Annick Goutal created Sables1 over 30 years ago, and I'm happy to be the one reviewing it here (at long last). Goutal used the shrublands of Corsica, one of her favorite vacation spots, as inspiration for Sables, whose main ingredient, immortelle (Helichrysum italicum), grows naturally there and is also planted on farms for use by companies such as L'Occitane. Sables was a gift for Goutal's beloved husband, the cellist Alain Meunier; they had met and fallen in love as young music students, then drifted apart for decades before meeting again and marrying. (Grand Amour is another Goutal creation that pays homage to their life together.) Sables represents a perfumer's love for a place and a man...très romantique.
Sables was one of the first niche fragrances I bought (and I've owned many bottles over the years). I've not smelled Sables in a long time (from a new bottle, that is) and was almost afraid to sniff it after smelling the recently re-released, tweaked (and scoured) Annick Goutal Eau de Monsieur. If you read old reviews of Sables from the 90s, the words 'overpowering,' 'curry powder,' 'bacon,' 'fenugreek' and 'maple syrup' are repeated over and over. Sables was gutsy. Many reviewers felt it should only be worn at home in order not to annoy or horrify passersby. After trying current Sables, I'm happy to report it's not been given a scrubbing with a heavily soaped loofah mitt; Sables still smells earthy, aromatic and delicious.
Sables opens with the scent of talc-y immortelle that's been dusted with cinnamon (let's call the spice element 'sun-bleached cinnamon powder'). As Sables settles on skin, the immortelle becomes "brittle" — with a sandy/salty quality. Starting in mid-development, Sables has some mustiness/muskiness, especially if you smell your skin up close; Sables' musk is not clean and white, but earth-toned. Every now and again as I wear Sables, I wonder: "Who's cooking Indian food?!" This phase of Sables smells like Indian spices, especially fenugreek, being tempered in a hot skillet. (Interestingly, fenugreek, which contains the distinctive aromatic compound sotolon, has curry, burnt sugar and maple syrup facets — similar to immortelle.)
When Sables hits its stride, it pours forth immortelle with a capital "I"...herbal, sweet, a bit disconcerting at times (with a fleeting, but penetrating, aroma some people compare to the smell of dry piss but that I think smells like a brittle, faded, dried and dusty bouquet of peonies). The sweet part of immortelle is usually described as having the scent of maple syrup, and, in Sables, I certainly smell a note that reminds me of maple sugar (not too dense). Sables' base smells of immortelle-infused amber with a dribble of caramelized brown sugar and mellow sandalwood. From start to end, I enjoy Sables; how it smells at the eight-hour mark is as lovely as its opening and heart.
My associations with Sables are firmly set: I wore it when I started college and was living in Los Angeles; Sables makes me feel hopeful, young and strong. I always think of sun and warmth when I wear Sables (the Santa Ana winds!), so I turn to Sables in hot weather (though in winter when I'm feeling low and worn out Sables is a great 'booster perfume').
If you've never tried Sables, do (even if you think you dislike immortelle). If you were afraid to smell "new" Sables, don't be. To me, Sables still smells like Sables...and the heyday of Annick Goutal perfumes. (PS: Alain Meunier is still playing his cello; how could Camille Goutal, even with IFRA looking over her shoulder, alter her step-father's perfume...and get away with it?)
Annick Goutal Sables Eau de Toilette has good sillage and lasting power; 100 ml, $149. For buying information, see the listing for Annick Goutal under Perfume Houses.
1. Listed notes of immortelle, sandalwood, cinnamon, vanilla, amber.