Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee ~ perfume review

Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée advert

How much does a perfume's back story matter to you? It has long been an axiom in the fragrance industry that the back story is key to commercial success. Along with the other design elements — the packaging, the advertising, etc — it ought to help attract the appropriate consumer audience, and to allow the customer to make an emotional connection with the fragrance and the brand. When it works, it works, when it doesn't...well, that's essentially why we do the Prix Eau Faux, right? And why young people everywhere rolled their eyes at Calvin Klein In2U (to name just one egregious misfire) before they even smelled it.

I was thinking of all this when I first smelled the latest from Annick Goutal, the unisex fragrance Nuit Étoilée. The name makes reference to Van Gogh's masterpiece, and the brand's press materials mention a "dream world" and a solitary communion with nature:

Oh to walk for hours close to nature at nightfall. To listen to the wild grass crumple and fir cones crack under one's feet. Collecting branches of evergreen, snapping them smelling the resinous odor on our fingertips. Then to lie back and enjoy the moonlight, as though alone in the world. 1

I don't know exactly what such a fragrance should smell like, but the woody aromatic developed by perfumer Isabelle Doyen is not at all what I expected. It's a sprightly fragrance, crisp and minty and bright in the opening, with shades of Guerlain's Herba Fresca (the notes for Nuit include sweet orange, Siberian pine, balsam fir, tonka bean, citron and peppermint). Like Herba Fresca, it seems like just the thing to wear as a tonic on a hot summer day.

Over the course of its development, Nuit Étoilée does get richer and deeper, and the pine and other wood notes come to the forefront. Still, it never gets really rich or deep, and even when it warms and sweetens in the far dry down, it retains a sort of brisk edge from the conifers and the lingering mint. At no point does it call to mind the painting, or a solitary excursion in the moonlight, or even the name or the (exquisite) blue of the packaging. The "fir cones" and "branches of evergreen", yes, that's all there, but the rest of it (what Saks refers to as the "wild nature, majestic immensity, in the coolness of a starry night") is lost on me.

So, initially I was disappointed, in the same way that I'm disappointed when a fragrance has tuberose — or vetiver, or whatever — in the name but the juice fails to deliver on the promise. But wearing it over the course of a week or so, I realized that it didn't matter. I like Nuit Étoilée, even if that isn't what I would choose to call it, and even if I don't find it even slightly dreamy.

Like Mandragore,2 and to a lesser extent, Ninféo Mio,3 it perfectly hits that sweet spot in the middle of the spectrum between inoffensive and esoteric. It's the sort of thing you can reach for without thinking, knowing that it isn't likely to cause passersby to wrinkle their noses and that it will "fit" just fine no matter what you're wearing or where you're going or how the weather turns out. It won't wear you out with emotional demands by the end of the day — we all have a few of those perfumes, right? At the same time, it won't bore you to tears, it won't remind you of shampoo or laundry detergent, and you won't smell like everyone else on the planet.

Not everyone loves it though. Victoria at Bois de Jasmin was disappointed, and Octavian at 1000 Fragrances called it a disaster.

Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée flacons

Annick Goutal Nuit Étoilée is available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette, in either the (feminine) ribbed bottle or the (masculine) square bottle. For buying information, see the listing for Annick Goutal under Perfume Houses.

Tomorrow: Jessica's review of Annick Goutal La Violette.

1. Via First in Fragrance.

2. And Mandragore is another one that grew on me slowly. I was mildly positive when I reviewed it but hardly in love. Eventually, I came to like it well enough to buy it, and I find that I reach for it more often than I would have expected.

3. I say "to a lesser extent" only because many people have reported that Ninféo Mio doesn't work well on their skin.

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104 Comments

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  1. Ari says:

    First, my secret shame: I bought CK in2u when I was 15. I was very susceptible to advertising. I am proud to say, however, that I returned it almost immediately after buying it when I realized that it smelled like yellow gatorade and sweat.

    The Nuit Etoilee bottle is just gorgeous (I actually prefer the men’s version, for once). No one seems thrilled with it, but I do like both Mandragore and Ninfeo Mio, so I think I’ll give this one a try. Thank you for the review, Robin!

