My friend Helen and I have a thing about contrived experiences, in the sense that we sometimes deliberately contrive the power of recollection with scent:  self-consciously create our memories.



Where the Proustian recollection was instant, uncontrived – a Madeleine, dipped in linden tea that brought back a surge of powerful, beautiful experience unravaged by the years – you can also get this effect quite intentionally; stamp a scent on an experience, fix it temporally. We can take photographs in an often vain attempt to freeze and capture time, but even the most spontaneous shots often feel flat, dead. Scent, for me at least, is effortlessly more effective.





Helen has also perfected the Art Of The Right Moment.




I am of the rip-all-the-Easter-eggs-open-and-eat-them-before-lunch school – get: open : use. Helen knows that it is sometimes best to wait until the most perfect point in time to maximize your enjoyment. This is certainly true of a much anticipated new album by your favourite artist; your first listen and what you see and feel at the time produce mental pictures for many future listens. And it is the same with perfume (especially if you have enough to be this selective); not unleashing that Pandora’s box until the moment is ripe, then flooding that moment with scent: clasp it: suspend it forever.


















One time I followed this credo and it really paid off.




















It was April, and to my astonishment, I had just won a free holiday to Okinawa, the only time such a thing has ever happened to me  (bizarrely, I had recently bought a pair of glasses from a shop in Fujisawa and, unbeknownst to me, had been entered into the shop’s ‘lottery’? next thing I knew I had two tickets to a tropical island, much to our astonished delight). I was really excited, and thus wanted a scent to encapsulate it. I had to think,  but not for too long, as I had just received a sample of Annick Goutal’s Songes (‘Dreams‘), and having had a very brief inhale, I sensed it would be just the thing. And I was right; Okinawa is a haven of flowers and lush gardens; the sub-tropical, most Asian, and most relaxed part of Japan, with its own indigenous culture and language and ways of living (and the biggest life expectancy on the entire planet) and I thought it would be perfect for our stay at Moon Beach, a wonderfully dated, very seventies hotel – Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns comes to mind – replete with dangling lianas, tropical fish, fountains, and hibiscus.





At one end of the hotel-complex, on a hill overlooking the aquamarine sea, was ‘Sirena Garden’, (complete with ‘chapel’), which though meant for the post-modern Japanese ‘Christian’ Wedding – which has to be experienced to be believed – was actually, despite the weirdness,  really beautiful. The lilies – pure white lilies, were in their full blooming, smelling quiveringly pure; pristine – delicate, yet with a beauteous perfume you could just drink and drink. Bowers of entwining stephanotis crowned the trellises: we sat on the grass, cracked open beer, and looked out to sea.








And then I sampled Songes.





















It is a rare perfume indeed that smells as good as breathing, true flower, but Songes was perhaps the closest I have come to feeling I am in the living, hypnotic presence of some unknown tropical bloom. This is a beautiful scent – lush, dreamy, yet vital – and the ultimate perfume for summer nights.







A composition that begins with a soft tropical breeze transporting you instantly to some paradise of the Southern Seas – fresh, sense-exciting notes from the leaves of the frangipani tree, and an slightly fungal tinge of white petals that is reminiscent of living gardenia –  a floral note that lingers throughout the scent, whose main theme, according to the company, is a ‘spellbinding trio of rare natural absolutes’: ylang ylang (rare because the essence usually used is the ylang ylang ‘extra’, a different distillate), jasmine, and vanilla ‘sur-absolu’. Over this ultra-luscious main accord, frangipani, tiare flower, incense, vetiver and sandalwood are all layered in a way that is controlled, yet simultaneously somehow breathless.  All is heady, intensely floral, but fresh and inhaleable (you can feel the spongey texture of the white flowers’ petals throughout), drying down to a willowingly soft vanilla and musk accord of perfection.













Whenever I smell this perfume now, it makes me sigh (…just thinking about it elicits almost the same reaction).





I am on an island in the Pacific.









I am back at Moon Beach.


Filed under Flowers, Frangipani, Perfume Reviews

35 responses to “MOON BEACH: SONGES by ANNICK GOUTAL (2006)

  1. alabasterwrists

    I have made the mistake of wearing certain fragrances which then later conjure up sad/bad memories (this is what happened with L’Heure Bleue, a scent I wore around an individual who broke my heart-now it is somewhat ruined for me in terms of wearing it, although I still consider it a masterpiece). I read somewhere that our sense of smell is activated in a different part of our brain, the part that is also responsible for emotions. One whiff can literally bring me to the brink of tears, of joy or sadness or just plain nostalgia. So, having learned from my past, I now choose scent based on the environment I am in and who I am with. If I am assuming it will be a positive experience I will wear something I truly adore and if the outcome could be negative something I could live without. Crazy,right?
    Anyway, Songes sounds lovely and something I would very much like. I am only familiar with the orginal Annick Goutals from the early 80s to mid 90s.The earliest AG fragrances were chock full of quality essential oils which made them that much more special. I never got to sample this one. I know you can get it discounted online for practically a steal.
    Does your apothecary shop carry frangipani essential oil? If so you must give it a try. I just got a small sample from Eden Botanicals…beautiful….One of these days I am going to have to figure out a way to get some samples sent to you in Japan. There is so much I would love for you to try!

