Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee : Fragrance Review

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

The concept behind Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée—”a starry night” in a reference to Van Gogh’s masterpiece–is so alluring that the idea alone should be enough to make me fall in love with the perfume. Add to this the signature Goutal bottle tinted sapphire blue, and Nuit Étoilée becomes even more irresistible. But while wearing this fragrance over the past couple of weeks, I’ve realized much to my regret that it doesn’t click for me. I enjoy some elements of Nuit Étoilée—the green musky sweetness, the delicious roasted almond of tonka beans, the sheer jasmine interlude, but admiring something on the blotter is not the same as wearing it on your skin. It evokes neither the moonlit forest nor the shimmering stars—it shuts me out of its dream world.

Created by Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen on the heels of their splendid Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille, Nuit Étoilée is a different creature, more androgynous and introverted.  When it first opens up on my skin, Nuit Étoilée seems like a cousin of Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien and Les Nuits d’Hadrien. The delicious burst of orange and lemon, with a crisp jasmine note feels refreshing and bright, while a tender green accent gives the fragrance a wistful quality. Then the piney notes change the setting, making the fragrance feel sparkling, but also astringent and raspy.

As time goes on, the warmth of the balsamic notes overtakes the composition.  Balsams in perfumery can take many forms, but in Nuit Étoilée it is a sweet and dark note that smells savory and dense. A hint of maple syrup sweetness from immortelle gives the drydown a surprising edible impression.  By the time the fragrance reaches its late stage, the effervescence of the top notes melts into the dark, sticky base.

Like other Goutal fragrances, Nuit Étoilée is a quality, well-crafted perfume, but it doesn’t elicit the rush of pleasure the way others do for me. It feels one-dimensional and heavy with its strong focus on the balsamic notes, whereas I wished for a few more shimmering stars, or luminous, radiant accents. Instead of a magic forest, Nuit Étoilée comes across like a pastel etude of Ralph Lauren Polo, a fragrance that made a whole generation of men smell like pine trees. In the end, this Annick Goutal creation is an interesting idea, but I find it difficult to enjoy, preferring instead to satisfy my dark cravings with Sables and Encens Flamboyant.

Edited June 28, 2013: I recently had a chance to sample the new Eau de Parfum, which I vastly prefer to the one-dimensional Eau de Toilette. The Eau de Parfum has a beautiful contrast between the exhilarating citrusy top notes and the lush, dark drydown liberally laced with amber. Another surprise is a velvety layer of iris, which gives Nuit Étoilée a plush, opulent sensation. Since the perfume still has a bracing, airy character, this sensual twist is an unexpected and pleasant discovery.

Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée (Eau de Toilette) includes notes of Siberian pine, sweet orange, balsam fir, tonka bean, citron, angelica, everlasting flowers, and peppermint. It will be available mid-May exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. 3.4 oz Eau de Toilette Spray ($72), 1.7 oz Eau de Toilette Spray ($51). There will also be a 3.4 oz Eau de Toilette Spray ($72) in a square bottle. 

Sample: PR

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19 Comments

  • Suzanna: I figured this one might be a bit rugged, like a starry night in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Now you’ve confirmed it, so off the list it goes, but the wish for the luminous jasmine with silvery, vaporous accents continues.

    Love the name of it, though. April 16, 2012 at 8:53am Reply

    • Victoria: I would love “the luminous jasmine with silvery, vaporous accents”! I love Songes, but it is so sweet and warm, a different character.

      But I would be curious to see what others think of Nuit Etoilee. I already saw testers at Saks, so I guess that they are starting to promote it. The bottle looks gorgeous! If they make their usual orb bottle in this deep blue, I don’t know if I would be able to resist it. April 16, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

  • Alyssa: Hm. I might be up for Polo a la Goutal, if only for sweet nostalgia’s sake… Too bad they didn’t save the name for something else, though. April 16, 2012 at 9:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Nuit Etoilee is different, of course. Polo is virile and hair-chested, and it has all of that patchouli and leather. Whereas Nuit Etoilee is woody and balsamic. It smells like when you rub your hand against the trunk of a Christmas tree and get all of that sap on your skin. So, yes, there is something charming about it. But in comparison to other fragrances from the collection it doesn’t stand out.

