Annick Goutal Sables: hotter than July

Sheltering Skies

I have used the term “the odd one out” for another Annick Goutal perfume, Vetiver and for Pomegranate Noir and I use it as a compliment because it takes dare and imagination to create something that clashes with the perfume style a perfumer has established. I believe that such perfumes that stand out from the line up of a perfumer come from a very personal experience and as the story goes Sables was created by Annick Goutal for her husband, trying to recapture the days they spent together in Corsica. I have never been to Corsica but I know exactly what the story behind the bottle means. I have smelled the essence of Sables many times when walking in scorching hot summer mornings, almost every year during my summer holidays. The smell of immortelle or everlasting flower that characterizes the flora of many mediterranean islands. It is sweet, strong, herbal and quite repulsive the first few times one smells it… Maybe it is the intensity of the natural ingredient, the similarity to fenugreek or a slight piss-y note in the opening, It is just strange. A “love it or hate it note” that seems to completely take over every composition it inhabits.

And Sables is immortelle at its extreme. I do not think Annick Goutal has made the slightest effort to hide the thorny angles of immortelle when she created Sables. She decided it to give it to the world as it really is, strong, sunny, overpowering. A snapshot of nature and memory. It is really futile to talk about Sables in terms of top, middle and base notes. Immortelle is everywhere. It just oscillates between different states of excitation.  The first impression is that of boozy, acrid, very strong coffee. Forget mocha and coffee flavoured ice cream. I am talking about the real thing, strong espresso full of roasted tonalities and a sharp, acerbic agression. At the same time bitter, herbal elements bring to mind used tea leaves. Very quickly the maple syrup dimension of immortelle demonstrates itself. The composition becomes sweeter and you realize that you are going to be in trouble because it is becoming addictive. You are faced with a bitter, herbal, sweet, dark and slightly spicy perfume. Heaven! And just as you start thinking that maybe all this deliciousness might be getting a little too much of a good thing, Sables magically listens to your thoughts and takes a turn to a soft powdery powdery base with all previous notes and connotations still present.

As if the originality of the idea behind it were not enough,  Sables impresses with yet another virtue: balance. If you think that this is a huge monster of projection you are mistaken. It stays on the skin forever but it will be appreciated only by those with whom you share intimacy. It is not limp but it just knows where to stop. It feels warm and sheltering. If I had to describe the experience with a situation it would be the perfect day at the beach, where I feel too happy to leave even when the sun has set. And as the cool night air starts creeping in making it uncomfortable to sit on the wet sand someone who really cares shows up and wraps a fuzzy blanket over my naked skin.

No other immortelle fragrance has dared go where Annick Goutal has been taking us with Sables since 1985. Only Comme des Garcons Patchouli Luxe dares use the same tonalities. Eau Noire (which I love) seems contrived and cloying in comparison. El Attarine seems like a diplomat too eager to please and L’Être Aimé Homme is just too perfect to be passionate. They are all amazing but they seem to hold something back. Sables shoots from the hip and and never misses.

If you think that you might like what this will smell like put this right on top of your to-try list. If the idea of smelling fenugreek on your skin is disturbing don’t go near it. If you are lucky you might run into someone who wears it and feel the true warmth of immortelle.

Notes from Fragrantica:  immortelle, cinnamon, pepper, black tea;  sandalwood, amber

Notes from my nose: coffee, tea leaves, maple syrup, fenugreek, powder


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. Natalie

    I have not tried this, and I’m fascinated by your smart, in-depth review. I’m going to get out to the shops soon, and I will seek this out.

    • It is worth seeking this out if you like strange scents but also if you like very natural smelling ones. Winter is the best season for it but it captures the essence of Mediterranean summer. And the price is so right!

  2. Most stores around that carry Annick Goutal brand have just 5-7 perfumes to offer. I do not remember even seeing this one in a store but I know the name and it’s not the first positive review I read for it (but probably the most detailed one 🙂 ). Since Annick Goutal brand holds a special spot in my heart whenever I come across anything from it I haven’t tried I make sure to try it. So if I ever see it, I’ll try it.

    • This and Vetiver although not discontinued are indeed hard to find. Probably because they are so different from the rest of the line. They can be found quite cheap online and I can always send you a sample.