    • ginzaintherain

      The more I read your comments the more I think our tastes really are in sync. I had never loved a Goutal until this one…they are always so crisp and prim and perfect and sharp…so French snooty.

      Eau neau….Songes is very difficult I promise thee….so beautiful. Get out there NOW and smell it (in edt…the edp is too rounded and vanilla heavy, which is normally something I would prefer, but NAH we need this full island tropical heaven……I think you might really like this one dear Camembert…)

  2. alabasterwrists

    You are becoming a very bad influence on me!!! Actually I think of you as my “scent twin”: similar tastes in perfume and able to put in words what I feel but cannot always articulate!

  3. Paradise In Home Care is without a doubt your high-quality home care agency. Discover how these people can assist your significant other to live happier.

    • ginzaintherain

      Is this a joke?

      • Shameless and tacky self promotion for Whomever owns This stupid compny called Home Health Care. Shame on you HHC!! How despicable! They didnt even have the decency to make a relevent comment about the perfume or your beautiful writing. Rant complete… Songes is a beautiful perfume and I prefer the edt version as well. Very rich floral with a light touch of tropical goodness. The smell of it transports me to an island pardise!

      • Me too. Seriously gorgeoso stuff.

        As for ‘Home Health Care’ : I honestly have no idea how this bullshit even gets onto The Black Narcissus. It is so baffling as to almost be amusing.

  4. Dubaiscents

    This is my only FB from Annick Goutal but, such a love especially during these extremely hot and humid months. I love your thoughts on choosing a scent to create a better memory of something. I agree with you in that a scent can give us a much more intense and accurate memory than a photo ever could. Maybe this is why on special occasions it takes me so much longer to chose a perfume than an outfit!

    • Dubaiscents, I’ve been curious for a long time about your Dubai scent experience. What are the differences in what you can obtain versus what’s available in European/US centers?

      • Dubaiscents

        Hi Jasmine, I think the best way to describe Dubai’s fragrance world is if you took all the big department stores of NYC (Saks, Barney’s, Bergdorf’s, etc.) and put their fragrance departments all in one giant mall. Then throw in a bunch of stores for single lines (ie. Caron, Diptyque, Amouage, etc. – doesn’t matter if the same scents are also carried in the larger department stores in the same mall) and finally, add a bunch of traditional Arabic fragrance stores to the mix. While we are certainly spoiled for choice here we are also lacking in a lot of the true niche lines and so far, there is not a store like MiN or Osswald or Aedes to fill that void. The frangrance departments of Bloomingdales, Harvey Nichols, Paris Gallery and Galleries Lafayette will keep you busy sniffing for days but, I really yearn to have a smaller place with the true niche lines and sales associates that actually know the product. Fortunately, I am able to visit NYC at least once or twice a year so, I get my fill of those stores while I am there. And there is something to be said for having immediate access to the Middle East “exclusive” scents that keep coming out. Of course, on the other hand, other new releases can take months longer to finally show up here. This part of the world has some of the highest per capita spending on fragrance and beauty products and it certainly is well reflected in the malls. Price is no option for a lot of people (not me!) and exclusivity is highly valued. Knowing that, you can see why by Kilian can release special Dubai only scents (Gold Oud, Extreme Oud…) and charge over $500 a bottle and why 163 bottles of the new Armani Privee Nuances sold out in a month (also $550 a bottle).
        As for who is buying all these fragrances, I would say it is mix. The tourist population here is huge with people coming from all over the world. The Arabs from other Gulf Countries (Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman) is probably the largest chunk and they come to shop, shop and shop. While many look only at the local Arabic brands (and there are some amazing scents there too) I would say that more and more are looking only at the “Western” scents – one big reason for the huge oudh explosion, I believe. Besides the Arabs, you see lots of Asian tourists (from the Far East) and also Russians – you can tell they must spend considerable money since the better stores will always make sure to have SA who speak these languages. Europeans and Americans would not be the main focus since pricing here is usually much higher than you can get in your home country (with some notable exceptions such as Amouage).
        That said, while I absolutely adore being able to go out and smell the latest releases (really cuts down on the sample buying) I don’t buy very much locally. I do try to support the local stores if the price is at all close to what I can get in the US but, when they want to charge double (or more) I can’t justify it.
        Wow, sorry to hijack the Songes post about this totally off-topic subject! Overall, I highly recommend a visit to Dubai for any perfume lover – just being able to spend days in one shopping mall and not smelling the same thing twice makes it all worth it! And don’t forget to throw in the more traditional souqs and markets for a whole other world of fragrance. Hope this answers your question 🙂

      • Wow you have me wanting to hop on a plane to Dubai.

