Dangerous Complicity from État Libre d’Orange is a fragrance that would be more aptly named “Generic Simplicity,” in my opinion. In my experience, the company’s edgy or provocative names (and marketing) rarely match the scent in question, and Dangerous Complicity is no different. It’s a shame, because the perfume’s notes looked pretty damn spectacular.
The original company description for the scent was all about Adam and Eve: “By eating the forbidden fruit, complicity took on another dimension, and became dangerous. They lost their innocence and their paradise. The door was opened to carnal energy, they were liberated from restrictions, and they could now create their own version of Eden. That forbidden fruit became a one-way ticket to Etat Libre d’Orange.” Press release are frequently over the top but, in this case, for this particular scent, I find the description not only ridiculous but absolutely laughable. If my eyes rolled back in my head any more, they would fall out.
Dangerous Complicity is an eau de parfum that was created by Violaine Collas, and released in 2012. On its website, État Libre currently describes the scent and its notes as follows:
Gimme Danger Little Stranger…
Every dangerous complicity requires the infusion of something that can endure beyond desire, beyond the commitment – a scent that speaks the language of the skin.
Rum JE, ginger JE, coconut JE, bay essence, calamus essence, osmanthus absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, ylang ylang essence, lorenox, patchouli essence, leather accord, sandalwood, cashmere woods….
A very brief word about some of the notes. Fragrantica says Lorenox is “a complex accord developed by Mane which can be described as woody, ambery, leathery, aromatic.” For Calamus, Fragrantica writes that it is a type of grass originally from India whose root “is used to render a refreshing, soft spicy note that resembles cinnamon.” The latter isn’t a significant part of the scent on my skin, but the former is.
Dangerous Complicity opens with a lovely bouquet that is boozy, spicy, fruity, floral, smoky and lightly leathered. First and foremost, there is osmanthus, smelling both floral and like apricots. It is drenched with rum, aromatic bay leaf, and ginger (in that order of prominence). Tiny droplets of coconut milk are scattered on top, barely there for most of the opening but occasionally reflecting a creamy, lactonic freshness. On the sidelines, you can almost make out the shape of the jasmine, ylang ylang, spicy patchouli, and smoky leather, but they hover about like tiny, spectral images for the first few minutes. More noticeable is the woodiness in the base, though it merely feels like abstract woods infused with birch tar and smoke, rather than actual sandalwood or cashmeran. As a whole, and particularly from afar, Dangerous Complicity opens primarily as a boozy rum cocktail with ginger, richly floral notes, apricot fruitiness, and tiny puffs of tarry smoke.
For all that I’m a booze hound, my favorite part is the smoky leather, subtle and minor thought it may be at the start. Either the Lorenox, the leather composite accord, or both have a styrax-like resinous quality but, also, a very campfire, singed wood tarriness that suggests cade oil or birch. The overall effect is to make the leather slightly butch, a bit raw, and strongly outdoorsy. Underlying it is a meaty spiciness that feels as though a pinch of cloves had been included in the mix as well. The tiniest, most microscopic hints of tobacco and woodiness lurk underneath as well.
The part I’m less keen on other parts of the scent. There is a noticeable streak of clean musk that behind the florals but it seems to be in most of the Etat Libre fragrances that I’ve tried, so I’ve tried to resign myself to it at this point. My greater issue are the florals themselves. With every moment, the lovely osmanthus bouquet weakens, brushed aside by an aggressively clean floral freshness that is both painfully nondescript and completely reminiscent of a mainstream Sephora brand. It’s a certain sort of overly girlie, pink floralcy that feels cheaply sweet, in addition to being pointed sharp from the clean musk. Frankly, it smells like a cheap peony, rose, and pink peppercorn/fruitchouli combination, something that you’d find in a pink bottle as a flanker to Lancome‘s La Vie est Belle or something similar to the fresh fruity florals put out by Francis Kurkdjian for designer houses.
To my disbelief , it takes a mere 15 minutes for Dangerous Complicity’s lovely opening to go straight down the drain. The cheap, generic, fresh and clean fruity-floral composite becomes so strong, it quite overwhelms the richer, more expensive notes of jasmine and ylang-ylang, while the poor osmanthus with its delicate nature never stood a chance in hell.
Another five minutes after that, the perfume has turned into a total pink-purple clone of something sold in Sephora for about $60, as the patchouli turns into purple fruitchouli syrup and the clean musk blares away. The smoky leather, whiffs of aromatics, singed woods, spicy ginger, boozy rum, and coconut milk have been completely obliterated. By the 30-minute mark, Dangerous Complicity turns sheerer and lighter. Someone on Luckyscent said that the scent resembles something put out by Narcisco Rodriguez or Flower by Kenzo, and it’s so true! Dangerous Complicity has pronounced whiffs of Francis Kurkdjian’s For Her fragrance for Narcisco Rodriguez.
