Annick Goutal Duel

By March

Over Easter weekend we did that classic mid-Atlantic bump from the rainy mid-50s to the sunny mid-80s in a single day.  I was on the eastern shore of Maryland to stay with the country cousins, during which I ate more food than I have in the last three months – steamed spiced shrimp (with Old Bay seasoning, natch), fried chicken, grilled lamb, a baked ham, Brussels sprouts and asparagus, new potatoes, on and on and on.  And white rolls and sweet potato biscuits, of course.  If there’s a heaven, and I get there, the menu will look something like that.

So it seemed like time to test-drive the five new Jo Malone tea scents, about which I’ve read somewhat mixed reviews.  I went to Bloomingdales to try them – you know, now that it’s warmed up enough in D.C. to put away the wool sweaters – and they are … sold out already, Jo Malone apparently having caught the Limited Edition bug in a bad way.  They’ve still got the Assam/grapefruit, the mint, and the cucumber ones online; the lemon and sweet milk ones are already gone — or, more precisely, being scalped on eBay.  The lemon one sounded dreadful (pineapple and peach? bleargh) but I was looking forward to the others.  Twenty dollars says they’ll be reissued in a year or two, like her wildly popular Kohdo wood collection.  In the meantime, today I raise my porcelain teacup in a toast to the perfume I took to the shore with me, which is Annick Goutal Duel.

Remember Duel?   No, not the maple-syrup one, that’s Sables.  Duel’s the maté-tea one.  Lasts for 92 seconds?  That’s the big complaint – Duel is great, but unless you’re going to wear some constant-delivery system, maybe a bottle built into your sunhat, what’s the point?  Even the Goutal website refers to it as a “skin scent.”  Well, I don’t know if what’s changed is the formula or my nose, but recently my spritzes of Duel seem to last the entire day.  Notes are petitgrain, absinthe, maté tea, heather, iris, leather, musk, tobacco.

Wait, I have to paste this hilarious blather from Nordstrom in: “Duel is a fragrance designed for men who wish they could go back in time to fight in a duel to defend one’s honor and love. Duel is a fresh woody fragrance with a hint of leather musk and tobacco.” Who gets drunk and writes this stuff?  I’m going to fight to defend Duel’s honor myself by pointing out that it’s unisex (rather than “masculine”) and there’s nothing retro about it.

Like a lot of Goutals, Duel is a little sharp at the top – the rootiness of iris, some sour green citrus notes, and then there’s the maté tea, in this case a red-brown smell that registers between oolong and roiboos, a little grassy, with a hint of carrots.  The drydown is very smooth: a wisp of tobacco, and no perceptible leather.  In other words, despite that list of notes, this is really more of a summer-tea scent than anything else, closer to the Bulgari teas (but more complex) or maybe de Nicolai’s Fig-Tea (only much less sweet.)  It’s as refreshing as the big glass of unsweetened herbal-mint and black tea I had before my bike ride in the heat, before my nap and some more fried chicken.

Duel, like Sables, seems to vary pretty widely in its distribution in the U.S. – sometimes it’s there at places like Saks, sometimes not.  If you like tea scents, it’s well worth seeking out.  I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried it recently whether I’m nuts about the lasting power being so much better now.

Sample source:  private samples from two different sources, both alleged to be of recent vintage, plus a travel bottle of uncertain age.

Finally, here’s some feedback on Tauer Zeta from Francesca, i.e., someone who’s smelled actual linden (and who won a sample on our draw):  “It’s very very true to the fragrance of real linden blossoms. And perhaps even to the smell of linden blossom honey. Now, I have to say, I’m not usually a big fan of linden or honey notes in fragrances, but this one is just so true. There’s quite a blast of citrus right at the beginning, but that goes away in moments. And I’m getting a bit of that Tauer, what is it, creosote? which really enhances the linden. It’s dried down into great subtlety…. As delicately as it dried down, it was still noticeable after three handwashings.  I used to collect lindenflowers from the park and dry them out, and then make tea with lindenflower honey, which is just—lindorama. Zeta is really the best linden scent I’ve sniffed.” Thanks, Francesca!

  • Victoria says:

    March, I love that you are reviewing these forgotten favorites (well, maybe not forgotten, but rather underrated.) Duel is wonderful, and even if it is ethereal, it is splendid in its green tea and soft leather accord. Ethereal, yet with character, which in itself unique!

  • Marla says:

    Well, you got me to try the AGs again, and I’m completely stuck on Mandragore Pourpre, especially since I’m now in the tropics, those bitter/herbal/weird scents are gorgeous here. Never tried Duel, so now of course, I must!

    • March says:

      Duel IMO is a must-try if you like tea scents at all. And any friend of Mandragore, as you know, is a friend of mine. 😡

  • cymbaline says:

    I haven’t tried Duel or the Jo Malone’s. Maybe at Sniffapalooza this weekend. Just wanted to chime in on the Andy Tauer Zeta. I totally agree with Francesca. It is a wonderful, soft perfume and as soon as I’m sure I haven’t won any free bottles I’m certainly going to place my order!