        What is Armani ‘Nuances’ like by the way? Intriguing.

      • Dubaiscents, I never realized that I wanted to go to Dubai, but you have made it clear to me. The thought of an entire mall filled with perfumes has me dizzy.

      • Dubaiscents

        Ha! You are both welcome anytime! And if you can’t manage a visit you can always at least transit through the airport – the Dubai Duty Free perfume selection puts a lot of regular malls to shame. 10% discount on the already lower Dubai prices for Amouage – need I say more? 🙂
        Ginza, Nuances was the third Iris scent in the exclusive Armani Prive line (after La Femme Bleue and Nacre). There were only 1000 bottles worldwide with 163 of them here in Dubai. I am happy to send you a sample if you are interested in smelling it. Word is that it is not as nice as LFB but, better than Nacre. I only know this one so I can’t really compare but, I do think it is a gorgeous Iris / Sandalwood scent and the bottle is amazingly gorgeous!
        Jasmine, I wanted to clarify that the mall is not only fragrances. It just happens that there are a lot of perfume stores in it. The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest mall: (in case you want to plan your visit).

      • Goodness, I would LOVE a sample of that, seriously. I know that Olfactoria was raving about La Femme Bleue ( I love that name, for some reason ), and I have never smelled that one either .

        Dubai I shall visit at some point.

        This is my email so I can give you my address:

    • Oh god yes; it can be an almost panic-inducing decision, especially when you make the wrong one, as I sometimes do, and the evening is somehow wrecked .

      The thing is, we all know that smells conjure up memories involuntarily, but as I wrote here I really do think that it is possible to activate that factor and do it deliberately. I am planning to buy some Eau de Moheli the new Diptyque perfume, and not open it until I am in Indonesia, post shower. I just know it will work. I did the same thing with the Tom Ford hyacinth in Barcelona last year and now it is forever heat being assuaged and cooled by dusky, cold green hyacinths. I LOVE the power of perfume!

  5. Songes was one of the very first niche FBs that I bought. It was lovely on me all summer, then with the cold weather turned oddly acrid. I thought that the bottle had turned, but in late spring, with warm temperatures, it started to smell lovely again. I don’t get it, since most places I go are temp-controlled to roughly the same ambient temperature throughout the year, but I’m fine with accepting Songes as a melodious warm-weather scent.

    • Interesting.

      I must admit that I have noticed the musk in Songes more recently, as a friend of mine, Takako, has started wearing it so I am smelling its base and after effects more.

      Also, those heady florals are bound not to work every time I suppose. Do you still rate it as a good summer perfume, though? I do love it.

    • Interesting.

      I must admit that I have noticed the musk in Songes more recently, as a friend of mine, Takako, has started wearing it so I am smelling its base and after effects more.

      Also, those heady florals are bound not to work every time I suppose. Do you still rate it as a good summer perfume, though? I do love it.

  6. What an interesting approach you and Helen have – this deliberate use of scent as the fixative and then summons for memory. In the process you are enriching the experience of the scent.

    Scent palimpsest.

    You have illuminated an aspect of my scented experience in a new way.

    There are many factors that inform my scent choices: the event, the promised activities, my emotions, the colour of my garments, anticipated company, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure…!

    I do plan scent associations each day (and have, as you describe here, done so for holidays, where it must be decided in advance for a group of days together in an environment apart from the everyday).

    This piece and Nina’s response, have propelled along something I had been pondering: variable mutability of scent for individuals.

    Scents for me are rather more fixed in their power than you are suggesting is the case for you and Helen. And certainly more fixed than for Nina who has had her experience of a scent overlaid with emotional association. Or perhaps those are just two faces of mutability: if, for a person the experience of a scent *can* be changed, then yours and Nina’s stories describe just internally or externally directed change.

    There is a power and utility in experiencing scents as immutable things, their abilitiy to lift and protect me is unassailable. With the power belonging more to the scent than the event, scents have a talismanic quality for me.

    They are wearable, almost absorbable charms.

    Cloaks of power sprayed on.

    With inklings of what a day may bring I have looked upon scent to buoy me, to sustain, to galvanise, to comfort, to enhance an event or my fortitude!

    What you have added in your description seems to be a sense that the power of both scents *and* events may be augmented through using intentional and orchestrated synchronicity.

    I’m keen to explore whether the power might be more mutable than I had allowed for if approached with such intention. I’m simultaneously hesitant lest these charms lose their predictability and power!

