Katie Puckrik Smells Tilda Swinton: Etat Libre d'Orange Like This

It's the night before the Golden Globes, where Tilda Swinton's latest movie, I Am Love, is up for Best Foreign Language Film. If Tilda were a proper movie star, she'd be spending the evening marinating in a bath of yak milk after having her face sandblasted, her colon irrigated, and her lips spiked with ass fat.

But Tilda is a delightfully improper movie star, which is why she's hanging out at LA's bijou Scent Bar, nibbling on ginger cake and talking to perfume fans about her Etat Libre d'Orange co-creation, Like This.

I tell Tilda I'm wearing Like This for the first time, and finding it unexpectedly vegetal. I'm a bit thrown because perfume's subtitle, Immortal Ginger, had me anticipating something mapley and spicy, and not the carrots I'm smelling.

“The longer you wear it the more you'll love it, I predict,” Tilda says, confidently. “Have you heard the spiel?”

Oh boy! Tilda Swinton is my sales associate!

“Spiel me, Tilda.”

“The spiel is, Like This is based on the smells I associate with Scotland, where I live. My grandfather's greenhouse, and whiskey, which is the smell of the earth there.”

“A peaty smell?”

“Yes. And of course ginger, because I'm ginger -- and everything that goes along with being a ginger.”

My mind whirrs -- what goes along with being a redhead? Naughtiness? Feistiness? Sauciness in the sack? Before I can formulate a question on the psycho-social impact of Titian tresses, I realize that Tilda's gone full-speed ahead on the spieling, and I'm in danger of missing essential details.

“My birthday's in November, so there's pumpkin in there,” she's saying. “And orange things generally: mandarin, carrots. Also, the smell of my dogs' paws, which smell like baking.”

“Your dogs' paws smell like baking? Not Fritos or Doritos?”

This elicits a baffled look from Tilda.

“No! Baking!” She's adamant. “In fact, the original idea was to do a perfume based on my dogs' paws.”


A pause. Then we both crack up at the idea of Tilly's Paw-fume.

She continues, “But then we decided to broaden it out.”

“We” includes perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui and the good folks at Mane Flavor and Fragrance. Tilda elaborates.

“I don't speak the language of perfume. There's a whole language. I was in the room with the people from Mane. They're perfumers, but they're also philosophers and mathematicians.

“I was,” she pauses, considering her place in this new world, “the child. We'd talk about the associations I wanted for the perfume, and they'd have me smell raw materials like ambergris and civet. And when I walked out in the street afterward, I'd suddenly be aware of all the smells I'd never noticed before!”

The Scent Bar scene was like this

I comment that Like This is simultaneously warm and dry, while also being surprisingly fresh.

“Yes! There was a concern that given the elements, it could be too cloying, which I didn't want. But we put the vetiver in, and it cut the heaviness.”

Despite her protestations, Tilda's speaking “perfume” quite fluently. I ask her about her “scent bio”.

“The first perfume I was aware of was the one my grandmother wore, which was Joy. I started wearing that when I was 15. I was trying to be 'a lady'. And then for an embarrassing number of years, I wore Penhaligon's Bluebell.”

I inform her that Bluebell was a favorite of the unlikely trilogy of Princess Di, Kate Moss and Margaret Thatcher. Tilda's huge blue eyes widen alarmingly in horrified fascination.

“Margaret Thatcher? Really! Margaret Thatcher! Oh!”

Margaret Thatcher: Blue Belle

Mention of the UK's former Prime Minister triggers some conversational hopscotch from Tilda's teenage boarding school hardships (“They didn't allow music! And punk rock was happening!”) to the distinctive smells of different cities.

“There is a Los Angeles smell, isn't there?” She considers a moment. “It's in every hotel, and in people's houses. It's really sweet -- and strange. What is it?”

I venture that it's a combination of the local flora -- decayed jasmine, orange blossom, jacaranda, etc, combined with the ozonic odor of air conditioning.

“Whatever it is, it's cloying -- almost disgusting,” she summarizes, leading her neatly into a review of some of Etat Libre d'Orange's more, ahem, challenging offerings.

