Annick Goutal Folavril : Fragrance Review

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Green tomato

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

There are some fragrances which I cannot approach as an impartial observer. They are either associated with someone I know or else are indelibly linked to some period of my life, and as a result, the moment I smell them, I cannot think objectively of things like top notes and tenacity. I feel inundated by memories and cannot even concentrate on the progression of THE perfume itself. These are the best fragrances for me, and even if they are not masterpieces, they are the scents that invariably make me happy. One such perfume is Annick Goutal Folavril, which smells like a cross between face cream and green tomatoes. If that sounds odd, you are right–Folavril is a strange creature!

According to a story I heard, Folavril was the name of the antique store where Annick Goutal worked as a young girl. It also means “April Fool” in French, which is an appropriate moniker for this whimsical perfume. Like many early Goutal fragranceS, it does not follow any clear progression—inhaling it is like seeing a string of pearls break. The notes scatter in an unpredictable manner, resulting in a somewhat incoherent, but nevertheless dazzling effect. First, the piney brightness of mango and citrus sets the high pitched note, before the buzz of the savory caramel and green tomato takes it down a few notches. The softness of jasmine and musk wraps the entire composition in a creamy, velvety layer.

Originally, the formula for Folavril was used to scent face lotions and creams, and the link to its cosmetic beginnings are clear. It is a sharp, one-dimensional fragrance, despite the initial unpredictable start. At times, it reminds me of laundry softener sheets, at others, of old-fashioned face cream. Yet, despite all of this, I have a strong affection for it. The moment I smell Folavril, I am 17 again, in my first year of college, exploring the Annick Goutal counter at the local department store…

Annick Goutal Folavril includes notes of mango, jasmine, boronia flower (a flower native to Australia that smells like caramel and raspberries) and tomato leaf. Available from Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Aedes and other retailers. $115, 100ml

Sample: my own acquisition

Photography by DavidInc via flickr, some rights reserved.

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25 Comments

  • Elisa: That’s how I feel about Gucci Rush, which I wore in college. I can’t analyze it! August 1, 2011 at 12:18pm Reply

  • violetnoir: This was my first Goutal purchase. It’s not my favorite Goutal, but it holds a special place in my heart, too.

    Hugs! August 1, 2011 at 1:04pm Reply

  • bloody frida: I’m going to have to re-sniff this one – when I first sniffed it, it smelled to me of hairspray and Fuzzy Wussy soap! I need to find the tomato in it! August 1, 2011 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Anya: Just a tiny correction – boronia does not smell like caramel or raspberries. I don’t know where the caramel idea comes from, but the raspberry is a frequently misunderstood/misquoted bit from Arctander. Golden boronia absolute, when mixed with raspberry food products, enhances the raspberry experience. I got this directly from the owner of Essential Oils of Tasmania, the only producer in the world of boronia absolute. Golden boronia smells like green, fresh cassie flowers (both boronia and cassie contain high amounts of beta ionones, with traces of alpha ionones) , violet flowers of course, ripe hay, exotic fruit and yellow freesia flowers, with a bit of a woody dryout.

    Green boronia is a different animal altogether, much inferior to the golden, and I don’t know if that’s what’s used in this perfume.

    That said, I do love Folavril, it is eccentric, floral, fruity (moderately so) and just sprightly and seems full of fun. Never did get any green tomato, and I do love green tomatoes, so I’ll look for that in the next spray. August 1, 2011 at 5:35pm Reply

  • carole macleod: I love Folavril, and I love the fact that it is the basis for Passion! Nothing smells like Folavril to me. It reminds me of good times, in my early 20’s. Thank you for this review,

    Carole August 1, 2011 at 6:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: I can completely understand this! 🙂 August 1, 2011 at 6:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, yours too? 🙂 I don’t know why it hooked me then, but it certainly did. August 1, 2011 at 6:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, sounds like Folavril! 🙂 August 1, 2011 at 6:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: It does to me! 🙂 That is what I smell in the absolute.
    In perfumery school, we were taught to classify it as a floral violet note. August 1, 2011 at 6:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: That cosmetic note also makes it strangely comforting. I really enjoy the same aspect in Passion, even though the drydown of that fragrance is not as interesting as the initial stages. August 1, 2011 at 6:12pm Reply

  • Cait: I love your remark about the string of pearls breaking. I too love Folavril. Sometimes I think I’m just more of a lover of people, places, and things than a critic. I enjoyed this review. August 1, 2011 at 6:35pm Reply