  • odonata9 says:

    Wearing The Pour un Ete today, so I was in a tea mood as well and was thinking that I wanted a bottle of Duel – I just have a sample. You can get 100ml for about $50 on Amazon!

    And I do miss East Coast style seafood – trying to get spiced shrimp or fried clams or decent crab cakes is difficult in San Diego, althought there is plenty of fresh fish around. But I’ve got my tin of Old Bay, so I make the shrimp myself – maybe I’ll have some this weekend!

    • odonata9 says:

      And I tried the Jo Malone teas last wee – Assam & Grapefruit is the best of the bunch. Very similar to Osmanthe Yunnan, but I only have a decant of that and the JM is much cheaper, so I almost rationalized my way into a bottle. But I didn’t. The SA also said they didn’t have samples of the tea scents.

      • March says:

        Hm. Well, I might pop over to Tysons and try it, that one seems like the winner… in this group. Funny, it’s one of the ones still available online.

    • March says:

      Wow, I had NO IDEA that Duel could be had so cheaply. Well, well worth it. I should get a big bottle, the way I’m working through my little one.

      Yeah, that’s the great thing about Old Bay — if you can get the shrimp you’re all set. Since I grew up here I forget that not everyone knows about it. I’ve made some converts.

  • Tom says:

    Weird- I thought I had posted already.

    I like Duel, but I like the idea of the meal even better! :d

  • AnnieA says:

    Any Jo Malone bath oil suggestions? Finishing up a bottle of the French lime blossom and was considering either the Red roses or the Wild fig…

  • Dante's Bra says:

    Duel is perfect on paper to me, but on my skin the absinthe gets all minty and lasts for about, oh, two weeks.

    But I found another tea scent I like: Five o’clock at Belvoir Castle, from anthropologie– part of that Novel Collection set. Bergamot and moss, crisp and clear on top and lovely tea/sandalwood drydown, sheer and lovely and lasts a while, too! Plus it’s relatively cheap– you can just buy one of the solid pencils for ten bucks!

    I don’t like many tea scents, but this one is grrrreeeat!

    • Musette says:

      this is what I get for scannin’ other folks’s comments. For a hot minute I thought you were on your way to tea at the Beev! 😮

      You make that sound lovely, the anthro tea scent. At 10 for a pencil, I think I just might….:-?

      xo >-)

    • March says:

      Yeah, I reviewed those, really liked a couple of them, I can’t remember which ones? The price was certainly right — even for the bottles I think they were $60ish? Which is practically free.

  • Robin says:

    The Jo Malones cannot stand up to Duel (bad pun, and not even really intended as one). Seriously, you did not miss much.

    • Robin says:

      But will also add…I don’t know why so many brands make huge quantities of their LEs so they’re hanging around forever. It looks bad. Smart move to pull them even if they didn’t sell, or make few enough of them that they sell out quickly.

      • March says:

        I agree, if it doesn’t actually seem “limited” that looks weird too, although (if these were any good) they’d be a great addition to the line.

    • March says:

      That’s the feeling I’m getting from comments today. But I want to try the one you liked.

  • Disteza says:

    I just wore Duel yesterday–coincidence much? Anyway, I also noticed that it seemed to last more then the usual 10 mintues, more like a few hours, but I chalked it up to the heat and humidity. Also, this is almost straight to dry-down (like the perfume equivalent of straight to DVD) on me–the rose and citrus whiff by so we can get down to the lovely tea and leather bits, which are truly light and enjoyable.

    BTW, Saks @ Tyson’s Galleria Still has the Malone Teas. I don’t think they’re all that, considering you have to walk past the By Killian Ouds to get to them though… =)

    • March says:

      Gah, trying to decide if a trip to Tysons through all that construction is worth it. Thanks for the tip! They always make it sound like you can’t get it anywhere else. 🙂

  • Kym says:

    Sweet Potato Biscuits???? Sign me up!

  • Angela says:

    Duel! One of my favorite tea scents. It feels sheer but still has body, if that’s possible. Also, I bought my 3.4 oz bottle last year online for something like $40, so it’s out there for a good price.

    I tried the Jo Malones and wasn’t tempted by any of them (although I still want a bottle of white jasmine and mint for summer.)

    • March says:

      Wow, that is a great deal on Duel! And you all are making me feel better about missing out on the JMs now. I was staring at a bottle of assam/grapefruit online, willing myself not to hit “purchase.” My unsniffed purchases rarely work out.

  • monkeytoe says:

    I am another who wanted to try the Assam and Grapefruit.

