I grew up in the flattest of flatlands in South Florida. Which meant any elevation was treated as something of wonder as a child. Even better it was something to play upon. Near my house they had built up an artificial elevation for a new highway. By the time I was out of school for the summer the new grass on this mound had fully grown in. Someone in the neighborhood had received a large appliance delivery and the giant box it came in was on the street for disposal. I imagined a different use.
Slicing down each corner seam with a steak knife I had four long panels of carboard. I took them over to the new hill and walked to the top. I sat on the cardboard on one end pulled the other end up in a curved cover to my feet and nudged myself over the edge. I hurtled down the grassy slope on my cardboard-a-boggan. It was not long before my friends showed up on their bicycles and the other three panels of cardboard were also flying down the hill. If I was asked for a perfume which captures the scent of that day it would be a combination of crushed vegetation, sun-warmed cardboard, and freshly washed clothes. Not something I expected to find its way into a bottle until I received my sample of Goutal Chat Perche.
Creative director and owner of Goutal, Camille Goutal, has been overseeing a shift in the brand aesthetic over the last couple of years. It is not an easy thing to accomplish but I have been impressed with the latest releases for this long-time niche perfume brand. Ever since the 2016 release of Tenue de Soiree it has felt like there is new vitality at Goutal. One thing which has remained a constant is Isabelle Doyen who has been there for most of the last thirty years. She is the perfumer behind Chat Perche.
The name of the perfume comes form a child’s game which is a variant of “Tag”. In this game the Chat (cat) stalks Perche (perched) mice who are not allowed to have their feet on the ground. Once the cat touches a perched mouse they yell out “Chat!” and the mouse has now become the Chat; then the game continues. The perfume is meant to represent that spirit of outdoors play as a child. Mme Doyen has created a fantastic fragrance of green growing things and the scents produced when running through them.
Chat Perche begins with a fabulous accord of green grass. I am reasonably sure this is a mixture of oximes to provide the scent of a field of grass. To this there is a lovely piece of nuance as a peppery green floral accord identified as nasturtium in the note list. Nasturtium essential oil is quite pungent and I guess it could be a new isolate I am unaware of but I think Mme Doyen has fashioned a fascinating variant of the grass accord. Together there is this natural effect that might be the product of a perfumer who knows how to get the most out of her synthetic palette. There is a diffuse citrus accord from lemon blossom which captures the hazy sunlight of a summer’s day. It finishes with a set of clean laundry musks which feels like just right as grass stained clothing would be the order of the day.
Chat Perche has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Goutal suggest this is an all-ages perfume starting from age three. I am not sure if I subscribe to that as I have had many e-mail conversations with readers about the right time for them to share their perfume with children. Age three has never been one of my recommendations. For the older perfume lovers Chat Perche captures the joy of child’s play in the summer. Even at 58 it has me eyeing the large cardboard box out for recycling across the street.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Goutal.
I try not to use sport metaphors in perfume reviews but every once in a while, it fits what I am thinking. In the sport of basketball as you are on offense and looking for a path to the basket the player with the ball is expected to use their skills to “create space”. What that means is you use footspeed, ball handling skills, or some assistance from a teammate to get free and drive towards the basket for an open shot. When it comes to perfume I think when a brand enters a crowded genre they also must look to create space from their competitors. One of the most crowded spaces for new perfumes is the cozy vanilla. Annick Goutal Nuit et Confidences looks to see if it has the skills to create some space in that sector.
A year ago, with the release of Tenue de Soiree creative director Camille Goutal began the Oiseaux de Nuit collection. In my review of that first release I mentioned that this seemed like a pivot point for Annick Goutal to try to attract a younger consumer to the brand. Working with perfumer Mathieu Nardin they managed to keep the Annick Goutal aesthetic within a more transparent style of perfume. Seeing that M. Nardin was once again the perfumer for Nuit et Confidences I presumed this would be the blueprint to be followed again. It is, sort of, but there is a clever twist to add something just a tiny bit more which is where I think they were trying to create some differences.
The early going is likened to “champagne bubbles and sequin dresses” which I guess I can somewhat see. It is a lively mixture of bergamot, incense, black pepper, and florals. It doesn’t fizz and sparkle so much as smolder on my skin, but this may be semantics. This is a very transparent accord which sets the stage for the vanilla to arrive. The vanilla early on sets up shop in the middle of the spectrum between airy and heavy. Then M. Nardin uses a set of white musks to stealthily push it towards the airy end of the scale. It is a nice effect where it allows the vanilla to move from heavy to light rather than the opposite which is what is most often encountered. This is where Nuit et Confidences makes its move towards the basket.
Nuit et Confidences has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am liking the direction Annick Goutal is moving in which preserves what made the brand one of the original niche brands while carving out a new space to remain relevant. Mme Goutal and M. Nardin seemingly share a vision of what this looks like as Nuit et Confidences shows that shared confidence.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample from Annick Goutal.
