Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Starry, Starry Nights and Nuit étoilée by Annick Goutal


Starry Night over the Rhone (Arles, 1888)

Whenever I think of Annick Goutal’s Nuit étoilée,  I flash on the memory of Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting from the Arles years. The calm one. The one with a pumped up, displaced Big Dipper installation glistening like fallen tears on the Rhone.

Protesting the crowd’s requests to play old favorite songs, Joni Mitchell once riffed that no one ever said to Van Gogh, “Paint us Starry Night again, man. You know? He painted it, and that was it” (Miles of Aisles, 1974) She was making a point not about Van Gogh per se, but about creative process versus final product in music and visual art. Technically she was right: Van Gogh was painfully aware that the public did not beg him to paint encores. But this didn’t stop him from creating another Starry Night. Or two.

Starry Night (St. Remy, 1888)

Drawn to the name, and a fan of other moody-monikered Goutal fragrances (above all, l’Heure exquise), I had been anticipating the release of this new Nuit étoilée for many months. I finally had a chance to try it yesterday.

Café Terrace Place du Forum (Arles, 1888)
The power of suggestion can be mightier than than the scent molecule, but not when it comes to the ad text for this perfume. Nature and serenity? Yes. But I don’t smell sparkly sylvan magical midnight. What I do smell, though, may prove that I’m a victim of my very own memory-induced hype. Nuit étoilée is like Provence-in-a bottle to me. I know, I know. Van Gogh’s Provence is about earth and pigment and broken-in clogs. Goutal’s perfume is about marvel and whimsy and pristine night air. Never mind the pine and fir accord. Never mind that the wonderful saleswoman in the blue silk shirtdress (chosen exprès to go with the shop’s featured theme) assured me that Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen were thinking enchanted-forest-with-unicorn, not clay-tile-roof-with-cypress-tree when they conceptualized the fragrance. Maybe it’s when and where I sampled the stuff.  Maybe I’ve talked myself into it. No matter, by the time I had been perfumed head to toe by the woman in blue, I’d bought into my own Rhone-valley backstory.

Don’t let the unicorns in the boutique window scare you: this is not a some sort of coy, marshmallow-vanilla-praline confection. It’s a crisp, summery, unisex blend. After navigating shadeless city streets on a scorching blue day, a few long awaited spritzes of Nuit étoliée were the next best thing to a  dip in the Mediterranean. There’s big, peppery citrus in the top note (the SA emphasizes that it is cédrat, which is citron in English, not to be confused with lemon, which is citron in French). Mint and and subtle balsam refresh on contact, with plenty of angelica to keep it cool, and just enough unsweetened tonka to round the edges without even hinting at gourmand. I can not for the life of me remember what helichrysum (immortelle flower) smells like, but I trust it is there–perhaps in the outdoorsy coumarin-like warmth that prevents Nuit étoilée from leaving soothing for brisk. In the dry down I’m more often transported to the stone cool apses of Romanesque fusion cathedrals than to limpid mountain streams. I notice more dissipation than progression. The lack of heavy base notes makes for a breezy but unanchored blend. Reapplication is a must.

For now, Nuit étoilée taps into the citrus, herbal, vegetal, almost bitter bouquet of Provence’s sun drenched days, scents that also penetrate those cool skied nights, still relentlessly blue. I wonder if the mint will seem too strong, if the notes I perceive as vegetal and herbal will smell kitcheny once I return to a more humid climate, or when the season washes to grey. In the meantime, for these parched days and starry nights on and near the Rhone, Nuit étoilée is just the ticket. My only complaint: the 100 ml bottles. They are gorgeous. But please, make us another Starry Night, man–in a smaller size!

[EDIT: Chemistinthebottle has found Nuit étoilée in a 50ml flacon! See his review here. I suspect the boutique I went to was so small that it carried only a limited range, and the SAs did not (yet) know about the other options.]

I was alerted to the release and inspired to test Nuit étoilée after reading posts in Another Perfume Blog and Now Smell This. Check out their reviews!
Art photos from
Goutal poster from Fragranitca
Photos of the boutique my own.

8 thoughts on “Starry, Starry Nights and Nuit étoilée by Annick Goutal

  1. Glad to hear that you also think that Nuit Etoilee is a lovely fragrance for spring and hot summer! Isn't it just a beautiful perfume.
    I'm very happy you dropped by Chemist in the Bottle and read my own review of Nuit Etoilee

  2. Dear Chemistinthebottle, Thanks so much for stopping by. Yes, I think this is just right for summer. I was so happy to read the updated information on your blog, too! CQ

  3. Pingback: (Belated) Post Cards from Lyon | Perfumed Letters

  4. I’m wearing Nuit étoilée today-funny i happened upon this post. I agree with your Van gogh analogy. I am also wearing a blue shirt as well. This fragrance is the only one i have that matched the mood i am in today. I didn’t like this sample at first sniff but it’s growing on me. Thanks for the article i loved it.

  5. Hi, Patricia!, and thank you!
    This one seems to either grow on you–or not. I have a few friends who like the idea of it, but can’t put it into practice. The weather has to be just right for me to wear it. Today it’s hot and muggy and the cicadas are singing. Perfect!

  6. That’s exciting news, Patricia! Thanks so much for the link.

  7. Pingback: Annick Goutal Nuit Etoilee EDP Perfume Review | EauMG

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