There is a short window of improvement (or hope, if you will) that starts at the 1.25 hour mark and lasts for two hours. To my surprise, the smokiness suddenly comes back, adding meaty, slightly tarry, very smoky leather to the florals, along with campfire aromas, singed woods and a very generic ambered sweetness. In essence, Dangerous Complicity turns into a sweet, smoky, fruity floral leather with syrupy fruitchouli, clean musk, and slightly tarry, spicy nuances above a base that has the tiniest sliver of creamy, vanilla-ish, tonka-like sweetness. The florals are wholly amorphous and impossible to separate but, once in a blue moon, for a brief minute or two, you can vaguely make out whiff of osmanthus or jasmine. But then you blink, and they vanish, beaten back into submission by a generic floral pinkness that really smells like peony and gooey roses awash with both common, mainstream freshness and the clashing, juxtaposed addition of smoky, spicy, blackened leather.
Unfortunately, the darker elements seem to be an anomaly because they vanish almost as suddenly as they reappeared. Roughly 3.25 hours into Dangerous Complicity’s development, the scent returns to its primary bouquet of rosy florals with syrupy sweet fruitchouli and clean musk. At the end of the 4th hour, a wave of creaminess awakens in the base and soon rises up to coat the generic pink petals with softness. It never smells like coconut but it’s not like cashmeran or vanilla, either. Like everything else to do with Dangerous Complicity, it’s completely indistinguishable and characterless.
Still, I will admit, there is a subtle prettiness about Dangerous Complicity by the middle of the 7th hour. It’s a pretty, pink, creamy rose floral, though it’s also pretty banal, insipid, and so completely inoffensive that it might as well be white noise. And that’s essentially it for the rest of the perfume. It merely turns creamier, hazier, softer, and more hapless, an oversimplified bouquet of creamy sweetness with utterly faceless florals and completely common notes of musky cleanness. It essentially dies as a blur of generic sweetness.
Dangerous Complicity has good projection and longevity. Using 3 smears equal to 2 large sprays from an actual bottle, the perfume opens with 4 inches of projection and feels quite strong, though the scent is light in weight. After 30 minutes, the projection drops to 2 inches and it stays there for quite a while. Dangerous Complicity turned into a skin scent at the 4.5 hour mark, became hard to detect after 7 hours unless I brought my nose right to my arm, and then died away 9.25 hours from the start. If my skin didn’t hold onto and also project fragrances dominated by clean white musk and fruitchouli like the devil, then I think Dangerous Complicity would have faded away much sooner. Certainly, on Fragrantica, the vast majority of votes put its longevity at “Moderate” (3-6 hours) and the sillage at “Soft” (the lowest category).
On Fragrantica, the reviews are split down the middle. One camp thinks Dangerous Complicity is a “spectacular” woody floral, while the other is disappointed and finds it to be merely a pleasant (but extremely sweet) floral that resembles a designer fragrance. The latter is a much, much larger group. Still, I’m struck by how completely opposite the descriptions are from each side:
- “calm lovely tree” – vs. – “it reminds me of a pretty girl who just shampooed her hair with jasmine and coconut, sipping a glass of ice tea. In that vein, it’s rather similar to Versace ‘Crystal Noir’.”
- “absolutely spectacular” – vs- “This probably smells better than most celebrity fragrances at the mall, but not much.”
A good number of people simply scoff at the scent in much the same way that I have and for precisely the same reasons: generic banality with a cheap, mainstream profile. To wit:
- Pfff, this one is a mistake i think. It could be something from Lancome or an other “sweetlollypop-patchoulybomb-laviemefaitchier” brand but not ELO[.]
- Not particularly dangerous or complex. Opening is a dead ringer for Narciso Rodriguez for Her EDT.
- …it smells like Flower by Kenzo or Narciso Rodriguez for Her. is it just me? very weird. not what i expected.. and it certainly doesn’t fit in with the whole “back story” and description. I can’t really smell the leather or rum either.
- This must be some sort of hilarious joke at Kilian’s expense. Seriously: sweet musky patchouli in a nearly ubiquitous mainstream designer-type fragrance accompanied by a text about Adam and Eve? What?????? It’s got to be a joke. […][¶] The hyperbolic pseudoerotic story and name of this perfume are textbook Kilian, with the quality of the juice on a par with the Badgley Mischka flankers. Fortunately ELdO’s asking price is so modest that one can truly chuckle at this joke.
- Rather tame for such an edgy brand – I expected more. It’s nice, but it could be sold in any department store under a major, cheap brand name. [Emphasis to names added by me.]
If you ask me, Adam and Eve deserve better.