I have used the term “the odd one out” for another Annick Goutal perfume, Vetiver and for Pomegranate Noir and I use it as a compliment because it takes dare and imagination to create something that clashes with the perfume style a perfumer has established. I believe that such perfumes that stand out from the line up of a perfumer come from a very personal experience and as the story goes Sables was created by Annick Goutal for her husband, trying to recapture the days they spent together in Corsica. I have never been to Corsica but I know exactly what the story behind the bottle means. I have smelled the essence of Sables many times when walking in scorching hot summer mornings, almost every year during my summer holidays. The smell of immortelle or everlasting flower that characterizes the flora of many mediterranean islands. It is sweet, strong, herbal and quite repulsive the first few times one smells it… Maybe it is the intensity of the natural ingredient, the similarity to fenugreek or a slight piss-y note in the opening, It is just strange. A “love it or hate it note” that seems to completely take over every composition it inhabits.
And Sables is immortelle at its extreme. I do not think Annick Goutal has made the slightest effort to hide the thorny angles of immortelle when she created Sables. She decided it to give it to the world as it really is, strong, sunny, overpowering. A snapshot of nature and memory. It is really futile to talk about Sables in terms of top, middle and base notes. Immortelle is everywhere. It just oscillates between different states of excitation. The first impression is that of boozy, acrid, very strong coffee. Forget mocha and coffee flavoured ice cream. I am talking about the real thing, strong espresso full of roasted tonalities and a sharp, acerbic agression. At the same time bitter, herbal elements bring to mind used tea leaves. Very quickly the maple syrup dimension of immortelle demonstrates itself. The composition becomes sweeter and you realize that you are going to be in trouble because it is becoming addictive. You are faced with a bitter, herbal, sweet, dark and slightly spicy perfume. Heaven! And just as you start thinking that maybe all this deliciousness might be getting a little too much of a good thing, Sables magically listens to your thoughts and takes a turn to a soft powdery powdery base with all previous notes and connotations still present.
As if the originality of the idea behind it were not enough, Sables impresses with yet another virtue: balance. If you think that this is a huge monster of projection you are mistaken. It stays on the skin forever but it will be appreciated only by those with whom you share intimacy. It is not limp but it just knows where to stop. It feels warm and sheltering. If I had to describe the experience with a situation it would be the perfect day at the beach, where I feel too happy to leave even when the sun has set. And as the cool night air starts creeping in making it uncomfortable to sit on the wet sand someone who really cares shows up and wraps a fuzzy blanket over my naked skin.
No other immortelle fragrance has dared go where Annick Goutal has been taking us with Sables since 1985. Only Comme des Garcons Patchouli Luxe dares use the same tonalities. Eau Noire (which I love) seems contrived and cloying in comparison. El Attarine seems like a diplomat too eager to please and L’Être Aimé Homme is just too perfect to be passionate. They are all amazing but they seem to hold something back. Sables shoots from the hip and and never misses.
If you think that you might like what this will smell like put this right on top of your to-try list. If the idea of smelling fenugreek on your skin is disturbing don’t go near it. If you are lucky you might run into someone who wears it and feel the true warmth of immortelle.
Notes from Fragrantica: immortelle, cinnamon, pepper, black tea; sandalwood, amber
Notes from my nose: coffee, tea leaves, maple syrup, fenugreek, powder