In-house Annick Goutal nose Isabelle Doyen has a resumé of perfumed creations that reads like a shopping list of the rich and rare. Having studied as Goutal's apprentice prior to her passing, Doyen inherited her master's keen intuitiveness and passion, which translate into a portfolio of fine fragrances that are resolutely French in their approach.
In 2000, Goutal launched the polarising masculine Eau du Fier to a mixed reception. A scent that focuses chiefly on the marriage of organic birch tar and black tea, Eau du Fier is quite possibly the blackest, sootiest perfume one might ever encounter. Coming right off the back of a decade of sanitised androgyny in perfume, Eau du Fier proved the absolute antithesis of perfume models that were popular at the time. By 2005, it had been already been retired.
In the years since the early 2000's, appreciation for niche, rare and artisanal perfumery has grown exponentially, thanks in part, to flourishing fragrance communities both online and offline. How peculiar that the scent which was globally rebuked in 2003, is now generally regarded by perfume aficionados in 2012 as a triumph, and arguably Doyen's magnum opus.
Olfactory notes aside, this fragrance launches from the flacon like a flame-thrower - an impenetrable wall of fire and embers, fed by combustable accelerants. On skin, Eau du Fier is equally as uncompromising... I am automatically transported to mechanic's workshop... I smell of a man who has worked under a car for a whole day; hands blackened with grease lying on a floor littered with oily rags. Open jerrycans in one corner reek of evaporating gasoline, whilst in the other, a fire is burning in a barrel that has been lit with small combustable firestarters. This daydream plays out for 6-8 hours, until a final lingering huff of smoke eventually vaporises from my skin.
Black tea and tarry birch are the key components upon which this perfume is built, but one has to turn away from the vivid film playing out in their mind's eye to become cognisant of the individual accords. Doyen's masterful hand has interwoven subtle floral nuances of osmanthus and herbaceous/citrusy facets into this scent, which can only be picked when one knows where to look. Every note is treated like a fine brushstroke, forming a small but integral part of the whole.
Eau du Fier will unquestionably evoke a response in the wearer. Some will fan the air around them and cough and wheeze, and others will sit, silent, and wait for the visions to begin.
If only more perfumes could be as accomplished and profound.