Thursday, June 24, 2010

Annick Goutal Musc Nomade: fragrance review & draw

It wouldn't be an overstatement to claim that Musc Nomade By Annick Goutal is an exceptional piece of perfumery and among musk fragrances it really stands apart, poised between the crossroads of animalic and clean, defined by neither, or -better yet- interpreting both qualities in equal measure to the point you forget about classifications and just revel in its chiaroscuro sensuality. If pressed, I'd say it's a "vegetal musk". And it is.

Musc Nomade (2008) is the fourth addition in the Les Orientalistes line which was introduced with Ambre Fétiche, Myrrhe Ardent and Encens Flamboyant. The inspiration of the scents was said to be the smells of the harem and perfumer Isabelle Doyen masterfully wove in sensuous, denser whiffs in the familiar fabric of gauze that runs through the Goutal brand, thus marrying two antithetical elements: opulence and transparency. Annick Goutal was already enchanted by the sophistication of musc devotees, the Qatar Princesses, who bathed their bodies and hair in a divine blend of musk powder and rose essence, and fragranced their rooms by burning oud wood. She dreamed of capturing the aphrodisiac effect of this material reputed to stir the senses and hold men captivated... Camille Goutal, the next in line after Annick's passing, decided to do an ecological musk and with the help of Isabelle Doyen they defied convention in that they produced a vibrant, lightly "animalic" musk without the use of animal-derived products.

To do that Isabelle Doyen employed Muscone, a very refined -and costly- ingredient which is the odorous principle of natural deer musk, married with the natural macrocyclic musks (see relevant article) present in angelica root (containing 12-methyl-13-tridecanolide and Exaltolide) and ambrette seeds. The artistry lies in manipulating raw materials which are difficult to handle: Angelica root essence is musty, with a note of bitters and the liquid emulsifies in alcohol dilution making the mixture cloudy like a glass of pastis. Nevertheless, Doyen managed to bypass all these problems and the juice is perfectly clear with an aromatic top note that singes the nose hairs most delightfully the way a good gin does, to unfold later on a dirty, pleasantly "skanky" ambience that recalls the smooth fur of Muscs Kublai Khan by Lutens and the cozy sex-on-the-haystack feel of L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris.
Smelling Musc Nomade you're left with the impression that it is topless; in both senses of the word: It feels natural, bien dans sa peau, quite nude, and at the same time like it misses those frills routinely put in to jolt the customer into paying attention. On the contrary, Musc Nomade insinuates like a murmur in the ear late at night or minimalist tunes on harmonics-series instruments. The rosiness (reminiscent of the Lutens floralcy in his own musk oeuvre) is an illusion rendered through the facets of Bombay wood, furling and unfurling thanks to a herbal-sweet note like patchouli. Musc Nomade is individual and defies any familiarity one has of drugstore musks, eschewing the sweet vanilla and sandalwood warmth for the "dirtiness" of labdanum, an almost animalic plant raw material, and for a woody backdrop that is very appealing and fit for both sexes. It can be layered effortlessly under the other Orientalistes scents in the collection or practically under any other fragrance.
Its individual character and unassuming sensuality put it in my top 5 choices for musk fragrances.

For our readers, a draw for a decant of Musc Nomade! Leave a comment to enter. Draw open till Sunday midnight.

Notes for Annick Goutal Musc Nomade:
Muscone, white musk stemming from angelica root and ambrette seed, tonka beans, labdanum, Bombay wood (a papyrus variety)

Musc Nomade circulates in Eau de Parfum concentration in two bottle designs (depicted) with
exactly the same scent (same as with all the Orientalistes!): One is the feminine ribbed bottle, the other the sleek rectangular masculine one with gold accents. I personally find the somber lines of the masculine design with the lovely arabesque motifs in the labels more fitting this line of enigmatic scents.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Annick Goutal news & reviews, Scented Musk-eteers: musk fragrances reviews

Clip from the film Il Ventre dell'Architetto by Peter Greenaway, Struggle for pleasure by Wim Mertens.


  1. Let me try my hand in this draw. :)
    I'm still learning my way through musks (there is really a lot of ground that should be covered) so I would really like a chance to try this. Please enter me in the draw. :)

  2. please enter me E! This section of the AG's was extremely successful for me and perhaps didn't get enough attention at the time. I haven't tried this for some time so I will re visit and test out the vegetal musk theory

  3. AH, Musc Nomade! I love it. You are quite right in saying that it is both "animalic" and devoid of frills. Perhaps that's why I love it, the combination of Muscone, ambrette and angelica root does it for me.

    Regarding my earlier comment on the "synthetic" feel of some musk fragrances... I could never quite put my finger to it, all I can think of is "cellophane" (weird, I know). It's the reason I liked The Body Shop's White Musk a long time ago, before I gratuated to the "hardcore stuff", and now it leaves me cold; there's something too clean about it.

