|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)
|Café Terrace Place du Forum (Arles, 1888)|
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.]