Thursday, July 7, 2011

Annick Goutal Sables: fragrance review

Sables flies under the radar amidst the masculine selection chez Annick Goutal, despite the fact that Harrison Ford is supposedly an ardent fan. I guess he's considered "old man" by now and not as hip for a celebrity endorsement. But Sables shouldn't suffer from malrecognition; this is an especially brilliant composition and a unique one at the time of its launch, in 1985. The burnt sugar aspect of helichrysum ~known also as immortelle or everlasting flower~ with its shades of curry, maple syrup and fenugreek aromata make this fragrance one of the most distinctive not only in the Goutal canon, but in general. The onle fragrance more daringly infused with this spicy-caramelic note is Eau Noire in the private line of Dior colognes, composed by Francis Kurkdjian (A scent for which designer Karl Lagerfeld is crazy about!). Asmar by So Oud (launched in 2010) is closer to Sables, although not exactly the same.

Immortelle is an aquired taste for sure. Not everyone feels comfortable smelling like Indian food and helichrysum italicum is called "the curry plant" by some. Still, the initially spicy fenugreek nuances (somewhat mentholated and bitter inky, like in good old Fernet-Branca digestif) in Goutal's Sables are mollified towards the caramelised smoky spectrum; a whiff of pyrazines and malt, for those who appreciate Jeux de Peau by Serge Lutens for instance. The curry note is joined by its conspirator in crime: cumin, with its perceived sweaty aspect, and by a little pepper. Yet one cannot exactly categorise Sables as "dirty", "skanky" or spicy, but rather as smoky sweet and cozy in either winter or summer. In my own personal experience, Sables is a child of the sun and the warmth, and performs best in minute amounts put on the belly or behind the knees in the heat.
Contrary to the standard perception of Goutal scents being ethereal and fleeting, this one is particularly projecting, leaving a memorable trail and lasts very long, so beware of overdosing. It's definitely not intended to be used solely a masculine, although the saltier quota of male skin brings out the herbal and more ambery facets to the fore (much like in Ambre Sultan), while it's sweeter on women. The longer the fragrance stays on warm skin, the more it manifests those burnt sugar notes allied with milky, woody facets of sandalwood without ever becoming cloying. On the whole, Sables's kinship is more with a Lutensian oriental oeuvre, or a more powerful version of Cuir Béluga by Guerlain, than with the Indian dish intensity of Dior's Eau Noire where immortelle contrasts with the medicinal-caramelic ends of spectrum of natural lavender essence projecting a more rustic, rugged edge. 

Sables saw the light of day after a journey in Corsica, imbued with the warm and spicy scent of wild immortelle. This fragrance is dedicated to men and women whose originality and subtlety make them just as they are–-that is, authentic. Annick Goutal created it especially for her husband, Alain, who played the violoncello, as a memento from a trip to the so-called Island of Beauty, where the scent of immortelle-sprinkled sand dunes had captured her mind.

To me Sables will always stand as the olfactory equivalent of a particular beach in Lesbos Island in Greece. It is a volcanic place, all hot springs and absolutely no fish in the water, a deserted sugar-like fine sandy beach near a fossiled forest. The warmth of the sun schorches the tree trunks laying in the background. A moment of eternity has just been mine and I can see the history of the earth in a long gaze...

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Annick Goutal news & reviews, Immortelle: perfumery materialPyrazines; maple & caramel notes, interview with perfumer Isabelle Doyen

helichrysum flowers pic via stopthatcat


  1. OK, now I have to go dig up a very old sample vial I am sure I have of this one. I really haven't "got" immortelle yet and I need to!

  2. Anonymous22:08

    Sables is the cat of perfumes: it doesn't have masters, it has staff. It either grabs you by the hair and drags you to a dangerous place or has you running for fresh air. I fell in love with it but still it takes the right mood and the right company to wear it. The more it stays on the skin the more it softens into a sandalwood and vanilla (I swear I can also smell patchouli) comfort scent. Very personal and not as loud as one might fear.

    Certainly Annick Goutal is not known for its avant garde creations but with Sables and Vetiver in their line up one has to reconsider. In fact Comme des Garcons Patchouli Lux is the regal distant cousin of Sables.

  3. Anonymous01:49

    Lovely review, LOVELY perfume. It's not really in my style, but I can't deny it's beautiful. Apart from the essential oil the only other perfumes with a prominent Imortelle note I remember having smelled are Eau Noire, which I detest (Would you like some curry powder on your vanilla ice-cream, sir?) and Gobin Daudés' Biche dans l'Absinthe, which I remember as lovely (my decant is long gone) but somehow simpler and not as magnificently rich as Sable. That richness, the lasting power and the very natural feel of Sables is what I enjoy the most. There are dozens of perfumes I want to buy before it, but who knows? One day...

  4. Anonymous14:25

    Helg, I want to come to your country! I have wanted to since forever-since I read a good biography of Maria Callas. A few years ago you Greeks had that incredible heat wave-it showed beaches that were packed, and I wanted to be there. Now your evocative description of this beach, combined with your pictures from the other day-I just want to be there.

    Have a great day, and thanks, as always, for your blog!
    Carole MacLeod

  5. Stelma,

    please do, it's worth it!

  6. C,

    nicely said!
    Yup, Sables and Vetiver are very unusual contenders in the AG line, I mean to review Vetiver in the future. I have a specific image of it. ;-)

  7. Anon,

    thank you so much for your kind words. I find this a very alluring, unique composition. I can't wear Eau Noire myself either, but appreciate the dare.
    Biche was exceptional, pity it's discontinued. Got into those very late :(

  8. Carole,

    the country needs you now more than ever. :-)
    Yes, the beaches got packed again this Sunday. We're getting to the sea like ducks to water, LOL!

    I seriously hope you get to visit and find out that it's a really welcoming place, every taste and every aroma in small, small pockets for everyone to savour. :-)
    Do feel free to drop me a line if you do decide on it with questions, anytime!

  9. Anonymous01:41

    I will take you up on your generous offer, and I will drop you a line for sure! Thank you! In my dreams I stay for 2 weeks, and visit the Acropolis. I have been fascinated by Greek myths since I was a child. It's the place I most want to go to. I am very sorry for what your proud country is going through right now. I hope things can be resloved, with very few people getting injured. I hope for the country's economics to be resolved, too.


  10. Peter,
    better start official advertising with us if you want, rather than spamming.


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