    PS: the "men's" bottle is also a much better deal pricewise :-)

  4. I love the fragrances I've tried by Annick Goutal, and I'd love to give this one a try! Please include me in the draw!

  5. Anonymous12:50

    I'm sufficiently intrigued by your in-depth descriptions of the individual components of Musc Nomande to chance my arm in the draw. Plus I'd love to try a really good vegetable musk.
    (It may be that I'm outwith your preferred reach by post, so I won't hold it against you if you omit me from the draw on grounds of cost. I'll keep following the blog for the insights you provide, I promise:-)


    Anna in Edinburgh

  6. I'd been long hoping for your review of MN so imagine how thrilled I was to see the title of today's post on my blogger dashboard! :)
    You make MN sound like something I would positively adore. Which do you prefer btw, MKK or MN? I'm embarrassed to say I haven't smelled either.

    Oh yeah, and hat me baby! :)

  7. Carolyn13:28

    I would love to be entered into this draw. I'm a huge fan of musk and haven't tried enough of Annick Goutal's line! Thanks!!

  8. Ines,

    most certainly included, it's one which should be a basic step in the musk education. It's full of quality materials, it smells "real".

  9. K,

    I liked the Orientalistes myself and always wondered why they didn't do as well as anticipated (anticipated by me, let me nuance). Possibly it's because people who love oriental compositions yearn baroque compositions and poeople who are fans of the Goutal aesthetic expect a more airy, less resinous composition? Beats me.

    Good luck, hope you get to test the theory!

  10. Patuxxa,

    so glad you're such a fan as well! Isn't it fabulous? Feels completely unique.

    No, no, not weird at all, about the "cellophane" feeling! I find it quite interesting, especially seeing how SL used that reference in his own fragrance (which smells a little bit synthetic too).
    And cool on the better deal on the men's. Hadn't really noticed, but you must be right.

    I agree that the TBS White Musk stuff feels stripped down to suds, yet I kinda feel they have also altered the formula lately. Have you noticed it changing after all those years?

  11. Matt,

    they have a solid portfolio and almost all of them have something to recommend them. You're in!!

  12. Anna,

    thanks for not getting bored with the analytical breakdown of the composition, I was afraid it might repel people; yet I felt it was important enough not to be left out. It's a good case of good materials and good control making for something unique.

    Oh honey, you're in luck! I'm Europe-based too, so not only are you definitely NOT out of my reach (besides I've sent things everywhere, barring the moon probably), but you're located in one of my most favourite cities as well! ~give the Royal Mile my regards :-)

  13. D,

    thanks for being such a darling!
    Glad you enjoyed the review.
    It is certainly an aquired taste, but I think you would come to like it, after testing. It's subtle, but definitely there, not washed clean, but not entirely stinky either. It's difficult to describe and very good.

    You're officially "hatted" now! ;-)

  14. carolyn,

    then you should most definitely try it out! Best of luck!

  15. Great review! I'm glad to see Musc Nomade is in your top 5 musks! I love it, and already have a decant, so do not enter me in the draw. I was debating getting a full bottle earlier in the week (perhaps inspired by your Scented Musk-eteers series!). Still debating (only because my decant will last me a while longer).

  16. Marte16:16

    I would love to try this!

  17. I think you nailed the description of this one !

    I have it and enjoy it-
    Especially when added to a drop of Nahema, or a good rose absolute ;-0
    Or a jasmine, or a fine orange blossom...OR .
    GREAT layered w/ Grand Amour, too.

    Right on target, about why the Orientalistes confused many.

    Also, with a few of the newer releases, there is a tendency to utilize a LOT of amber/ woody aromachemicals in the base...

    Once you DO pick it up, it can drive you mad-
    And NOT necessarily in a god way.

    That might contribute to the mixed emotions.

    Big hugs to you !

  18. I haven't smelled TBS White Musk for a while now, but I wouldn't be surprised if they changed the formula a bit. I hear the original perfume oil is still pretty good, but around here not all stores have it.

  19. Your reviews are so educating for me! I've never really liked any of the AG's I've tried, but now I can't wait to try this. I don't know much about musks, but I'd love to try this and Muscs Kublai Khan Khan side by side and educate myself.

  20. Excellent review, which helps me understand the range of characteristics that different musk fragrances have. I do like the in between quality of Musc Nomade. I'm not looking for a "clean" musk (which makes me feel like I'm wearing Tide laundry detergent), but for the day, Musc Ravageur is a little overwhelming!

    I've used up my sample of Musc Nomade, and it's now on my wish list, so I'd love a decant!

  21. Oooh, what with the change in distribution, these fragrances could be a lot more accessible, but nothing would beat a decant...

