Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
My initial reaction to Annick Goutal Mandragore was puzzlement over a strange disconnect between the name evoking dark, twisted roots and love potions and the ethereal fragrance more appropriate for elves than witches. Created by Isabelle Doyen in 2005, this composition is beautiful vignette of lightness, showcasing the ability of spices to be woven into a sheer and weightless composition. Mandragore has the same luminous, slightly nostalgic quality that pervades the paintings by Isaac Levitan, a Russian 19th century impressionist. If I close my eyes, I imagine walking through the lush forest groves he portrayed in his tender, wistful manner. …
If the dominant spice notes are often liable to create the same effect as an excess of gold jewelry, in case of Mandragore, they display a more interesting side. The balsamic bite of pepper, the herbaceous chill of mint and the warmth of ginger conjure an assortment perfect for a tossed Asian-style seafood salad, and yet the combination works remarkably well in a shimmering summer composition.
Mandragore breaks into the peppery effervescence before taking turn for a creamy violet embedded into the woody musk. And then the delicate melody vanishes, like fragments of a song escaping from the open window. Until I discovered the Eau de Parfum version, I kept reapplying only to experience the familiar transition from the tart bergamot and warm pepper into the herbaceous floral heart. However, the Eau de Parfum slows down the development and allows for the melody to remain stronger, more vibrant and more substantial. Those familiar with the tart tea perfection of Duel would find Mandragore EDP similarly enchanting, and while it is far too gentle of a potion to live up to its dark and mysterious name, it has its own irresistible appeal.
Mandragore features notes of black pepper, spearmint, star anise, and sage leaf. Annick Goutal fragrances are sold at Saks5thAvenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman (usually carries the EDP versions of nearly everything in the line) as well as a number of other retailers, the list of which is available from Annick Goutal website. Online, the entire line can be found at Escentual.
Painting (click to enlarge): Isaac Levitan. Overgrown Pond. 1887. Oil on paper mounted on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. From abcgallery.