On Tuesday, March 6th I attended a special event held at The Bay in Oakridge Centre to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Eau d'Hadrien, Annick Goutal's second and most successful fragrance. The event was advertised as an opportunity to learn how to create your own custom scent by choosing scent to layer from the line. I must admit my main objective of attending the evening was to finally get a hold of the Songes Moon Bottle. Songes only arrived in Vancouver that week, and I was waiting since the summer for that day to come.
A special room was decorated with golden frames and butterfly bottle posters, golden table-clothes glittered in dim candle light and sparkling water, fruit and other fancy snacks were offered to the guests. There weren’t many guests, so the atmosphere was intimate and quiet, even a bit shy at first. But with a lively hostess such as Marie-Lise Bernie, things warmed up and became more exciting in no time.
With her energetic presence and charming French-Canadian accent, Marie-Lise told us the stories behind the scents of Annick Goutal, accompanied by thorough fragrance sampling and a couple of video clips featuring Camille Goutal (the infamous muse inspiring Eau de Camille and Petite Cherie, who is following her mother’s footsteps and is leading the company after her death).
While many of the stories were not completely new to me (and I don’t believe they will make any news to you, so I will only repeat some details that I think might be interesting and refreshing to my internet-savvy readers).
The entire line carries on with the concept of tying emotions and personal experience to every aspect of the product, from scent to packaging and naming the scents. I must admit that in a market flooded with endless uninspirational and impresonal fragrances, this has a lot of appeal to me, even if most of the Annick Goutal fragrances don't work so well on my skin because of their greenness, floralcy or soapiness (except for Songes and Eau de Sud). It's nice to see a house that is carried on by the founder's daughter and that seems to stay true to the original intent and true spirit of the line despite the fact that the woman who conceived it is no longer with us.
Contrary to what most North American seem to think, the name for Folavril, Annick Goutal’s first fragrance, does not mean April Fool, but rather, refers to the antique shop Ms. Goutal worked in before she started her perfumery. Folavril, composed of unusual and refreshing notes of boronia, mango and tomato leaf, creates a soapy, almost powdery and somewhat old-fashioned impression, yet with a very individualistic twist. The signature packaging of Annick Goutal’s perfumes, AKA “The Butterfly Bottle” is fashioned after an antique bottle that Goutal found in that shop. The butterfly is, in fact, two butterflies kissing, which only intensifies the romanticism of this perfume house.
The Butterfly Bottle is always packaged in cellophane. Although this may seem odd, particularly for such a perfectionist line, there is a meaning behind that as well: Annick Goutal’s father was a chocolatier and to earn her pocket money, Annick would help him wrap the candy in the store. Hence the cellophane wrap of the Butterfly Bottles, which should be opened like a gigantic olfactory candy!
The golden ribbons of the scents from the days Annick Goutal was alive are also a detail that takes it’s inspiration from the golden threads used to tie the chocolate boxes. Now that Camille is leading the company, all the scents that were launched after Annick’s death, are tied with an organza ribbon of a significant colour. The first fragrance that Camille was involved in creating was Le Chèvrefeuille. Designed to evoke a summer memory from the South of France, of Camille playing dress-up with her cousins, and crowning themselves as princesses with tiaras made of honeysuckle. The yellow ribbon for this fragrance represents these honeysuckle-crowns.
Eau d’Hadrien, Annick Goutal’s second and most popular fragrance which is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year, was inspired by the book “Memoirs of Hadrian” and was created as a unisex fragrance that contained no flowers. Years later, Camille re-read the book and created Les Nuits d'Hadrien, a more sensual, with the addition of floral notes (ylang ylang) as well as patchouli and vanilla, alongside the citrusy notes of the original creation.
For the 25th anniversary of Eau d’Hadrien, a few new products will be introduced, probably as a limited edition, including a body tonic water and miniature votive candles.
The evening was calm and enjoyable and the crown was small and sweet, a bit shy at first but as the fragrances started to change hands the reactions did not fail to become vocal and people started opening up and sniffing each other's wrists enthusiastically, as you may e xpect in scent-loving circles. By the way, the only man around was a security guard that let us out because this event took place after hours (he was dressed in casual clothes and I was almost convinced he was a patient boyfriend waiting for his young lady inside, but I was mistaken; perhaps such patient young men only exist on duty!).
Although the evening had the premise of being all about layering, the only significant layering event that took place was Gardenia Passion and Petite Cherie layered together by a young lady. She was a Petite Cherie fan when she entered the room, and after much sniffing could not make up her mind between Gardenia Passion and Songes. When she layered both, the results was quite interestingly similar to Songes, but a little bit more gardenia-focused. It smelled lovely on her. The same creative young lady also won the book “Memoirs of Hadrien” in a draw that was held at the end of the evening.
The Songes Moon Bottle (and in fact most of the “Butterfly Bottles”) have to be special ordered in most of the Annick Goutal counters at The Bay. So I pre-ordered it and also snatched a couple of Eau d’Hadrien votive candles before they disappear. I really enjoyed the Noel candles this winter, so I hope this will be a nice companion on my upcoming trip to the hot Mediterranean spring.
I would like to conclude with an interesting perfume-application tip that Marie-Lise offered in her presentation. She explained in much detail how to use the Butterfly Bottle – or any flacon with a dabber for the matter – without spoiling the juice:
1) Wash your hands
2) Open the flacon
3) Using one finger at a time, seal the mouth of the flacon and dab the perfume to one pulse point at a time.
4) Each time, change the finger, so always a clean finger is touching the juice.
* According to Marie-Lisehen using the dabber, you might add your own skin cells and bacteria to the juice which can cause spoilage. The same thing can happen if you use the same finger over and over again to apply the perfume.
A little trivia question, with an Annick Goutal related prize for the first to answer correctly:
What other name, besides Songes, did Annick Goutal went through a court battle for?