Etat Libre d’Orange Bijou Romantique ~ fragrance review

Etat Libre d'Orange Bijou Romantique packaging

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.

Etat Libre d'Orange Bijou Romantique logo

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.

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40 Comments

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  1. victoriaf says:

    I was anticipating your review very much, Jessica! Still haven’t smelled it properly, so you just gave me an incentive to order a sample. “Relaxing back into a velvety cushion with a glass of brandy in hand” is what I will need after this ridiculously hectic week. :)

    • poodle says:

      That description put it on my must try list too.

    • Jessica says:

      V — knowing something of my tastes, you could probably guess that I would fall for this one! I also enjoyed Fils de Dieu, and your review of it — which I recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

  2. Janice says:

    I was sure I could skip this one, but now I want to try it. You got me with the velvety cushion, the brandy, and the Shalimar-but-easier reference!

    • Jessica says:

      Janice, I hope you’ll get a chance to try it… It doesn’t smell like brandy, mind you, but it has a similar warmth and tone and sweetness, if that makes sense!

  3. Emily says:

    Gosh, now I want to try both of the new ELdOs. As someone who’s only been able to enjoy Shalimar in the abstract (and in the Eau de Shalimar format), I’d love it if this works for me.

    Re: the sexual double-entendre — I don’t know about the name, but the pink jewel image on the bottle and (ahem) box is kind of suggestive.

    • Jessica says:

      Well, it did cross my mind that the jewel, particularly when it’s wrapped around the corner of the box, does look a bit, um, feminine. Glad I’m not alone… ;)

    • esselle says:

      I can’t be sure of the reference, but “Bijou” is a character in several erotic stories by Anais Nin (from Delta of Venus I think).

      I love the sound of this one and I’m intrigued by the Shalimar comparison.

      • Jessica says:

        Hm! Interesting! ;)
        Of course, Etat Libre has been naughty so many times in the past that they don’t even need to try… we’ll find something risque’ even when they didn’t intend it! ;)

    • JolieFleurs says:

      Oh how funny, I didn’t notice the, er, feminine characteristic of the jewel/logo til you mentioned it! And it is SO blatant! I am such a dolt. :P

      • Jessica says:

        Jolie, now I blame myself for putting such thoughts into your head. We could be mistaken, after all. Sometimes a ruby is just a ruby. ;)

  4. JolieFleurs says:

    I love Orientals in general, and your review fabulous makes this very tempting!

    I am going to make a grammatical mess out of this sentence, but this house is the only one whose perfumes I am actually able to pick out many different notes from, and actually get what you professional reviewers seem to get. Not sure why that is!

    I don’t care for very many of their scents, but they’re always fun. I love Jasmin et Cigarette, and like Archives 69 and Noel de Balcon quite a bit.

    Will definitely sample this one, thank you!

    • Jessica says:

      I understood that sentence perfectly! Interesting… I wonder why that is! Maybe they’re just very good at representing their compositions as lists of notes…
      I can’t wear Jasmin et Cigarette, but I do admire it.

  5. austenfan says:

    These two new ELd’O’s sound really good. It’s a good house I think.
    I have an almost unhealthy love for Rien, but also like and admire Rossy de Palma, Putain des Palaces and Like This.
    I will definitely have to try these two. Great review, thanks.

    • Jessica says:

      Austenfan, my favorites are Like This, Noel au Balcon, Vraie Blonde, and Archives 69… at first, I have to admit, I wasn’t interested in this line, because I wasn’t thrilled by the off-color humor, but then the actual fragrances won me over. ;)

      • austenfan says:

        I was kind of put off trying the fragrances because of the ad copy. But then Denyse of Graindemusc did this really interesting interview with one of the Antoines, Lie I think. Also she mentioned Rien, which kind of got me interested. After that Victoria at BoisdeJasmin did such a glowing review of Rien that I had to try it. Ordered a bunch of samples, swooned at Rien, at first and all subsequent sniffs and am now the proud owner of a full bottle of it.

  6. Ysbrand says:

    Sounds like a well done fragance that deserves a sniff, im curious about the Malaisie of the 1970… im in Paris next week so i hope i can try it there, i have a long list ready!

    • Jessica says:

      YSbrand, I’ll have a very long list when/if I ever get back to Paris! Hope you’ll have the chance to stop by the EDdO boutique. I’ve never seen it.

      • Ysbrand says:

        I hope i manage to visit Serge Lutens, Guerlain, Etat Libre d´Orange, L´Artisan and diptyque in three days in between work meetings… Is it too wrong i care more for Serge Lutens than for the eiffel tower??? screw it, i will sightsee in the way form one shop to the other :P Harder is going to be not to purchase compulsively…

        • Jessica says:

          Don’t forget Les Parfums de Rosine. Just kidding. I know, it’s impossible to see *everything* in Paris!