    I waffle between liking and loving Duel. Sometimes it is perfect and other times there is something just on the edge of the scent that ticks me off–a sharp raspiness that catches at that point where my nose and throat join–I don’t understand it. My bottle is about two years old or so and it lasts all day and into the morning for me, for what that is worth.

  • mals86 says:

    Still want to try the Assam & Grapefruit. Grrr. Still not interested in Duel…

    … but very interested in the Old Bay shrimp and the scent-spray hat.

    • mals86 says:

      You *are* going to invent that hat, right?

    • March says:

      Me too. The assam and grapefruit.

      Steamed spiced shrimp are incredibly easy to make btw. I mean, you steam the shrimp and throw some old bay on them. The Smell of Summer on the eastern shore… 😡

      The hat, I don’t know. I’m the scent-clinger. :d

  • Musette says:


    I believe I first tried Duel because of you 😕 I remember liking it but not really being knocked out by it – will revisit. The Goutals are ‘fence-y’ for me in terms of being on my radar: not quite light enough for cologne and a bit too light for what I consider perfume. I like a summer tea scent but prefer the spiciness of Agraria Bitter Orange, which is BACK! ^:)^

    Pavlov would be very proud of you, btw. But…where are the crab cakes? My salivary glands were waiting for the crab cakes!

    xo >-)

    • March says:

      I know, I know! The decision was made that the crab cakes were too much on top of everything else…. I didn’t even mention all the extra bakery items. My fingers smelled like Old Bay seasoning the entire weekend.

      Sounds like the AGs just aren’t really your thing, and that’s okay, go Bitter Orange. :)>-

  • DinaC says:

    I’m so glad you reviewed Duel because I haven’t sniffed that one, March, and now I’m interested in it. I do like tea scents. I recently received a sample of Dior’s Escale a Pondichery, and I like it. To me, it’s tea, bergamot and a touch of cardamon.

    Just this spring, both of my kids started liking iced tea to drink. This is a real victory to me, because I love tea, and my perception is that it’s more healthy than either Kool-aid or soda. I make my own from tea bags. Now I’m finding that a gallon is gone in just a few days. :-) Your spring break with the country cousins sounds so relaxing and delicious. Glad you had such a good time!

    • Musette says:

      A few days? 😮 Honey, you orta be in my house on a Sunday afternoon in June. A gallon is gone in a matter of an hour or two! El O is from the South! He takes his tea seriously! 😉

      xo >-)

      • Olfacta says:

        I make a gallon of iced tea every 2 or 3 days and drink most of it myself! I use an old Melitta cone, and add mint (from the yard) or other flavorings to the tea leaves as they brew. I guess the caffeine isn’t an issue, but sugar does odd things to me so I don’t sweeten it.

    • mals86 says:

      I think I make a gallon of decaf iced tea every other day! My kids are still big milk fans, but they like iced tea every now and then, and my husband rarely drinks anything else. We’re southerners, so it’s sweet tea, but I use about half a cup of sugar per gallon. Certainly that’s less sugar than Kool-Aid (which, IIRC, is 1 cup of sugar for 2 quarts)…

      • March says:

        lol. We’re far enough south here that you have to specify “ice tea” or “sweet tea” because of course they are separate entities.

    • March says:

      Yeah, I laughed too at “a few days.” We can polish off one of those jugs pretty fast. I did learn however NOT to make it with caffeinated tea. We do herbal or decaf.

      Pondichery is very pretty! And if you like tea scents, I think Duel’s a great one.

  • Ann says:

    Hi March, nice post. As a tea lover of the first order, I like Duel
    quite a bit, and I, too, find it more enjoyable than the Bulgaris, which tend to be a little too simple.
    I got samples of the Jo Malone tea collection when they first came out, and liked them fine, but not enough to chase any of them to the ends of the earth now for a full bottle.
    P.S. Speaking of tea, are you still enjoying the rooibos Winter Chai? Wasn’t sure if you drank it when the weather turned warm.

    • March says:

      Well, that makes me feel a little better about missing them. I really wanted to try the Assam/grapefruit.

      No, the chai thing (for me) is pretty much a cold-weather craving. I tend to drink iced coffee or tea in summer.

  • Louise says:

    I agree with you on the Malones, March-I am skeptikal about those quickly-sold-out LEs. I would like to sniff them, however, but can wait til they re-appear.

    I remember trying Duel several years ago-and having the disappearing act experience. I’m thinking it’s time to re-try, since my skin seems to hold scent a bit better of late.

    Tea or coffee sometime soon? : )

    • March says:

      soooooo annoyed. Also sales gal was extremely pushy (well, how about one of these other 27 Jo Malones?”)

      I’ll email ya–

  • Francesca says:

    I haven’t sniffed Duel for a while, but I remember liking it. Have to revisit.

  • Jarvis says:

    Hey, March! Duel was my very first Annick Goutal. I wore it exclusively for over a year. (Obviously this is before I became a perfume polygamist). I still love it.