Annick Goutal Sables : Fragrance Review


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

Immortelle, an everlasting dune flower with a distinctive savory maple syrup aroma, is not an easy note. It tends to dominate with its rich spicy warmth and dark sweetness. Annick Goutal Sables (1985) is brilliant, because it manages to build on immortelle without either twisting it beyond recognition or allowing it to assume a rustic demeanor. Even after experiencing the great immortelle compositions like Christian Dior Eau Noire and the playful ones like L de Lolita Lempicka, Sables still holds the crown for being the perfect example of a perfume based on immortelle. …

It is hard to call Sables a classical three-tiered composition, because it is structured more as an accord, a harmonious blend of the constituent parts which reveal themselves panoramically. Yet, the accenting notes are what make the immortelle shimmer and radiate a soft, warm glow. The prized Mysore sandalwood lends its milk froth richness. The woody vanilla accents the sweetness of immortelle. The pepper lends a pleasing dryness.

Among Annick Goutal fragrances, Sables and Songes are my favorites. Annick Goutal created it for her husband, cellist Alain Meunier, trying to capture the memories of summer days spent in Corsica. Perhaps this association makes it seem romantic to me, but whenever I wear it, I feel as if I am wrapped into a warm embrace. And what could be more romantic in spirit!

Sables is rather long lasting, therefore a small spray suffices to perfume me for the entire day. The composition features the dominant notes of Mysore sandalwood, immortelle and vanilla. It is available at Annick Goutal boutiques as well as retailers carrying the line such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

Photo of immortelle (Helichrysum italicum) from Come Verbena.



  • Bryan: Victoria,
    I have been reluctant to comment for the same simple reason a shy student sheepishly waits to raise his or her hand on the first day of class. I have such affection and respect for you and this blog. Indeed, you and the perfume posse were my escape from a very difficult year. I adore fragrance and look forward to reading you daily. Incidentally, I wrote a guest review on Patty’s wonderful blog, but was so afraid of what the perfumistas would think. Everyone is so kind and my fears were put to rest. I believe your book (and I know one must be coming) will rival Mr. Turin’s. God Bless. January 18, 2007 at 12:13am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    What a beautiful photo of a very striking flower ! I can hardly believe that I have never heard of it Immortelle — but having come across it – will retain it in my memory .
    As I am a romantic at heart, Annick Goutal has fulfilled that everpresent yearning . Be it the lush Passion, the warm and heady Grand Amour or the haunting Heure Exquise , Annick Goutal has always reached out and fulfilled that need for feminine expression. You have succeeded in awakening my interest in yet another AG gem ” Sables. While it sounds decidedly masculine , in its intent, Sables , by its notes seems to be wearable as a unisex scent . Doesn’t it ? I look forward to testing it this Weekend —
    Madelyn E January 18, 2007 at 1:10am Reply

  • carmencanada: Dear V.,
    Sables is already fairly high on my “to sniff” list chez Annick Goutal, which I’ve actually just started to explore. I’ve sampled Vanille Exquise twice — though no more of a vanilla fan than you are, I got drawn into it by Black and feel the need to experiment. I’m still unsure about Vanille Exquise which is amazingly dry. Songes, which struck me as too stridently soapy the first time around (the gasoline fumes of jasmine absolute can do that) is so highly regarded that I must give it another go. The lovely SA at the rue de Castiglione shop said she quite saw me in Grand Amour… Knowing me a bit, could you suggest which Goutal would suit my tastes? January 18, 2007 at 5:02am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bryan, thank you for your kind words! I am so glad that our blogs provided an outlet for you. I did indeed read your contribution to Perfume Posse and enjoyed the article on Carnal Flower very much (it is also one of my absolute favourite fragrances.) I look forward to more of your articles and comments! No need to be shy. 🙂 January 18, 2007 at 12:27am Reply

  • chayaruchama: Hello, Vika !

    I love Sables, for its warmth and mellow beauty, but it lasts for days on the skin, and immortelle is a tenacious note that definitely requires a deft, and sparing hand…

    Always enjoying your perspectives…keep warm ! January 18, 2007 at 6:52am Reply

  • Judith: I go back and forth on this (and, to a certain extent on immortelle in general) according to mood and, I think, weather. At times I do experience that warm embrace you describe so well; at other times, however, I feel suffocated. One thing I have learned is not to attempt wearing it in the summer–although it sounds as if the heat is part of what AG was trying to evoke. January 18, 2007 at 7:40am Reply

  • March: I’m a fan of immortelle in general, with L and Eau Noire being two favorites (I also smell it in the not-much-loved Chypre Rouge, even though I’ve not seen it listed anywhere in the notes.)

