Annick Goutal Duel : Fragrance Review

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Vrubel_white_iris

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.

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22 Comments

  • Sisonne: Dear V, it´s always such a pleasure to read your reviews 🙂 I have a sample of Duel & will try it soon!
    I like almost all AG fragrances.
    Yesterday I tested Mandragore EdP & I think it´s better – a bit more woody – than the EdT. But I´m still not tempted enough to buy it.
    My new favourite is Sables. Perhaps it´s a bit hard to wear for a woman because it gets very smoky, but I´m really considering to buy it – it´s wonderful for autumn wear 🙂 What do you think about it? November 4, 2005 at 6:20am Reply

  • kaie: Such a lovely review! I tried Duel after Sables and thought that it was too light. I then tried it on its own and liked it. It is very refreshing and sparkling. I wear it in the summer though. November 4, 2005 at 7:55am Reply

  • Marina: Such a wonderful review!
    Whenever I hear the name of this fragrance I think of Onegin and Lenskii or Musketeers LOL But I see now it is a gentle(r) scent than that…I must try.
    And what I beautiful painting, I have never seen it before. November 4, 2005 at 9:05am Reply

  • Tania: I’m glad you did get to smell this! It was one of my favorite summer fragrances, like a cold glass of slightly sweetened lemony iced tea taken in the backyard in the garden. Only I have no backyard and no garden. Happily, the scent brings its own.

    I found the drydown to be slightly woodier, herbal, and more tenacious than the refreshing top accord led me to believe it would be. I would love to smell it on Will at the end of the day. Perhaps it’s the violet that I was smelling as a touch of berries?

    I still don’t see what any of this scent has to do with an armed face-off between enemies, although maybe it’s the scent of the slightly daring country gentleman who would throw his glove down to defend the honor of his family name. Or something like that. 😉 November 4, 2005 at 10:02am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, thank you. I would love to hear what you think when you try Duel. I have a sense that you might really enjoy it, especially for the summer. Tania described it as a glass of chilled ice tea below, and I cannot agree more. Still, its violet redolent aspect is what I like the most and think that it works well in the autumnal weather.

    Sables is darker and richer, with an almost roasted note. I like it, but more in theory than in practice. Perhaps, you will have more luck with it. Beautifully composed it is, no doubt at all! November 4, 2005 at 10:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaie, so true–Duel cannot stand up to Sables. Few things can, for that matter. Glad that you rediscovered it though. November 4, 2005 at 10:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marinochka, I saw this painting for the first time this summer in Kiev, where it resides permanently, and I was struck by its beauty. Vrubel’s work has an almost disturbing quality, given his mental illness. His painting of Swan Princess is simply incredible:

    http://www.abcgallery.com/V/vrubel/vrubel57.html

    Have you ever had a chance to see it in person? November 4, 2005 at 10:48am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, your remark about a tossing of a glove is quite spot on. There is such an elegance about the composition that I cannot think of anything more aggressive. The drydown is definitely woodier than the top notes, and I just love the whiff of violet that I get from it. It is elusive and if I bring my arm to my face, I cannot smell it directly. Yet, it wafts around. A lovely composition! This is definitely one of my favourite AG fragrances. November 4, 2005 at 10:50am Reply

  • Robin: V, I love early stages of Duel, but as with Mandragore, after an hour, what is left is less interesting to me. But haven’t tried it from a spray so perhaps that is what I need to do… November 4, 2005 at 11:10am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, yes, it should be sprayed, although a liberal splash (1-2ml) would do as well. I cannot see how its particular effect might be achieved in a different way, therefore I do not mind using extra. November 4, 2005 at 11:21am Reply

  • mreenymo: Your reviews get better and better, V! Bravo!

    I think I have seen this, but never bothered to test it. Now, with your review and my renewed interest in AG’s fragrances, I simply have to test this! I enjoyed wearing AG’s Eau de Charlotte EDP yesterday. It lasted all day long and became richer and warmer the longer it was on my skin.

    I am going to Barneys this afternoon. I hope they have it.

    Have a lovely weekend!

