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 says:

    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!

    • annemariec says:

      Oh dear! I’m glad in my own account but sorry for your loss. I too have given away and lost perfumes when I’ve moved houses. Magie Noire, for instance, that I bought in the late 80s. Idiot!

  • Dionne says:

    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.

    • annemariec says:

      I’m intrigued as to what else was in your trio of green. A lot of fragrances claim to smell like cut grass, but I was thinking as I stood in my front garden last weekend, after the grass was cut, that I don’t know too many that actually do have that smell. Bel Respiro maybe? Vent Vert may claim to but don’t think it does. I’m sure Christopher Brosius must have done something.

      How wonderful about your friend’s husband and Heure Exquise. I wonder what it lacks in terms of allergens that other perfumes have? Anyway, you have dobel reason to love HE now.

      • Dionne says:

        My green trio is Heure Exquise, Silences and Bel Respiro, and you called it that Bel Respiro resembles grass the most in everything I tested – The Engineer says it fit what he was looking for. Demeter does a grass, but it goes too sweet on my skin to be lifelike, and Gap has a discontinued Grass that’s also quite nice.

        • annemariec says:

          Thanks, that’s interesting. Now that the warm weather has arrived where I live, I will get out my Bel Respiro. I think I agree with you that the smell of cut grass is not that sweet, but it may depend on the environmnent you live in. Some cut grass smells very juicy. But if it hasn’t rained for a while, the cut grass smell mingles with the dry earth underneath.

          I feel silly for not owning Silences when everyone raves about it; but I have just enver got around to replacing my sample.

  • Mals86 says:

    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!

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Mals, yes, and to me No 19 seems eternally modern whereas HE looks eternally to the past. The more I think about it, the odder it seems that HE came out in the 1980s. It is so NOT of its era. Angela’s review of Rabanne’s La Nuit is a reminer, as if we needed one!, of the prevailing style of 1980s perfumes

  • 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

    • annemariec says:

      Ha! It is indeed in Canberra for the National Gallery’s Sidney Long show. I live in Canberra and I went to see the exhibition a few weekends ago. Imagine – there is a whole room at the end full of Long’s flamingo pictures. Superb! I love a good flamingo.

      Hope you like the Goutal. I think you have a tester in DJs in the city.

  • 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.

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks for your comment. Isn’t the song – and the performance – an amaziong match with Heure Exquise? Glad you love it too.

  • dinazad says:

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

  • Ann says:

    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!

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Ann, hope you find your sample. Let there be love!

      Sadly, where I live, the selection of Goutals at my department store is limited, so I had to purchase samples.

  • Suzanne says:

    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)!

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Suzanne, and well done on that lovely review you wrote of Heure Exquise. Your analysis of how the notes work together is terrific.

      Funny, I’ve tried a lot of Goutals now, not all, but HE is the only one that really pulls my emotions.

  • DinaC says:

    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 says:

    Heure Exquise was my first favorite.

    • annemariec says:

      Then that makes it very special! Nothing can take the place of your first love, and Heure Exquise is certainly worthy.

  • Lanier says:

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

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Lanier, yes indeed. I think that’s why I chose that dreamy top illustration, which is a painting by the Australian artist Sydney Long, called ‘Pan’ (1898).