    Eric, Who Loves Walking The Line Between Skanky And Hygienic.

  22. Please put my name in the hat as well. I'm way behind on the AG line and I love ambrette

  23. Ooh, this sounds delicious! Please enter me in the draw!

  24. Eleonore19:48

    I enjoy reading your very thorough reviews about musk fragrances: so much to learn! and to test of course...I'd love to win a delicous decanter of Musc Nomade, so please enter me in the draw too! Thank you

  25. Heather B19:51

    I would love to be entered in the draw. I'm not well versed in musks/ animalics.I investigated nude musks after your musk article, and fell in love with Ava Luxe's. I also am beggining to appreciate the skank factor in my vintage Magie Noire parfum. Musc Nomade sounds beautiful and I'd love to try it. Thanks a lot.

  26. Valentine19:57

    I would love to be entered in the draw. I'm a big fan of musk fragrances and this sounds more than promising.


  27. Thanks for the in depth articles on musk, something I don't know a lot about. I loved what you did with vetiver. I made a list of all the vetivers you mentioned and tried most of them. Maybe musk will be next!

  28. Caela20:14

    Please enter me in the draw. I've enjoyed the brief sniffs of Les Orientalistes that I've had, and it would be wonderful to get more acquainted with one. Thank you!

  29. Elena, uncanny that you just posted this - I rediscovered Musc Nomade in recent months and have decided that it's my absolute favorite musk - and will be posting a review soon on KP Smells. I adore the flowery aspect, along with its almost-animal physicality. No need to enter me in the draw - I've got my big ol' man-sized bottle already.

  30. Anonymous20:57

    How intriguing. I'm still trying to get my head around "musk" and don't have any in my collection. I do love this set of AG perfumes...and am always stumped at the perfume counter..which one is "best?" Aghh..all so good...
    I'd love to be entered into this draw!

  31. Anonymous21:01

    Please enter me in the draw. AG was my first foray into niche after chemo -10 years ago!


  32. I've used up a couple of samples of Musc Nomade in the last year, would love to have a decant to spritz a bit more and really wear it. Please do enter me in the draw, thanks!

  33. Please enter me into your drawing. I used to think that musks were just nasty drug store smells. I now love musks. I love kiehl's musk oil, and both of serge luten's musks. I would be very intrigued to try this one.

  34. ElizabethN06:39

    Please enter me! Labdanum makes me very happy. And I need to find another Annick Goutal to love. I've not had too much luck...:)

  35. Maria B.06:45

    You've gotten me interested in trying musks. I have shockingly few samples. Please enter me in the drawing. I wonder if THIS Annick Goutal would last on me. The transparent ones are lovely, then fleeting on my skin.

  36. Anonymous07:49

    Ah, I believe that is the one I saw Katie Puckrik dousing herself in at Bendel's at Sniffa. It had to have been at least 8 sprays. Clearly, she liked it!

    I'd love a decant. Please enter me in the draw! Thanks,
    Laura M

  37. G,

    thank you! I hope you upgrade to a bottle at some point as I feel it really deserves it. Glad you're enjoying the Musk reviews :-)

  38. Ida, darling, thanks!

    How are you, honey? Missed you...

    I will try it alongside Grand Amour (which I LOVE) and see what happens!! There's an idea.
    There is some discrepancy between the collection and what people have come to expect from Goutal, I guess. There is a prevalence of the ambroxan and the woody aromachemicals (like IsoE) lately on many things, I believe it's a shortcut into boosting an effect especially now with the new restrictions which tie the perfumers' hands into doing more things.

    Big Hugs!!!

  39. Patuxxa,

    ah...the trouble of locating any specific version locally. Don't I know about that.

  40. Nina,

    very kind compliment, thanks. It is as you say: there is a middle road, a diverging one actually and this is it.

    You're in, good luck!

  41. Kjanicki,

    hopefully they are of some help!
    By all means, the two are different in composition, but not completely different at feel. They go about it in a very nuanced way though.

  42. Eric,

    LOL, that's a great sig line!! Good luck!

  43. Kyra,

    best of luck! Thanks for stopping by.

  44. Laurie,

    it's very individual. You're included!

  45. Eleonore,

    thanks for saying so, it's a great pleasure if the reviews are in any way helpful and enjoyable as well. Not always easy to reconcile the two, LOL

    Good luck!

  46. Heather,

    so glad you got to test clean, skin musks after my article; and to find a winner at that! Yes, Ava Luxe has many worthy clean musks, do try her aldehydic China Rain as well. ;-) Also try DSH Parfums des beaux arts, she has many lovely musks too.

    You're in! I think you might find MN interesting indeed.

  47. Valentine,

    best of luck and thanks for commenting!

