Guest post by Robin




I’d written off Annick Goutal’s Nuit Étoilée about thirty seconds after I tipped a few drops of the 1ml sample onto my wrist, let it dry, and sniffed it. Quickly. Dismissively. Happily.


I’ve been trying to do that lately. I have too many perfumes. I’ve already spent too much. I will die with probably two or three hundred bottles, good ones, expensive ones, that are all still mostly full. (I have already written the note. It is in a drawer. When I die, please give my perfumes to my niece Nadia . . . Otherwise, I haven’t even thought of writing a will.) I can’t bear the thought of whoever empties my house of worldly possessions throwing out those venerable old beauties. I do not need another love, another Must Have. If anything, I should start saving my twenties for a bottle of Superstitious, the new Dominique Ropion creation from Malle slated to be released early next year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to want that one. But I do get curious, and I do receive samples. And if it’s not love at first sniff, out it goes.


So it was with considerable relief that I gave Nuit Etoilée the quick thumbs down. It wasn’t much of a stretch. A toothpaste-y mint note up front, a discordant immortelle behind it, some weird tonka-bean-like sweetness and a murky forest-floor/pine-fresh-cleaning-solvent undercurrent that instantly made me queasy. I wasn’t looking for ways to adore it, but Annick Goutal had made it easy to dump the rest of the vial on my neck (I’m Irish; I don’t like waste) and toss the glass into the recycling.


So off I went to my dear Ric’s for a morning coffee. He’s used to me by now. I grab the steaming cup from his hand, offer up my neck. “What do you think of THIS stuff?” It’s a routine he’s endured every day since we fell in love, two and a half years ago now, with responses that are predictably and endearingly short and sweet; Ric was quite happy with the scent of soap and water before he met me, and he’d be fine with soap and water now. There are four standard verdicts ranging from a tepid yea to an adamant nay: “That’s quite nice”; “It’ll work”; “Room for improvement”; and “NO,” with a snap back of the head. (To his credit – Ric really does have an excellent nose, although he’d deny it – the latter is saved for the vilest mainstream dreck loaded with ethyl maltol and throat-closing white patchoulis. He is surprisingly tolerant of aldehydes, nitro-musks, civet and castoreum.) Of all the fragrances I’ve thrust under his semi-willing nose, he’s liked maybe a handful. Most have been Guerlains, frequently from the Jean-Paul era: Champs-Elysées (actually Olivier Cresp’s), Jardins de Bagatelle, et al. Good taste, he has. This particular “What do you think of THIS stuff?” was said with a hint of I know already you’re not going to like it, but please humour me anyway, my long-suffering Love.

“Mmm,” exhaled that dear man. “That’s actually really nice.”

Reader, I bought a bottle.

Ric is a man of few words, and though I pressed him, he wasn’t willing to provide a flowery review. He liked it, he liked it a great deal in fact, and that was that. When my bottle of Nuit Etoilée arrived in the mail last week – the eau de toilette, by the way; I hear the eau de parfum is a little less green, a little more ambery – I was able to give it a second chance. I see what he sees in it. It has that same breezy, Jean-Paul Guerlain femininity. It’s fresh. It’s . . . pretty. There’s a fair bit going on. There’s a sharp orange note that works well against the oily greens. I wore it, and it lasted nicely. Projection was above average. I still could, if I tried, find that same initial reaction to it; the toothpaste-y mint was there, and the pine-scented cleaning solution, and the immortelle in all its odd-ball glory and the clunky tonka. But you know, it didn’t really matter. And it doesn’t matter. Ric likes it, and I love Ric. He is amazingly tolerant of all the perfumes I foist on him that make his nostril hairs burn and his stomach clench. It feels good to set aside my own prejudices and predilections and opinions – God knows I have enough for a dozen strong-willed women – and bring a sweet man a little happiness and pleasure. And sometimes, a fragrance doesn’t get any better than that.




