Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Hazy and gentle, Annick Goutal Duel seems inappropriately named, as more than anything it calls to mind opponents who would rather exchange polite remarks than gunshots. It has a certain subtlety that delicately hints at its more forceful aspects, wrapping them in sweetness of violet. On the one hand, it may register as too subtle, yet, on another, it has the same charm as the pastels. Thus, whenever Annick Goutal fragrances are compared to the watercolors, I always think of Duel as a good example of such an analogy.
Created by Isabelle Doyen in collaboration with Camille Goutal, Annick Goutal’s daughter, Duel is a fragrance with a romantic air. Its violet tinged coolness of iris paired with crisp greenness of maté conjures a vision of the Belle Époque salon set with preparations for tea. …
The main accord is made up of slightly astringent notes reminiscent of green tea leaves. Cutting through the medicinal verdancy is a hint of lemon peel, which like a touch of vibrant color against an otherwise pale canvass manages to lift the composition. A soft suede-like sensation wraps the tea notes, which slowly gain an elusive sweetness, as if sprinkled with sparkling confectioner’s sugar.
While the tea and lemon aspect of the composition has a crisp refreshing quality, the drydown exposes the violet character of iris, which reveals itself quite unexpectedly. Just when the green notes retreat in the background and begin to fade, a sheer cloud of metallic violet rises up. Layered over the gentle, sweet, and mildly animalic musk, the pairing makes the entire composition shimmer.
Like many Annick Goutal fragrances, it is well-composed, and when one stops expecting it to live up to the name and the notes, one can notice its gentle charm. It is a fairly light fragrance, therefore a liberal spray is what Duel requires, as opposed to a dainty dab. It is certainly a composition that would suit both men and women. In this sense, it is more similar to the gentle translucence of Mandragore than to the bitterness of Sables. Although Duel is a perfect spring/summer fragrance, its musky violet aspect suits the autumnal mood remarkably well.
Duel is available from Annick Goutal boutiques, certain retail venues such as Saks 5th Avenue and Bendel’s, and a variety of online discount stores. European online shoppers can find it at Escentual. Notes include wild orange, absinthe, heather, Paraguay seed, absolu maté tea leaves, iris root, leather, tobacco, musk.
Painting: Mikhail Vrubel. White Iris. 1886-1887. Watercolor on paper. The Museum of Russian Art, Kiev, Ukraine. From abcgallery.com.