    • Wow. This is extremely interesting. Perfumes as ‘galvanizers’, as talismans, as ‘absorbable charms’, I agree with it all.

      I am not entirely sure I understand what you mean by ‘mutable’ though, much as I love this conversation. I mean, some perfumes, my classics, have been worn so many times and in so many different climates and situations that they have no associations for me other than relating to myself. Others are very experience-specific, for example I wear perfumes I don’t even LIKE that much if the situation is an anticipated, overly conversative one where I almost want to HIDE the real me ( I do this with Vetiver Tonka and Rose Ikebana – see my review of that one ).

      As for weather; of course, though with your studies of wind speed and barometric pressure and so on I think I have to hand you the prize for most delicately and assiduously decided scent choice!

  7. Martha

    Oh my word, after reading this I now have to get some Songes in EDT. Thank you for the beautiful review and images. Yum! It was a delicious read.

    The only Annick Goutal I’ve tried is La Violette. It is not for me. Somehow it is too uptight or restrictive. I was ready to write off the house until reading your review.


      All the Annick Goutals, especially the soliflores, while lovely in their way, have something very uptight about them.

      Songes was a totally new departure, unrecognizably Goutalian at the time. It caught everyone by surprise…so……lush and romantic. Please try it!

  8. Hey buddy,
    MMMMMMMMMM Songes. One of my favourite Goutals, I love so many of them and though they are a little up tight sometimes if you wear them intentionally and knowingly the dichotomy can be alluring in itself. Know what I mean?
    Portia xx

  9. The most fascinating conversations happen on this blog. Now I want to go back and sample some older, uptight Goutals. I don’t know the line except for Songes and Gardenia Passion, as unrestrained a pair of white florals as I know of, but I can imagine occasions when a prim disapproving little violet would come in handy. There are better ways to signal that one distance is called for than by covering oneself in the reek of metal and blood, after all. In general, Ginza, I’d love to hear about some other big beautiful white florals that you like, and because I’m greedy, I’ll nag you to name a few in comments here. Summer is my Big White Floral season, and I’m always on the lookout for new ones.

    • Oops, should read “some distance,” not “one distance.”

    • You probably know more than I do, Jasmine, but if I find any I will be glad to oblige.

      I would say on the whole that the Goutal range is very beautiful, and there are definitely some poetic mothers dotted within the soliflores. There is also often a weird, acrid ‘ginger’ metallic/acrid note that is shocking to those who mind it, that lurks within many of the scents, even the timid florals. Works such as Orage whatever you call it, that about to be electrocuted gardenia, fall into this category. I personally don’t get it. But some RAVE over it. I would love to hear your personal viewpoint.

      • I blush to admit that currently I’m obsessed with lush, rank gardenias, and Tom Ford may have made the best of them in Velvet Gardenia. So many of the Jardin noir series seem off-key to me, but after opening my suitcase which was full of gardenia blossoms from my mother’s yard, I realized that the only time I’d ever smelled anything just like it was when I tried Velvet Gardenia. Wouldn’t you know, I come to this conclusion when it’s discontinued and costs a fortune. But at least I’ve (mostly) stopped apologizing for my love of this particular TF. I have the Goutal Gardenia Passion, a tuberose if ever there was one, but don’t know the Orage one that you mention. Will have to look into this….

  10. RitzySpritz

    Scent and memory combinations are so powerful. If I close my eyes and smell Fragonard Fragonard, I’m immediately back in a student dorm in Vienna in spring 2010 and Tiesto’s “Who Wants to be Alone” spontaneously starts playing in my head. If I smell Forest Essentials’ (amazing Ayurvedic body care brand in India, you should smell this stuff if you haven’t before!) beautiful Mashobra Honey and Vanilla body lotion, I’m jet lagged and just waking up at 1 pm in 2014 on the 13th floor of the Four Seasons in Mumbai and I don’t know it yet but I’m going to be proposed to in a few hours.

    • This is EXACTLY why we love perfume: and these recollections are extremely vivid. I want to wake up in the Four Seasons in Mumbai as well. I would love to go to India.

    • Incidentally, I was thinking the other day that I can imagine my book being quite popular in India for some reason – but as yet I don’t think it is being stocked anywhere there. Do you happen to know of any bookstores/booksellers I could contact?

      • RitzySpritz

        You should definitely go to India! Even the air itself smelled different in Mumbai walking out of the airport. It reminded me of the smell of bacon, weirdly; a faint mix of heat and salt and sulfur.

        I think your book would be quite popular there (I’m planning to read it ASAP myself) but I don’t actually live there so I don’t know whom you should speak to, unfortunately. I’m from Boston, and that’s where I live now, but my husband is from India, hence the trip. Stock the book there and then go on a book tour and get your hands on all sorts of perfumes 🙂

      • That would be fabulous!

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