Founder and perfumer Annick Goutal sadly died at the end of the 90s, when she was just a year younger than I myself am right now, but her perfumes and her brand survive and thrive today, led by her daughter Camille and former perfume partner Isabelle Doyen. She was born in Aix-en-Provence into a large family. Her dad was a confectioner, so as kid she enjoyed tying up chocolates and small packets of sweets with beautiful ribbons (when she wasn’t playing the piano – she became rather amazing at that). This translated well into her early perfume packaging.
In 2018, the brand had an image rehaul along with a change in name from Annick Goutal to Maison Goutal. It’s harder to get the bottles I have in my collection now. I usually prefer modern designs, but I think the older bottles suit Goutal’s fragrances well. I have three older concoctions from the Goutal line, which I share below.
The first fragrance I currently own is a classic unisex citrus aromatic from 1980 (or 81?) called Eau d’Hadrien. The noses were Annick Goutal herself and and Francis Camail. I don’t feel there’s anything particularly out of this world about this freshie fragrance, though I do love it. But it’s worth noting that almost 30 years after the perfume’s launch, this perfume won the FiFi Award Hall of Fame in 2008. Obviously, a lot of people do love it and it’s indeed still one of the brand’s icons and top sellers. The FiFi Awards are an annual event sponsored by The Fragrance Foundation, honouring the fragrance industry’s creative achievements. The notes in Eau d’Hadrien are:
- sicilian lemon, cedrat, grapefruit, green tangerine, ylang-ylang, cypress, bergamot
As you might note about the notes, it’s basically a citrus orgy going on here, and there is very little to ground it. As a result, this beautiful scent is fleeting.
Goutal’s site describes this fragrance as follows:
The burning sun and the blinding light of Tuscany add to the charm of the cypress-lined terraces. The hottest hour of the day is the best time to sink into the soft shade of the lemon trees and reread a few passages from Memoirs of Hadrian.
Memoirs of Hadrian (or Mémoires d’Hadrien in its orginal French) was written in 1951 by Belgian-born French writer Marguerite Yourcenar – who I believe became a US citizen around the same time. The memoires contain a reconstruction of the life and death of Roman Emperor Hadrian.
In any case, this fragrance is juicy, tart, citrusy, and indeed a delightfully bright lemon explosion in hot weather. This is a scent you wear when you need something to sharply cut through thick and stagnant humidity and lift your head into a refreshing space. It’s certainly does its job there, and that is why it’s in my collection. This is not a sweet citrus, and the cypress comes out quickly in a tiny amount, maybe after about 10 minutes or so. The scent doesn’t morph much on my skin once applied; it’s simply fades, and fade fast it does. It doesn’t get any points for performance or uniqueness in my book, and actually, there are other citrus fragrances I might choose before this one, depending on my mood. I think I prefer a dash of sugar with my lemon in general. But my personal preference when it comes to perfume leans heavy, oriental, and gourmand. It’s a shame that I live in a place where we get more hot weather than cold. In any case, this is a good, safe, daily grab and go frag for hot weather, but take at least a decant of it in your purse, because it won’t last all day – that’s for sure. And I guess that is a good thing, because I don’t see this as an occasion or night-time frag.
Side note: Goutal has quite a few unisex fragrances, and consumers have a choice in bottling. So for example, you can get Eau d’Hadrien in a more “masculine” bottle. Even then, I have noticed the writing and bottling has changed a little over the years. She often comes out with limited edition bottles, too. The news 2018 bottles are definitely streamlined and modernized. Ultimately bottling (packaging) is of lesser consequence to me, but I have to admit I actually prefer the old ones.
Annick’s daughter Camille was the inspiration for a couple of Annik’s early fragrances, and one of them is Petite Chérie – a soft and sweet floral fruity fragrance targeting young woman. I am no longer a young woman, but I can still enjoy this fragrance. The scent was launched in 1998, and the notes are:
- pear, peach, grass, rose, hedione, lilac, vanilla, white musk
The website says:
Annick Goutal composed a “tailor-made” perfume for her daughter Camille, then aged 20. To capture the magic of this wonderful age, she imagined a caress of rose and pear in a cocoon of vanilla and musks. Having become an icon of the House, Petite Chérie is a perfume of transmission, a gift of love. The fragrance par excellence that we offer to those we love.