Filed under Coniferous, Mint, Woods

31 responses to “NUIT ETOILEE by ANNICK GOUTAL (2012)

  1. Your experience with this is almost identical to mine, actually. I have a bottle, bought for me by my sister, who saw this and Songes at special price and wavered. How could she have? Anyone who knows me knows that I adore tropical white flowers and vanilla. Instead, I was given (how ungrateful I sound!) a scent containing a whole load of my bete noires: mint, fir, and immortelle, not to mention angelica….yuk. And yet, even though I can’t wear it, I do think that this is an intensely original scent, very head clearing and ‘above’ looking, like its name…It smells quite nice on Duncan, and when his parents came to stay I liked it on his dad as too. I know my friend Nina also had a big crush on it and that made me like the idea of it more.

    Mint, though. I just can’t do mint. I buy the essential oil, sometimes, to make mindbogglingly minty toothpaste by adding it to the tube, and I adore mint chocolate (but not quite as much as orange), but I am not that into it in food (lamb and mint sauce was my idea of horror when growing up), except in a Turkish yoghurt context when I think it works divinely with roasted meats and thick and spicy tomato sauces. In perfume…..I somehow can’t really hack it. It makes me shudder slightly. Herba Fresca is intriguing but only in the bottle; the Heeley mint perfume is horrible, Comme Des Garcons’ Mint Sherbet fascinates me but only in theory….I think the only times I have really enjoyed it is in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, as the top note of mint cuts very cleverly through the thick lavender musky ambers and gives it just a soupçon of freshness that raises it up, and particularly Laura Biagiotti’s Roma: the mint grapefruit opening is sheer genius when laid over all the sensual balsams and bacchanalia waiting underneath.

    Nuit Etoilee just goes too far for me though, with the foresty coniferousness, but then that is exactly the reason why I would recommend it for people. In these saturated, bloated times, the last week in particular, this is probably exactly the kind of perfume that we need.

    • Saturated, bloated times. Gawd YES. We need a cleanse, a detox, a strict diet of crisp, crunchy, good-for-you green things to smell.

      Le Male’s mint is smart. Sometimes the lavender alone can work to slice through the wood, keep the fir from being too literal, as with Tauer Reverie au Jardin.

      Do you wear scents for Duncan that he likes on you better than you do? And does he tolerate scents you love on him because he loves you?

      • My god he has had to put up with a lot of perfume over the years…but he basically loves anything ambery on me (Laura Mercier’s Ambre Lumiere is a current favourite of us both) and swoons over No 19 so it’s generally alright. When I get all La Rose De Rosine on him though the reaction is muted, and he REALLY hates anything oudhy or chypreish – I will think I smell sublime in vintage Cabochard extrait, for example, but no – to him I just smell like Old Mother Hubbard.

        Also, I am obsessed with cloves, but he doesn’t like them. But yes, he would put up with it I think. I find that even if you don’t entirely like a scent – he has been wearing Penhaligons Opus 1820 which is nice, but a touch too macho for me ( I cannot ABIDE anything macho, on ANYBODY), and yet you start to then associate the scent with the person and so you strangely start to kind of like it…..

        The scent of all time that smelled best on him though was this divine creation called Epicee Giroflee, a sneaky way for me to get the cloves in without him noticing, and he just smelled like pure love to me, like a saint. I don’t think they still make it, or it may have been changed to Eau Des Quatre Voleurs or something, but that delicate balancing between spices, citrus and light aromatics works perfectly with his skin chemistry.

  2. And I love Roma, but haven’t tried the current formulation and heard it’s had the usual hatchet job. What I loved about that grapefruit note is that it was pink and almost like candied peel, sweet and oily, not juicy and acidic. That one was so distinctive and so delicious I can almost taste it right now. Bought it at the Leonardo da Vinci airport when it first came out ages ago. I felt so damn Italian.

  3. My molars grind at the thought of macho!

    A shame about the Cabochard.

    I wonder if FM Noir Epices would have a similar effect to Epicee Giroflee? The way you describe it, it has a chance. It’s Noir, but not heavy at all, in fact quite transparent, as hot spices go.

