The Big Cheese and I like wine. We’re volume consumers, buying it by the case and drinking it with lunch and dinner, and our price point is around $10 a bottle ($7 on sale.) If someone serves me a glass of something better I enjoy it, but my palate isn’t sophisticated enough, at least at this point, to be able to tell the difference.
But I don’t begrudge anyone their pricier bottles of wine, because I assume it’s providing them with a corresponding amount of pleasure. When conversation on here and elsewhere drifts toward guilt about how much we spend on the frivolity of perfume, and how we already have more than we could wear in a lifetime, I shrug. Perfume, ounce for ounce, still provides me with the great sybaritic pleasure in my life. At the start (or the end) of a miserable January day, is there anything more wonderful than the smell of Serge Lutens’ Fleurs d’Oranger? What could possibly make a perfumista happier in the moment than a whiff of one’s sillage of Timbuktu, or Shalimar, or Vetiver Tonka, or (name your poison, or Poison, here)?
Annick Goutal‘s latest release, Ninfeo Mio, is inspired by and named after the Gardens of Ninfa in Italy, about 40 miles southeast of Rome, and if you’d like to break your own heart right now, here’s a link to some pictures. (Has anyone been there? Is it that spectacular in person?) The notes are Italian lemon, citron, petitgrain, bitter orange, galbanum, lentisque, conifers, lavender, fig leaf, and lemon tree (as interpreted by me from the press kit), and it was done by Isabelle Doyen.
Ninfeo Mio opens on a bright, citrusy, slightly peppery burst that smells very Goutal to me, so you sort of know who you’re sniffing, and on a cold January day it’s a smell of such infinite cheer it brought a smile to my face. If it stopped right there I’d still love it for its unadorned happiness, but it doesn’t. It just keeps getting better. There’s a green twist of galbanum that is perfectly sharp – astringent but not too bitter – overlaying a woody, herbaceous middle (lentisque, or lentisc, which smells woody/resiny to me); the lavender is very subtle and I wouldn’t have guessed it. If I hadn’t already loved it, the fig would have cinched the deal. The galbanum becomes enveloped in a really interesting sweet/milky note, which I assume must have something to do with the fig. The drydown is spectacular, a woody, leafy, musky/resin base with fig and another note that smells, weirdly, like green mangoes to me. (Here’s a link to Octavian’s review, where he discusses the scent in more interesting technical detail than I’ll ever manage, he mentions lactones and the smell of mango leaf oil, among other things.) As the fragrance dries down it deepens and becomes more complex, and it’s pretty robust for a Goutal, with good lasting power.
I don’t have any other scent just like this, and the only one I can think of that is vaguely comparable is Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. But they don’t really smell alike, any more than two rose scents do – Sur Le Nil is more bitter, dry and peppery (and much as I try to love it, there’s something in there that starts to bug me after a couple of hours.) Sur Le Nil also smells, for lack of a better term, more “perfume-y” – it smells more like a Hermes-inflected statement about a place via perfume, whereas Ninfeo Mio smells, accurately or not, more like the essence-notes of the place itself.
Grain de Musc once categorized many AG scents (in general terms) as either more sophisticated “mother” scents, like Passion, or more lighthearted “daughter” scents like Camille. It was an idea that resonated with me. I’m now going to climb out on a limb and suggest that Ninfeo Mio bridges that gap, growing up as it progresses. While the top notes are full of youthful exuberance (that aha! moment when you see something that delights) there’s a woody/herbaceous dryness throughout and a drydown that is rich and sophisticated and fully adult.
In terms of feel, I’d place this between Mandragore and the original Hadrien, probably, although Ninfeo Mio is rounder and more complex and certainly heavier (and they all smell quite different) – and I should note that, having tried it as many as three times in one day, there’s a faint but definite urinous note on my skin after the top notes fade, boxwoody would be the more delicate term, that bothers me not one bit, it fits in with the herbaceous-woody aspect of the scent. But if you have trouble with that sort of thing, particularly in Mandragore, I’d be cautious about buying this unsniffed. Me, I’m delighted that one of my favorite “wearable” houses made a scent with fig in it.
The bottle is frosted glass, like Mandragore, in a pale gray-green that is supposed to evoke the leaves of the garden reflected in the Ninfeo river. It appears either light sea-glass green or grayish depending on the light, and it’s lovely. It’s available in the round bottle in 50ml and 100ml, and the square in 100ml. The bottle selection should give a hint: I’d define this as unisex, in the same way that Mandragore and Hadrien are unisex, although the drydown is richer and sweeter.
If you’re not a fan of the line, Ninfeo Mio probably isn’t going to convert you – it retains what I think of as the quintessential Annick Goutal charm, certainly more so than Les Orientalistes (which I liked very much) or Un Matin d’Orage (which … I didn’t.) But if you like some of the “classic” AGs, particularly the citrusy/aromatic ones, or if like me you can’t get enough fig in your world, this would be worth investigating. The scent is supposed to be released in the US in February. If you’re curious about it I’d suggest calling Tom at the Annick Goutal counter at Bergdorf in NYC, I think he gets things in on the early side, and he’s great to deal with.
For another perspective on this scent, be sure to check out Robin’s review on Now Smell This today – she’s another fig fan, and she liked it too.
Disclosure (which we’re supposed to do now under the new FTC rules, more about that on Wednesday): I received my preview bottle from the US distributor for Annick Goutal.