Thursday, February 4, 2010

Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche: Exceptional Amber

Day 6 of Annick Goutal Week

The Annick Goutal Les Orientalistes Collection is an excellent addition to the Goutal brand. Since the houses' fragrances consist mainly of florals, a quartet of orientals was most welcome. All four of the offerings from Les Orientalistes collection are fantastic with my favorites being Ambre Fetiche (#1) and Encens Flamboyant (#2).

The amber note is a chameleon in perfumery. Amber essential oil doesn’t exist, it’s not a real thing in nature; amber is not strictly ambergris (ambergris may be a component) nor does it have anything to do with fossilized tree sap (i.e., amber stones in jewelry). Amber is, in fact, a man-made accord, which usually consists of varying degrees of labdanum, benzoin, tonka, ambergris and oppoponax. Some amber fragrances are really sweet and blended with heavy doses of foodie vanilla – these are usually cheap smelling Bath & Body Works type stuff and not the amber fragrances I seek. I physically crave deep, incense-y, dry, resinous ambers during the fall and winter. Some pefumes that fall under my favorite amber category are: Parfums d’Empire Ambre Russe and Sonoma Scent Studio Ambre Noire. I like, but don’t love, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, because there’s a bit too much cedar in this for me, and I think Ambre Fetiche blows it away, it’s more fierce.

If I’m not feeling like wearing my most outrageously decadent amber, namely PdE Ambre Russe, but still want something deeply rich yet wearable my go-to amber is Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche. Ambre Fetiche is a phenomenal brew of frankincense, leathery birch tar, dry woods, smoke with a touch of powdery (iris root) amber and vanilla in the dry down. At times, Ambre Fetiche seems less about amber and more about incense and woods. I happen to adore the strident initial blast of frankincense, birch tar-ry leather and smoky dry woods. If you were blind-folded you would never guess Ambre Fetiche is brought to us by Annick Goutal because there is *nothing* demure about it. The reviews on Ambre Fetiche are mixed and I think (once again) this might have to do with sampling practices. Ambre Fetiche must be sprayed and sprayed liberally to get the full effect. This is not to say Ambre Fetiche is fleeting because it’s anything but – it easily lasts 6-8 hours on me and the farrrr dry down is just as breathtaking in it’s own softer way as the start.

Even though there is nothing gourmand about Ambre Fetiche I always have the desire to lick my arm when I wear it. I noticed a review from The Non-Blonde, where she feels the same. There is something deeply carnal and subconscious about Ambre Fetiche. It feels familiar, like a scent I’ve known all my life and perhaps in past lives. I think it’s the resins, incense and dry smoky woods that call to mind a time long ago, when we anointed ourselves with precious salves, ointments and oils in ritualistic ways. I think of Cleopatra. For those who love this sort of fierce amber I’ve described, Ambre Fetiche is an absolute must. But keep in mind there are two sides to Ambre Fetiche, the fierce start and then the gentler dry down where it becomes a dreamy woody-amber.

Notes are listed as: frankincense, labdanum, styrax, benzoin, iris, vanilla and leather

Photos of Ambre Fetiche bottles are the brilliant works of Nathan Branch

PS: Did you notice the guy in the Cleopatra image licking her thigh? Well, the scent of Ambre Fetiche gives him the urge to lick, too.


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for doing this one week series on Annick Goutal. Years ago, I went through a FB of Le Chevrefeille one hot summer. I meant to explore the line further but never got to it. One of my resolutions for 2010 is to sample more esp line like AG. So I will be starting with the scents that you've reviewed. Love your blog.

Tania said...

I've sprayed this one in the shop, but was put off by the harsh opening, which smelled like creosote to me. I may like the drydown better, if I smell it - but I never got that far.
Oh, Ambre Noir - I love that!

StyleSpy said...

I lurve the opening of AF, that blast of leathery tar, but the drydown winds up being too vanilla-y for me to think it's really great. (But my skin tends to bring up any & all vanilla in anything, to my constant chagrin.) Still, that opening is marvelous -- maybe the solution is to just keep re-applying!

Marko said...

I agree fully on the subversive "carnal" underpinnings of Ambre Fetiche. There are certain fragrances that I can NOT wear while I'm teaching because they illicit "strange" responses form my students, and Goutal's AF is definitely on that list. The last time I wore this teaching, a MALE student come up to my desk while the class was engaged in a project, batted his eyes and said, "You smell DELICIOUS......what are you wearing????" Beware gals (and guys) this one really attracts attention!!!

Abagail - I've been lemming for a bottle of Alahine since you and Brian started writing about does the Ambre Fetiche compare?

Abigail said...

Dear Kinna,
thanks so much. *blushes* but the thanks should go to Annick Goutal for making such exquiste perfumes. :-)

oh, my love, the harsh creosote opening is the bestest part! AF does get gentler though - after about an hour - it takes it's sweet time going from a tiger to a kitty.

I have a few 'fumes like that, too. I love the opening so much that I want to re-apply. Perhaps I will do that now. Ever since I decided to actually USE my perfumes - to spray myself wet - I ought to also start re-applying as often as I darn well want to!


Isn't just utterly carnal and sensual ;) gotta love that, but perhaps not for teaching unless you want improper student attentions.

AF and Alahine have just about zero in common. While Alahine IS an ambery-oriental it's a different beast entirely. It has plenty of popin' aldehydes for one thing - so it comes off more like a classic and proper perfume. Alahine also more floral direction. Not florals I can pick out and identify easily, but in comparison to AF it's more floral. I think of singing ranges when I compare these two - Ambre Fetiche is a deep, low register - carnal and subconscious, like a barotone male singing range -- while Alahine is like mezzo-soprano, it flies higher, but it's not a complete soprano.

Tania said...


I thought you would say that... ;-) But sadly, it's too much for me. I don't mind smokey, in fact I often like it. But the creosote note here reminds me of a nasty cough syrup I used to have to take as a child.
I do like the drydown though.