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!