Reviews En Bref – Boucheron, Montale, Caron, & Annick Goutal: From Average to Terrible

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m verbose. 😉 I can’t seem to help it and, frankly, it often exhausts me as much as it probably overwhelms (terrifies?) you. So, from time to time, I thought I would offer brief thoughts and conclusions on a wide range of colognes or perfumes. Sometimes, they will include fragrances that I plan full reviews for down the line. Other times, like now, it’s for perfumes that I don’t like and find it difficult to sum up the enthusiasm to write a full review.

BOUCHERON:
Boucheron For Men Eau de Parfum is a scent I should like, in theory. It’s a powerhouse citrus aromatic that is most definitely unisex, regardless of what’s written on the bottle. I didn’t like it. It opened with too much soapy citrus and was utterly overwhelming. I’m not easily overwhelmed and usually like powerhouse perfumes. This one is justifiably considered by some to be utterly unbearable. (For the sake of balance, others adore it. It’s definitely a very split opinion.) Boucheron became much better as it developed but not enough for me to like it. Bottom line: nothing special and somewhat nondescript in the end.

 

MONTALE:

I’m glad I tried Montale’s Oriental Flowers if only to prove to myself that my intense dislike for Montale scents thus far has nothing to do with oud. The two Montale oud fragrances that I’ve tried (and reviewed here) were nothing short of Chernobyl on my arm and made me desperate for a Silkwood shower. A close friend recently tried Montale’s Amber Aoud and commented: “Montale clobbers you over the head and drags you back to a cave to roast you on a rack.” So, clearly, it’s not just me. Oriental Flowers is better — but that’s not saying much. It’s sharp, screechy, and very synthetic (to me, at least). For a floriental, there is a note that suspiciously calls to mind the oud in Montale’s other fragrances.

Perhaps it’s the very synthetic lime note that keeps appearing in the Montale perfumes, even though there shouldn’t be lime in any of those that I’ve tried thus far. I think “sharp, hostile lime” is how my nose processes the extremely synthetic florals and ouds in the Montales. Regardless, I find the rose scent in Oriental Flowers to be synthetic and screechy too. Over all, the perfume gave me a headache and I wanted it off me. It wasn’t the unrelenting horror and nuclear explosion of the Montale ouds, but it was damn unpleasant. And, even worse, it simply won’t go away. There is just no escape from Montale scents, no matter how microscopic the amount.

CARON:

Perfumistas and bloggers rave about Nuit de Noel, a favorite particularly around Christmas time and a fragrance that Karl Lagerfeld allegedly sprays around his house to get him in the holiday mood. Huh. Maybe I need to try the vintage version, because I’m in the clear (and tiny) minority on this one. Consider me utterly unimpressed, though so, so desperately eager to like this one. Dammit, why don’t I?! It’s a floriental whose spice is supposed to evoke marron glacés, old-fashioned Christmases with gingerbread men, sugar and spice, baking cookies, and cozy fireplaces. Even Goth Christmases and the 1920s. The superb blog, Perfume Shrine, had an absolutely delicious review (which convinced me to buy it)  and which reads, in part, as follows:

Caron’s Nuit de Noël (1922) is a soft oriental built on an accord of rose absolu and Mousse de Saxe perfumer’s base (i.e. a ready-made accordof ingredients producing a specific effect), with the addition of 25% sandalwood, jasmine, ylang ylang, lily of the valley, vetiver, amber and iris. It’s prismatically constructed around 6-isobutylquinoline, a leathery molecule.

The fragrance emits a cozy, inviting scent poised between the starch of marrons and the bitterness of the iodine/leathery note(hence my Fernet Branca evocation) fading into musky woods. Indeed the famous “Mousse de Saxe accord” is comprised of geranium, licorice (created with anise), isobutyl quinoline (leather notes), iodine and vanillin (synthesized vanilla). If older Carons, especially in their superior vintage form, are characterised by a signature “Caronade”, a common thread that runs through them, Nuit de Noël is a good place to start this escapade into one of the most chic and historical French perfume houses.

Less incensey than similarly oriental Parfum Sacré, less abrasive or bold than straightforward leathery En Avion or Tabac BlondNuit de Noël has a sheen that starts and ends on an unwavering tawny pitch. The spiced rum-licorice notes aplified by musk (a musk comparable to that in Chanel’sNo.5 and Bois des Iles) take on a rich saturation; the fragrance dries down to a powdery warmth redolent of the bourgeois scents of a festive evening spent outdoors.

Every single one of the reviews mentions things that are right up my alley, and make me wonder about my own judgment. (Did I mention that I’m desperate to like Nuit de Noel?) Unfortunately, as I wrote to an inquiring friend yesterday, I actually regret having bought a full bottle. A small sample would have sufficed. I only get fleeting notes of a few of the things mentioned by others, if at all. Plus, there is a very surprising bit of an underlying coldness and dryness to it. Someone called it “melancholy” but in a good way; I’m not sure I would go that far. Now, again, the vintage may be very different, but the bottom line is that my version is nothing particularly special. It’s perfectly nice, nondescript and pleasant, but I don’t want “pleasant.” There are too many perfumes in the world for unenthused “pleasant.”

Montaigne by Caron is one I’m on the fence about. It’s not a perfume I reach for often and, when I do, I think to myself, “I should wear this more.” It makes me think of Cannes, mimosa flowers under a brilliant blue sky, and Van Gogh paintings. It’s a floriental and the notes are described as follows: Top notes are jasmine, coriander, bitter orange, mimose and tangerine; middle notes are narcissus and black currant; base notes are sandalwood, amber and vanille. It’s sunny, elegant, and incredibly powerful both in terms of sillage and longevity. I have no clue why I don’t like this more. Perhaps it’s going to take a lot more tries, though that didn’t work for Nuit de Noel.

ANNICK GOUTAL:

Grand Amour is a perfume I should adore, and not solely because of the incredibly romantic story behind it. It’s a perfume that Annick Goutal created in 1996 for herself as an ode to love and her husband. Lucky Scent says: “Grand Amour is the perfume that encapsulates the serene passion Annick experienced with her husband, the cellist Alain Meunier, who would bring her a bouquet of white flowers every week. A dense perfume with flowery chords, amber, and musk that speaks of love, because “love is everything.” It’s another floriental (can you see a theme in my tastes?), and according to Fragrantica: “[t]he composition is based on three accords: floral, amber, and musk. In the floral bouquet, lily, honeysuckle, and hyacinth lead the way to Turkish rose, French jasmine, and Indian mimosa, with a touch of fruity notes. Oriental accord (amber) is represented by the notes of amber, vanilla and myrrh. In the base the sensual musk united with precious rare balsams create a very long trace.”

Hmmph. If they say so. To me, Grand Amour has a painfully green opening. It is the filthy, fetid, murky green remnants of a week-old vase of flowers whose water has not been changed and started to stink. At the same time, it’s a bit powdery and soapy. After a queasy hour or two, it turns softer. But now it’s musky soap and powder, but with leather and balsam. There’s something about it that I find unpleasant. I bought it because I love hyacinth, amber and myrrh; because the rest of the notes sounded completely up my alley; and because it was reported to be one of the rare Goutals that has good longevity. Well, the longevity isn’t bad, but it’s an utter ordeal and chore to wear it. It’s hardly akin to the sheer horror that is Montale (nothing is), but it’s one of the few perfumes I own that I want to sell. Not only do I not want to have anything to do with it, but I need to have that full bottle stop staring at me so hauntingly and reproachfully.

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