My Interminable Nattering About Annick Goutal

Bowl of Roses, Henri Fantin-Latour

By March

It must have been twenty years ago, at least, but I can remember it in such detail – one of those summer sunsets that made it clear why New Mexico’s called the Land of Enchantment. There’d been a storm earlier, and the air was filled with familiar scents of resin and rain. I’d dipped inside the house, a crumbling adobe on the East Side of Santa Fe, rented by a wildly attractive boho-chic woman I knew only a little and whose style I very much admired. On a trip to the bathroom via her bedroom, I saw she had a bottle of scent on her bureau, and in a rush of inchoate desire I grabbed it and spritzed it on. I recognized the smell immediately as her signature, and hurried to wash it off as best as I could, right there in the tile basin. I was ashamed; I felt like I’d rifled through her lingerie drawer.

It wasn’t until eons later – just a few years ago, in fact – I remembered that bottle, and that moment, and knew what the fragrance was – Annick Goutal’s Passion (I’d become a bit of an AG fangirl by then.) Looking back, it seems like an odd choice for Santa Fe, but what do I know? She also lugged everything around in a beat-up old leather satchel I suspect was some wildly expensive bag I was too dim to recognize. Maybe her lover gave it to her in Paris, along with the perfume.

If you’ve read this far and you’re already holding your hands up, staving evil off with a Gallic merci, non gesture – it’s okay, I understand. Annick Goutal is definitely a house that comes up when people mention skin chemistry, or bottles going off, which is an infinitely more genteel thing to say than my god, that thing smells like wet roadkill.   We’ll simply agree to disagree. Anyway, if you look past the popular niche /oddball AG outliers like Duel, Fier, and Sables, my favorite Goutal scents fall into two general camps: 1) the zaftig, billowy diva frags like Passion, Songes, and Grand Amour; and 2) the grassfed herd of herbaceous, petitgrain-rich, and/or citrus-aromatic scents like Hadrien, Le Chevrefeuille, Camille, Mandragore, Eau du Sud, etc. etc. Many of these have a bitter note somewhere that is, like tonic water, an acquired taste; I can’t really do the uncompromising, stylized greenness of Vent Vert or Jacomo Silences, but there’s something about a romp through the trampled foliage with Annick that absolutely delights me. Eau du Sud and Mandragore are probably my personal favorites, although I have several 15ml minis I’m almost as likely to reach for, especially in the spring or the heat of summer. Annick Goutal fragrances remind me of the French manner in flower-arranging – a studied nonchalance that belies a quiet, formal structure. It’s a look I find incredibly compelling, in flowers and in perfumery.

 * * *

Nuit Étoilée – via Fragrantica: — “inspired by the moonlight, starry skies, cool scent of woods and enjoyment in nature and solitude. The EDP edition is more sensual with the additional notes of iris and amber. Top notes: citron, orange and peppermint. Heart: pine, fir resin and iris. Base: amber, angelica, tonka and immortelle. “ Everyone hated this, right? I think the general response ranged from eh to meh to bleh.   Certainly the dramatic Van Gogh-inspired starry night reference, and that gorgeous blue bottle, raised (and then dashed) expectations. Also, it’s scent-cousins with Mandragore, a scent I wear so much I’ve needed to replace the bottle several times.*   Nuit Étoilée smells like the love child of Mandragore and Noel (an AG florist-chiller ambient spray I’m wild for), with a clean resin base. I’d have called it Lumière Bleue. Whatever, I’ll be wearing the hell out of this, everyone else is wrongggggg my precioussssss MORE FOR ME.

Mon Parfum Chéri par Camillepatchouli, iris, violet, plum, heliotrope. I love the story behind this one, featuring a perfume solid compact given to Annick (by Colette, no less) which became the inspiration for this fragrance. “As Annick Goutal dedicated the Petite Chérie perfume to her daughter, now it is Camille’s turn to honor the eternal beauty of her mother.” (notes via the AG website.) Unfortunately, the story and the notes are my favorite part; the fragrance itself I just can’t get behind, which is hugely frustrating – this has been quite the hit, at least among our people. Both Jessica at Now Smell This and Denyse at Grain de Musc have compared it to Femme (the vintage, not the new), and Femme was indeed the first thing I thought of. Frankly, their reviews are more eloquent than anything I’ll write here, so you should read them if you’re curious. I’ve tried decants from two separate sources, and next time I run across a bottle I’ll sample it. I like vintage Femme a lot, although it’s not something I reach for often, and Mon Parfum Cheri is even stronger. But there’s a darkness in the drydown which I find oppressively mournful rather than alluring, and I don’t know what the hell my problem is.


