Eloge du Traître (État Libre d'Orange)

Through the heart of my hometown runs the source of its name-- the shimmering silver ribbon that is the Toms River1. First known to settlers as Goose Creek (presumably after the menacing mob of ridiculously fat Canadian geese that controls it to this day), the river was renamed in the early 18th century after Thomas Luker, a local boat pilot who established the first ferry across the estuary's narrowest point2. Throughout history, privateers, merchants, and smugglers alike enjoyed the use of our river-- but its true notoriety was earned in one pivotal battle during the Revolutionary War.

On March 24, 1782, a party of Loyalist militiamen raided the Toms River Blockhouse, a small Patriot outpost commanded by Captain Joshua Huddy. After overtaking the Blockhouse and burning the adjacent village to the ground, the Loyalists transported Huddy northward in chains. Under the pretense of carrying out a prisoner exchange, the British army subsequently executed Huddy as a traitor to the Crown. This act of Tory treachery nearly derailed peace negotiations between King and Colony. Had not cooler heads prevailed, the Paris Treaty -- and the hopes of many on both sides of "the pond" -- might have ended up dead in the water.

Today, it's hard to believe a war ever passed through these parts. Wide swatches of greenlawn, shady trees, and Victorian gazebos grace the site of the famous skirmish. Wedding parties pose for photos on the wooden footbridge under the disapproving gaze of the usual Canadian geese. Kayakers navigate the waters below alongside mated pairs of mallard ducks, while the most intrepid souls search for ripe blackberries amid fragrant riverbank thickets.

All is peace and balance here, belying the turmoil of the past. Let the silent river carry the weight of history downstream... today is a beautiful day.

5STARS Small

Like all other État Libre d'Orange fragrances I've tried thus far, Eloge du Traître (Elegy for a Traitor) is a quiet perfume hiding beneath the cloak of a provocative name. Its logo depicts a concealed dagger, but really, there are no dastardly surprises or betrayals here.  This fragrance is far too friendly and equanimical to go behind your back-- and while dictionary definitions of the word "elegy" emphasize a certain funereal quality, Eloge du Traître simply refuses to mourn as it should. How can it, when everything about it sings a song of life, growth, and renewal?

A welter of woody and herbaceous notes greets the nose first, painting a dappled scene that is more intimate thicket than broad landscape, more gentle Ophelia3 than arrogant Claudius. Pine and mugwort lend a suggestion of deep shade; at times, the dank aroma of decaying wood threatens to coalesce into something sinister. But at just the right moment, the blow is deflected by a nose-tickling touch of peppery geranium-- and Eloge du Traître continues on its quiet, simple, unapologetic way.

I can think of few better fragrances for a day down by the riverside.   Relaxed and happy, lulled by gems of sunlight sparkling on the water, one could be pardoned for laying down one's sword and shield.  Don't you think?

1You might ask -- and quite rightly -- why there is no apostrophe in "Toms". This vital punctuation mark went AWOL from maps and surveyors' reports approximately 150 years ago, but (like our state's mascot the Jersey Devil) it continues to resurface in local advertising, always incorrectly positioned (Dozen Rose's; Fresh Clam's; Remember Our Heroe's).  Apparently, it makes things look more "fancy".  (For numerous examples of traditional New Jersey punctuation abuse, watch this hilarious expose.)

2Alternate versions of the naming story assign credit to British privateer Captain William Toms and "Old Indian Tom", a Lenni Lenape envoy thus nicknamed by white homesteaders who couldn't manage the pronunciation of his tribal name.

3Check out this amazing gallery of floating Ophelia recreations.

Scent Elements: Pine, bay leaf, armoise (mugwort), geranium, clove, jasmine, leather, patchouli, musk