Immortelle

Describing a particular scent is hard. Trying to conjure up an idea of how something smells invites all sorts of comparisons. Thus it is that immortelle, the fragrance note from the Helichrysum, or everlasting, flower is oft-described as smelling of maple syrup. That´s more accurate than comparing it to, say, a banana, but doesn´t really do the smell justice, because it´s more complex and peculiar than “maple syrup” would suggest. Here are some other common descriptions: a strong straw-like, fruity smell; straw, honey and tea; as well as words like warm, sweet, caramel, coumarin, fruit-honey, tonka. Osmoz.com says “essence of immortelle gives chypre, floral and amber compositions a particular charisma” and characterizes the smell as “red fruit, syrupy, nut, honey-flavored, tobacco.”

Annick Goutal Sables is, I think, the Queen of Immortelle – its powerful, oddball herbaceous sweetness is probably a love-it-or-hate-it. I have held the bottle in my hand a number of times but never quite manage to get the credit card out – unlike some of the other AGs, it is one of those fragrances that will not go away, and after 36 hours on my arm I really wish it would. Sprayed on a wool sweater it has the half-life of nuclear waste. But it is definitely worth a sniff. If Duel lasted one-third that long I´d own it.

Dior Eau Noire is a less challenging rendering of immortelle than Sables – it also smells of lavender, thyme and cedar, an elegant evening scent, and it is surprising because it manages to be dark but not heavy or dense. (An aside: all three of the Dior colognes – Eau Noire, Bois d´Argent, and Cologne Blanche — are worth sampling. I think they were released as “men´s scents” but are borrowed across the aisle pretty heavily by women.)

Finally, L by Lolita Lempicka is a warmer, brighter treatment of immortelle. I´d taken note earlier this year when it came out (including its absurd Little-Mermaid-ish bottle) but never got around to sniffing the sample Patty sent me. I tried it recently, and I was completely charmed. Notes are: bitter orange, cinnamon, immortelle, vanilla, woods, solar notes, musk. L is a sleeper fragrance, and if you overlooked it or dismissed it outright the first time, fall is the perfect time to reconsider. It has enough immortelle to be interesting but not assertive, and wrapped in its cocoon of gentle spices, woods and vanilla-musk it is a gourmand-ish comfort scent. I am on record as being not a huge fan of gourmand scents, but since Maurice Roucel created this one, I suppose I´ll make an exception. Helpful hint: layering it with 10 Corso Como gives it a wonderful herbal/incense base and mutes the vanilla when the immortelle starts to fade.

immortelle flower: osmoz.com

30 Comments

  1. Sables is definitely a very, VERY long-lasting fragrance! Not that I object – I happen to love its weirdness, but I tend to like weirdness anyway (I daresay I’m a bit weird myself, but that may be wishful thinking – I’m probably just plain normal). And Eau Noire – gorgeous! L, unfortunately, is a bit too heavy on the vanilla, but definitely interesting (the botte, on the other hand was what a vaudeville perfomer who spent the day in a fishtank with a plastic mermaid’s tail on, singing bawdy shanties, and dreaming of an upright millionaire to take her away from it all, would have in her dressing room). And doesn’t Chypre Rouge have immortelle as well? I haven’t checked the notes – it just smells very immortelle-y with that combination of almost off-putting saltiness (like Sables) and the peculiar sweetness of caramelised wood (like Eau Noire)….

  2. Mornin’, darlin’-

    You and Dina are spot-on…and I AM that vaudeville performer !

    Alas, Lempicka sends me into the bushes to puke [or at least, it did the first time I sniffed it]- but I feel that CR does have immortelle in it.

    I love CR and Sables, along with the Eau Noire [ although I feel that the EN is a bit less complex, and not as long-lasting, therefore I haven’t splurged on it] for that deeply sweet /astringent quirkiness.

    Be well, beauties…\:d/

  3. So, Chaya, m’girl, wave that fishtail, empty L into the bushes (or give it to somebody who loves it), fill the mermaidy bottle with Sables, and give us another song full of innuendo….

    Sorry, March, that was completely off topic, but I couldn’t resist!

  4. Dinazad and Chaya — I was surprised by how many people loved that bottle; I\’ve only seen photos, but — ugh.

    Great observations about Chypre Rouge. I debated including it in this post, but I can\’t find a single reference anywhere to immortelle. You\’re right, though — after the opening, there\’s a long stretch that is very Eau Noire-ish, and if that isn\’t immortelle I don\’t know what else it could be.

    L was a funny duck for me; I loathe big vanillas, and I know that\’s the common complaint re: L. Somehow I get more immortelle/spices and little vanilla, thank goodness.

  5. I *adore* immortelle! Besides Eau Noire and Sables, I also love it in Cuir Beluga. Sure, there’s no apparent leather there but there’s immortelle, and I’m happy. ūüė°

  6. Looks like I love immortelle, I just didn’t know it! Great write-up, thanks March.

  7. Well I for one love L; then again I do like vanilla. Still the beginning of this for me is the beautiful cinnamon laced citruss then it becomes the beautiful smoky immortelle middle which has a hint of nag champa going for it, then the dry down of the enveloping salty vanilla musk. One of my favorite discoveries this year and in all my tawdriness do like the packaging.

  8. Eau Noire and L sound fantastic. Sables sounds like it would be fantastic in the bottle and would be headache inducing otherwise. 36 hours…yipes.