I’ve probably watched too much election coverage lately. There is a word which is used often in describing the issues a candidate talks about, “pivot”. It means the candidate will move to a different perspective depending on the dynamics of the race. Particularly over the past year it seems like the dynamics of the typical perfume customer is also in flux causing brands to decide if they want to “pivot” towards existing trends. The group of consumers up for grabs is the Millennials. It has been one of the grand influences of 2016 and looks likely to continue into the next few years until there is some consensus on what this demographic wants. Which means the brand which can identify it earliest can perhaps gain some brand loyalty. Many of the niche brands seem to be watching and mostly waiting; Annick Goutal is jumping into the fray.
At the beginning of the year, with the release of Rose Pompon, creative director Camille Goutal said she was reaching out to twentysomething Parisiennes. Working with a different perfumer than Isabel Doyen she collaborated with Philippine Courtiere. That alteration already signaled a pivoting to a new demographic. Now at we get to the fall Mme Goutal completes that transition as she works with a different perfumer on a fragrance that is also very different from the rest of the line with the release of Tenue de Soiree.
The brief behind Tenue de Soiree is to capture that anticipation as a young woman is preparing to get dressed before an evening out. Mme Goutal chose to work with perfumer Mathieu Nardin to form a gourmand chypre. Tenue de Soiree succeeds at that better than I expected.
The perfume does not begin promisingly as there is a very typical fruity opening of berries and pear. The best part of it is M. Nardin makes it hazy instead of intrusive. He has better things to get to which is to use a vibrant orris which he supports with violet and freesia. The orris is as close as I get to finding the “getting ready to go out” vibe as I can imagine an iris-scented powder or lipstick being used although this orris is not that powdery. It has a richness to it which sets itself up to be part of the gourmand chypre base M. Nardin assembles. The chypre parts are courtesy of patchouli and low-atranol oakmoss. This is the chypre-ish nature without the heavy bite as M. Nardin also keeps it lighter. The finishing touch is a sweet praline accord; sugary, nutty, and bready. It adds a unique vector to a chypre focused base. It isn’t something I would have expected to like as much as I do. The praline fits with the patchouli and oakmoss in a sweet earthy way.
Tenue de Soiree has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
In conjunction with Rose Pompon it seems like Mme Goutal is thinking the new generation of fragrance customers will want a lighter floral in the spring and a similarly weighted gourmand in the fall. Her instincts are shared by many of the other bigger brands also working to bring this audience to their product. Tenue de Soiree is an excellent example of how to display your brand to that group without dumbing it down. Tenue de Soiree completes the “pivot” begun earlier. I am hopeful that Mme Goutal will find her audience because I would like to see more of the same next year from Annick Goutal.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Annick Goutal.
If robins are the harbinger of spring in the natural world; the release of a lot of new rose centered perfumes is the same in the perfume world. Every year as we move into February my mailbox fills up with versions of new rose perfumes. There are countless rose perfumes out there and it is difficult for a new release to carve out something different. As a result, they generally look to make a variation on a popular trend. Spring rose perfumes fall into two categories; the garden rose or the debutante rose. The latest release from Annick Goutal called Rose Pompon is one of the latter.
Rose Pompon is notable for another reason. For the first time since 1989 perfumer Isabelle Doyen is not involved. Annicjk Goutal’s daughter Camille Goutal has been co-perfumer with Mme Doyen for almost all of the releases since 2001. For Rose Pompon she has found a new partner in perfume, Philippine Courtiere.
Mme Goutal wanted Rose Pompon to be a perfume for twentysomething Parisiennes. What seems to be popular among that subset is fruity florals. Rose Pompon is just that but made to be sort of irreverent as if a perfumed pompon stitched on a hat.
The perfume Mme Goutal and Mme Courtiere made does open with a very recognizable fruity accord. Grapefruit, blackcurrant buds, and raspberry. Baie rose adds some texture. This is a very berry opening with the grapefruit along for the ride. A very dewy light rose is the heart of Rose Pompon. The perfumers add peony for depth without adding intensity. I like that it stays on the light side through this part of the development. A bit of patchouli and cedar provide the beginnings of the base accord. Then a zippy cocktail of white musks provide an energetic finishing flourish.
Rose Pompon has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
This is by far the most lighthearted Annick Goutal perfume ever. I kept thinking it had to come from a different brand. I think Mme Courtiere provided a different point of view for Mme Goutal to work with. Is Rose Pompon something different? Not within the panoply of rose perfumes. Within Annick Goutal? Most definitely. As an inaugural collaboration I like the beginnings of what I see from Mme Goutal and Mme Courtiere. It will be intriguing to see what they do next.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Annick Goutal.