Have you smelled Sécrétions Magnifiques? It starts to make you...” she fans her throat in mock distress, miming the rising gorge. “But some people absolutely LOVE it!”

I go in for another sniff of my Like This'd wrist, which has now bloomed from its disorienting vegetal opening into a mellow and friendly scent. The carrots have made way for a soft-focus leathery floral where the ginger and sweet-ish immortelle blend into a gentle background burr.

Tilda notes my conversion with satisfaction.

“I really and truly love wearing Like This,” she says, warmly. “Not only do I wear it all the time, but I put it on twice a day.”

Tilda Swinton -- she may be an improper movie star, but she's a helluva sales associate.

Like This is available from Lucky Scent and Les Senteurs, starting at $99 for 50 ml

Scent Bar scene photo by Steven Gontarski. See more here.


  1. Hilarious! And how many celebrity fragrance endorsers actually wear their "creations", never mind daily, with top up applications!

    There is an Achilles heel in the spiel, however - Tilda is quite clearly no longer ginger! I wouldn't even call that shade "strawberry blonde"...

    Or is she perhaps gearing up to front a scent inspired by champagne, cream soda, macadamia nuts or honey*?

    (Genuine shades off the Garnier Nutrisse colour chart! : - ) )

  2. Vanessa,

    How is it that we're always discussing hair? Yes, Tilda's firmly in macadamia nut territory with that blond barnet. Along with the sportif slacks and ballet slippers she was wearing, the whole effect was that of an ethereal space prep. I'll bet she invents a whole new fashion genre every time she steps out of the house.

  3. Katie -- I love the interview, and the photo is great. The fact that Swinton stopped by the Scent Bar for promotional work before the Golden Globes just makes me like her even more. She takes her obligations seriously!

    And I wondered if that rumor of her wearing Bluebell was true. Funny to hear how horrified she is about it now.

  4. Katie, I bought my full bottle of Like this just last week! I tried it once last May, but I discarded as nothing so special. Then I gave it another chance a couple of weeks ago and it really bloomed. Or... well, whatever pumpkins and carrots do instead of blooming.
    Anyway, I'm really loving it. Turns out that for my January nose it is the perfect scent to end cozily a cold sunny day spent wearing one of my favourites, Le parfum de Thérèse. They relate, somehow, though they're very different.

  5. I really hope she does actually wear it like she says she does. Is it sad that I would question Tilda, after hearing so many ficticious celebrity perfume stories? I know everyone loves her, but I'm still in the skeptical corner. (I do love Like This, though.)

  6. Cool post! Sounds like Tilda has adopted some perfume lingo... and I'm looking forward to trying this perfume. You have an amazing way of making perfume come to life - and making me laugh - and I love reading your blog!

  7. What a delight! I've only just recently found your blog and I absolutely love it. You're really fun to read, and I feel that this is the beginning of a beautiful education . . .

  8. How cool you got to experience Like This for the first time with Tilda herself. The perfume sounds as original as she is. Also glad to hear it was more vegetal than syrupy on you. Whether you fancy it not I think it's a must try. This may be one celeb scent that could well stand the test of time.

  9. This was the first "celebrity" fragrance I was ever excited about trying because I've loved Tilda for quite some time. It really didn't work for me, unfortunately, but next I'm looking at Alan Cumming for perhaps a version of Scotland in a bottle that might be more suited for me.

  10. Katie, forgot to say how true it is when Tilda mentions she notices smell generally a lot more since being involved in her scent. I think it's great that a side effect of getting into perfume is that this whole sense you've mostly been ignoring for years suddenly comes to life.

    It was also great that you managed to instantly explain the "Los Angeles smell"!

  11. nathan,

    Chatting to Scent Bar co-owner Franco as well as to Tilda's agent, I got the idea that this meet'n'greet was something she really wanted to do, rather than a contractual obligation.

    The backstory to the creation of Like This is that her agent and his husband are both Scent Bar regulars, and thought it would be a cool creative endeavor for Tilda to make her own perfume. They mentioned the notion to Chandler Burr, who cannily matchmade Tilda with the Etat Libre d'Orange guys.

    She clicked with ELO, and thus began her intensive perfume education. Tilda said she loved being stretched to think in a different way, as you do with perfume.