*A bit of a running joke for me – any number of disgruntled perfumistas have mailed/given me their bottles of Mandragore, with notes along the lines of You love it so much, YOU wear it. Well, that’ll teach you to buy blind based on one stupid review, won’t it? No? Me neither.

inset painting: Branch with Almond Blossom, Vincent van Gogh


Ivan April 23, 2015

Love your review. I own both Sables and Nuit Etoileé. I usually wear Sables as my hard side personality and Nuit Etoileé as my poetic philosofical side personslity. I love them both. Perhaps my love for them is because I bought them in Paris in October and had glorious romantic moments with the woman I have loved for 26 years to whom I'm happily married. Love "inmortelle" and "fir". What can I say?? Love your review

Lellabelle April 23, 2015

LOL. I like AG too. Nuit Etoille is lovely and under appreciated IMHO. A moonlight romp in a forest, wild mint underfoot, and the occasional waft of cat urine ;) Not the domestic "I hate you because you went out all day and so I peed in the corner behind the sofa where you'll never find it and wander aimlessly through the house trying to find my indiscretion", but rather a light feral undercurrent, like a jaguar marking its favourite spot in the glen. It's also light enough to wear liberally without offending people on the other side of the street. My bottle is only a year or so old, and no signs of turning yet ;). Great site!

sarah patton April 11, 2015

Hi March! I haven't been on in a while but was cruising through and so pleased to read your posts. This review and the later one on AG are wonderful. You're really a gifted writer. Still enjoying the Mandragore I see! There is an amazing perfume shop in Geneva that I've been going to and I always imagine how much more fun it would be if you were there.

Sun Mi Fontaine April 5, 2015

I haven't tried many AGs yet - only Songes EDP which was a bit too intense for me. I really really really want to try L'Ile au The as the notes sound fabulous and I have a personal connection to Cheju Island, from which it was inspired. Have you tried that one yet?

furriner April 3, 2015

I have lots of Goutals. Mandragore is the only perfume I can wear to bed. I have both versions of Nuit Étoilée. The edp is better, I agree with you. The edt for some reason reminds me of backyard swimming pools (and blow-up toys) from the '60s. I like Mon Parfum Chéri par Camille a lot, though don't wear it a ton. I've only tried the edt. I've heard the edp is really oppressive. Which did you sample?

Hamamelis April 3, 2015

Since a few weeks I have fallen deeply in love with Heure. I have other Goutals which I like and love (Sables, Encens Flamboyant and Songes), but Heure I love above all other Goutals, and at this point in time above all others...

Eloquaint April 2, 2015

I love both Fier and Sables. But Heure was a gift from my then SiL in 2001, and it was my signature, with occasional detours through Mitsouko, #5, and Angel, for at least a decade. It's still THE perfume that my husband, fifteen years into our marriage, says smells like his girl. I could never replace that, so Heure will always have a place in my heart-and a bottle on my dressing table.

ElizaC April 2, 2015

Must wear my Le Chevrefeuille today! One of my first perfume fragrances and sooo perfect this time of year.

Winterlude April 2, 2015

I am new to all this, my experience comes entirely from the Classic and Niche Sampler set (part 1) from Surrender to Chance, which includes………Mandragore! I love it, unfortunately on me it seems to disappear in a matter of hours.

mikasminion April 1, 2015

Argh! The page keeps refreshing and eating my too-long and very nostalgic post. Guess that lets y'all off the hook ;) my favorite AGs are Duel, Nuit Etoile, Ce Soir Au Jamais (smells to me like fuzzy kittens, why is that?), Eau de Fier, and Nuits D'Hadrien. I know I like Mandragore but haven't sampled it for a while so can't bring it clearly to mind. Guess what I'm gonna wear this afternoon?

Kathryn April 1, 2015

Mostly I like the AGs with soft edges (Songes, Ninfeo Mio), but after reading this I sprayed on some Mandragore just for fun. And, lol, this time I liked it! Maybe it has mellowed in all those years it's been waiting for me in that pretty bottle. Or maybe it's me that mellowed. Who knows? At any rate, now I think I'll have to give Nuit Etoilee a try. It could be just the thing for watching the Perseid meteor showers next August, always a high point in my year. I hope this post means that you are back. I love your writing and have missed it a lot.

