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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Roses in 3-D: Annick Goutal Ce Soir Ou Jamais

By Donna

Roses have to be among the most beloved of all plants that are cultivated by humans, and hardly anyone does not like their scent. It is a rare person who is not affected in some way by the delicious aroma of a fresh, dewy rose blossom. But when it comes to rose perfumes, even those who love the flower itself are less than enamored of perfumes featuring the rose. Sometimes it is because they smell cheap, due to synthetic ingredients in the composition or because “rose geranium” leaves were used instead of real rose essence, a cost-cutting measure that can be easily detected by comparing it with a real rose fragrance. Memories of drugstore horrors linger long and make one wary of approaching anything calling itself a rose soliflore. I personally love a good rose perfume as much as anything, and I am always looking for the kind that makes me feel as I do when smelling a real one in my garden; I inhale slowly and deeply and if it’s really good, it has that same effect that a fresh rose does – the nose never tires of it and there is never any hidden unpleasantness in its depths like there can be with other flowers. Fragrant roses are sweet right down to the bottom, and a good rose perfume should be the same way, rich and deep and endlessly pleasing, with no “off” or strange notes to interfere with the experience.

Those rose perfumes that do measure up to the real thing usually have to do it in one if two ways: by recreating the effect of the fresh living flower or by making it abstract, stylized, and part of a greater whole. The first way is probably the more difficult approach, as the standard for a rose scent is so high: the icon of the genre is Jean Patou Joy, a seamless and masterful fusion of Rose de Mai and Grasse jasmine that is the measure of greatness for all that have come after it. Then there is the modern Serge Lutens Sa Majeste de la Rose, a worthy heir to the classic tradition. On the abstract side we have such gems as Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum Lipstick Rose and Guerlain Nahema, both clearly rose-based but each with a unique twist, and the very rosy but somehow also stylized Paris de Yves St. Laurent that somehow does not seem like a rose soliflore to me but more of an atmosphere, a series of pink-tinged cloud pictures in my head like the kind we see as children when looking at the sky. Then there is Lancôme Magie Noire, whose rich and sophisticated rose essence is surrounded by a haze of other notes, a velvety penumbra moon that is best worn at night. Of course, these are only a few of the multitude of rose fragrances in the world, and everyone has their own idea of what their ideal rose perfume would smell like.

So why do perfumers keep producing rose scents? I have to think that in the case of the best ones, it has to be for love – think of the high quality of the Parfums de Rosine line, the medley of rose themes encompassed by these wonderful perfumes. I have not tried most of them, but I love Un Folie de Rose very much; its slightly sharp greenness coupled with the rich, tender rose is a perfect balance. It is a line that I hope to know better in the near future. (I have tried a couple of other Rosines but I must confess I can’t remember what the names were, except for having the word Rose in them!.)

This brings me to my subject: Annick Goutal Ce Soir Ou Jamais (“Tonight Or Never.”), released in 1999. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Un Folie de Rose with its green opening and slight astringency. In fact, there was a very brief “oh no” moment for me when I first put it on, thinking it was rose geranium as it was so sharp, but it passed quickly. (Not that I could ever really imagine a Goutal perfume with a problem like that!) When it has been on the skin for a few minutes the sharpness subsides and it becomes softer, and a hint of violet peeks out. After a little while it gets richer and almost jammy, but never cloying, as there are other subtle notes in play that keep a certain immediacy and freshness to the fore. According to the Bergdorf Goodman site, it has pear and cassis in it; I can’t really separate them out from everything else very well (reportedly 160 essences are involved in the composition) but I think I can tell what the pear is doing. It has the comforting feel of a chilled, poached (or dare I say even canned?) pear, the kind of thing one eats on a hot summer day when nothing else seems worth the effort. The Annick Goutal web site says there is hibiscus as well, which is where some of the sharpness must be coming from. This is only a sense, a gossamer veil of cool greenness over it all, since the centerpiece of the scent is Turkish rose, and it is magnificent indeed. I never had to wonder for even a moment if any shortcuts were taken in the selection of the ingredients for Ce Soir Ou Jamais. This has within it one of the finest rose essences I have ever experienced, and it is further rounded out with very good jasmine and ambrette seed. The jasmine behaves itself remarkably well here, and is used to do what only it can, to showcase and enhance the rose, making it bloom with sensuality while keeping its own character in the background. The drydown of this perfume is very pleasing, as the ambrette seed accord melds with skin to create a long-lasting impression.