    As for her wearing Bluebell for 25-odd years, she said that she actually didn't really care about perfume one way or the other, but just liked how light and fresh Bluebell was on her. After her "conversion", it's a whole different story, of course. Tilda can now speak authoritatively about raw ingredients, as well as discuss the entire ELO line!

  12. delfina,

    I'm having the same experience as you with Like This. It goes from being a bit "theoretical" to smelling nicely cozy.

    In fact, my post-post drydown from last night's application echoes my late dad's Old Spice, which is an emotional and comforting scent for me. It's the combination of Like This' rose, spice and musk. I like it very much right now!

  13. Kitty V-H,

    I do believe Tilda genuinely loves and wears her perfume, not least because she deliberately collaborated with an underground fragrance house and is promoting it in an understated way. It's the opposite of the crassly commercial approach of mainstream pop stars, etc, flogging their barely-sniffed wares.

    Also, the brief she gave her collaborators was that she wanted to create a scent that evoked "home", so she could take a bit of Scotland with her wherever she went.

    Josephine and Denise,

    I'm so pleased you're getting a boot out of my sniffing excursions. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

  14. Carrie Meredith,

    Interesting that you bring up Cumming, because that's another oddball Scots actor who has collaborated with an underground perfumer - Christopher Brosius, in this case.

    Also interesting because there's a "dog note" in both: dog paws in Like this and wet dog (say some) in Cumming.


    Exactly as you say! Once you rev up the "conscious nose", as I call it, there's a whole new world out there.

    My "LA smell" analysis wasn't actually instant, though. I've always noticed the unique smell since I started to travel here regularly from my last home in London. It wasn't until I started to write about perfume that I thought to try and pin down what this stuffy/sweet/space capsule smell was.

    And now with my awakened nose-consciousness, I like to try and parse city smells wherever I go.

  15. I love hearing about her "education"--the idea her immersing herself in that environment is captivating, kind of like watching how somebody else falls down the rabbit hole.

    I also enjoy that she knows the whole spiel, and that out of her own mouth comes the addition of the dog paws. (I also thought 'what, not Fritos?') How fun to have an opportunity to hear it from herself.

    And, if I am to be fully honest, I'm kinda digging that both Scots put whisky in their perfume. I can almost imagine either one of them being mischievous and dabbing some 12 year behind their ears.

    Thanks for the report.

  16. Katie, very entertaining post! You do meet the most fascinating people! I am always surprised when I hear people think dog paws smell like Fritos. If that is the case, I would have to say my dog's paws smell like Fritos with the salt licked off and dipped in mud. Not that I make a habit of smelling his paws! I am so intrigued by the scents that seem non-parfum-y that end up in a perfume.

  17. ScentScelf,

    Same as you, the "dogs' paws" note made me perk up my ears - that was the first I'd heard of that in all the Like This chatter.


    It is crazy the stuff that ends up smelling pretty good in a perfume. My surprise in Like This were the carrots, which I first found off-putting, until I made the olfactory connection between carrots and iris root, which do smell alike. Once I made that mental shift, Like This' curiously dry, woody and vegetal start seemed more relatable. There's that same quality in Chanel No. 19, for instance. Or in Hermès Kelly Calèche.

  18. Katie...

    brainmelt.... two of my favourite women together!

    I adore Like This (in fact, I wore it last night as I was watching the Golden Globes, swooning as Tilda stepped out in that amazing Jil Sander ensemble!)

    I was lucky enough to receive a bottle for Christmas and has been living in it ever since. Thanks for making a blue Monday rosy!

    (Deepspark on your Youtube Channel)

  19. Hi Jaacq!

    Flattered to contribute to your melted brain. I too was wearing a good dosing of Like This in solidarity with Tilda as I watched the Golden Globes last night.

  20. I am fraught with jealousy. This post was almost hard to read.

    I hate to toot my own horn (well...), but I predicted the Tilda Swinton-as-indie-icon craze years before ELO, Pringle, and her fling with Viktor & Rolf.

    The top three must-watch films for Swintonistas: "Female Perversions," "The Deep End," and "Young Adam." (Haven't seen "Caravaggio" yet. Sorry!)

