a velvety cushion with a glass of brandy in hand. I can certainly see myself purchasing a full bottle, although I'd probably save it for the autumn and winter; it's a bit too plush and creamy to be one of my warm-weather fragrances. I'd recommend it to admirers of Guerlain Shalimar who are looking for something a little easier to carry off (it lacks Shalimar's animalic-chic aspect), and I can't help feeling that it reminds me of some other classic orientals, although nothing specific is coming to mind. It's an enchanting homage to a traditional genre and a fine feminine addition to the Etat Libre d'Orange catalogue.
Etat Libre d'Orange Bijou Romantique is sold as 50 ml Eau de Parfum ($99). For purchasing information, see the listing for Etat Libre d'Orange under Perfume Houses.