      I’m wearing Sables today, and it is so beautiful. April 16, 2012 at 10:21am Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: Perhaps if I wait and put this one on my ‘cool weather’ test list when we’re through spring and summer, it might wear better than in the growing Michigan humidity that’s settled over us lately. The very idea of wearing something so dense, arboreal and heavy just doesn’t appeal yet and it seems like it might have made a better fall launch. I wonder if some Bvlgari Jasmin Noir sprayed on the skin first would give more of the jasmine/pine effect and soften some of the scratchy edges? My nose is still haunted by Polo from all the guys I knew that wore it when I was in high school.

    Les Orientalistes is still one of my favorite AG launches and I hope it is doing well enough that it isn’t in danger of discontinuation.

    Thanks for the review, Victoria. I was very curious about this one. And you’re right. Some of the AG bottles are just beautiful. I’m still totally enchanted with my Songes round frosted bottle with the gorgeous moon stopper. Nuit Etoilee’s bottle sounds like it’d be stunning in person. :) April 16, 2012 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I think that it might definitely work better in the winter. These heavy notes require a bit of chill in the air for me, but the opening of Nuit Etoilee is effervescent and bright. Instantly uplifting.

      I’m trying to think of Jasmin Noir would work, but somehow I can’t imagine it. Jasmin Noir itself feels so dry and sharp to me in the drydown that I worry that it might only amplify the sharpness. I don’t have a sample on hand to try the combination, but if you experiment with it, please let me know what happens.

      I would be very sad if Les Orientalistes were to be discontinued! April 16, 2012 at 11:19am Reply

  • Undina: I’ll have to bookmark this review and come back after I try the perfume myself. I have such high hopes for it! So I do not want to be influenced negatively (I am a little already by the lack of stars in your “starry night” review but I’m fighting it ;) ) April 16, 2012 at 2:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: You might fall in love with it, and then I will look forward to reading your review (or rather I should say, whatever your impression, I look forward to your review!)

      The fizzy start to this “starry night” is so appealing, although my husband said that it smelled like soap to him. :) April 16, 2012 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Natalie: I want to love this one because I love the bottle so much, but we’ll see … April 16, 2012 at 10:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: Maybe, you will find it more wearable than I did. I just find this piney-balsamic note hard to take. I want that bottle though! So beautiful. April 17, 2012 at 7:28am Reply

  • erin: Just smelled it at Saks and I agree that it isn’t nearly as good as Mon Parfum Cherie. I also just tried Ninfeo Mio for the first time and liked it. Might get it for my husband. April 23, 2012 at 10:23am Reply

    • Victoria: I like Ninfeo Mio as well for its green fig leaf note. It feels refreshing in the summer. April 26, 2012 at 1:42pm Reply

  • Mary: The inspiration for this fragrance was not the vanGogh painting. It was American forests, according to Doyen and Goutal. May 6, 2012 at 6:59am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re right. It’s just that the name made me think of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. May 6, 2012 at 9:45am Reply

  • Michael: It goes to show how different tastes can be – I cannot stand Mon Parfum Cheri but my initial impression of Nuit Etoilee is very positive. I need to try it more though – once is not enough obviously June 11, 2012 at 4:12pm Reply

    • camille: This fragrance is lovely and perfect in the fall and winter. Its worth trying to form your own impression. October 28, 2012 at 5:25pm Reply

  • M Delahaye: Een vrouw is altijd op zoek naar nieuwe geurtjes. Dit is beslist een ontdekking! Het maakt me gewoon gelukkig. Dank zij de vriendelijke mevrouw in Au bon marché in Gent. July 18, 2012 at 3:27am Reply

  • John King: I agree the contents of the bottle in no way support the attactive concept of a moonlit forest – the fir balsam note though present is quite muted. Predominantly I think it’s a gourmand fragrance, a concentration of the anisic notes from Hadrien, so it smells like aniseed or licorice October 16, 2012 at 7:12pm Reply

  • Ivan Reyes: Hello. I want to share my experience with Nuit Etoilee. My wife and I visited Paris in October. While there we had the chance to visit an Annick Goutal boutique in Chamos Elysses. We tried several of their fragrances but fell in love with Nuit Etoilee. It’s romantic, poetic and sensible. It’s difficult for me to talk about the components of a fragrance but I can say about Nuit Etoilee that it reminds me of my lovely pleasant walks in cold peaceful days with the woman I love and to whom I’ve been married for 23 years now. This fragrance is about romance in the most beautiful way. January 19, 2013 at 8:28pm Reply

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