          • happy888cat says:

            You can definitely check out Les Parfums de Rosine! It is right next to Serge Lutens!! (Literally. 2nd/3rd shop to the right of SL :D)

            I went to Paris last December and I shall confess now. I MISSED the Eiffel Tower for perfume!

  7. FragrantWitch says:

    I have very little experience of ELdO’s line- I so wanted to love Like This but the immortelle just went way too sweet on my skin. :-(
    But this, this I must try! I love Orientals, velvet cushions, and adore Shalimar. I wear Shalimar no matter the time of day or season if aim craving it but a more ‘casual’ daytime version would be great. Thanks for a great review, Jessica!

    • Jessica says:

      Fragrantwitch, Like This really is sweet… in its syrupy way, candied-ginger way. I love it, but I have to be in the right mood, and the weather can’t be too hot! Bijou is not nearly as sweet.

    • Zazie says:

      I’m also one who wears Shalimar no matter the weather!
      I especially love it in summer. Actually, I met and fell in love with the fragrance one incredibly hot summer day, the sidewalk was soft for the heat, and I remember the soothing (not refreshing, but yes, soothing!) sensation of its leathery, musky, balsamic embrace…

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I recently tried Bijou Romantique, and I really liked it, though not quite enough to buy a full bottle. However, I just bought Eau d’Italie Au Lac because of your review of it last year, and I am loving it! It’s the ideal spring scent.

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, I’m glad you tried Au Lac! I need to dig out the rest of my sample and finish it off, while all the trees are flowering!

  9. dolcesarah says:

    I’m so excited to be getting finally Enfant Divine or divine Enfant, which ever. I’m excited and I picked up SHAKE SHAKE SENORA by D. S. and Durga, I adore it.

  10. Zazie says:

    I’ve always liked ELO’s slogan (le parfum est mort, vive le parfum!) and the vignettes on the packaging…but the fragrances, not so much.
    I’ve tried just a few, and, well, cutting my wrist was the only thing I could think of during my essays with Rien, Putain de Palaces, and the universally loved Like This. I can’t wear syrupy perfumes.
    But if you mention Shalimar, I’ll have to try BR – though BR is the most odious spoiled young lady in the whole Corto Maltese series!
    (I am a Corto Maltese addict)

    • Jessica says:

      Ah! I’d never heard of Corto Maltese until now. So, “Bijou Romantique” is the main character’s name for the character of Pandora Groovesnore? Am I getting that right? (I was reading a French wikipedia page…)

  11. Kathryn says:

    Nice review! I think all your praise is warranted. Those bad boys at ELdO seem to be holding their irony in check with this one. As its name suggests, it’s a small, romantic piece of jewelry. It’s lovely, relaxing, nicely made, easy to wear, and unpretentious.

    Perhaps the ELdO guys really like women after all? Or maybe it’s just that they really like Mathilde Bijaoui, who seems quite lovely in her photographs. I wonder if she herself is “like this” and the obligatory pun in their perfume name is a play on her name? In any case, after smelling a sample, I couldn’t resist this perfume. I found a bottle on sale and bought it.

    I’m hoping for a return to seasonally cool weather for a while so I can enjoy it for a bit longer. I think you’re right, it’s not a hot weather scent.

    • Jessica says:

      That similarity between the perfumer’s name and the perfume’s name is interesting! I wonder. I’ve never met M Bijouai herself, but I’ve learned that we do have a mutual, non-perfume-land, Paris-NYC friend — it’s a small world.

  12. Alyssa says:

    Hooray! That’s two Etat Libre’s to try on my May visit to NYC. Thank you for this delicious review, Jess.

    • Jessica says:

      Hello, A! I really, really enjoyed Fils de Dieu when I tried it in-store last week… it’s fascinating. I need to get my hands on a sample. You should definitely try both when you visit!

  13. dolcesarah says:

    Tell me about Infant Divine??? What’s the story??

    • Jessica says:

      It’s one of those interesting nice/naughty fragrances that EDdO does so well… orange blossom, a marshmallow-mocha note, and some soft smoke and leather. I could imagine it being worn by either a man or a woman. It’s subtle but quite unusual!

    • happy888cat says:

      I am wearing Divine Enfant right now.
      Perhaps its just my weird skin chemistry, I get the sweet cotton candy for the first 15-20mins then the rest is a sharp spicy/leather scent entwined in a cloud of cigarette smoke and weak floral.

  14. Anita Monroe says:

    Dear Friends, Since this is not on one subject, I want to tell you about my recent purchase from NM of a new bottle of Vol de Nuit. Readers, it was not the same juice that I have loved most of my life. I am heartsick. My husband thinks it crazy to be that emotional about fragrance, but he just does not care or understand.
    So I pulled out Dune for comfort, and started dreaming of some other fragrance that would use the best ideas in Dune and make it more subtle? Does such a dreamy thing exist? Best regards xoxo

  15. Julia says:

    Wow – I’m so late to the party, but as a Shalimar lover I think I need to find this one. Thanks for the great review!

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