The Goutals for Better and Worse

agAnnick Goutal’s house has been a gateway for many people who have since become perfume lovers, a lovely retro-rococo gateway,  delicately wrought iron wreathed in ivy, but a gateway just the same.

It was, along with L’Artisan Parfumeur, one of the very first niche houses, and I remember articles about Goutal in Connoisseur Magazine back in the day, that particular day belonging to the 1980s.  Such perfumes as Heure Exquise are now thirty three years old, and have achieved the status of classics.

Still, if you came to the line anytime in the last ten years, you might be forgiven for thinking the eponymous Goutal was Camille, and that the perfumer had always been Isabelle Doyen.  In fact, Camille is Goutal’s daughter and Ms. Doyen the perfumer she has preferred to work with, the creator of Duel and Madragore, among other Goutal hits. The house is changing once again, bought by Korean group Amore Pacific.  You can spot this in the newer packaging, and the changed line up.  It remains to be seen whether this is good or bad news for fans.

Originally, the Goutal perfumes did not have an in house perfumer, they were done by various different ones, in the manner of designer fragrances.  They did share an aesthetic, and that belonged to Annick herself. She was one of six children whose father ran a confectionery business in Paris.  Although Goutal was destined originally to become a concert pianist; she instead became a model.

After being diagnosed with cancer at thirty, she returned to Paris, where her sisters ran a children’s clothing business called Bonpoint. There she founded her own perfumery.  The sweet shop influence permeated her early scents Folavril, and Eau de Bonpoint.  Both had a wonderful sense of childhood, without being in the least childish. That sense of atmosphere and place and the romantic appeal of both, was a strong point of Goutal’s.

Folavril was a mango tomato leaf combination that was fruity and green and cheerful as a grin.  Madonna is supposed to have worn it, and Eau de Bonpoint, was a simple orange blossom cologne. She reprised that cologne in her later release Neroli, which is now discontinued.  Neroli, like Eau de Bonpoint, was orange blossom, but had an earthiness to the neroli that brought out its particularly Italian appeal.  Like all the best of those early Goutals, if you loved it, you really loved it, which no doubt explains the high prices on ebay.

The hit was also Italian influenced, and also citrus based. Eau de Hadrian, was named after the book by Marguerite Yourcenar Memoirs d’ Hadrian, and is a combination of sprightly lemony notes married to a base that smells like a hillside in Tuscany, complete with bright patches of sun, unexpectedly deep shade cast by cypress trees, and peridot colored lizards darting in and out of disintegrating masonry.

If you have been lucky enough to smell the original perfume you know why it was such a great best seller.  The current formula is a chemicated imitation due to IFRA restrictions.  Hadrian was allied to Eau de Sud, a perfume that recalled the South of France in the same way that Hadrian recreated Tuscany.  There was an engaging roughness to the texture of Eau de Sud, and like Hadrian, the scent was supremely evocative, in this case of lavender rows, the relentless percussion of cicadas, and sunflowers going to seed by the thousand in baking fields.

People have their favorites. Mine is Eau de Ciel, a wonderful scent of iris, rosewood and violets that does smell like water from the sky. It is one of the only perfumes I know that reads as sky blue to my synesthete’s brain.

Other people regret Sables the dry perfume that recalled dunes at a beach and was full of helichrysum, others again, Heure Exquise an elegant union of roses and iris.  Then there was Passion, which Princess Diana wore, a more feminine, delicate version of Maurice Roucel’s 24 Faubourg for Hermes.  I still prefer the Goutal myself.

But it all came to an end with Goutal’s death at 53 from cancer.  She went out with the century in 1999, and the unique atmosphere of her creations dissipated like a cloud in sunshine.  Her daughter went on to make Goutal’s line more financially successful, but it had lost that genius for evocation that was its forte while Annick lived.  Every perfume that Goutal signed off on, resonated with atmosphere.

Now the line is comprehensive and interesting, but impersonal, and only the cash registers resonate.



