Duel (Annick Goutal)

For some reason, Duel reminds me of Ireland in winter. It gets bitter in the northwestern region, specifically Sligo, Cumeen, Donegal, Ardara. The bright country air silvers into glistening canine teeth, and snaps mercilessly at bare skin, tormenting whoever is unfortunate enough to hurry home from a pub after sunset. Dusk settles in at four p.m. sharp, by the way, with total darkness ten minutes on its heels, so you better drink up. It's not my favorite time to be in Ireland, but there's nothing quite like seeing a robin's-egg blue frost on Sligo's mossy, curvaceous hide by the pale morning light.

There are some warm associations as well: brisk mugs of tea at Henry Lyons & Co. on Knox Street in town, the faint whiff of spices from the bakery, the humid air as the January sun sucks dew droplets off stiff briar petals, all adding to the charm. Smelling Duel's lucid black tea top note brings these associations to mind, with accents of petit grain and green notes really heightening the experience. Fragrantica shows votes for holly as a prominent element, but frankly I just smell a nondescript "sweet-green" effect. It's the perfect encapsulation of an Irish morning, sitting by the cafe window with tea in hand, looking out at the mountains. Duel reminds me that perfume is capable of this sort of thing - one sniff can transport you to a different time and place. The human nose, I'm convinced, is inextricably connected to whatever part of the brain controls memory.

The drydown isn't particularly complex, a simple medley of artemisia and something mildly floral and sweet, presumably guaiac wood oil, or something similar. If Yatagan and Balenciaga Pour Homme are meditations on the brute force of artemisia, Duel is an exploration of its gentle side. Isabelle Doyen's EDT (more an EDC, really) is a breezy, evanescent affair, gone within four hours, but lovely while it lasts. It's arguable as to whether Duel is a traditional fragrance or an olfactory poem of sorts. It is fluid, it is green, it is woody, and it is rather inarticulate, the way Ulysses would smell if Joyce's words wafted up off the page. Who knew airy freshness could be so deep? Wear this and travel to a distant emerald shore. It's one of the best tea/green scents ever made.

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