|Katie and Isabelle: smelling like an imaginary movie.|
Nuit Etoilée was inspired by a movie, perfumer Isabelle Doyen is telling me. We're at the Annick Goutal shop in London's swank Belgravia hood, talking about her latest creation for the line. But don't be in a hurry to nuke the popcorn, people, because this particular movie plays only in her head, as well as in the head of her colleague Camille Goutal. Talk about limited distribution.
Isabelle rolls out the narrative in her gosh-darned charmant French accent. It seems the story is set in the Rocky mountains in Montana, and specifically concerns the smellscape at encroaching dusk under the soaring pines with a rushing stream nearby. She starts to detail the elements of the perfume: sweet orange, fir balsam, Siberian pine, tonka and mint. She's very specific about the role of the mint in this film: “It's the noise -- the music -- of the stream.”
As we talk, I dip in for sniffs of my Nuit Etoilée'd wrist. With the opening sequence of citrus and mint, it's fresh without being sudsy clean. When the pine forest does start to creep in, it doesn't overwhelm. (A creeping forest? It seems the movie in my head has been produced by H. R. Pufnstuf.)
|H.R. Pufnstuf: not the inspiration for Nuit Etoilée.|
Sap-loaded pine bark does a stereophonic number with the mint, moving the wearer into the nipple-hardening territory of brrrrisky. But before you're reaching for the nip shields, the evergreen enters a smoked, borderline-incense stage, with tonka and everlasting flower adding a sweet herbal warmth. The longer I wear Nuit Etoilée, the more it strikes me as a sheerer, brighter Encens Flamboyant.
Excited to meet the perfumer behind one of my high rotation picks, Musc Nomade, I ask Isabelle which from the line are her favorites. “Musc Nomade,” she replied, which stupidly makes me feel rather clever. Petit Cherie is another she dotes on, “but it's hard to work while wearing perfume, so I created a perfume that has no smell.” Okay, Dada Lady, you're twisting my melon here. It turns out she's referring to one of her side projects with LesNez, L'Antimatière (Antimatter), which smells of nothing for 30 minutes before going subsonic with distant nape-of-neck musk. (She goes on to explain that because Camille's nose is so sensitive, Isabelle can't even wear that, because it interferes with her focus.) Of non-Goutal fragrances, she loves Guerlain Mitsouko, and adores smelling Clinique Aromatics Elixir on other people. She also brings up Kenzo Flower, noting that its sillage is especially transfixing.
Curious as to her creative process, I ask Isabelle about a typical day. “First when I get to work, I answer emails,” she says. “Then we go to the organ, and the real work begins. And when the nose gets tired...” she pauses, then concludes triumphantly: “...we shop for shoes!” Seeing my delight, she elaborates. “And sometimes we go on roadtrips -- to Venice!”
Sounds like the next Annick Goutal movie.