    • Robin says:

      Hey — if you bought CK In2U when you were 15, to some extent that validates the whole concept & back story, right? It certainly didn’t go over well with the internet in general, but to some extent that’s CK’s bad luck for using the internet as part of their concept. The internets do not like to be used that way, LOL…

    • ambaneko says:

      Re: CK- hey you have to start somewhere! If you were still wearing it, that’s a whole different thing.

  2. cinnamonster says:

    I like the ad, the bottle and the copy, however, it is disappointing to hear it doesn’t smell like it suggests it might. It sounds nice as you say, for a summer’s day, if you like Herba Fresca, which sadly I didn’t. The copy for me brought to mind how Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Czernobog smells to me although having read other peoples reviews not everyone might feel that way.

    • Robin says:

      It’s only like Herba Fresca in the beginning — still worth giving it a try! Have not smelled that BPAL so can’t help on that score.

  3. lucasai says:

    Nuit Etoilee, oh I want to smell you so, so much! But Annicl Goutal perfume are almost not present in Poland…

    • Robin says:

      Oh, that’s too bad! They’re not all that easy to find here either, really — some of the older & popular ones are at many department stores, but the newer ones are harder to get your hands on. Saks does apparently have this one.

      • lucasai says:

        In Poland we only have Sephora and Douglas, but neither of them carries AG. I’ve seen some Eau d’Hadrien, Mandragore and Duel around allegro (polish ebay equivalent) . One of the two niche perfume retailers we have in Poland has some AG, maybe Nuit Etoilee is just a matter of time

        • Nile Goddess says:

          Come to Prague one week-end Lucasai, we have the entire Annick Goutal collection here and sometimes Camille even visits so you may get her autograph on your flacon. :-)

          • lucasai says:

            That’s a lovely idea! And I could also meet up with you for a cup of coffee and a stroll around the old town

    • Merlin says:

      If its any consolation, I cannot find them in South Africa either-

      • lucasai says:

        Annick Goutal seems not to care so much about distribution…

        • Rictor07 says:

          It’s not as if you cant get it. im sure somebody who carries it will ship it to you. you just have to be willing to pay a little bit more, and wait a little bit longer for it to arrive.

          • lucasai says:

            probably true ;)

  4. FragrantWitch says:

    What a gorgeous shade of blue! I am disappointed to hear that it doesn’t smell evocative of Van Gogh’s Starry Night or even of the ad copy.

    • Robin says:

      Would something heavy on conifers, in general, smell like “Starry Night” to you? I mean, I can only imagine that it does to Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen. Maybe I’ve been spending my starry nights in the wrong place, LOL…

      • FragrantWitch says:

        No, conifers are absent from my scent of ‘Starry Night’. Hay, freshly turned earth, warm skin, and wisps of a night blooming flower- those things are there in my mental scentscape. But, you are quite right Starry Night must smell of conifers to them. I guess I need my own perfumer to make my vision of things! Lol

      • ambaneko says:

        Actually, conifers makes sense. I mean, the South of France is mountainous so lots of conifers, and the cypresses (heavily present in other Van Goghs), it seems right. I can easily imagine walking thru dark woods hung with the scent of cypress (a favorite of mine) and grass, watching burning stars above. The point is to go beyond the facile “Provence-lavender- vineyard” that anyone might think of when VvG comes up.

        • Rappleyea says:

          Great point!

        • Robin says:

          Agree, I would not have wanted a “Provence-lavender- vineyard” thing either.

  5. Jill says:

    I agree with FragrantWitch, I really like the blue of that bottle! I really want to try it, in part because I tend to click with AG scents quite well (it’s one of my favorite houses). But it’s too bad it doesn’t live up to name or the description! I would have expected it to be richer and deeper as well.

    • Robin says:

      I hate to even say it doesn’t “live up to” its name. It just doesn’t fit? I mean, I don’t think it’s a disaster, and unlike Victoria, I really liked wearing it. Perhaps they could make something that *did* fit with its name and that I wouldn’t like as well.

      (if any of that makes sense!)

  6. Abyss says:

    Oooh, thank you, this is one of the recently-announced releases that I was really curious about and I find your reviews a pretty good guide.

