Tom of Finland (Etat Libre d'Orange)

ELDO is one of those conceptual niche brands, and it's clear they have a good sense of humor. I reckon this scent was intended to be a type of gay male spoof, with its obvious leather-and-rubbers accord. If you use your imagination, you can kind of detect a whiff of a freshly-opened Trojan condom in this stuff. That may sound disgusting, but given that it's peeking past stronger notes of suede, vanilla, tonka, some kind of metallic note, pine needles, and musk, the "ick" factor is minimal. Except the suede is more like Naugahyde, the vanillic notes are stale aftershave, the "metal" is gunpowdery, the pine is an air freshener hanging from a car mirror, and the musk is b.o., thinly disguised as residual cigarette smoke. Sexy.

I find Tom of Finland to be both annoying and interesting. On the one hand, I'm a little tired of the synthetic quality of these ELDO scents, especially at their price point. At ELDO prices, they should smell very dynamic and complex, with excellent note separation and top shelf materials. Instead they all smell fake and surprisingly flat, exhibiting only subtle movements, and always a few notes short of "complex," with designer-grade bricks. On the other hand, sometimes the jokiness pays off in capturing the general concept behind the fragrance, and in this case it grabbed me right away - this is how Korben Dallas would have smelled. Bruce Willis played the futuristic cabbie in 1997's The Fifth Element, and ToF seems to draw together the collective aromas of faux cab leather, stale male grooming, handgun steel, and piney mirror clips.

Does this make me want a bottle? I love The Fifth Element, and I think Korben is an underrated character in the long canon of nineties movie characters, but that doesn't endear me to the scent. Maybe if the minty pine notes accented a stronger, dirtier leather, or perhaps if those sweet notes coalesced into a tobacco-centric heart accord, I might feel some love. ToF's structure is far too muted and understated to excite. Though it drips with testosterone (at least in spirit), this particular offering by Antoine Lie is outdone by cheaper, manlier scents. Good alternatives with fuller-throated oily leather notes and brighter minty-green spices are Francesco Smalto Pour Homme and Taxi by Cofinluxe, both attainable at a fraction of the price.

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