In the early 1980s, the late Annick Goutal created two fragrances for her young daughters, Camille and Charlotte. Ivy and honeysuckle inspired Camille’s scent (Eau de Camille, 1983) while Charlotte’s scent (Eau de Charlotte, 1982) described a young girl smitten by blackcurrant jam and cocoa. Despite the foodie nomenclature of the notes, Eau de Charlotte is not a gourmand scent. The blackcurrant and cocoa notes belie Charlotte’s true nature as a lily of the valley scent.
I discovered Charlotte, or she me, on a scent strip in a magazine. It smelled so different—this was the mid-nineties—to anything else I’d smelled until that time. I was a Jean Patou Joy wearer, and Eau de Charlotte seemed less mainstream and more creative. I wore it through a couple of bottles before finding Gardenia Passion from the same Goutal line (by way of the incredible soap, but that’s another story!)
In Eau de Charlotte, the lily of the valley is given a complex application. Rather than being a study of a child’s gustatory pleasures, it’s an impish scent that hides its floral heart beneath its opening notes and which does not display those famous nursery notes as gourmand. It opens green and sharp with blackcurrant bud. Blackcurrant jam is not present and the bud is, unripe and a bit sappy. It lends fruitiness but not an overt sweetness. The sweetness that emerges under the blackcurrant is a vanilla of the type used in a baby product, meaning that the vanilla is not gourmand but is functional—it is the vanilla of a lotion and not that of a cookie.
At first, so remote is the lily of the valley in Eau de Charlotte that one must look for it as if hunting through winter for that first sign of spring. Once it settles in, however, it has a lovely feminine quality, backed by a supple white musk. Wait an hour and the idea that Eau de Charlotte has gourmand notes will disappear. Drydown is a soft white vanilla musk and traces of the mimosa bud. The floral treatment is subtle and engaging, perhaps too subtle given the character of the opening. Still, though, the floral hints at an emergent womanliness, a reminder of that fleeting age where womanhood is on the cusp and childhood is left behind.
Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte includes notes of blackcurrant buds, mimosa, lily of the valley, cocoa, and vanilla. Eau de Charlotte is sold at Neiman Marcus, Saks5thAvenue, Luckyscent and directly from Annick Goutal website.