      • Thank you. Let’s talk about it again once summer is over: I try my hardest not to do much perfume sending in summer months since I do not trust most mail storage places/transports to have a controled climate conditions.

  3. Immortelle is one of my “frenemy” notes — a term that I’m stealing from Natalie’s recent post, in which she asked if there’s any notes that one goes back and forth on in terms of loving and loathing. So when you told me you were going to send me Sables, which I knew was an immortelle scent, I was excited to see whether it would be a love-it or hate-it scent for me.

    I haven’t worn it yet but will do so today and report back to you. (And will do the same with Jo Loves Pomelo too … I’m sorry I’m so behind on my sniffing). At any rate, I LOVED this post you wrote, Christos … you make the scent sound so tenderly beautiful and it encapsulates everything I love about summer, the beach, and even coffee. 🙂

    • Now I am nervous… I have visions of the Immortelle Crusaders attacking you with spears of everlasting flower… Be careful Suzanne, spray on paper and come back the next day to smell the paper strip… I hope you two get along well otherwise I will risk turning this frenemy into a nemesis

    • I am glad I read your recent perfume journal log. Sables is one of those scents that would seem as inappropriate for summer for most people but not you and me.

      • Christos, I wore Sables all of yesterday from early afternoon on, and it is still very much evident on my skin as I’m sitting here now mid-morning. I loved the first few hours of it because, in addition to how you described it, I got a sweet hay note that was unexpectedly delightful. And I got something else, too, that presented itself to me like a blast from the past (because they no longer make this stuff and I have no idea how I even remember it): a coffee-subsitute drink called Postum that my father used to make on those rare occasions when he thought he’d try and kick his caffeine habit. According to Wikipedia, Postum was a roasted grain beverage made from wheat bran, wheat, molasses and maltodextrin from corn. And I think that it was your reference to espresso (its roasted tonalities coupled with acridness) that helped jog that memory.

        Many thanks for the decant. Today I’ll wear the Jo Loves Pomelo and will get back to you on that one too.

        • You are so right about the coffee substitute. I remember a time I was on a homeopathy treatment and I was desperately collecting every substitute available in the market trying to find which one comes closest. Many of those contain roasted chicory root, the same note found in Jeux de Peau. I think this is a better description for immortelle. Hay is part of the original smell of the immortelle plant.

          I warned you it stays on skin forever… 🙂

  4. I really like AG Sables, it reminds me of a hot desert. It’s one of my favourites from Annick Goutal along with Eau d’Hadrien, Ninfeo Mio and Nuit Etoilee

    • I think Sables is a cross between a dessert and a desert 🙂 I have associated this with the smell of bastourma, the cured meat from the Middle East so although it is a very sweet scent I cannot quite consider it a gourmand. I still haven’t tried Nuit Etoilée on skin yet…

  5. Dave B

    Excellent, spot-on review.
    Sables is the only —yes only —scent I wear.
    My wish is that every person would find such a personal favorite, one that warms their soul each time they use it.
    Not for every man, but Sables is manna from heaven to me.

    • Dave, this is very special, not for every one. It is the essence of what “niche” is about, a chance for the extraordinary to experienced.

  6. carole macleod

    I had to try Sables, based on your review. And the image of the hand holding the bottle-what a fabulous way to express what is in the bottle!
    I put one spritz on last night-got the maple sweetness. Went to bed-can still smell it this morning. I needed more. So I piled on lots-lost the maple note entirely. Ended up with smokiness and birch tar, with underlying sweetness. I really love this. But does it really have monster sillage? Because I keep spraying it on and getting slightly different results-its beautiful. Do you think it is ok for us women to wear? I don’t think it’s especially masculine-I think it’s a shared scent, but would welcome your insight.

    • It doesn’t have monster sillage but it does have monster longevity. And it is a fragrance you can have a lot of fun with because as you noticed it performs differently depending on how you apply. You can also vary the distance from which you are spraying as this also gives different results. Its sweetness definitely makes it wearable by women and yes, it is worn by women. Marie Laforet and (brace yourself)…… Catherine Deneuve herself! (source

  7. carole macleod

    Well, am i ever in good company-Catherine Deneuve and Marie Laforet! Not sure i am worthy! But I have hair like Marie Leforets, and I want a bob like the one she is sporting on one of her album covers. Sables has amazing longevity. i just love it!

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