    Sounds like everyone had a blast. Katie, you look just as radiant fresh-faced as you do when in full-on KP Smells mode. I would love for you to share your skincare regimen in a new vid...or right here.

  21. What a great interview! I asked for this fragrance for Xmas (and got it). I just love it - so interesting. I've admired Tilda but didn't realize how involved she was with the fragrance - I'm even more impressed. This is how a "celebrity" fragrance should be - a star with integrity and a real interest (besides $$) in the final creation.

  22. whipsmart84,

    Tilda is truly a singular performer and presence. My first Tilda movie experience was "Orlando" - have a lot of catching up to do with her Derek Jarman work.

    Thanks indeed for your kind comments on my complexion. Here's a quicky overview of my routine:

    I always use daily sunscreen (La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60) and heavier moisturizers at night: currently rotating between Fresh Elixir Ancien oil, Annick Goutal Masque Splendide, Aftelier Perfumes Rose, Sandalwood & Frankincense Face Elixir, Weleda Skin Food, and RoC Retinol Correxion Night Cream.

    At night I cleanse with Burt's Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser, which I massage in, then wash off using a gauzy cheesecloth that has a mild exfoliating effect.

    Whether or not I wear makeup, I always wear Trish McEvoy Beauty Booster Cream (and the Serum, too, if I'm feeling rich and have some to hand). It really helps with that dewy look when you're faking teenage skin.

  23. Deepo,

    It really did take Tilda's urging to get me to appreciate Like This. Once I experienced the scent from soup to nuts, I was on board.

    I was indeed heartening to know how fully Tilda embraced the creation process, and you'd expect nothing less from an artist of her caliber. Creative and intellectual curiosity can and should extend to all directions - and anyway, how often do "civilians" (even civilians as rarefied as Tilda) get a chance to tell a story in smells?

  24. Thanks for the skincare pointers, Katie!

    I, too, am a raving fan of La Roche-Posay's Anthelios line, also a fave of the ageless Linda Evangelista. If I don't feel like applying much product, I reach for Neutrogena's Age Shield Face SPF 110. A half a teaspoon has an SPF of 55 and stays potent for a whopping five hours.

    I had no idea about Annick Goutal's skincare line (this is why I asked). Finding a new moisturizer to shake up my routine is the goal! Do you recommend rotating every few days? If so, that would give me an excuse to visit the Fresh kiosk (I need to try the Black Tea line, too!) and Walgreen's for the RoC cream.

    Love, love, love Weleda Skin Food, which Erin O'Connor swears by and raved about to the British press (she also wears TF Black Orchid). Do you use it on your face, though?

    Mr. Burt Bee has a number of great cleansers, my favorite being the Soap Bark and Chamomile. Once I'm finished with my Jurlique (thank you, Alison Goldfrapp!), I'll have to give Orange Essence a shot. Fragrances, of course, do not irritate my skin.

    Can't wait to get started!

  25. whipsmart84, your skincare question was no idle query, it would seem. I'm talking to a pro, here!

    To address your points:

    The ageless Linda Evangelista gets honesty points for attributing a good part of her agelessness to
    Botox. I guess for print models, it doesn't matter if you can't move your face, so why not Botox?

    I stumbled onto the Goutal Rose Splendide masque from a sample in a Sniffapalooza goody bag. Just goes to show you that free samples sometimes actually result in a sale! I love the smell (kind of bready/almondy/rosy), and I love the thirst-quenching, wet texture of the cream. (Even if the product is great, I can't use it unless I like the smell. Which rules out a lot of products.)

    I have no info/insights/official stance on rotating products. I just naturally find myself doing it through random acquisitions and my endless quest for novelty. I'm sure using the same thing day in, day out works fine.

    Yes, I use thick and gooey Weleda Skin Food on my face. "They" say it's just as good as Creme de la Mer, and that's also thick and gooey. I have dry skin in a dry climate, so I just slap on heavy creams and oils like I'm about to throw myself on the barbeque.

    I like the Burt's Bees Orange Essence cleanser cuz it's made with olive oil and very moisturizing. I really use it more as moisturizing facial massage goo than as a cleanser.

    Alison G uses Jurlique cleanser?