Peach and Pear are two of my favourite fruits, and the fresh cut grass and rose dabbed with vanilla pull the juicy fruits together beautifully. The scent is youthful, sassy, mischievous and definitely a spring or summer pick. The green note obfuscates the sweetness, so this won’t be cloying in hot weather. I prefer rose when paired with more resinous elements, usually, but I do love the way the top fruit notes cool the flowers down. The rose is also contained by the dry lilac which is probably amplified by the hedione molecule. This is a pretty scent and it rather reminds me of Stella McCartney’s Dot fragrance. They don’t smell the same, but they both have rose at the heart and a soft and playful sweetness. The Goutal is more bitter and more refined, and the Stella McCartney is sweeter and more mainstream.
The last fragrance in my collection from Annick Goutal is the woody aromatic Ninfeo Mio, inspired by the legendary gardens of Ninfa, just outside Rome. What does one find in Italy, along with citrus fruit, wine, and olives? Well, figs of course, and since I am quite the finicky fig fan, this is hands down my favourite of the three. Interestingly, this unisex delight is not on Goutal’s bestseller list. The bottle of fruity deliciousness came out in 2010, so this is Camille and Isabelle’s creation. The notes are:
- sicilian lemon, citron, bitter orange, galbanum, fig, lemon tree wood
That was more or less according to their website, but Fragrantica also lists Petitgrain in the top note and fig leaf and mastic or lentisque (which I had to look up) in the heart notes. Lentisque is a fresh balsamic, turpentine-like resin type of ingredient.
It’s so interesting to me that just the fig leaf, combining with the other molecules in this scent, can combine to impart such a sweet, mouth-watering vibe that this fragrance gives off. But I’m not sure on second sniff – perhaps it is more mossy aromatic than fruity. But I definitely get the fruit here.
Currently, the website says:
The countryside around Rome is glorious in June. In the enchanted Garden of Ninfa, the paths along the Ninfeo river are lined with cypress and lavender. A giant fig tree hides the entrance to the bridge, its branches and still-green fruit swaying in the wind.
I have never been to the Garden of Ninfa but let me share some images with you. Wow, looks like Italian fairy land – you’re definitely got all the olfactory ingredients for afternoon bliss here. To me, the fig in this fragrance is more about the juicy flesh and leaves of the fig minus all its woody accoutrements. If you want a fig fragrance that includes more of the tree, I would dip into a bottle of Philosykos from Dyptique.
The citrus is also strong and sharp in this fragrance, though that is mostly just in the short opening of the fragrance. It acidifies the sugar a bit thereby making is appropriate for warm weather. But I’ll be honest – I sometimes spray this on in the dead of winter indoors when I want to be transported to a sunnier, warmer place. I remember when I first smelled this fragrance in a posh department store in Ebisu, Tokyo. I was immediately transported out of the store and into nature. It was love at first sniff and now I am delighted to have this in my collection, along with a few other figgy fragrances.
I think the fig note in this combined with the milky note of galbanum in perfumery creates this almost tropical, creamy coconut type of feel to it, especially if you spray a lot. I personally like that effect, but simply spray less if it’s not for you. To me this is an early summer fragrance, at least for where I live where the summer gets very hot and humid. Interestingly, although this fragrance is completely inoffensive to my nose, I wouldn’t say it matches an office environment too well. This is a very relaxed, “I’m on vacation!” type of smell. I think I’d be prone to daydreaming if I wore this to work.
This fragrance on me lasts much longer than the other two, although it’s still less than four or five hours on my skin. After the citrus fades you smell more of the fig and green notes, and then you’re left with some woodiness at the end. It’s very nature-inspired, natural-smelling perfume. It doesn’t smell like anything baked in a chemical laboratory.
All three of my Goutal fragrances are in eau de toilette (EDT) format, but you can get eau de parfum (EDP) versions as well – for at least two or the three, anyway. I think Goutal fragrances are simple and sophisticated, and the three I have in my collection represent the brand well. However, in a bad way, this brand rather reminds me of Jo Malone – beautiful scents that are easy to love, but there is little that will blow your mind. However, you might just blow your wallet, especially considering all the respraying you’ll need. We are talking subtle beauty here. No beast mode frags. I would also suggest that you not blind-buy these fragrances. This is niche perfumery and a wee bit pricy retail. And they are different from your sweet mainstream perfumes. The Maison Goutal website is here.