Nina Z April 1, 2015

March, dare I ask? Are you back? I so missed your contributions to this blog. I just love your writing. As far as Annick Goutal goes, I'm a big fan. This line works well with my skin as well as my nose (so many modern lines don't). I have bottles of Heure Exquise, Musc Nomade, Songes, and Neroli (the most uplifting fragrance I've ever smelled). And I think if I lived in a climate where it actually got hot in the summer, I'd go for some of those bitter/refreshing scents that you love.

odonata9 April 1, 2015

I really like AG. The first sample I ever bought was Le Chevrefeuille. I love it and only have a decant now, but really should buy a bottle since it is discontinued and hard to find (ebay or beautyencounter, if anyone is looking!). I also have a bottle of Nuit Etiolee, so you aren't the only fan. The blue bottle is so beautiful. I think the backstory had people hyped up for one thing, and then the juice itself didn't match their expectations. I like it though! I like Duel and almost bought a bottle, but my husband realy really dislikes it.

Mary K April 1, 2015

I love many of the Annick Goutals and was glad to see your article about this house. I'm wearing something AG today (Folavril). Others that I enjoy include Eau De Charlotte, Mandragore, Un Matin d'Orage, Le Mimosa and Vent de Folie. I have no problem with the lighter ones staying on me.

imapirate007 April 1, 2015

I've loved Passion for many years, and either it was my chemistry or their reformulation that stopped working, and I always ask if anyone has any recommendations of something like it. I also loved their Extrait D'Annick- certainly nothing like that our there now! The only Goutals that seem to have a long shelf life is the "Les Orientalistes" line. I'm curious about I'le Au Thé

Megan April 1, 2015

Love love love AG. My favs are Ambre Fetiche, Mon Parfum Cheri, Heure Exquise, Songes and Ninfeo Mio but actually I like nearly every one I try and am keen to smell the new tea. I don't seem to have problems with longevity and Sables is the scent that you can't get rid of I like it but as the boys would say on YouTube - it's a beast!

Pixel April 1, 2015

I love Nuit Etoilee! It's Christmas in a bottle for me. It doesn't last long, but hey, it's a big bottle, I just spray again. And again. Eau d'Hadrien edt is about the only scent I can stand to wear when it's hot hot hot. And I like Ambre Fetiche a lot... not a fan of the divas though. I tried Mandragore edt recently and it disappeared so fast that I could not tell you what it smelled like. Perhaps I need to try the edp...

Dina C. April 1, 2015

AG Heure Exquise is the only full bottle of AG that I have. I love how it's as if No. 19 put on a warm, fuzzy cashmere sweater that a cat had been sleeping on. It's got that animalic note and the warmth that No. 19 doesn't. I also remember sampling Ninfeo Mio when it came out. It's a pretty fig garden in Rome. I need to sample it again in order to remember how I felt about it. I need to sample many more of the AGs. Mandragore sounds intriguing, plus it's the one in that cool purple bottle. Thanks for the great blog, March!

Diana April 1, 2015

Ambre Fetiche rocks! That's the only AG that I have found that I really, REALLY enjoy.

malsnano86 April 1, 2015

AG is kind of all over the place with me - I like quite a few of them, but the only bottle I own is Petite Cherie. (SHUT UP ALREADY AND DON'T SAY NOTHIN' BAD ABOUT MY BABY. It smells like a specific childhood memory for me and I love to sleep in it in summer.) I do have a decant of Heure Exquise, which is lovely but I honestly wear my No. 19 far far more often. Songes and Matin d'Orage are wonderful; I enjoy Gardenia Passion and La Violette. Surprised myself by finding Nuit Etoilee kind of nice. I agree it's got something in common with Mandragore, which I also liked but never wore so passed on my 15ml to someone else. I like that calm herbal thing, though I admit that I really prefer the super-green florals like Silences. What else? Oh yes, Eau du Ciel - I have a mini of that, and it smells to me like cotton sheets dried outside in the sunshine. Don't wear it often, though. And I love my Noel candles. I sort of hate Passion. I do hate Duel. I really hate Cheri EW MAKE THE SIGN OF THE CROSS AGAINST THE PATCH BOMB GEDDITOFFME. Sounds like I really should try Ce Soir ou Jamais... hmm. Maybe I have a vial of it somewhere in The Sample Quicksand... So great to have you filling in for Anita again, March. I'm kinda wishing for regular posts from both of you. :)

Tara C April 1, 2015

My favorites are the Orientalistes (all of them), Nuit Etoilee, Mon Parfum Cheri par Camille and Songes. I like Mandragore but it lasts 15 minutes on me.