    Hugs! November 4, 2005 at 11:40am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, thank you! I am very glad to hear this.

    I was thinking of you when I was wearing Duel, because I felt that it might be something you would like. It has a sparkly lemony note that Un Zeste de Rose features, and it works so nicely against the woody and herbal notes. I wonder if violet will be as apparent on you as it was on me. There are days when I smell it more than anything else in the composition.

    Do you like Mangragore, btw?

    Have a wonderful weekend and have fun at Barney’s! November 4, 2005 at 12:01pm Reply

  • mreenymo: I have not been drawn to test Mandragore, but the bottle is gorgeous.

    Hopefully, Duel is sold at Barneys so that I can give it a whirl. 🙂 I used to love all things violet, as purple is my favorite color, but stopped purchasing fragrances with violets in them because it was getting a bit boring. However, your piece on ionones may revive my love for them!

    Hugs! November 4, 2005 at 12:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I would be curious to hear your opinion. Mandragore is another lovely composition, but it is too gentle (and not at all mandragore type). Duel has some interesting facets in it, therefore give it plenty of time to drydown. On me, the musky violet aspect is most evident ~40min into it. It is subtle, but very interesting. November 4, 2005 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Tara: On me Sables is very very sweet – almost like caramel. I also tried Duel right after Sables, so Duel seemed watery and thin. Need to retest it on its own. Mandragore is very refreshing in the summer, I have the edt, need to try the edp as well to see if there is better lasting power. November 4, 2005 at 3:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, I am also curious to sample the EDP of Mandragore, which as you say is a refreshing summer fragrance. I saw the purple butterfly bottle factice at Bergdorf, but the tester itself was not there during my last visit.

    Duel is too subtle to stand up to Sables. My mistake was to assume it would be richer than it was. November 4, 2005 at 3:58pm Reply

  • kaie: I found my sample of Duel and tested it alone. It’s a very refreshing tea smell. Maybe I still wouldn’t buy, but I like it much better than when I tested it after Sables. Merci! November 5, 2005 at 12:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: De rien! Glad you had a chance to try it again. Thank you for coming back and sharing your thoughts. November 6, 2005 at 1:02am Reply

  • Viktor Nilsson: One more fragrance to add to my list of have-to-smell’s!. A wonderful review!

    I was immediately drawn to the picture in this entry. And when I saw it was made by Mikhail Vrubel I was overwhelmed!
    I visited the Tretyakov gallery this summer, when I spent a few days in Moscow on my way back to Sweden from spending 2 months in the Russian arctic (Chukotka!). Vrubels paintings was without doubt what made the greatest impression of me.

    Now I have at last left a mark on your site, which I follow with great intrest.

    Best Regards,
    Viktor Nilsson, Umeå, Sweden. November 7, 2005 at 8:20am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Viktor, thank you very much! I am so thrilled to hear that you were moved by Vrubel. I find his paintings to have an amazing strength. His forceful and yet such ethereal style is evident even in this watercolour of an iris blossom. I stood for a long time in front of it, absorbing its incredible beauty.

    I also find his Demon paintings to be moving, even if unsettling and disturbing. The images seem to be almost alive. November 7, 2005 at 10:46am Reply

  • Diane: I tested this over the weekend due to your beautiful review. I found it to be nice and unobtrusive, but I suspect I needed to use a heavier hand; it was way too mild on me. The dry down was refreshingly herbaceous with a prominence of green tea leaves (like a unisex Jicky). I’d love to smell it on a man!

    The painting by Vrubel is needless to say gorgeous! I love it! And “Swan Princess” exhibits exactly what you note to be Vrubel’s style–a remarkable strength coupled with delicacy. It’s the dark, ominous tonality paired with textured brush strokes. Amazing! November 7, 2005 at 1:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, it is subtle regardless, but I poured a large 2ml on me to get an effect. It lasts well on paper though. I smell more violets on my skin and more herbal notes on the strip.

    Ominous is a perfect word to describe Vrubel’s work. His painting of Demon has such a dark air, one feels almost a jolt. November 7, 2005 at 1:49pm Reply

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