Over the last couple of years there have been a number of well-established niche brands which wanted a share of the luxury market. To that end they launch an offshoot collection at double, or more, of the price of their regular releases. The selling point is usually that there are more expensive and precious raw materials in the fragrance. There is also an implicit promise that these hold a different aesthetic than the regular line. The latest brand to do this is Annick Goutal.
The new collection is called Les Absolus D’Annick Goutal and all three of the inaugural releases are composed by perfumers Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen. In the press materials there is a lot of talk about both women’s love of raw materials. With Les Absolus being the opportunity to work with the best of them. 1001 Ouds is a very typical rose and oud combination which does live up to the concept of good raw materials but doesn’t present anything new on this very tried and true combination. Vanille Charnelle is like 1001 Ouds very focused on the vanilla with a fleshy ylang-ylang providing some contrast. Again nothing new. Ambre Sauvage was the one of the Les Absolus which caught my attention but it did that because it strongly reminded me of a previous Annick Goutal release.
Isabelle Doyen (l.) and Camille Goutal
If you spend any time in the fetish community they refer to those who live a conventional lifestyle as “vanilla”. This concept would come back to me as I wore Ambre Sauvage. One of my favorite ambers of all-time is Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche. It was another of those fragrances which seemed out of place from the rest of the Annick Goutal style. It was discontinued last year with a few other of the releases which also had this out-of-step style in common. Ambre Sauvage seems like this is the opportunity to make a more accessible Ambre Fetiche. The perfumers achieve this by making it more vanilla.
Ambre Sauvage opens on a mixture of pink pepper, lavender and orris. While not identical to the opening of Ambre Fetiche when smelled side-by-side they are surely close cousins. The main difference is the lavender and orris are more pronounced in Ambre Sauvage. Ambre Fetiche has a glorious frankincense and amber foundation. It is Gothic and beautiful. Amber Sauvage is much more conventional as the amber accord is tilted to be warmer. Patchouli adds a woody aspect. The vanilla provides a safety net with its crowd pleasing nature. It forms a very conventional final stage to Ambre Sauvage.
Ambre Sauvage has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
It might not seem apparent with the comparisons to Ambre Fetiche but I really enjoyed Ambre Sauvage. It has much of the same things which I enjoy in Ambre Fetiche. There are definitely days when you have to show a vanilla personality to the world. For those days Ambre Sauvage is the perfect choice.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Annick Goutal.
There seems to be a pattern that all perfume lines which have been around for years go through. At first they are new and exciting. Then they enter middle age and very often they go through a mid-life crisis of sorts looking back to former triumphs via flankers and reformulations. Then there are two tracks which follow from here; either the line fades to irrelevance or it gets a creative rejuvenation. Annick Goutal is at this cross roads right now. The last good perfume release from them was Ninfeo Mio at the beginning of 2010. In the over four years since, the nine releases have been surprisingly poor. What is more surprising is the creative team of Creative Director Camille Goutal and perfumer Isabelle Doyen have remained intact. As a result the sample of the latest release Vent de Folie was not high up on my list to test. That changed when I was at Sniffapalooza Fall Ball and sniffed it there. Maybe just maybe the grande dame still had something to show after all.
Isabelle Doyen (l.) and Camille Goutal
I am glad I returned to the press materials after having sniffed because there is a definite attempt to appeal to a younger perfume wearer. Vent de Folie doesn’t try to break out of the sheer fruity floral mode seemingly prized among that set. If there is a bit of a quibble with Vent de Folie is it is seemingly so safely constructed. A fruity top, a floral heart, and a woody musk base. This is the recipe of hundreds of perfumes all vying for that elusive young demographic. Despite that Mme Doyen manages to make this an interesting version of well-trodden territory.
I think what grabbed me was the opening fruity fusillade. It isn’t subtle. In truth I wouldn’t disagree heartily with someone who found it to be over the top. I think it is exactly that excessive layering of the fruity notes which made me give this a second chance because when Mme Doyen works in overdose she often provides interesting insights. For the top notes of Vent de Folie that is what happens for me. She combines blood orange, blackcurrant buds, and raspberry. Each one of these is present in high concentration. The blood orange at that level shows off more of its tartness. The blackcurrant buds show off the sticky green, almost urinous, quality. The raspberry provides a saccharine foundation. All together they sing in three-part harmony which I found lovely to listen to. Unfortunately the rest of the development is very straight forward as rose and geranium provide the floral foil to the fruit and cedar and white musks provide a clean finish.
Vent de Folie has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
For at least the first hour of Vent de Folie there was a vital pulse again in Annick Goutal. I was reminded when the line used to take risks. The remainder of the time I wore Vent de Folie the patient lapsed back into the creative coma it has been mired in. When you are hoping for a recovery though you will latch on to any small sign. Which is what I’m hoping for as perhaps Vent de Folie is a sign of better days and better perfumes to come.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample of Vent de Folie provided by Annick Goutal.