Kandice April 1, 2015

I've loved some of the AG line for a long time. My favorites are Gardenia Passion and Un Matin D'Orage. I tend to favor the more floral scents. I agree with Poodle. My only complaint is that they don't last long on me. But they are so pretty it's hard to care. I just keep spritzing :-)

eldarwen22 April 1, 2015

You know, I have decants of Gardenia Passion and Songes that I haven't even worn yet. I don't know why I haven't been looking in my unworn, not reviewed bag but I am thinking that at this point, it seems like I have just about everything that I need in my collection. And I am so easily sidetracked and hyper focused on the same handfuls of perfume.

caseymaureen April 1, 2015

It was AG Songes which first lured me to less commercially ubiquitous perfume, then Un Matin d'Orage (very appropriate at any time of year in England) and Ambre Fetiche followed in quick succession. However my true love is Ninfeo Mio which transports me to an Italian garden at any time of year but particularly in spring and summer. I'm lucky to have skin which doesn't tip it over into eau de cat pee, it hovers on the edge from time to time but I love it more for that!

Caroline April 1, 2015

Years ago I had an infatuation with Eau de Charlotte. Still have the bottle, but my tastes seem to have changed. Also own Neroli, which is a perfect spring scent, and the iconic Hadrien. The one I see get all the love on blogs is Heure Exquise, of which I have a sample & need to revisit. Mon Parfum Cheri was too patch-intensive for me, and Songes is on my try list. The NM skies and vast scenery are an enjoyable aspect of the Better Call Saul tv show!

FeralJasmine April 1, 2015

Living in Mew Mexico is beautifully weird; thanks for reminding me why I live here. I have a great big bottle and a back-up bottle of Songes, but you make me realize that I also have 100ml of Gardenia Passion that I haven't touched for a couple of years. I am going to haul it out and see why I shoved it to the back of the cabinet. If, in fact, there was any reason at all and it wasn't just a bad day that I've long since forgotten about.

Michele42 April 1, 2015

Long time reader, first time commenter :) Oh my...once you mentioned Nuit Etoilee, I had to write. I just love this fragrance. It was actually my first Goutal, and remember all the bad reviews. I bought it anyway. Somehow it just works for me - I get such a fresh, piney, wintery dry down. It's one of my favorite Winter perfumes.

Hana April 1, 2015

I really missed your writing! I like quite a few Goutals: Eau d'Hadrien, Un matin d'orage, but also Songes edp.

rosarita April 1, 2015

Well, about Goutal I shall stay silent, but it's so nice to see you again, March. Your writing is always entertaining and insightful; my husband and I have been planning a vacation in New Mexico for ages, and I really reading your experience :)

Portia April 1, 2015

Heya March!! I love Annick Goutal and have a bunch of them too. Un Matin d`Orage is my favourite but Ambre Fetiche and Songes are close behind. Mandragore Pourpe is my fave of that line but I have the original too. Portia xx

poodle April 1, 2015

I like Mandragore. I just wish it would last a bit longer which is my main gripe with this line. There are a few others I've sniffed that I like but haven't fallen in love yet. I'm sure someday I'll have at least one bottle from AG in the collection. I just need to find the one for me.

AllGirlMafia April 1, 2015

I love Goutal! Easily one of my favorite houses though I admit- I do stay on what you referred to as the 'diva' side of the house. Grand Amour, Eau Charlotte, Heure Exquise and Mon Parfum Cheri are favorites. My boyfriend strongly dislikes MP Cheri. I leaned in a few weeks ago and asked if he liked my perfume, he wrinkled his nose and shook his head. He had the same reaction a year ago when I asked him. Oh well!

Gina April 1, 2015

You've reminded me I need to try Nuit Étoilée. I adore Mandragore; it smells to me like shady cold springs full of wild mint and watercress. Thank you for your reviews.

Maya April 1, 2015

This was a fun read! You have inspired me to try Annick Goutal. She never really caught my interest before. Who knows, I may even like a few and if they're the less popular ones, so much the better. ;)