Etat Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu, du Riz et des Agrumes ~ fragrance review


Risqué ideas and images are nothing new to Etat Libre d’Orange: the company presents us with closet queens, chubby utility workers (with a label showing buttocks cleavage), blond pubic hair (Vraie Blonde), gay beefcake (Tom of Finland), a threesome engaged in oral sex (Archives 69), and a couple of penises (one substituting for a pistol barrel — Je Suis un Homme — the other erect and “spurting”  — Sécrétions Magnifiques).  Now there’s Philippine Houseboy, whose tagline, fils de dieu, du riz et des agrumes*, has been put into use in North America as the fragrance name (you can apparently still buy this perfume in the Philippine Houseboy bottle in Europe).

No matter the name (I refuse to get worked up about perfume “titles” these days…there are much more important things to protest and worry about!), the fragrance’s “intent” is to capture the sun-drenched, aroma-rich Asian tropics. Fils de Dieu, du Riz et des Agrumes was created by perfumer Ralf Schwieger and lists fragrance notes of bergamot, ginger, lime, coriander leaves, shiso, Jungle Essence coconut and cardamom, rice note, jasmine, cinnamon, French May rose, tonka bean, vetiver, musk, amber, leather and castoreum.

Fils de Dieu opens with gingery lime, and “green” coriander and pungent shiso leaf. As the sprightly opening notes begin to disappear (and they disappear fast), the scent of “nutty” coconut makes a brief appearance and then…? Fils de Dieu begins to disappear. Was that IT?

Fils de Dieu is one of those scents that falters and then makes a comeback. After the opening fizzles, the comeback notes are mild jasmine, hazy vetiver, dry, tonka bean-scented rice (to my nose, this is more a toasted rice note, not steamed rice or rice pudding) and…leather (the most “background,” powdery, see-thru leather note you can imagine). Fils de Dieu’s rose note is very mild; it disappeared quickly on my skin, but I could detect it on my shirt for hours. Fils de Dieu’s base notes smell of shamefaced musk (certainly not the bold castoreum I was expecting) mingling with a light amber-y accord.

There’s not a jarring moment in Fils de Dieu; though some of its notes sound ridiculously mismatched, Fils de Dieu is not a quirky fragrance. Fils de Dieu is only semi-tropical and, for me, doesn’t conjure a houseboy, a sunny god, or the Philippines (or any Southeast Asian locale).  Fils de Dieu does remind me of old-style, lightly spiced white floral feminine French perfumes from long ago. A better name for this fragrance, and suitably jolting, would have been the famed words of French actress/singer Arletty, who defended her WWII affair with a German officer during the Occupation by saying: “My heart is French, but my ass is international.”

Etat Libre d’Orange classifies Fils de Dieu as unisex (to me, it’s feminine in character); it has average strength and sillage, 50 ml for $80.

* son of god, rice and citrus

Note: top image via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. bjorn says:

    Kevin, I agree on the toasted rice, I get that and lime, and not much more. It’s pleasant and easy to wear, maybe it needs heat to bloom into something more interesting?

    • Kevin says:

      Bjorn: well, I wore it on warm days…and worked out with it on…and no “bloom”…at least on me.

  2. behemot says:

    Kevin, thanks for another great review. I love your sense of humor!
    I sampled Fils de Dieu last month at Scent Bar during my visit to LA.
    I was really surprised – the smell was nice but was a really traditional feminine fragrance. Nothing edgy about it.

    • Kevin says:

      Behemot: thanks…and I was hoping for edgy/quirky too.

  3. Rosanna says:

    I don’t have a comment about this fragrance, and I am new to the blog, but I became interested in this site when searching for a bottle of my first perfume as a teenager–Jolie Madame by Balmain. I ended up buying a bottle of it from Balmain because I wonder if the cheaper sites are actually selling the same thing? Thoughts on this?
    I spent way too much! I also read somewhere on the blog that there is a vintage and a newer version. That is disappointing as I was hoping to capture the same experience. If my comment belongs somewhere else, please let me know (the comments about Jolie Madame are from 2006 so far, I think).

    • Robin says:

      Hi Rosanna, and welcome! You’re better off leaving the comment under the review for Jolie Madame because then Angie, who wrote that article, will see it — she will not see it here.

    • Kevin says:

      Rosanna: chiming in since I bought Jolie Madame last Christmas and smelled a brand-new bottle. Certainly the formulation has changed many times over the last decades…the new version is lighter and much ‘cleaner’ than vintage, “unisex.” Vintage can be had occasionally on eBay (but a warning, sellers will often call a fragrance “vintage” but that’s a useless term unless they know the year of bottling…rare!)

    • nozknoz says:

      Hi, Rosanna!

      I like your question, as this is one of the ways I got interested in perfume blogs myself.

      Just to add to what Robin said, if you remember what the bottle you had looked like, you may be able to find one just like it on ebay. I’ve found some perfumes I had as a teenager (which was several decades ago in my case) on ebay. Sometimes they smell the same and are very evocative, and sometimes they don’t quite live up to memory. It’s an interesting experience.

      Also, most weekends here, there is an open poll in which everyone asks and answers questions, which would be a great way to get more information. As you can see from my response, readers may jump in any time, but there tend to be a lot of people reading on Saturday mornings, so that’s the ideal time.

  4. sunsetsong says:

    I do so hope ELDO are inspired by the title you suggest……

    • Kevin says:

      Sunsetsong: me too! HA!

    • nozknoz says:

      Arletty’s notorious bon mot would certainly be an ideal ELDO tag line! ;-) And potentially a really interesting perfume. :-)

  5. pigoletto says:

    Any idea how this strikes you in comparison to Jo Malone’s Sweet Lime scent from a few years back? That one was straight thai food to me, nothing sweet, just tanginess and savoury notes.

    • Kevin says:

      Pigoletto: this doesn’t remind me of the Jo Malone at all…but wish I could remember the Malone better!

  6. Joe says:

    Hi Kevin. I’m definitely curious to try this as well as Bijou Romantique; I do like several ELdO creations. This sounds kind of nice.

    I found Philippine Houseboy to be an offensive name — not in the childish way that something like “I Don’t Swallow” is just juvenile — but as offensive as calling a fragrance “Haitian Nurses’ Aide” or “Mexican Housecleaner.” Stupid.

    Nice to see you mention Arletty. “Les Enfants du Paradis” is an often-overlooked gem of a film.

    • Kevin says:

      Joe: it is…haven’t watched that movie in so long! This one and Bijou didn’t do it for me…and I was REALLY counting on Fils for a spring thrill.

  7. happy888cat says:

    Missed out on Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess before and planned to buy it today. Tried it on my arm and the first thought I had was that it smelled exactly like Fils de Dieu!

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