  9. Agree with Marina–either it’s there in Chypre Rouge (which smells like Eau Noire to me at one point) or something very similar is. I made the mistake of trying Sables in the summer and hated it; liked it better in the winter, but not enough to buy a FB. DH calls it Eau de Log Cabin.

  10. I wish I loved that maple syrup smell, but alas, I do not. I barely put it on waffles or pancakes or french toast. When I smelled it in Sables, my first impulse was to wash it off completely.

    Sorry, March! However, I will test L, but I never seem to see it around. And, I like that little mermaid bottle. :”>

    Hugs!

  11. Marina — perception of fragrance is so interesting. I get no licorice at all from Chypre Rouge. Also, P and I mostly like the same things, but she thought it was just awful.

  12. Ina — I swapped my sample of Beluga awhile ago (I was disappointed in all of the first set.) I need to get another and look for the immortelle. I guess I was so disappointed about the cuir aspect I couldn’t move on.

  13. Sariah — well, props to you. You’re the one who pointed out to me how similar CR and Noire were when we got together.

  14. Jennifer — L is becoming one of my regulars right now… I love your description of it! I can’t fairly criticize the bottle b/c I’ve never seen it in person. It’s not like my standards are so high — I love the Betsey Johnson bottle, and look how ridiculous THAT is.

  15. March – you’ve intrigued me again! Meant to test these this summer, but never got around to it – and it’s probably better in cooler weather anyway. I think Bois de Jasmin said a while back that immortelle has also been compared to fenugreek – sort of herbal and mapley at the same time. I took that as a supplement while nursing my kids and it made me (my skin and sweat) smell like that too. It was strange, but not unpleasant. So, I’d still love to do a comparison. Plus my first smelled just like this when she was born – never smelled something so strange or strangely compelling ever since. Wonder if she just smelled like immortelle? I’ll have to hunt these down to figure it out!

  16. Christine — my Sables routine is always the same. For the first half-hour I say, isn’t that GREAT?!?! Three hours later I’m getting tired. The next day I’m ready to move to another planet.:d

  17. Judith — yes — per my comment to Chaya — I think there has to be immortelle in CR; what else could it be? But I looked around before this post and can’t see any acknowledgement of that on anything related to CR notes (which are pretty vague and poetic to start with). If something that odd and distinctive is in there, why won’t they admit it? I do think that the rest of CR is so odd and dark (although I like it) it’s one of the stranger fragrances I have smelled. Noire is more wearable. Sables I am guessing I won’t be buying unless/until I can figure out a way to stifle it a bit. I walked through the spray once, which I do with heavier perfumes … big mistake.

  18. Vi — I’ve never seen L around anywhere, not sure why that is (everyone has the original LL, which I don’t particularly like). I only tried it because P sent me a sample. It does strike me as something you might like, based on my idea of what works for you.

  19. BBliss — fenugreek is another reference I’ve seen mentioned, but I have not smelled it and thus cannot judge. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear it came through your skin; many herbs and seasonings do. I wonder if your baby smelled of immortelle because of your breastmilk? In any case, babies do smell wonderful…. sigh. Now that mine are bigger I’m reduced to sniffing other people’s babies. Pathetic.

  20. For years I didn’t know what that slightly syrupy note was in Sables that I loved- on me it wasn’t maple, it was a combination of caramel, tobacco and whiskey that I loved (even unto the next morning), but saved for winters in New York (where I originally bought it). I have a full bottle but I find myself wearing it rather rarely in LA, since we rarely get the kind of weather during which I need it’s embrace. Although this is supposed to be an “el Nino” year, so perhaps well get enough cold and wet to make me seek it out.

    I swear there’s Immortelle in Chypre Rouge as well as Marnadrine-Mandarin, even if I can’t find a reference to it.

  21. Ditto on the Sables & Duel. Don’t know why L made so little impression on me, but will take your advice and give it another try.

  22. Great article March – I adore immortelle, a top five note for me. I just bought the world’s most giantest bottle of Eau Noire on ebay – it’s one of my new faves. Love Sables too, as it’s one of the few AGs that doesn’t instantly vanish on me. Turin describes immortelle as “an odd fenugreek-smell half-way between curry and burnt sugar”, which I think is dead-on. As I have mentioned, I think fenugreek is used to flavour the artificial versions of maple syrup , so it all ties together.

  23. Sables is the bomb. I keep thinking about it and wondering if I could cut it with something else so it won’t last quite so long.

    L — YUCK!!!!! :((

  24. T — yeah, Sables really takes some cold weather. I agree that there’s immortelle in CR; have not smelled the MM yet, though.

  25. R — my guess is that whether you’d like L would depend entirely on how the ratio of immortelle/vanilla plays out on your skin. Without the immortelle, it would be pretty much dullsville, and too sweet.

  26. Tigs — your own bottle of Eau Noire — excellent!

    LT’s description is excellent… I’d forgotten about that artificial maple-syrup aspect. I’m a total maple syrup snob and don’t know nuthin’ about it.[-(

  27. P — you let me know when you find something to dim the wattage on the Sables, and I’m in.

    You must have bought that L unsniffed, it’s sooo not you. I know of an EXCELLENT home for your unloved bottle…8-|

  28. Sables is one of those scents I feel I really *should* like and have been trying off and on for over 15 years now. Still haven’t bought a full bottle.
    I would love to smell straight immortelle oil and play w/ layering it.

  29. Elle — yeah, I should like it too. Maybe they’ll make Sables Light and we can get onboard. I’ve tried killing it off with various things (like leather) but I can’t get it light enough to be wearable, although I DO think it’s a fantastic scent! Just 3x too strong.

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