  4. Right now I am wearing two spritzes of Jicky. (Not vintage, not brand new, but I like the way it smells.) I have been wearing different perfumes I own more often now after the miserable election…as if I can spray that Orange Man into oblivion…but all I’ve done is make people wrinkle their noses as they can actually detect a perfume instead of a “Bounce” or insipid air freshener. But I think I am thinking that I should start trying to use them up (I have probably at least 450 bottles) in lieu of leaving them all behind where no relatives or friends of mine have been inflicted with the love perfumes like I do.

    • I wish I could remember that acronym for having more supply than we’ll ever use in a lifetime. That is us! Neil has been inflicted, so he might be a candidate for your beauties.
      I can’t believe that Jicky is one Guerlain I have yet to try. I must. I’ve been spraying like mad, too. I think I must be trying to spray that man right out of my hair. So far, the only collateral damage I know of from my recent wild abandon has been a woman working in a neighbourhood thrift shop. (I was, of course, on the prowl for vintage perfume.) I heard her say to her friend something about the strong scent someone was wearing. “I’m telling you,” she complained, “it’s hitting me RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES.” I tucked my chin down onto my jacket and got as far away from her as I could. So embarrassing. Sometimes I feel as though the only time I can wear my perfumes without fear of offending is when I’m alone and heading for bed. Sigh . . .

    • 450? Wow. But I do agree… is risky to leave perfumes to people unless you are fully sure they will appreciate them. Better to leave them to the Perfume Lovers…

      (not that we NECESSARILY have to be QUITE this morbid just yet, surely?!)

    • I cannot believe my post says the Orange Man’s wine instead of win. Maybe he will turn purple-like and dry up like a prune. Wishful drinking…oh I mean thinking.

  5. Tara C

    I did not love the edt, which smelled like a citrus cleaning product on me, but I do enjoy the edp. The amber seems to soften the citrus and make it more wearable. It is an odd scent though, and I have to be in just the right mood to wear it.

  6. It’s been a full week since the official results of the election and the Orange Man’s wine. I can truly say that I feel even sadder but mostly angrier than I did last week. Last week after work and the final results of the election, I went to a local bar/restaurant to have a glass of wine and a small dinner. I met an imperfectly nice man and spent the evening pontificating on the evils of the Orange Man. I reluctantly gave him my cell phone number but did not hear from him again until tonight…a week later. I spent the evening ranting again about the Orange Man and giving him a hard time because he actually voted for him although he said he hates him. Hellooooo. I responded how could you vote for someone you hated. He didn’t actually tell me but perhaps he doesn’t even know. Maybe he hated Hillary more or maybe he just couldn’t grasp the idea of a female president. Bottom line is I am still in mourning. I cannot bear the fact that the Orange Man (who I refer to as Despicable Donald) will be the President. A week later and I still cannot fathom it. So for some reason, tonight I spritzed a few more than usual sprays of Jicky on me. Why Jicky I do not know but I am liking it. Hopefully, my 450 bottles will get me through the next four years.

    • Death by perfume. And I certainly share in your morning (hence the need for reviews of perfumes like this). Personally, though, I REFUSE point blank to have THAT PERSON suffusing through my brain cells. I am reading a really brilliant book called the Poison Principle at the moment, utterly engrossing, about a woman’s research into her family background (her grandfather poisoned his father’s two brothers with strychnine) and the history of poisoning in general. It might sound dark, but treating poison with poison is really working for me. A beautiful, belladonna antidote.

  7. I can so relate to your impression and to initially refusing Nuit Etoilée, it was the same for me. And Ric is right, I rediscovered the edp lately and must say, it is actually rather nice!
    On a side note: I love your writing style 🙂

    • That’s such a nice note of reassurance, since I just pulled the trigger on the EdP! Thank you — and thank you for the reassurance about my writing.
      🙂 Neil is not just a hard act to follow; he’s quite impossible.

  8. I love this act of love in scent!

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