    Sables … I havecomethisclose to buying that bottle I don’t know how many times. I just can’t figure out how to apply it lightly enough — even walking through the spray is too much. It must go away eventually, but I end up bathing it off a day or two later! January 18, 2007 at 7:51am Reply

  • Elle: Like Marina, I have a platonic love for Sables. 🙂 It seems like something I *should* have on my top HG list, but for some reason it just doesn’t work on my skin. Your review, however, has convinced me to go back and try it again. January 18, 2007 at 8:54am Reply

  • aryse: It is always a true pleasure of reading you Victoria, but this time the pleasure is double. I like Sables which remembers me Corsica and the seizing odor of the dunes sands filled up of immortelles sauvages whipped by the wind. Its top-note of slightly tarry and sirupeuse points out the dried flowers. It is one of the best of modern perfumery. Great perfume.
    But Sables was composed for Annick Goutal by Isabelle Doyen who is also creative LESNEZ.In reading your review, I was allured so much by the description of Let me play the lion that I tested it and adopted. It is for me one of the best perfumes of the year 2006.Every people who felt it adored it. Wonderful fragrance and wonderful Victoria. January 18, 2007 at 9:19am Reply

  • Robin: Add me to the list of platonic admirers — although it is one of many AGs I need to revisit. January 18, 2007 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Marina: I love Sables in a platonic sort of way 🙂 Or theoretically. It is a little too syrupy-sweet on me. I love when the green aspect of immortelle is highlighted, like in Eau Noire. But I do wish I could wear Sables more often, it is wonderful. January 18, 2007 at 8:29am Reply

  • Campaspe: Oh dear. When I tried this at the AG boutique (twice, on separate visits), it was sheer horror to my nose (and to J.’s as well). I wish I remember more about why; I do remember that it was very dry, woody, masculine, often not my thing. But there was a note in there (not patchouli I think, for once) that truly made me jump back a foot and clutch my throat. Perhaps it was the immortelle? I am such a Goutal fan, but not of this ne.

    Oh well, it is your talent to make me wish I smelled what you smell. January 18, 2007 at 10:47am Reply

  • aimtx: So THAT’S why it smells like that!! Perfume ignoramus that I am, I never knew it was the immortelle flowers that gave Sables its warm, maple-y smell. I am thrilled to have this information and suddenly much more interested in L’Occitane’s Immortelle line of skin care. Does it also have this wonderful smell?

    I adore Sables. It’s just about the only Goutal that suits me, more’s the pity, and one of the very few sandalwood frags that doesn’t turn unpleasantly sour on my skin. And now I know what I’m wearing today! Thanks, Vika! January 18, 2007 at 10:49am Reply

  • Maria B.: Beautiful review. I have an elementary botanical question. Is Helichrysum italicum the “immortelle” that is used in perfumery? Several flowers are referred to in common parlance as “immortelle” or “everlasting.” Some are in the genus Helichrysum, at least one in Xeranthemum. I’m asking because your review makes me want to grow the plant itself. I’ll soon be living near sand dunes. January 18, 2007 at 4:23pm Reply

  • Dusan: This is crazy – I was meaning to ask you to recommend me a good immortelle fragrance and then you go and write a wonderful review, thanks Vika! Anyhows, and this is also a response to AIMTX’s comment above, it’s precisely the beautiful smell of immortelle in L’Occitane’s skin care line my girlfriend is using that has made me want to explore immortelle in perfume. All the fragrances you’ve mentioned are hard to find here, so I was wondering if you have any suggestions for immortelle-based scents? Sposibochka 😀 January 18, 2007 at 8:39pm Reply

  • Dusan: This is crazy – I was meaning to ask you to recommend me a good immortelle fragrance and then you go and write a wonderful review, thanks Vika! Anyhows, and this is also a response to AIMTX’s comment above, it’s precisely the beautiful smell of immortelle in L’Occitane’s skin care line my girlfriend is using that has made me want to explore immortelle in perfume. All the fragrances you’ve mentioned are hard to find here, so I was wondering if you have any suggestions for immortelle-based scents? Sposibochka 😀 January 18, 2007 at 8:50pm Reply

  • co: …what a wonderfully special perfume…SABLES…as you all said it already, evoking sundrenched carefree holiday memories…and I have finished the bottle only last year which lasted me longer than 7 years, a little eternity…as it’s so specific in it’s character, applications happened to be on very selected days only!

    judith, I so agree with you…it does not go well with heat!…well actually would i be living in a dry and cooler european climate my bottle would have vanished muuuuch faster I guess, but here in in Asian climate, SABLES is developing into a very cloying, sticky, almost turn-off scent with the heat+humidity!
    (interestingly…within the A. Goutal line it is not even on offer here…nowhere!)

