I'm generally astounded at the viciousness directed toward Cacharel fragrances, Anais Anais in particular. My ability to appreciate the latter might have something to do with gender. Anais Anais wasn't pimped on boys with the same virulence used to market it to girls. Giorgio, Poison, Paris, et al were made so aggressively ubiquitous to the female adolescent consciousness. Being a boy, I was spared that, but don't envy me too much before considering my teenage crosses to bear: Polo, Chaps, and Oscar Pour Lui were my own adolescent wallpaper, visible everywhere I went.
Anais Anais has no pre-conditioned associations for me. I smell it with fresh nostrils, and find all the vitriol against it curiously over-compensatory. Admittedly, some of my favorite perfumes are made by Cacharel. I can't say a bad word about Lulu, Eden is gorgeously strange, and Noa is at least interesting, if fleetingly so. Anais Anais has galbanum in the top notes, which is often about all I need to hear before robotically pulling my wallet out. Galbanum works wonderfully here against the counterpoint of Muguet and rose, and in some ways the effect reminds me of Ivoire, creating a certain spectral disposition, a hot, near-rubbery glow. If aldehydes make accompanying notes pop with 3-d precision, galbanum makes them burn bright by surrounding them in a white hot aurora borealis outline. Another way to describe galbanum's effect, at least on Anais Anais, is to liken it to condensation on a bathroom mirror and the humidity that comes with it.
I love the Anais Anais ad campaigns, past and present. I love how the image on the bottle is vague, a little hazy, like something you'd see across the room through a blanket of steam. The milk-white bottle, designed by Annegret Beier, has a vintage boudoir feel to it. Best of all, the frosted plastic cap, which reveals the nozzle the way you ascertain a naked body through a foggy glass shower door.
Amber, oakmoss and a particularly nice cedar note in the base burnish the composition further, working in concert with the galbanum to create the sensation of hot, moist skin after a protracted shower. Anais Anais is more than anything a muguet fragrance, but to say that is like saying a Bentley is primarily a machine sitting on four wheels. The galbanum and amber and cedar, judiciously used, tease out the best qualities of lily-of-the-valley, enhancing its intrinsic oiliness in the best possible way. It helps that they and rose all share with galbanum an intrinsic tension between aridity and moisture.