    It just so happens that the two AG scents that I like and want to wear are Mandragore Pourpre and Ninfeo Mio so reading that this is along similar lines makes me pretty happy. Definitely trying this next time I make it to the big city.

    • Robin says:

      Hope you’ll like it!

      • Abyss says:

        So do I, I’d love to own one of those bottles :D

  7. victoriaf says:

    I passed by Saks’s AG counter the other day, and they’ve had the whole display decorated with these blue bottles. I really wished once again that I loved the fragrance more!

    • Robin says:

      They could do some spectacular LE bottles for this, too — that blue, with a sweep of gold stars? But hey, money saved, right?

      • MCocteau says:

        Wait for Christmas!

      • Alyssa says:

        Oooh…and with a deeper, richer version…

        • Robin says:

          Yes…they ended up doing 2 more versions of Mandragore, so we can hope they’ll do the same with this. On the other hand, I do think the Mandragore was partially because of so many complaints about the lasting power. This one lasts ok on me.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I just tried Nuit Etoilee yesterday and I found it very similar to Ninfeo Mio, only with pine and mint. I like Ninfeo better.

    • Robin says:

      Now I’m trying to decide if I like NM better too, although I like them both. I ended up with a small travel bottle of NM, and that’s what I’d like to have for this too, probably. Mandragore rates 50 ml status for me.

  9. Aparatchick says:

    That ad is gorgeous, and I love the blue bottle. I don’t know, though. I haven’t gotten along well with mint – is it toothpaste/chewing gum minty?

  10. ladymurasaki says:

    Thanks for the review, Robin. I am going to try this as soon as it becomes available in store. The AG Knightsbridge store is right by a friend’s house and they are very generous with samples. I went in and came out with three free samples! This sort of thing just does not happen in stores such as Liberty. OT: speaking of samples, I received my two free ones from Jo Loves. Gardenia & Orange Tulle. Love them both. Not being a great JM fan, I was pleased and kind of surprised that she’s creating scents that are quite different from JM scents I’ve tried.

    • lucasai says:

      enjoy your samples, mine from Histoires de Parfums also arrived yesterday

      • ladymurasaki says:

        Yay! Have fun!

    • Robin says:

      Well, that’s nice to hear — how would you say they’re different — are they more complex, heavier, or…?

      Actually I kind of think the (old) JM line switched gears several times — starting with simple but blunt (often too blunt for my taste), then branching out into some slightly edgier territory in the years between Pom Noir & Sweet Lime, then to a sort of clean & dewy/pretty aesthetic over the past couple years.

      • ladymurasaki says:

        I think they are not necesserily heavier but more accomplished or rounded, if that makes any sense. Gardenia is, in my opinion, is a classical gardenia soliflore and a beautiful representation of the real flower. I haven’t found anything that I really like from JM as they seem too light, too simple or just odd smelling, but I really like the ones from JL.

    • Abyss says:

      My Jo Loves samples arrived yesterday. I did a cheeky thing and placed two orders and received all 4 samples in one package. I’m wearing Orange Tulle today and it was Green Orange and Coriander yesterday (unisex, tenacious and reminiscent of something else. Closest I could come up with was Terre d’Hermès)

      • ladymurasaki says:

        LOL. I thought about doing that too! What do you think about them?

        • Abyss says:

          I figured it was worth a try :D
          I wasn’t blown away by the two that I tried so far but I like smelling new (and not so new) things so I’m okay with that. Curious about the other two; grapefruit and gardenia are actually two of the trickiest notes for me but I’m keeping an open mind.

  11. mals86 says:

    I’m quite sure that this isn’t going to be up my alley, though I have been “star-struck,” so to speak, since first seeing the stunning blue packaging. Ah well. I don’t do well with quiet woody-herbals. (Well, any woody-herbals, really.)

    • Robin says:

      Yeah, sounds like you can cross this off the list.

  12. Meg says:

    Don`t think I`ll search this one out. The AG line as a whole stubbornly holds out on me, none of them seem to work for me. Comparisons to NM send me scampering further.

    • Emily says:

      Until I read this review, I had no idea that NM could be so polarizing! Weirdly enough, it’s the only AG I’ve tried that’s really worked on me.

