Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Hang out with all of the boys! Tom of Finland by État Libre d’Orange

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Photo@Cheryl Quimby

Tom of Finland (né Touke Laaksonen) was an artist known for often controversial, homoerotic illustrations of quintessential manly men, in (and out) of the uniform of their trade: lumberjacks, sailors, bikers, etc. It is no surprise that Etat Libre d’Orange made this tribute scent big and muscular, featuring some of perfumery’s most beloved, archetypically masculine notes. 

Like many ELO fragrances, this one wraps classic appeal in a provocative name. Fine ingredients meet playful packaging, their union reflecting what I think of as ELO’s trademark appeal: equal doses of earnestness and humor. 

The first spray is a blast of testosterone, all leather and trees with a pinch of pepper and galbanum, giving the impression of smoke. An aldehylic, somewhat citrus top note keeps Tom of Finland from bogging down. I don’t detect the tonka and vanilla as identifiable notes, but I have a friend who smells vanilla immediately and all the way through the drydown. For me the portions are just enough to smooth potentially rough edges, so that the smoke and leather never get mean. Musk and ambergris add tenacity. I find the dry down to be seductive and everlasting as the blend morphs into one of the creamiest, most addictive vetivers i have ever sampled. In the end, a gesture of reverse rebellion perhaps, Tom of Finland bucks the unisex trend by delivering a true, somewhat retro, masculine leather.

A scent with muscle, I just can’t wash it off and now I’ve got the sillage of all six Village People, ready to rock.


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