  48. Susan,

    you're most welcome. Musk fascinates me! (as if it needed pointing out). Very flattered on what you did with the vetiver recommendations so I have to do my best to include good musks recommendations!

    Good luck!

  49. Caela,

    the collection is indeed very nice, if presenting the discrepancy we talked about upstream, so worth exploring in depth. Here's your chance with one! (hope to do so with the rest at some point)

  50. Katie,

    thanks for chiming in with your impression and would be most interested to hear you elaborate in your inimitable way! There's just something about this one, isn't there? Could it be that it makes one feel all sophisticated without "stinking" up the place down the corridor either? Could be!
    I will need to focus on the floral aspects more next time, after your comment. My skin brings out the aromatics more.

  51. Cheryl,

    you're in so you get to know one in depth hopefully! They all have something to recommend them. They're quite different from one another.

  52. mellisu,

    wow, talk about a powerful memory! And empowering too!
    I hope you get to win this, if only to reacquaint yourself with the line.

  53. Mikael,

    I understand the need, it grows on you, doesn't it? You're in!!

  54. melissa,

    no, no, no, not all musks are created equal, I should shout that out from the rooftops. There are some nasty things out there indeed! But some are gorgeous, as you have found out.
    Best of luck!

  55. Eliza,

    this one highlights the angelica and ambrette very well too. It's unique! Hope this is the Goutal which clinches it for you. Good luck!

  56. Maria,

    hope you get to try this and like it enough. It is quite subtle, the most discreet in Les Orientalistes (the rest pack more of a punch, in relative terms). But it's there, unless you're anosmic to some ingredient (although I can't imagine you'd be to all the musky ingredients, there are quite a few in there)

    Good luck!!

  57. Laura,

    ah..LOL! .Katie already said upthread that she loves it and got her big ol' man bottle, so I have no doubts she did just that. And yes, this is one to really spray on and revel. It's light enough to be able to do that without fear.

    Good luck, hopefully you will get to mist yourself in it too!

  58. Musk - Clean? Can it be? :) Would love to see :) and smell :) Other notes are simply delicious! Completely my taste! :)

  59. I love the info on how the musk is done! Please include me in the draw!

  60. Would love to try this! Thanks for the draw!

  61. I'd love to be included in the draw. I've loved learning about fragrance materials through your blog, and musk has always been a favorite. I'm not sure if I've smelled a 'vegetal musk' yet, but it sure would be interesting to try. I do love MKK and L'Air de Rein, so I know I'm alright with a bit of skank :)

  62. Another musk that I can';t wait to try! Vegetal musk sounds like it would be perfect for the summer temperatures here. *crosses fingers*

    I didn't really 'get' musks until just recently. Now I find myself unable to get enough. :)

  63. Thank you for this review. I've been swinging around getting a bottle but since I live in the middle of nowhere, it's kind of a guessing game. Fortunately most AG's work well with my chemistry. Can you please enter me in your drawing? Thank you.


  64. d3m0lici0n14:19

    Please enter my name in the draw , id love to try this one.Thanks

  65. Anonymous07:31

    I'd love to revel in AG's musc fragrance. Please enter me in the drawing.
    Thanks for a wonderful article.

  66. Anonymous11:42

    Wow, I'd love to try this!
    And I love your wirting!


  67. Oh, I would *love to try it!
    Please enter me in the draw.

  68. Sharon18:13

    I would love to get a decant. I'm just learning about musks.

  69. Please include me in the draw.

    This is the Orientalist that I haven't sniffed.

  70. soniagarcia20:28

    I have to try this musc , please enter my name in the draw.

  71. you smell!!!22:33

    I still need to try this one from les oerientalistes, please enter my name in the draw.

  72. PhinClio23:08

    If it's not too late, please enter me in the draw!

  73. Thank you very much. I'm a fan of what I consider classic perfumes but still stink at identifying notes etc. But since my beloved Guerlains are being reformulated I feel the need to expand my horizons.
    Thanks again,

  74. hotlanta linda23:10

    Late tp the party, but please let me in to the contest - I`m too much of an Annick freak, Goutal Guru, etc., not to try! THANK YOU for a great and wise blog!

  75. This is so right! Musc Nomade is actually the only of its kind that works for me, other being either too clean or too animalistic. And I could easily have passed by this beauty, as the first time I smelled it (or tried to), I seemed to be anosmic to it. Luckily, I didn't give up, tried it again and finally all its charisma was revealed.

  76. I'm new to Perfume Shrine and am loving the articles as well as my growing knowledge of perfumery. I used to wear musk scents, but unfortunately of the drugstore variety. I'm well past that stage of life now and am enjoying better things. I'd love to win this decant! Hope your day is peaceful.

  77. I want to try musc nomade please enter me in the drawing

  78. Please enter me in drawing I would love to try musc nomade


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