    • Robin says:

      It doesn’t, to me, smell like NM. But sounds like that doesn’t really matter if nothing AG works for you!

  13. Emily says:

    Except for a couple of oddball scents that use shiso, perfumes with mint really aren’t my thing. So count me in with the folks who are admiring the bottle but saving their money.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, what are your favorite shiso scents?

      • Emily says:

        My very favorite is 1000 Flowers Reglisse Noire, though if shiso weren’t included in the list of notes I’m not sure I’d know. It does make sense in a spicy black-licorice perfume, though. There’s also a nice DSH scent with shiso whose name is escaping me right now.

        • Robin says:

          Thanks! I really liked the DSH one too. Wasabi Shiso, I think?

          • Emily says:

            Yeah, that sounds right.

  14. Rappleyea says:

    Wazamba was the first to convince me that I like evergreen scents, although that one can be too sweet sometimes – I think it’s the apple in it. I’m determined to like this one enough to get that beautiful bottle – it’s my favorite color of blue. Thanks for reviewing.

    • Robin says:

      I once had a mini of a very simple pine by Borsari — really liked it, have always wanted to find it again.

      • Rappleyea says:

        I had no idea they made a pine scent. I always associate Borsari with the violet one, which I like.

        • Robin says:

          That was their best. The pine was even simpler than that! Not sure if they still make it. And everyone has always mentioned Pino Silvestre, but never tried that either.

  15. Omega says:

    I have only sniffed a few AGs, haven’t liked any..really don’t like those minty openings AG tends to have. I can’t stand mint.

    • Robin says:

      Then perhaps this won’t work for you either.

  16. Nlb says:

    I knew it wouldn’t live-up to that beautiful ad and bottle color. It would just have been too perfect, for too many perfumistas. I’m willing to bet that many fragrance lovers have also been lifelong stargazers and that a dreamy, magical blend called “Nuit Etoilee” was doomed to be too good to be true from the very beginning.

    Remove the high hopes and it’s probably a nice enough, pretty scent. It reads like a “Tocca” blend; as good as it gets in a rush and with minimal investment.

    But a fragrance that evokes an expansive, starry sky of inky, midnight blue and blue-black flicks of pine trees swaying in an evening breeze. Alas…

    • Robin says:

      Well, it’s true that it doesn’t call up that starry sky of inky midnight blue for me, but then again, (and again, for me!) it is quite a few notches above anything Tocca has ever done.

  17. Eva S says:

    The bottles really are gorgeous!
    A star-filled night and conifers and pine trees really go together for me, but then I’m Swedish so it stands to reason! But for a starfilled night with pinetrees I would chose OJ Woman.

    • Robin says:

      Yes…and OJ Woman *is* dreamy, and also works for night. This scent is more daytime to me, and not dreamy. But you’ll have to tell me what you think when you smell it!

  18. Alyssa says:

    Crossing my fingers that this will work for me! And hoping there will be a sample in my Sniffa bag. (They’ve been kind of chintzy about samps at the Bergdorf Goutal counter, much as I do love their rep there.)

    I

    • Robin says:

      Is Sniffa going to Saks this year? I think Jessica told me that for some reason BG is not carrying Nuit Etoilee.

  19. Alyssa says:

    P.S. “It won’t wear you out with emotional demands by the end of the day — we all have a few of those perfumes, right? ” This made me LOL. And now I want a whole post about it.

    • Robin says:

      Ah, but that’s exactly the sort of post *you* would write perfectly!

      And I am not making this up — a couple weeks ago I was driving along, half daydreaming, wearing my lovely (!) vintage Diorissimo, and the thought sort of floated across my mind that hey, really I am not good enough for my perfume.

      So sometimes, really, we all need a “no brainer” sort of perfume. It is hard to live up to a classic every.single.day.

      • Rappleyea says:

        Great idea!

      • nozknoz says:

        Robin! You are SO selling yourself short! NST always looks perfect, you always have the most charming responses to every comment, and you write so wonderfully with true wit and wisdom. I’m certain that Diorissimo is DELIGHTED every time you draw her from the perfume cabinet and take her for a spin!

        • Robin says:

          Aw, you are so sweet!

