Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Decades of Decadence part II: Annick Goutal Ambre Fétiche

In the four fragrances comprising the Les Orientalistes-series the House of Annick Goutal takes a welcome departure to the darker and more mysterious sides of perfumery.

I have a great deal of respect for the very natural, honest style of this house - with citrus benchmarks like Eau d´Hadrien, the coarse beauty of Sables and Duel and the true to life dewey freshness of Ninfeo Mio. Yet most of the Goutal back catalogue lacks a certain excitement - more competent, organic little poems than complex epic novels.

This started changing already with the excellent spicy Mandragore and the more intense version Mandragore Pourpre but is even more evident in Ambre Fétiche and the other three orientals Myrrhe Ardente, Encens Flamboyant and Musc Nomade. Especially Ambre Fétiche st
ands out as very "non-Goutalesque" with it´s smoldering spices, opulent richness and heavy duty sillage.

The initial blast is brutal - bitter, medicinal and almost overpowering. But this fierce top swiftly gives way to a creamy and dense amber with a strong and syrupy vanilla presence. Thus far many ambers are similar, especially L´Artisan Parfumeur´s Ambre Extréme comes to mind. But it is what follows that separates Ambre Fétiche from many of it´s niche counterparts.

A beautiful smoke and leather accord, probably achieved with labdanum and birch tar, lifts the whole composition to a whole new level successfully balancing out the intense sweetness. This smoke accord also has a salty steamlike quality much like the one found in Penhaligon´s Sartorial.

The overall impression is deep, dark, voluptous, bohemian and timeless. Both sillage and longevity are amazing. This stays on your skin forever.

Apart from being an excellent fragrance, Ambre Fétiche - as well as the others in Les Orientalistes - are a great work of artistic integrity and cohesion. In an age where fragrance brands compete fiercely with pretentious copy and increasingly ridiculous concepts - this line of fragrances does exactly what it´s supposed to - evoke visions of an ancient, lavish middle east with steamy hammams, luxurious spices and precious incense.

In Ambre Fétiche Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal have not only created one of the great modern ambers, they have also successfully widened the brilliance of this esteemed perfume house.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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