Friday, 14 October 2011

Review: Mon Parfum Chéri from Annick Goutal, Lumière Noire Pour Femme Elixir and Aqua Universalis Forte Elixir from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (2011)

[Review of Mon Parfum Chéri based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by in 2011; reviews of Lumière Noire Pour Femme Elixir and Aqua Universalis Forte Elixir based on samples of extraits provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]

The moment I tried Goutal’s latest, I knew I had to test it on Madame Persolaise. I rushed to our lounge, where she was working her way through the Sunday papers, sprayed some on her arm and said, “Tell me what this reminds you of.”

"Femme," she declared a few moments later. “And I mean proper Femme. Not the new stuff.”

That, dear readers, is what you call a hole-in-one, because Mon Parfum Chéri is a classic chypre in the grand tradition of Jubilation 25, Rose De Nuit, Mitsouko and the aforementioned classic from Rochas. And unfortunately, ‘classic chypre’ is a label that comes with a whole load of baggage.

Context aside, Camille Goutal has created a stygian, autumnal heavyweight that places the familiar velvety-moss-and-rich-labdanum accord alongside a patchouli note so hefty, it’s liable to make you think your local garden centre has just deposited a ton of damp compost in your back garden. This is patchouli less as the familiar purveyor of chocolate (although there are moments when Chanel’s Coromandel comes to mind) and more as a keen participant in nude mud wrestling. Tenacious and intensely natural (the plum opening is especially ripe), it pays homage to the smells of bodies as they snuggle up to each other on overheated August evenings, eschewing any flimsy, floral romanticism that might initially be suggested by a name that includes the word 'chéri'.

But precisely because it plays the chypre card so expertly, it also comes across as more than a little old-fashioned. The accord is tricky to pull off these days, probably because its sophistication is often associated with a certain fustiness. A well-made chypre doesn’t grant its constituents gigantic space in which to roam free, preferring to keep its star players rooted in relatively airless enclosures. And of course this places it at odds with current tastes for formulations which have so much breathing room, they hyperventilate themselves into non-existence.

That said, Mon Parfum Chéri is a must-try. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but then the most interesting perfumes never are. It’s brave and uncompromising. And it reminds you that perhaps one of the reasons why chypres continue to enjoy popularity is that they manage to convey a very grown-up seriousness whilst carrying the unmistakable odour of a lover’s body after it has lain asleep for hours beneath the blankets of a warm bed.


As we’re on the subject of patchouli, it’s worth mentioning Francis Kurkdjian’s new extrait-strength formulations of some of the key scents from his eponymous line. Lumière Noire Pour Femme Elixir uses the hippie-friendly plant in a relatively predictable way, marrying it with rose to create an effect that’s flat and linear.

His Aqua Universalis Forte Elixir is more interesting because it marks yet another attempt (see Serge Lutens’ L’Eau) to produce a fragrance in which the lighter feel of the top notes lasts through to the drydown. Thanks to the clever use of musks, the experiment is largely successful, but the extrait-weight of the composition means that radiance is kept to a minimum… which seems rather curious in a perfume that’s presumably meant to share a sense of well-scrubbed cleanliness with passers-by. Its freshness is highly subdued, and if you’re after freshness, I’m not sure you want to keep it to yourself. ‘More concentrated’ doesn’t always spell ‘better’ in perfumery: the eau de parfum version of this scent does a more convincing job of balancing tenacity with sparkle.



  1. Parfait!!! Thank you for standing up for real chypres! :-) YT needs samples of Kurkdjian`s scents, but they sound nice! :-0

  2. Damn, I think I'm going to have to find that new Goutal. I miss old Femme like nobody's business! (I used to own the lace-embossed purse spray in the 80s, I wish I still had that bottle...)

    I only tried the APOM Elixir, and I liked it. Francis sniffed it on me & said I wore orange blossom well :-) If that means I enjoy it, that's true. I thought it worked well as an extrait, being a 'heavier' scent than the Aqua.
    Do you know when the Elixirs are being released? I can't seem to find out.

  3. Linda, you're very welcome.

    Pardon me for being dense, but I've tried and tried to think what YT stands for... please help!

  4. Tania, if you do try the Goutal (and I really think you should) please come back and let me know if you think it's of the same ilk as Femme.

    As for the Kurkdjians, I thought they were already available. Let me see if I can do some info hunting...

  5. Might YT mean Yours Truly? (hotlanta linda, not me!)

    "Mon Parfum Cherie par Camille" does tempt quite a lot. Time to brave the counter-guarding perfume ladies.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  6. I can't wait to try this new Goutal. I'm reading so many varying reactions. And that's always a sign of a good perfume. Even if I don't like this one, I'm sure I'll respect its boldness.

  7. Gosh, I might have to try this one. I adore original Femme and still have a few bottles, thank goodness. Normally Goutals, though pretty, do nothing for me (but I love the rose bath and body products).

    Thank you for the review! And what about that tea get-together?!

  8. Anna, you`ve got it - Yours Truly!! :-) I joke w/ Tom at Bergdorf Goodman that Mon Parfum needs a plum-tinted jar of body creme w/ a black lid that is stripe-ed like the ribbon around the bottleneck! :-) Wishful thinking...

  9. Anna, thank you. Clearly, I WAS being dense. And yes, I think the new Goutal might be worth a bit of retail torture.

  10. Victoria, yes, I agree. If a perfume starts polarising opinions, you can be fairly certain it's a must-try.

  11. Fiordiligi, if/when you do try the Goutal, please let me know if you think it's similar to Femme.

    And as for our get-together, please, please accept my apologies for not replying to your email. I'm working my way through the contents of my Inbox and I hope to get to your missive very soon.

  12. Linda, thanks for the confirmation :-) And I think your packaging suggestion is inspired!


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