          (I started to write a long explanation of how imperfect NST is, and how perfect Diorissimo is, then started to laugh and erased it. Just the other day I was explaining to my son that self-esteem is important, but sometimes a little self-esteem is better than a lot of self-esteem. ha.)

        • lucasai says:

          Nozknoz, I hope you don’t mind me interfering here: I’ve got a long review of Eau Sauvages for you. Would you like me to post it under this weeks LWP or I’d rather write to you in person?

          • nozknoz says:

            Lucas, I’m looking forward to your take on Eau Sauvage and how it compares to the extreme version. The weekly polls are best for me. I may be late this weekend due to a seminar, but I’ll see you there!

          • lucasai says:

            So I’ll post in on saturday when the LWP appears (Oh, that will be Prix Eau Faux off-competition thread, so my entries also will be there)
            Search for the longest comment as you’ll have a lot to read ;)

  20. Nile Goddess says:

    Ahem, my Dad has an old Glen Miller album with a song called “The Story of a Starry Night”. It looks like it was the inspiration for this fragrance.

    To me, the real starry night, in any season, smells wonderful – and wild. I can’t imagine tame Annick Goutal with her well-behaved fragrances and prudish flacons create my idea of a starry night LOL. I actually tried this fragrance last week and I can’t remember it.

    If ever I buy anything Annick Goutal I’d definitely go for the men’s flacons. Those ladylike shapes look like you must wear a crinolin to touch them. And if that is not an argument, they’re cheaper for the same amount :-D

    • Robin says:

      I always think of that Don McLean song Starry Night, which I loved when I was younger but can now barely stand to sit through.

  21. annemarie says:

    I’ve been wearing Goutal’s Mon Parfum Cheri, par Camille in the last few days and thinking that that juice is out of sync. with its marketing and packaging. The juice presents to me as big-boned, simple in strucutre, and quite earthy (patchouli, plum, iris). And yet the back story and packaging reference vintage cosmetics, ribbon and lace. I guess this is done deliberately to attract the consumer, but I do feel sorry for people who pick up a tester expecting something quite other than what they get.

    I guess I mention this as another example of a perfume back story creating false expectations. Forunately in the case of Mon Parfum Cheri, the fragrance is terrific. I’d much rather see it in one of AG’s masculine bottles.

  22. Carlos Cavalcanti says:

    Robin,
    which Annick Goutal’s fragrance is the top one when we talk about the men’s version?

    • Robin says:

      Do you mean which is the best men’s? Of course it depends on your taste, but maybe Duel, or Eau de Fier if you can find it (I think it’s only sold in Paris now).

      • Carlos Cavalcanti says:

        Here in Brazil is very hard to find her fragrances, so I have to go blind on this one. And it will be my first purchase of an AG fragrance. I noticed you like Mandragore Pourpre a lot. Does it fix well? And what about projection? I’m looking for a 5 star fix/projection fragrance.

        • Carlos Cavalcanti says:

          And yes, I mean the best men’s. Sorry for my bad english.

          • Robin says:

            No worries, your English is great!

            Don’t think any of the Goutal men’s scents have what I’d call 5 star projection or longevity. For that, you may need to stick with more mainstream fragrances. Anyone else care to chime in — do you think any of the men’s AG scents are real powerhouses?

        • annemarie says:

          I noticed the other day that surrendertochance.com is shipping to Brazil, so you can try before you buy, if they have this fragrance.

          • Carlos Cavalcanti says:

            thank you @annemarie for this wonderful tip!

  23. nozknoz says:

    I remember liking Herba Fresca when it first came out, and I like mint. I also remember as a child the dewy grass at night and a minty plant that was mixed in with the grass, so I may even convince myself that the name is OK. As long as it doesn’t have to much of that spiky wood they like to use, that blue bottle on the right will be mine! ;-)

    • Robin says:

      It’s really only like HF in the opening! But hope you will like it.

  24. dolcesarah says:

    I have tried and tried, spent a few hundred, but there IS NOT AN ANNICK GOUTAL that I like. Not one. It IS my Noni’s Parfums.
    I just sold every bottle for $2700 to some fanatic. I’m partying. XERJOF here I come!! SOTD SL’s CEADRE + COMPTOIR SUD PACIFIC’s vanilla. I smell DIVINE! CHEERS LADIES AND GENTS!