    …same as the Vetiver, which a dear friend brought me from Paris…how do i love it…dry, salty, full of bright sunlight on the oceanwaves…your review on it has been so right Victoria!

    ..interestingly EAU NOIRE has been very close to being bought on my last trip, it’s almost the younger, more cheeky version of the SABLES good-old-values-mood.
    thank you for evoking the dry spicy heat filled mood on this grey, cold winter day! January 18, 2007 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Jeannecarol: I discovered Annick Goutal’s lovely fragrances in the winter of 1991. Before that I had loved a variety of Diors but my nearly constant companion had become Joy. My marriage had ended. I had gone through a period of mourning and misery, unable to see any beauty in the world without crying. Perfume had no place in my life. Around Christmas I was having my usual hair appointment. My hairdresser, the owner of the salon and someone I liked very much, smelled delightful. She told me the name of the fragrance, said she had fallen in love with the line, and that at Barney’s one could get a little bag of several small bottles (was it 4 or 6?). They were doing that as a Christmas promotion, I think. $40. And I fell in love. With every one of AG’s fragrances. I love that they don’t change on my skin, that they (for the most part) are light and mingle well with each other. At times I had 8 of her fragrances on my dresser. I wore Sables first in the winter, in a hot tub under the stars, with dear friends. Michael was entranced by the scent. Eventually it went off the market here and it was ordered from Paris for me. That bottle was exhausted and I didn’t think about it too much as other AGs moved in. About 3 weeks ago I went to get samples of some I don’t have. The line’s rep helped me and in our happy discussion of it I mentioned how I had loved Sables. She said “we just happen to have a bottle of it”. Someone had ordered it and she had gotten 3 bottles for the store. Only the one remained. I took it on the spot. Indeed, Sables lasts. It really lasts! And, yes, it is hard not to put more than one needs on. It isn’t a fragrance I wear every day. I love Ce Soir ou Jamais or Vetiver for that. But Sables is wonderful, dark and warm to me.

    I have just re-discovered Femme by Rochas. I find them similar. Does anyone else? Like Sables, Femme is not “me”. But they are a side of me, a part of me I don’t often display. Femme for me lasts like Sables and a very little goes a long way. It is spring now and I wear each of them but both speak of winter and evening gowns and cognac by the fireplace with one’s beloved.

    One day I will buy Grand Amour again. It was my last husband’s favorite. I wore it when we met. Men loved it particularly. Strangers would come up to me and say “you smell wonderful, what is that fragrance?”

    I do wish they would market the little bag of little bottles again. It is such a wonderful way to introduce someone to the line and the little bottles are wonderful because you can have any number of them at one time and mix and mingle to your heart’s content and never fear one bottle will outlast its good life. May 5, 2007 at 2:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Jeannecarol, thank you very much for sharing this amazing story. The power of perfumes to lend a beautiful facet to our lives is incredible. Reading what you said only proves it. May 6, 2007 at 12:37pm Reply

  • Andrew: Great review of one of scents not appeciated much these days unfortunately. I find it all-year-rounder, but especially developing in summer. It is dry, with herbs and flowers drying somewhere in a village. Peaceful.

    Fortunately, I do not find this scent culinar or curry-like or sweet as lots of people say. July 17, 2013 at 1:39pm Reply

  • SHMW: I too love – and sort of fear – Sables. My bottle is c. 1990 too so hopefully the real sandalwood. I mostly sniff the bottle rather than actually wear this since as so many have said it is intense and it lasts days. The last time I used it the merest touch must have got on the painted top of my desk. I wiped this off but for a week or two even the lightest touch of my hand in this area triggered the most wonderful sort of low key wonderfulness….. so I want to experiment with diluting it. Do you think putting it in an unperfumed oil will work best? August 1, 2016 at 2:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can also mix a little into unscented lotion and see if you can tone it down this way. August 1, 2016 at 3:59pm Reply

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