Luck running my way: Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, and a review of reviews

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is one of the perfumes that induced complete perfume mania in  me, after years of dabbling. I’d read ecstatic comments about it on various blogs and forums, so I bought samples of both the EDT and EDP, and knew instantly that this was one of the most beautiful fragrances I had smelled and possibly ever would smell.

But somehow, as the samples ran down, I never got around replacing them or buying a full bottle. Other things caught my eye (you know how it is) and Goutal is one of the many brands which is a financial stretch for me. Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is not one of the more popular Goutals, so the discounters don’t always carry it.

Finally I noticed that Goutal has been phasing out the 50 ml bottles in many of its fragrances and realised I had to act. One hundred mls of Heure Exquise EDP – the concentration I prefer – is climbing up towards $150 with shipping, or much more if I buy it over the counter in Australia.

So after lurking and hunting for some time I learned to recognise a bargain, and last week I snapped up a half-used 100 ml bottle of the Annick Goutal Heure Exquise EDP on eBay. The cost, with shipping, was just under fifty bucks. Yay me!

It arrived today and happily, while the top notes may have turned a teeny bit, the perfume is in great condition. Because: even at that low price, the purchase had been a risk. A large, well-used bottle with no box may have sat one someone’s dressing table for a long time. In this case, the signs of wear on the labels around neck and on the bottom of the bottle suggest that this could be quite an old bottle. I’m lucky that it has survived so well but I shall have to keep it in the dark for the rest of its life.

I’m lucky in another way. If my bottle is, say, a decade or more older (the perfume was released in 1984), it may pre-dates any recent tweaks to the formula. It really could contain Mysore sandalwood, said to be the best in the world but now very scarce and expensive due to over-harvesting.

So what does it smell like? It smells exquisitely simple. According to Fragrantica there are only a few notes: orris, hyacinth, rose, galbanum, vanilla, and sandalwood. Some people add musk and vetiver. I find the EDP smoother and more long-lasting than the EDT, although the EDT perhaps has the bigger sillage initially. Both versions are very dry (I think), but I don’t think of powder so much as ‘sweet dust’ when I smell Heure Exquise.

There are many wonderful reviews of Annick Goutal Heure Exquise: start with Bois de Jasmin, The Non-Blonde and EauMG. Many reviewers, especially Perfumeshrine and The Muse in Wooden Shoes note the resemblance to Chanel No 19. The similarities are probably obvious to anyone who has a nose, Gaia remarks. A few people liken Heure Exquise to Guerlain’s Chamade, and Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am mentions Caron’s Parfum Sacre as a perfume similar in style, if not notes. Suzanne delights in the leathery aspect she finds in HE’s orris.

Tania Sanchez in Perfumes: the Guide is among several reviewers who note the animalic facets of Heure Exquise. She prefers it to all other Goutals, and to the ‘neurotic’ Chanel No 19. She likens HE to falling into a featherbed. I agree, but galbanum provides structure to that softness. Gentleness wrapped around strength is powerful and ultimately (I think) sexy combination.

Everyone notes the perfume’s romantic and nostalgic evocation of times past. While Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue conjures the fleeting beauty of twilight, as day deepens into night, I’d put Heure Exquise slightly earlier, at a moment when the sun’s rays still caresses the sky.

So: you’ve read all those reviews and you are STILL wondering what Heure Exquise smells like. No problem. It smells like this:

The poem is ‘La Lune Blanche’ (also known as ‘L’Heure Exquise’) by Paul Verlaine. The music by Reynaldo Hahn and the singer is Philippe Jaroussky. Click on Elena’s review on Perfumeshrine, above, for a translation of the verse.

nozknoz September 19, 2012

Ann-Marie, I think you're right about the desirability of an older bottle. I first owned this in the 1990s but gave it away when I moved. I replaced it three years ago, and I still adore it, but I think it was even better before and that your hypothesis about the sandalwood was my guess, as well. Enjoy!

Dionne September 18, 2012

The Engineer requested last year that I find a perfume that "smelled like grass," which I knew would take some doing, since so many green perfumes do NOT work for me. After a lot of sampling, I eventually discovered three that I loved, my "trio of green" and you guessed it, Heure Exquise was one of the three. Love it. When I drain my decant, it will definitely be full-bottle worthy, price be damned. And here's something interesting I just discovered that I find fascinating. I've got a friend I've been working with to find a perfume she can wear that doesn't trigger her husband's sensitivities, which have gotten worse with time. He's been excited himself, because he misses his wife wearing perfume, but hoo boy! It's been a challenge. We've tried all-natural perfumes, oil-based perfumes, all the different categories, and we had yet to find something that didn't provoke a reaction of sneezing/throat closing up/difficulty breathing. On Sunday I was wearing Heure Exquise, and just on a whim, got him to smell it....and ...... nothing. No reaction whatsoever. Considering his hay fever and reaction to florals, his wife and I did not expect that. You should have seen the delight in his face that we may have found something for her, especially since he thought it was a beautiful perfume.

Mals86 September 17, 2012

Heure Exquise is so lovely, and I'm glad it exists. I'm still not quite sure why I don't love it more than I do, except perhaps that I met No. 19 first. HE is so exquisitely gentle - which 19 is not!

Portia Turbo-Gear September 17, 2012

Hey Hey Sydney-ite! I love that Sidney Long painting and sometimes stand in front of it for half an hour lost in the rapture. It's probably down in Canberra for the Sydney Long exhibition or I would have made the trip again this week. I shall have to try this Goutal too. I love their work, Portia xx

Elizabeth Watson September 17, 2012

This was an enchanting read--thank you! Heure Exquise is my first and most beloved AG perfume, possibly the favorite of my entire perfume collection because it is gorgeous and I can wear it well. (Second favorite: Safari ?) I have been a huge fan of Phillipe Jaroussky since I heard him sing in Boston last year. And I agree: the perfume is much like the beauty of the song; thanks for posting it.

dinazad September 17, 2012

I don't know about the perfume.... but thank you for the music!

Ann September 17, 2012

Lovely post, Annemarie, and a delightful accompanying illustration. I thought I had a sample of this around here, so must find it now or get my hands on another. I don't think I ever tried it, so will definitely have to remedy that!

Suzanne September 17, 2012

AnneMarie, I'm so happy for you getting that half of a 100-ml bottle for $50! Heure Exquise is inexpressibly beautiful. I'll be forever grateful to Undina for introducing me to it, as I hadn't been much of an Annick Goutal fan previously (though I find myself lately become a convert). Enjoy your bottle, and thanks for including me in your lovely homage to HE. That illustration you chose is just magical (and the perfect choice)!

DinaC September 16, 2012

I love and have a bottle of Heure Exquise edp, so I'm delighted to read your review of it. I agree that it reminds me of No. 19, Chamade, both of which I love, and many other galbanum-rich green floral "cousins" like RL Safari. I think the slightly animalic notes in HE make it a fuzzier, warmer, cozier version of those cool, dry iris-centric florals. I recommend it strongly.

dissed September 16, 2012

Heure Exquise was my first favorite.

Lanier September 16, 2012

Oh how lucky you are! It sounds like a dream.