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.