  25. dolcesarah says:

    Robin, what about someone paying almost $100 for 30 bottles????? I would use it then put it back up. Because she raised me and was beautiful. The town fashion Icon. Traveled, worldly, married a fallen hero from the 82nd Airborne, metals galore {I happen to have my Pop’s flag} wonder if his four children know that. I only talk with my Aunt and Noni. By the time my if you can call her Mother-had me, she was still still a fashion ICON. HANDSEWING EVERY OUTFIT, JUST LIKE THE COUTURE IN COSMO AND PLAYBOY. Was Cosmo even around in 1974?

    I thought I would give them to her and the first bottle I approached her with, she said something awesome,”ANNICK WAS MY SIGNATURE STATEMENT, NOW GO FIND YOURS!”

    Handbags maybe…shoes, but I do have five children, in my 30′s and have a lot living left to do. I like her FREAKING ADORE having the perfect outfit, shoes, bag, jewelry, and of course lip color and parfum. They go hand in hand for me and yes, I do put Jose Maran’s Argan Lip Treatment on before bed. It’s light nude, so I wear a perfume too. So did Noni. Even in her 60′s when Pop was alive she went to bed, clean, yet sexy!!! I Miss both of them. Thanks ANNICK!

  26. dolcesarah says:

    That was $100/bottle. Almost 300 bottles. What a strange fanatic.

  27. Nile Goddess says:

    @Robin THIS is the very song!!!

    There are a few interpretations of it, most quite operatic. I really like the Glenn Miller version because it is resplendent of the “good old times” in a charming old-fashioned way.

    Being the incurable romantic that I am, I can definitely sit through this, smile, sigh and melt – more than once :-D

    And it just about sums up my image of Annick Goutal fragrances.

    Enjoy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipn1qBTN8MU

    @lucasai – it will be my pleasure go give you a grand tour of the Old Town of Prague and its fascinating scented treasures.

  28. Mary Stephens Mitchell says:

    Hi Robin. According to Doyen and Goutal in the May issue of Allure, this fragrance was inspired by American forests and films like The Last of the Mohicans, so it would seem that it does not reference van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

    • Robin says:

      I saw that! In other places, they have referenced the painting as well.

  29. Mary Stephens Mitchell says:

    That surprises me. This scent doesn’t evoke that painting for me at all, nor does the bottle or the accompanying illustration. Where did they reference the painting? I’m interested in knowing.

    • Robin says:

      I’m sorry but I don’t remember…but never read that the painting inspired the scent, only the name, so not sure it matters all that much. Clearly to call a fragrance “starry night” and then make it that shade of blue is going to call up the painting anyway, right? But the brand descriptions I’ve seen mostly talk about the dream world at night and the conifers & so on.

  30. Mary Stephens Mitchell says:

    Thanks. I think the scent fits their intended reference pretty well.

  31. happy888cat says:

    Annick Goutal’s fragrances has always been some kind of strange with my skin. It morphs into something entirely different from what I read in the reviews. This new release (well, they JUST got it in Spain… Could’ve been much quicker since france is like, just around the corner? But nonetheless.) on my skin is nothing minty or fresh. On the blotter it smelt crisp but once landed on my wrist it took a sharp turn and became smokey (very much like the smokey effect from Vetiver Tonka by Hermes) with a hint of bitterness.
    Solitary moment in the forest? Maybe. But this person also wandered around with a cigar in his hand.
    Shame that it doesn’t agree with me. I really liked the sapphire blue bottle.

  32. the reaper says:

    Hello everybody. This is my first comment in this blog. I went to Paris in October. While there I visited ab Annick Goutal store in Champs Elysees. I went in open mind. I did not pay any attention to the names of the fragrances. I just allowed my nose to influence instead of the names. When I smelled Nuit Etoilee I felt in love with inmidiately. It reminds me my pleasent lovely walks in cold peaceful days in Paris with the woman I love to whom I’ve been married for 23 years. Nuit Etoilee means something strongly soulfull to me.

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