  • Andy: I just can’t imagine green tomato leaf notes! I must smell a fragrance with this note, because, it confuses me that such a pungent sort of smell could be woven pleasingly into a fragrance. Unrelated to the post above, but on the topic of green notes, I recently recieved some Galbanum oil and I was a bit thrown off; I had intended to use it for blending to add the natural, leafy green effect that is often described of it, but I find it to smell uncompromisingly pungent; it is green, sort of, but smells a lot like celery and garlic; rather than green as in fresh spring leaves. It’s kind of savory and…sweaty. If anyone knows, does Galbanum need to be diluted significantly to smell like fresh, green leaves rather than sweaty celery? Is the oil I have unusual in its unpleasant smell? Should I look elsewhere or at violet leaf absolute for a fresh green note? I kind of assumed Galbanum would be more fresh considering the fresh leaves smell of Galbanum heavy fragrances like (vintage) Vent Vert. Thanks for bearing with my long posts and countless questions as a fragrance newbie! August 1, 2011 at 11:24pm Reply

  • Anne: Great explanation. I was momentarily stumped by the caramel/raspberry comparison too. I am Australian, Tasmanian in fact, I had been thinking ‘Boronia? Boronia smells like … boronia … you know … boronia!’. For me, with my limited scent vocabulary, it’s like to trying to describe how roses smell – quite hard if you take the scent for granted and know it well. August 1, 2011 at 11:30pm Reply

  • Anya: I think it’s a raspberry conspiracy, I do, Victoria! LOL. I had a raspberry epiphany with true raspberries a few weeks ago, and I blogged about it, and the source of the raspberry sniffathon? Elise! She blogged about it too, and the cited source was a flavor book that helped me elucidate my discovery. One of the culprits in my confusion? The beta ionones in raspberries. August 2, 2011 at 10:21am Reply

  • Victoria: Nor surprising at all. Many flavors are complex compounds. Same thing happens when wine tasters describe different wines in terms of complex aromas (cherry, plum, smoked wood, etc,) by picking up elements of what comprise these scents. August 2, 2011 at 10:25am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Cait! I rarely hear about Folavril, but I am glad that there are others who like it. August 2, 2011 at 10:25am Reply

  • Victoria: It should be diluted significantly, but really, galbanum is not a fresh green leafy note. It is heavy and vegetal. In Vent Vert, there are plenty of aroma-materials that have this fresh quality. Together with galbanum, they make up this bright, effervescent accord.
    Violet leaf can be very fresh and cucumber like. It depends on the quality though. August 2, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Andy: Okay, thank you! I was thoroughly confused by the associations of crisp green fragrances to Galbanum. I can imagine the green smelling aromachemicals (such as leaf alcohol) are far easier to work with than Galbanum on it’s own. August 2, 2011 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are right, things like triplal, liffarome, etc. make it easier to create these fresh sensations. I also love hyacinth and reseda body (combinations of several different aroma-materials.) They smell like the florist shop–green steams, fresh leaves and water. August 2, 2011 at 2:53pm Reply

  • Elisa: Anya, I’ve smelled your Kewdra, which contains boronia. Definitely does not smell like caramel and raspberries (not that that would be a bad thing)! To me it smelled earthy/herbal, like a cross between soil and tea. August 4, 2011 at 2:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, I am actually wearing Anya’s Kewdra right now. Love this fragrance, although I do not really see boronia as being particularly prominent in it. As I mentioned above, boronia is usually classified by perfumers with violet. It is similar to violet and mimosa, but with its strong beta-ionone notes, it has a particularly strong fruity accent. A fascinating material, and the one that needs to be smelled on its own. August 4, 2011 at 2:38pm Reply

  • Linda: I live in Australia and I grow boronia at home. I agree with Victoria that it smells like raspberries. Like when you make jam and some of it sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns a bit. Some varieties smell especially fruity, others more like violets.
    I had no idea that it was used in perfumes! August 4, 2011 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Elisa: Raspberry-tinged violet sounds quite wonderful to me. Someone needs to give Maurice Roucel some boronia! Is eugenol a component of it? Since getting into perfume I have begun to notice the eugenol component in raspberry flavors/scents. August 5, 2011 at 2:03pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: What an amazing post! Victoria, you really should write a book. I was introduced to Goutal scents by an older friend when I was in college, and at first I just did’t “get” them…. they didn’t smell like “perfume” as I understood it, and the only one I really liked was her men’s scent, Sables which also didn’t smell like perfume, but had a warmth I loved. Now that I am older and I hope more worldly, I love almost all of the Goutal scents, especially Heure Exquise, Grand Amour, and the single notes. Genius. I have to admit, Folavril is eccentric, but it’s a highly original take on a fruity fragrance. August 5, 2011 at 5:44pm Reply

  • Free Bottle: I have a free bottle of this if anyone wants it. It’s been sitting on my dresser for years. I was so disappointed by this, how much money I spent, how disgusting it smelled to me. I became enamored of AG when I smelled a sample of Gardenia Passion in the early 90’s. When I finally did acquire that one, even it didn’t live up to the fantasy in my brain. I’m not sure I have the box for this Folavril, but the bottle is pristine. A large bottle of something I never intend to wear up for grabs. Just please don’t wear it near me. May 26, 2014 at 1:10pm Reply

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