I am guessing my first introduction to Annick Goutal perfumes is the same as many, Eau d’Hadrien. That perfume was a perfect summer refresher built around lemon. I went through three bottles before other new brands spoke to me with different lemon voices. I recently realized I hadn’t replaced it. I then remembered that a couple years ago it was a different Hadrien which has taken over; Goutal Bois d’Hadrien.
I enjoy cedar fragrances when the temperature rises. There is a freshness which counters the heat which appeals to me. Eau d’Hadrien was first released in 1981 and has been one of the flagship perfumes of the brand. It remains a great lemon option for the summer. I expected Bois d’Hadrien to be the version for the cooler weather. It turned out that it was better in the warm than the cold.
Isabelle Doyen (l.) and Camille Goutal
Creative director Camille Goutal and perfumer Isabelle Doyen teamed up again for Bois d’Hadrien. The copy on the website mentions they are trying to capture twilight in Tuscany. I guess that might be it for some. What it reminds me of were the days I would hide from the Florida sun among the sentinel pines of the nearby forest. The trees would capture the cooler air underneath the canopy. That is what Bois d’Hadrien smells like.
It opens with a reversal of the top notes of Eau d’Hadrien. Now cypress is the keynote with lemon playing a supporting role. The heart is incense and pine. This is the smell of the pine trees I remember with the incense evoking the drops of sap on the bark. There is a coolness to this accord I didn’t expect. The fresh cedar holds the center in the base with a musk that reminded me of sweat sheened skin.
Bois d’Hadrien has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
I know that Goutal is not one of those brands that necessarily would be considered Under the Radar. I picked Bois d’Hadrien because I think its more well-known relative keeps it on the down low. That’s why I wanted to make sure those who are looking for a summer woody choice can put Bois d’Hadrien on their radar.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.
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.
There are moments when I just feel that a creative project is going to be magnificent. I’ve recently received the proof that one of those has come to fruition. When I first met the creative team behind the Naomi Goodsir fragrance brand, Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier, I felt like they were artists who had a real vision. Not only the vision but the determination with which to keep working at something until that vision was achieved. The other thing happened at that first meeting was they were telling me what they were working on. From the moment, I heard the name and the perfumer I knew this was something I could not wait for, but I would wait for over three years. The name was Nuit de Bakelite and the perfumer was Isabelle Doyen.
Just the name was going to draw me in because we had a whole stack of old Bakelite cooking dishes. The smell of those dishes all stacked up was fascinating to me in the way other industrial smells were. Bakelite was also used as costume jewelry from the Art Deco period until the mid 1970’s. It was in those later years that a group of free spirited women I was spending time with wore each wore a set of matching Bakelite bracelets which I associated with a certain type of experimental thinking. The sound of the bracelets coming together fell in between plastic and metallic. It was another unusual sound in which I found beauty.
Mme Doyen has been a pillar of the artistic niche perfumery sector since its beginning. She has been known mostly for her work with one brand, Annick Goutal. It is a body of work which shows what niche perfume can be. What has always set Mme Doyen apart for me is the more artistic experimental work she has done. Nowhere was that more evident in the three vetiver variations she produced for The Turtle Project. Those three perfumes are some of my favorite for the complete creative freedom they showed.
I also must mention Ms. Goodsir and M. Coutaudier. There are only a few creative teams in the niche perfume world who do not bow to the pressure of making perfume on a timetable. In many discussions with them they stress to me that they won’t release a perfume until they feel it is what they both want it to be. As a result, the entire Naomi Goodsir collection stands out for this dedication. Heaven knows I bugged them enough times about when Nuit de Bakelite was going to be released.
When I finally received my sample in the mail I was a bit afraid to tear in to the package and try it. There was so much that could be wrong. It sat on my desk for a full day before I finally did. What greeted me was a green tuberose. Once I sprayed it on I understood what Mme Doyen when she said, “Nuit de Bakélite evokes to me, a tuberose sap, peeled tuberose, tuberose in a cage made of green and leather, a focus on the small peduncle that connects the flower to the stem, the sound of plastic when several stalks of tuberose tangle, the wild majesty of the Persian tuberose.” I have always found there to be a strong plastic undercurrent beneath tuberose. That is captured here, it is the Bakelite part of Nuit de Bakelite. The tuberose here is not the flower, per se, it is the stem and sap primarily. You can’t really keep a note like tuberose down but you can find a way to display it differently which is what the creative team has done here.
Nuit de Bakelite opens with a strong green pairing of angelica and galbanum. It leads to an accord which evokes the green camphoraceous nature of tuberose along with the Bakelite plastic note. Bakelite is made from a reaction including aldehydes. There is an almost faux-aldehydic lift happening in this transition from the sharp green of the top to the more floral heart. Here Mme Doyen chooses a source of tuberose essentially scrubbed clean of the indoles. That has the effect of enhancing the buttery aspects of tuberose a skillful use of orris provides depth in place of the indoles. Over time a base of leather and tobacco provide the final brushstrokes. Most often these can be afterthoughts, not here. The tobacco softens the floral accord while doubling down on the natural narcotic quality of tuberose. The leather is a playful reminder of the vintage tuberoses which finished with a swaggering version. This is a hipster version hanging on the sidelines only interacting intermittently; when it seems right.
Nuit de Tuberose has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Although I’ve just spent a lot of words writing about Nuit de Bakelite I could go on and on. This is a concept which has been brilliantly realized using a focal point in a modern retelling of a vintage era. There are a few brands I point to when I want to exemplify all that artistic perfume can be; Naomi Goodsir continues to hold that place as Nuit de Bakelite is artistry rewarded.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Naomi Goodsir.
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.