I have worn this fragrance to work several times now – the carded sample was quite generous. While it lasts on me all day, it never gets too strong, and I only catch fleeting sensations of it on myself. I find it to be civilized yet romantic, and far more wearable for day and even the office than some other more intense rose scents that are best left for evening wear, such as Magie Noire, Nahema or Caron Parfum Sacré. Yet it is not without a strong character of its own, and it is certainly not one of those pallid mass-marketed “rosy” scents that wither away to nothing after thirty minutes. It is simply a deliciously dimensional true-rose fragrance for rose lovers who don’t want to “save” their favorite perfume for special occasions.

I don’t know why I never discovered this scent until now. Perhaps it is because there are so very many Annick Goutal scents and I never can get through them all at my local shop before I am entranced with something else – they are displayed close to the L’Artisan, Amouage and Hermès lines, so I am always flitting back and forth like the world’s happiest honeybee; I think I need to check in to the Home For The Easily Distracted. Perhaps it is because the name does not have anything to do with roses so I never knew that’s what it was. In any case, this one goes right up among the top ten rose scents for me, joining Parfum Sacré, Nahema, Sa Majeste de la Rose, Un Folie de Rose, Magie Noire and of course Joy. The others on my list keep changing as I discover them and I say, Oh, I like that one the best; No, it’s that one. But of course the beauty of it all is that I don’t have to choose at all, until it’s time to buy a bottle. I can just keep falling for all those rose scents over and over, as long as it takes.

Image credits: Special edition Ce Soir Ou Jamais bottle & velvet case from Passion for Perfumes, a perfume bottle collectors’ site. Photo of the perfectly formed and extremely fragrant 1843 Hybrid Perpetual Rose ‘Yolande d’Aragon’ from

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Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

I keep thinking that I don't do or like rose (other than on stems or bushes), but then I look at my empties and find that I've used up all of Sa Majesté la Rose and Frédéric Malle Une Rose, so clearly I must... My big rose discovered (belated), is the jammy, operatic Nahema. And I'm planning to try MDCI's Rose de Siwa soon, thanks to the brand's very generous sample.

1:55 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this piece very thought provoking as I adore rose-based scents. I love Nahema so much, and enjoy Lipstick Rose, Bond No. 9 West Side and Parfum Sacre too. I have encountered a problem with Annick Goutal scents though - I confess I can't see what entrances other people about this line. I tried 'Grand Amour' and it loomed into a very green, damp and unpleasant odor on my skin. I found 'Petite Cherie' to smell like Johnson's Baby Shampoo. Songes does the unpleasant damp thing on my skin again - and I've been scared off trying the rest of the line. I may try Ce Soir ou Jamais based on you review, Marina.

7:59 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do love rose scents, so I'll have to give this one a spin. My favorite rose scents are actually turning out to be the Montale fragrances. Believe it or not, I've been wearing Black Aoud in this hot, humid weather, and I've never gotten so many compliments on a perfume before.

8:18 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, just realized it was Donna who posted this - apologies!!

9:07 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You said (well wrote) a mouthful. Like Carmen, I "don't like" rose scents. Mostly because of being bombarded with ones that are about as true to the bug as one of those cardboard things you hang from your rearview mirror- is there a scent in nature more abused than rose? More maligned by cheap, nasty knock-offs? I don't think so, and I think Glade and thier ilk are the biggest offenders. When we get used to something smelling both ubiquitous AND cheap, we tend to run from it.

Thank god for the really great rose scents like Sa Majesté, N'Aimez and this one (among others). Thank god in general for AG. If there ever was a line that is dependably good, dependably chic, dependably French, in the best way possible, Goutal is that line. The new ones are a brilliant continuation of that ethos..

11:11 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

PS- that should be "true to the bud.

Coffee anyone?

11:12 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My roses are those from Montale... (but tonight I'm going to re-try my sample from Ce Soir...)

11:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Carmencanada, "operatic" is a perfect way to describe Nahema! I just adore it but it's SO big it's hard to wear except for a special night out - or in. ;-)

3:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Mimi, I really hope this one works for you - too bad about the other AG scents. I must confess that Songes and I did not get along at first either, until I revisited it and discovered its good side - or maybe my nose was off the first time.

3:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Suzanne, thanks for bringing up the Montales! I can't make up my mind whether I like Aoud Roses Petals or Aoud Queen Rose better. What I do know is that roses and aoud are a perfect sensory combination that I can't get enough of.

3:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tmp00, that's it exactly! Room fresheners, cheap cologne, fake potpourri - and the poor Rose bears the brunt of the insults since it's so overused in these products - even if a drop of real rose essence never makes it into the mix! That's why I love a really good Rose perfume - can we call it Rose Redemption? :-)

I agree 100% on the Annick Goutal line - from the most ethereal to the most potent scents in the line, quality is their hallmark. I have smelled some that are not "me" but I have never encountered one that was poorly done.

3:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Lady Jane Grey, your taste is most excellent!

3:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Existentialist said...

Donna, that was a very thorough & enjoyable piece. I have been turned off in the past by rose scents that were just... cheap, I guess, so when I read "rose" I tend to shy away, but you've inspired me to try this one. I like the idea of a sophisticated rose that is suitable for day wear. Perhaps I will become a rose lover late in life!

9:07 PM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I love MANY roses- this one, and Quel Amour !, of all things.
[Yeah, I know it screams- but it'as so damn pretty!]

Or et Noir I adore.
And nearly all the others you mention.

12:09 AM EDT  
Blogger indieperfumes said...

So many dislike rose scents for so many reasons but I keep searching for that ultimate rose in a fragrance, or at least want to develop a good collection of a range of roses, from deep to light.
Thank you for a beautiful review and inspiring me to try this one...

11:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Existentialist, thank you! Please don't let the cheap ones turn you off the good stuff.

3:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Chaya, what's NOT to love about Quel Amour? :-)

Or et Noir I am still waiting to try, but I know for sure I will adore it from what I have read.

3:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Lucy, I hope this one works for you. I find it to be right in the center of the spectrum as far as intensity, which works really well for daily wear.

3:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Sylvia said...

the name was what initially drew me to ce soir ou jamais (so sexy!). i was about sixteen and went on a rampage with daddy's credit card (back when sephora had interesting things...). when i received it, i tried it out and it was way too much for me. it was practically a 3 day commitment, it lasted so long, and i never warmed up to it unfortunately. this is a terrible thing to say, but i think im still too young for it.

2:37 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Ce Soir ou Jamais very much, and often I have trouble wearing AG fragrances because they become too green or lemon-waxy on me, which is really too bad. (I do like Heure Exquise very much though.) I am a huge rose perfume lover, and have many rose fragrances: AG Rose Absolue, Stella (regular and intense), Creed The Rose Bulgaire, Montale Roses Petals and Aoud Damascus, iPdF Miele Rosa...on and on. I really like Ce Soir for the summer- it just becomes heady and intoxicating in the heat. I think it is a great rose perfume. FYI - FragranceNet has the collectors edition edp available - I just picked up the beautiful bottle and am very pleased for the find ....

1:13 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

The joke's on me!

My book club just read Jitterbug Perfume. There are 12 of us, so each gets a month to choose the book and prepare a meal representative of it. And often we have favors for one another. I took it into my head to find the perfect jasmine scent with overtones of citron to spritz on the gals. If you've read this marvelous book, you know the bass note is beet pollen!

So I took myself to Perfume House here in Portland and the saleswoman, when she heard my request, took me directly to Ce soir ou jamais, stating that it even had the word jasmine in the title!!

I, without my glasses or my nose in working order, bought the perfume, came home and found this site!

Mais alors!! Roses yet.

But I rather like it or at least I like the fragrance-dappled cotton ball that lingers in my purse.

It is hardly the jasmine perfume to share with the AlphaGals, my book club, but on the other hand, perhaps it will become my summer scent?

Tonight or never, indeed!! Perhaps the new lover will like it?

Thanks for all the thoughts on this one.


8:12 PM EDT  

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