Suzanne's Perfume Journal

February 21, 2013:

In the gloom of midwinter, when I could use a good laugh, I often find that the best medicine is to go back in time and remember the silliness of who I was when I was a young girl. There are plenty of mementoes to guide me there: my mother kept an impressive “baby book” which thoroughly documented every avenue of my development from birth through seven years; beyond that there are other types of scrapbooks and photo albums. I find it incredible that she had the time to do all of this, but perhaps it was a form of therapy: shortly after I was born, my mother had to nurse her own mother through the final six months of her life when a quick-spreading cancer overtook her. Whether it was because she was a young woman needing to do something comforting in a time of grief, or perhaps because a first child is the cause of huge excitement, much information was recorded about me, and when I study it I am always struck by one thing: the miraculous growth I achieved in my seventh year. That was my banner year, apparently: I shot up 5-1/2 inches in height after not growing at all the previous three, and, judging by my school reports, had a supreme boost of confidence as well. After years of being shy to the point of not wanting to play with other children (aside from my sisters), suddenly I had best friends and an interest in other activities besides reading. On an elementary school form that I filled out, under the question, What do you want to be when you grow up?, I replied “A go-go dancer!” with a bold exclamation mark. I’m sure it wasn’t the answer the school or my parents were looking for, but to a degree I think it was an answer that brought them relief, mainly for its show of vigor.

Seven was the age when I finally began to acquire an appetite. Not just for food, but for anything advertised on TV; and not just an appetite, but an intense craving for some very odd things: Gravy Train dog chow, Gaines-Burgers (another form of dog food), and Butterball turkeys. I thought I wanted the first of these two things for our beloved beagles; the ads got me to thinking that we had a duty to buy them the good stuff, and this conviction grew to the point that I was constantly nagging my parents. Then came the day when my mom actually caved and brought home a small bag of Gravy Train, and I was so utterly convinced that the act of adding warm water to dry kibble would produce a rich gravy, that I mixed some up on the spot and downed a heaping spoonful before the dogs even got a bite. Upon discovering how disgustingly bad it tasted, one would have thought I’d be finished with the matter, and yet I foolishly held out hope that Gaines-Burgers would be better. The commercials portrayed them as being as meaty as real hamburger, and despite the Gravy Train fiasco and the fact that we had a freezer full of premium beef that my mother prepared with great frequency and culinary skill, my mouth would water whenever that ad came on.

As for the Butterball turkey, I wouldn’t be disappointed by one of those until adulthood. My father was the one who hand-selected a farm-fresh capon for our holiday meals, and he simply shook his head and said, “Suzanne, you have been thoroughly seduced by advertising,” whenever I suggested replacing it with this wonder-bird that was purported to be self-basting and ridiculously moist.

He was absolutely right, of course; I had fallen under a spell of seduction that he was seemingly immune to, but maybe advertising really only speaks to us when it addresses a need. Looking back, there was one particular avenue of advertising that held sway over my father, and oddly enough (if you knew him and his habits), it was health. Judging by the products that drew him in, I think he was seduced by the idea that there really might be shortcuts to this state, and in this regard he was as foolishly optimistic as I was. Nevertheless, he found success for awhile with one product that managed to stay in my memory thanks to its unique smell. It was a powdered roasted-grain beverage mix called Postum, a coffee-substitute that for a few brief months would replace the eight to ten cups of strong black coffee that he typically drank in a day. Postum smelled delicious—and if I’m remembering correctly, it tasted good too—but I never would have remembered it had it not been for a perfume that jogged it to mind: Annick Goutal Sables.

Sables is a perfume based on the scent of Immortelle, a flowering shrub that grows wild on the sand dunes of Corsica and commonly referred to as “immortal flowers” or “everlasting flowers,” because its blooms won’t fade even after they’ve been picked (making me wonder whether a health drink might be concocted around those?). Immortelle has a smell reminiscent of maple syrup and tobacco coupled to an herbal aroma that reminds me of hay, and I can smell all three of these facets in Sables, with an emphasis on the latter two. With a rustic and dry character edged by a swarthy bit of sweetness, Sables comes across to me as possibly the world’s best tobacco scent, yet it embraces so many other facets along the way, to characterize it as such does it a grave disservice.

The opening stage of Sables for a few brief moments reminds me of another perfume, Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles, with its balsamic amber sweetness. In quicksilver fashion it changes, taking on an undertone of a lemongrass smell and the darker scent of raisins. (This is what my nose makes of the perfume, not the actual fragrance notes, which I’ll list below.) From this point forward it deepens dramatically, first assuming the smell of fermented hay (which is what happens to hay that has been baled before it’s had a proper time to dry), and then losing its herbal stickiness and becoming more arid and complex: a rich bouquet of bitter, nutty and caramel-like tones that, like my father’s Postum drink, seem to be doing their best imitation of coffee, and doing it one better.

In its drydown, as everlasting as the immortelle flower itself, Sables smells like sun-cured tobacco leaves that have been gently sweetened with a touch of maple syrup. Many fine hours will pass before it fades to become a scent that is fluffier and sweeter, and even then it retains its air of rusticity.The first time I smelled Sables I thought it was an odd perfume for a person with odd tastes, and then a few smells later, I began to think that possibly I was a person with odd tastes, or maybe there was something in it that was potentially habit-forming. But since I can’t imagine either of those to be true, I’m guessing it was this ravishing review of Sables at my friend Christos’ blog that seduced me into loving it. And if that is the case, then I am also happy to report that for once in my life the media didn’t let me down: the generous decant he also sent me of Sables is now used up, and it was good to the very last drop.

Annick Goutal Sables eau de toilette has notes of Everlasting flower, cinnamon, Mysore sandalwood, Indonesian pepper, smoked tea and amber. It can be purchased from fine stores like, where a 100-ml bottle is $128, and can usually be found for less money at some of the perfume discounting sites. My review is based on a decant gifted to me by my fellow perfume blogger, Christos, of Memory of Scent.

Image of Annick Goutal Sables bottle is from

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Annick Goutal Sables

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