Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Annick Goutal Songes: fragrance review

There is nothing as captivating the imagination as the promise of what one doesn't have: The lure of tropical paradises amidst the harshest snowfall makes us forget that by summer we will be missing those white flakes and long for taking the cashmere and mohair down from the attic. Songes by Annick Goutal comes with the unctuous step of an intoxicating promise of sunshine and the warmth of a summery golden afternoon, right when winter paves its path onto spring, to make us dream and lose ourselves. Because Songes means exactly...dreams: the dreams of a newlywed, looking on life through the eyes of a girl becoming a woman who embarks on a new adventure in her life; perhaps the more rewarding of them all, the miracle of keeping love alive through it all.

An intense opera of white florals set in a tropical tone climate like "Les Pecheurs des Perles", Songes was inspired by an evening walk in a garden on the exotic island of Mauritius by Camille Goutal, Annick's daughter, while she was on her honeymoon. Camille lovingly collaborated with tried & trusted tenured Goutal perfumer Isabelle Doyen, on the creation of the fragrance in 2006. Interestingly, even though the inspiration is classically exotic-tropical, Camille revealed that the middle and base notes of Songes are also reflecting John William Waterhouse's painting aesthetic, especially as presented in the famous painting of Ophelia. Somehow the two are hard to reconcile and I'm not sure that this Goutal fragrance truly captures the balance, as it tilts more to the former part than the latter. Still, it's quite stunning.

Opening a bottle of Songes I'm struck by its diva-esque mien, all heady, entrance-making material, almost heaving, but also its inherent modesty and classy sensuality; as if the facade is flamboyant because it just can't help it, a bit of a Marilyn Monroe persona if you will: Glamorous but sensitive at heart. Frangipani (with a tiny peachy facet here, less than on the fresh bush) and potent ylang ylang immediately hit my nose, complicated into webs of indolic jasmine, sweet, yet with a slightly bitter element in the background which keeps it from saccharine overload. The frangipani is less fruity than in Ormonde Jayne's rendition of Frangipane Absolute, while the jasmine is the sambac variety which can have an ever higher pitch than the European and Middle Eastern grandiflora variety. There is a tuberose-like effect too, creamy and mollified instead of eucalyptus-green (a la Carnal Flower) or rubbery (a la Gardenia Passion); more like the tropical tiare gardenia than real tuberose. This stage with the small incensey-resinous hint resembles the velours of Noix de Tubereuse and shouldn't have tuberose-phobics all up in arms. The drydown of Songes consists of a woody-ambery accord (with creamier vanilla in the higher concentration) that revolves around pencil shavings and balsamic softeness/soapiness; a very delightful coda to an aria that has been bold and flamboyant as befits a Grand White Floral.

Altghough Annick Goutal fragrances often fall victims to criticism from hard-core aficionados on their scent being light and transparent, resulting in delicate sillage, Songes is one fragrance in the stable (alongside a few others such as Eau de Fier, Sables and Gardénia Passion) which does not follow that rule. In fact the Eau de Parfum version of Songes seems dense and a little opaque, creating an effect that could be considered engulfing for those who are more sensitive to their own scent trail; its vanilla creaminess however should please those who are seeking a sweeter edition of this sultry scent. In Songes Eau de Toilette concentration the proportion of space between the notes creates an aerated effect; like the perfect petit financier bite it has just the right sponginess without detracting from the satisfaction that it leaves on the palate. Both concentrations are especially lasting and sillage monsters, necessitating very steady hands and homeopathetical dosage in order to remain desirable and not cloying.
Over time, Songes can change colour in the bottle: The regular shade is golden-ambery but the inclusion of natural jasmine extracts in the formula conspires to give an orange tint to the Eau de Toilette and even a reddish hue to the Eau de Parfum!
A limited edition bottle in Baccarat crystal is available for Songes, the traditional boule topped by a romantic half moon.

Notes for Annick Goutal Songes:
frangipani, tiare, jasmine, incense, vanilla, copahu balm, pepper, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, styrax.

Painting Dreams on the Beach 1934 by Salvador Dali.
Photo of Camille Goutal & Isabelle Doyen by Antoine de Perceval 2007 via Swell City Guide


  1. Well, I'll be darned if we are not on the same wave length? First Mitsouko and now Songes! Believe it or not I have a bottle on hold till the 19th at Nordstrom and was just posting on MUA the other day because I loved it so and my teen daughters told me it smelled like BO and armpit with flowers respectively! Never mind them, I find it just as you describe and oh so very lovely. I have nothing in my fragrance wardrobe like it, so I so excited to buy. Thank you for this review!

  2. Indeed, Songes does not follow the "traditional" Goutal sillage profile. Interestingly, it is one of the few heady white florals I enjoy--in fact, I adore it. Furthermore, I find it somewhat interesting that it is a big white something that plays well in winter or in summer's heat, and is worth experiencing in both conditions.

    I'm starting to formulate the opinion that there are hard core enthusiasts out there who are just as fond of the Goutal style of scent as the thick sillage types--it's just that perhaps their voices are not as boisterous, more ethereal...rather like the sillage they enjoy. ;)

    Regardless, I am grateful AG does what they do, in all their variety (and there is a range), so I do hope they keep at it the way they have.

