Last year's release of Annick Goutal's Mon Parfum Cheri, Par Camille made me go back to an older Goutal iris perfume I love, Heure Exquise. The house's website says:
The dreamy scent of reminiscence by excellence, this fragrance recalls the scene of an iris garden as day turns into night; a very private moment known as the "exquisite hour" or "Heure Exquise".In the past, many reviewers compared Heure Exquise to Chanel No. 19, perhaps the most famous iris-galbanum perfume (see Bois de Jasmin, Muse In Wooden Shoes and Perfume Shrine). It's inevitable, really. The similarities are probably obvious to anyone with a nose, but the EDT version of No. 19 (the original. I can't deal with the reformulation) is in its heart, soul and base notes a sexy leather chypre. Naturally, our attention should be shifted to No. 9 in EDP, a wind chime-like green floral infused with rose, but since the iris-galbanum magic is not what No. 19 EDP is about, this is where the comparison ends. Besides, Goutal Heure Exquise is more than deserving having center stage.
More than anything, Heure Exquise is a romantic perfume. The composition was meant to evoke beauty, an iris garden drawn by an impressionist painter, frills and ornaments (sort of like the Goutal classic packaging. Heure Exquise has always been a big part of the very French image I've had of Annick Goutal). It's also very soft. I'm not sure how much Mysore sandalwood still exists in the formula, but the idea is there, warm, embracing and surprisingly sexy in the late dry-down. When I say sexy, I don't mean it in the leathery way of No. 19 or an extra undone button in its white blouse. It's more about lavish boudoirs, powdered skin and unapologetic femininity. Heure Exquise doesn't try too hard. It doesn't try at all, actually. It's a very perfumy perfume that offers itself fully and completely. It's free of irony, doesn't have even one hipster bone in its body, and doesn't pretend to be modern. This is where I see a connection to the new Par Camille, even though they smell nothing like each other. What they have in common is that "beyond retro" and very classic idea of perfume. Heure Exquise can be a daytime fragrance for she who wears Par Camille at night as a companion to her vintage jewelry and very high heels.
Notes: Turkish rose, galbanum, iris, Mysore sandalwood, vanilla.
My bottle of Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is an older EDP that is no longer sold in the US. Some online retailers have it stock as it is in production, just officially not for us. The EDT, which is similar but a bit colder and more fleeting, is available from most top department stores.
Photos of Cleo de Merode, a dancer and beauty icon of the Belle Epoque, from thefrenchsampler.blogspot.com