Exit the King by Etat Libre d’Orange (2020) has a narrative that may not sit well with people who see systems of power as a necessary part of an orderly world, including the most obvious one this scent seeks to decry by it’s marketing; but on the same taken, I don’t think this marketing really has much to do with what perfumers Ralph Schwieger and Cecile Matton has presented us. Whether you support or are against concepts of monarchy, autocratic rule, social class structures, male supremacy, and so forth, what you have here with Exit the King is a classic rose chypre done with modern material replacements as needed by standards of availability and regulation of the current day; so in the end, there really isn’t true freedom at all with this fragrance, like advertised. Once you move past this irony, what’s here is pretty good, assuming you’re in the game for classic styles done with modern approaches. If you pull a Larry David and curb your enthusiasm, you might be rewarded here in Exit the King. I’d have liked it better if it was inspired more after the 1962 UK stage drama of the same name, as that Exit the King was an absurdist piece that feels more in line with what Etat Libre d’Orange usually does with their fragrance naming or market copy, plus would have sent people unaware of the “Berenger Cycle” down a nice rabbit hole.
The opening is very clearly a soapy rose and jasmine with pink pepper and a touch of aldehydes, not unlike many classic femme-market rose chypres released in the 1980’s, things that today are also sometimes worn by adventurous men. If you’re not one of them, you may want to avoid this scent as things don’t necessarily get more masculine from here, and the unisex designation of the scent by ELDO isn’t by way of the fragrance composition itself a la Calvin Klein cK One (1994), so this might just read to you as a niche version of something you’d rather smell on a woman if that’s how you feel. For those game to try something like this, you’ll be rewarded with a bit more familiarity into the base, as a slightly more-masculine (but not quite) patchouli and musk accord shows up, reminding me a lot of Lapidus pour Homme (1987), something that was always a gay club favorite anyway; make of that what you will. Sandalwood and oakmoss are represented chemically, so don’t get too excited there either. Still, the fragrance on its own is nice if you like slightly soapy and musky rose chypres, although merging a period-correct men’s clubber with the classic chypre structure in place of the usual animalic leather notes found in examples from the period is a curious decision for a scent that seeks to show what life could be like without chauvinism, if I’m being honest.
I guess that’s the real danger when you politicize something superfluous like scent: You either hit it directly on the head with something like the cult This Smells Like My Vagina by Goop (2020) and make all your sales from people trying to use their fragrance to make a political statement, or you deliver an apolitical-smelling conventional scent like Exit the King that says absolutely nothing but “I smell nice” when it’s caught in the air, making everyone feel awkward when you volunteer what the fragrance represents after they compliment you on it, not knowing there was a deeper meaning to your musky roses in the first place. At least wearing something like the fragrance by Goop will let people know you’re making a statement however performative) and not trying to smell nice, although that ‘s not a reason why I wear perfume, personally. Ultimately, I find Exit the King to be a perfectly good if the dirty birdy is what kept you away from classic big-boned femme-market rose chypres in the first place, although many old-timers will smell this and immediately find the laundry musk profile off-putting, unless they fancy a bottle of The Baron by Evyan/LTL (1961/1965) where that sort of thing was still novel. My best hope is this stirs up interest in classic styles from younger people who smell it, since modern niche is feeling a bit too much like designer these days, especially with all the cloning. Neutral