  3. Anonymous16:58

    La Bise La Bise! :)


  4. Anonymous18:01

    Songes is one of my all time favorites from my favorite fragrance house! I first experienced Songes in the bath gel, and the body cream. It smells ecdent and fresh and tropical and lush, and the cream itself is a perfect product for moisturizing the skin. I only recently smelled the EDP and EDT, and while they are both perfectly lovely I think that the body cream is the perfect medium to scent myself.

    Thank you for another wonderful review, Helg!



  5. S,

    that's scary, isn't it? Can it be that we were seperated in birth? *runs to find necessary proof material from maternity ward*


    Seriously, it gives me great pleasure to be so serendipitous! Body odour and armpit with flowers, eh? There's got to be a special niche that appreciates that sort of think. Oh wait, that's us!! LOL Well, I find it a stunning, if a bit "big" creation which deserves to be appreciated better. Hope you enjoye your bottle when it arrives in just a few days (see how I'm bringing the day closer mentally??)

    Thanks for sharing with me your frag adventures!

  6. S,

    great analysis and how could I disagree? The Goutal line despite its "broader" appeal thanks to distribution has a solid, quality-built base and a great perfumer at the helm. It's not surprising that they have a two-tier system for their fragrances, this can be seen in the Netherlands boutique by ms.Tio: the site, I mean. There are the heavier ones and the lighter, girlier/boyish ones. And I find myself enchanted by some on either camp.

    This one has several admirers, even among those who are not into white florals. I think it's because it's technically a floriental, that smooth, engulfing base is like a cashmere wrap after the tropics flowers frolicking.

  7. Dawn,

    awww....glad you enjoyed!! (Did I do it justice? Is it the same for you?)

  8. Carole,

    you give me ideas, honey are you certain you should? *stern look*
    Indeed body creams in several "heavier" scents seem to be a perfect way to scent oneself: I tend to do that with Angel (and with Innocent too sometimes), plus Opium. The creams are so fragrant they linger on skin for a long time, but give a discreet scent that doesn't trail really.
    I need to try the body cream in this too. I loved the creams in Les Orientalistes, the ones I tried at least, and love their Creme Splendide!

  9. I have nice memories associated with AG's Le Jasmin. I adore that smell.

    Nice painting. Very Dali-esque. Is it?

  10. Shahlab,

    Le Jasmin is a simpler composition but top-notch in quality. I would surmiss you would love that smell.

    The painting is by Dali actually; good eye.

  11. Zazie14:03

    Sorry I am late to the party...

    Songes was one of those gateaway fragrances that triggered my interest with niche perfumes.
    Though I am not an AG fangirl, Songes and Hadrien smelled different...and interesting.
    I'd love to find Songes on a diet: it has one of the most beautiful openings I ever smelled, but the sweet base is too much - even in the edt. I smell a big dollop of vanilla in there. Do you have any Songes-on-a-diet perfumes to suggest?

  12. Z,

    thanks for commenting, there's no time schedule on when so don't feel apologetic! :-)

    Yeah, it is kinda "heavy", it has quite a bit of vanilla going on.

    Songes on a diet, hmmm. First of all if you haven't tried AG Passion (NOT Tuberose Passion), I think you should. Have you tried Frangipane Absolute by Ormonde Jayne and Beige by Chanel? (Beige has a more pronounced hawthorn note and less frangipani, but it's lighter, just as honeyed and might suit you better). Chantecaille Frangipane if you can find it is also a nice suggestion, lighter and woodier.

    You might also like Child perfume oil, which is reprising only the jasmine sambac of Songes (minus the vanilla and frangipani): it wears lightly, even though it seems like it would be intense. Try Jasmine de Nuit by TDC too, it's a less intense floral than most.
    Moneytte Paris might also be a smell you'd like theoretically, but it's very strong in sillage and I think you'd need to dilute it to enjoy.
    You can also wear just the body cream of Songes: creams are often manufactured with less of the cloying elements in the compound version for technical reasons. That might do the trick.

    Hope that helped a bit. Good luck!

  13. Zazie10:13

    Hi thanks for your suggestions.
    I've never tried AG passion - will remedy that soon!
    Except Child and the Chantecaille, I'm familiar with your other suggestions: I like OJ frangipani very much (I bought the body lotion and bathing oil few days ago!), and also like Beige. Monyette and Jasmine de Nuit didn't work for me.
    I am such an apologetic white flower addict!.. but though I love and own many fragrances featuring jasmine+ notes, I find the opening jasmine song of Songes desperately beautiful and unsurpassed. It's so frustrating that I can't bear the vanilla base!

  14. Z,

    then you must! I should think it wouldn't be too hard to grab a tester of that and spray along to see.

    I think from what you say that it's the frangipani rather than jasmine sambac/tropical ambience you're reacting positively to. So amend my rec into saying you'd probably enjoy the Chantecaille more than Child.
    It's not always easy to segment out a part which we like, shunning out the part we don't like. Ah, if we could life could be a tiny bit easier...

    Good luck and do let me know how it went with testing!! :-)


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