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14 thoughts on “The Goutals for Better and Worse

    • I realized that I’d left out Petite Cherie which is one of the most popular of the Goutals, and that was a whoops moment, but glad you liked the post anyhow!

  1. Excellent post. Annick Goutal herself was gone before I even came to know niche perfumery, but I am glad some of the perfumes she signed are still as they were. I did not know Eau de Hadrien had been reformulated; what you describe sounds vastly different than how it smells now.

    • Hadrian really is different now. It was one of the very best citrus chypres ever made, and now is a mediocre facsimile of the original. It really bothers me that modern smellers can’t experience scents as they were when first issued.

      I really need to check on the line again and see what has survived the current handover.

  2. Golly, this was quite a lament. Hadn’t realised the company had been sold; that explains all the recent changes. I don’t know Goutal well because it is not sold near where I live so I have to purchase samples. I do often see Goutals at the online discounters, and while I’m always glad to see bargains, I’ve wondered whether a lot of the exclusivity of the house has gone. Is Passion still worth trying? I like 24 Faubourg (apparently Diana wore it as well) but would be interested in a more delicate version. The only Goutal I own is Heure Exquise. I picked up half a 100 ml bottle of unknown vintage on eBay, and it is stunning. Eau de Camille was a bit bitter for me, and Mon Parfum Cherie par Camille way too heavy on the patchouli. Both Camilles are now d/c, I hear.

    • Lucky you to have found Heure Exquise, that’s beautiful, and as per the question of Passion, I have not smelled it in years, but if I were looking to get the best of it then eBay once again would be my choice.

      Didn’t know that the Camilles were being discontinued. I read over on Michael’s blog Perfume Patter that Mon Parfum could turn peoples’ stomachs, and that may be why it got axed. The original Camille had a strong boxwood note, hard to live with and bitter as you say.

      • Angela on NST made a remark recently about par camille being d/c. I can’t remember where I heard about eau de camille. I feel particularly sad for lovers of that one because it’s been around for ages and had real character. I can imagine it getting a lot of devotion. As you say, there is, or was, something special about the early Goutals.

        • They were atmospheric in a big way. The atmospheres being particular ones belonging to individual places.

          Also- Goutal loved the smell of tomato leaves and that note is in most of her early scents as a kind of signature. later it was dropped because presumably the public didn’t agree. But I kinda like the smell of tomato leaves myself. It’s in Passion too btw.

  3. Annick Goutal was one of my “entry portals” into niche scents.
    I came to know the brand well after Annick Goutal’s early death, and have loved quite a few recent offerings…
    I own Songes and Ninfeo mio, the latter is one of my bed-time scents, which makes sense to me as Ninfeo sounds very much like Morfeo…
    One day I’ll add encens flamboyant for me, and Sables and Duel for the hubby….
    I’m sad the brand is undergoing massive changes, maybe I should hurry up buying those bottles before anyone starts tampering with the juice….

    • Songes is the tropical floral that a lot of people loved? Ninfeo Mio I haven’t tried yet, though it sounds good and quite green.

      You might like the old Camille if you like green scents, come to think of it. I think it turns up online- though sample first. Camille is taste specific.

      • Oh thank you, I tried Camille several times – it’s my RL name! ;)
        But, as with most of the earlier Goutals, with the exception of the masculin and unisex scents, it didn’t click…
        In fact, Ninfeo mio is one of the very few green scents I love: the other two being Chamade and n°19 (and if you count Kai as green, then I’ll add that one too). Songes was an obvious choice, because I’m really into BIG white florals, but I lament the poor reformulation it has been through: I still like it, but I wish I had bought my bottle when I first smelled it…. and felt the need to read about it, and stumbled on my first perfume blog: Luca Turin’s no less. At that time, dinosaurs were ruling the world, I think!

    • I remember his blog! I was reading it too, and then one day he said he had to go back to work for his company and the blog disappeared. Rather like the end of recess at school it was…

      Well if you like Chamade and No 19, then Songes would be right up your alley. I think the gals who can wear big whites are lucky, some of us curdle them.

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