Fragrance Throwdown: Chanel No. 19 versus Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

In my mind, I’ve been calling this kind of head-to-head (wrist-to-wrist?) comparison a Celebrity Death Match. However, I’m now concerned that if I make it a regular blog feature, some rabid lawyer-type person may start getting all up in my grille about that phrase being copyrighted. I don’t think that Bobby Flay, restauranteur and chef, star of the Food Network shows Boy Meets Grill, Iron Chef America, and Throwdown with Bobby Flay, would care. He didn’t invent “throwdown,” and his show with “throwdown” in the title prominently features his name. Clearly, this blog is not in danger of being mistaken for being any project of Bobby’s, since it involves neither slabs of red meat nor the intense spices he’s famous for using. FWIW, I don’t think that perfume has much to do with Claymation celebrities, either, but just to be on the safe side, the two-fragrance comparisons are now Fragrance Throwdowns.

After reading comment after comment that Goutal’s Heure Exquise could be the long-lost twin of Chanel No. 19, I decided to wear them at the same time.

I love Chanel No. 19, particularly in vintage edt. (The parfum’s nice, too, but for this one I’m happy with the edt.) Needless to say, the suggestion of another fragrance very like my own personal Seven-League Boots got my attention. The raves of other HE fans, particularly those of AnnS on NST, intrigued me. The comparison in Perfumes: The Guide, where both fragrances get four stars, made me resolve to test Heure Exquise, although I’m appalled at the description of my Tough Gal perfume as “neurotic.”

Here’s Tania Sanchez on HE:

…HE is one Goutal that I genuinely love: a rich galbanum-and-iris composition close to Chanel No. 19 but, in contrast to the neurotic feeling of the Chanel, with a generous, warm backdrop of woody and animalic notes that feels like falling into a featherbed.”

I wound up with two samples of HE edt in two separate swaps, and it was oh-so-eagerly that I dabbed on some Heure Exquise. Galbanum, okay… rose, check… iris, check… vetiver, present. I saw the family resemblance right off. But where No. 19 was the emboldened, booted sister off to conquer the world, or at least the DMV, Heure Exquise was the prim, judgmental, “Come back here and get back to your knitting, like a proper lady!” sister. That iris note, while escaping the fatal Hiris and Bvlgari Pour Femme musty-basement qualities, was dry. Dry as toast, drrrrrrrry.

It made me think of the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, complaining to his wife that his daughter’s prospective in-laws are just too different for her to be happy: “This no work, Maria, this no work! They so drrrrry, they’re like toast. My daughter gonna marry Ian Miller with the toast family -” and I concurred: too dry. This no work.

And then I got the bright idea of doing a Celebrity Death Match Fragrance Throwdown. In this corner, the toasty-dry Heure Exquise edt. In that corner, the modern No. 19 edt. First was the elimination round – I decided that if modern No. 19 rolled over HE, then I wouldn’t even bother with testing other concentrations.

Notes for No. 19: Galbanum, neroli, bergamot, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, narcissus, muguet, iris, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, leather (leather in the vintage, not in the modern).

The notes for Heure Exquise are sketchy, but here’s the list from TPC: Galbanum, iris, rose, hyacinth, sandalwood. I would estimate that there’s also vetiver and musk.

Round 1: For the first 30 minutes, it looked like 19 was on top, no contest. HE was quiet, soft, a whisper of galbanum flowing into a patina of rose, while 19 was a fresh wind tossing my hair. And then as 19 began to soften into its soft classical florals, HE settled down too, into a plush rosy powder puff with a texture smooth as a baby’s butt. And by the drydown, HE had eaten 19’s lunch, with a pillowy, rosy musk that rounded out the edges of the sandalwood and vetiver. I was annoyed, and only slightly mollified by the fact that HE had beaten modern 19, not at all what I’d call the Real Thing. I began to feel like Vizzini in The Princess Bride: “Inconceivable!”

Round 2: Vintage No. 19 edt stepped in to face HE, winner of the first round. HE was the same lovely experience – a light veil of galbanum over the rose and iris, the smooth powdery-musky softness of sandalwood.  Vtg 19, though, is still an Amazon.  Not a pillow in sight, vintage 19 is still striding about the springtime landscape, among the flowers, in those boots of hers.  She’s smiling, glad to be alive.

Heure Exquise is lovely.  I recommend it, particularly if you found No. 19 a little too assertive.  For me, though, the assertive nature of No. 19 is what I prize.  This is especially important to me, I think, because I don’t really own any of the classic bludgeoner scents like Angel or Poison.  It’s my considered opinion that everyone should have a “Don’t Mess With Me” invisible-armor fragrance.  (Unless you are Dirty Harry or Leona Helmsley, of course, who don’t need invisible armor.)  I have two: No. 19, and Jolie Madame.  JM stands up to frigid winter weather but is too much even for me in the heat; No. 19 fills the bill for spring and summer.

I did not test Heure Exquise against No. 19 edp, which is softer and rosier than either the edt or parfum; I’m guessing that they’d be almost twins.  I also haven’t tried HE in edp, which is said to be rosier than edt.  I love rose, too – but if I want rose, I think I’ll get it elsewhere.

Throwdown result: No. 19 in vintage edt or parfum is the winner, by this judge’s preference.  However, another judge might feel free to declare for Heure Exquise, depending on personal preferences, since it’s equally well-composed of quality materials.

Review Report (for Heure Exquise; see my review of Chanel No. 19 for other reviews of it): Aromascope, I Smell Therefore I Am, 1000 Fragrances.

Image is from Wikimedia Commons.


15 thoughts on “Fragrance Throwdown: Chanel No. 19 versus Annick Goutal Heure Exquise”

  1. I’ve been wanting to try Heure Exquise, but I, too, adore vintage no. 19. I think the word ‘neurotic’ was way off base – to me, it’s elegant and incisive. It is my mother’s fragrance, so I can’t wear it too often, but when I do it’s wonderful.

    1. Hi, Hilary! I agree, “neurotic” was all wrong. No. 19 is the kind of boss that everybody admires but is secretly a tiny bit afraid of. “Incisive” is better.

      My own mom wore No. 5, which I avoided for years simply because it was so much hers. But isn’t it nice that there is a scent that reminds you of her, even if you don’t wear it often?

  2. You’ve made Heure Exquise sound like it’s definitely worth trying. I love finding a perfume ‘snap’ – it always feels like a completely unique discovery – even though it probably never is.

    1. CF, there’s not a *lot* of galbanum in HE, and it’s gone in about 10-15 minutes (on me), as opposed to 19, where it lingers for a good 40 minutes. But HE is very well done, and less… simple than some of the other Goutals. It does have a “comfortable but elegant” feel to it. If you like iris, you probably should smell it, although I wouldn’t recommend it as a primarily galbanum scent since it’s not all that green.

  3. I like both the modern No 19 which is the only one I know, and HE. No 19 is without question an invisible armour scent par excellence.

    As a keen knitter, and a fairly mimsy person when it comes to confrontation, it has to be HE if I had to pick just one.

    But happily I don’t!

    1. Good thing we don’t “have to pick just one,” isn’t it? (What would I do if I had to pick only one fragrance?? The horror…) It is truly amazing to me that such similar materials could be combined to give such different effects. It’s like the difference between scrambled eggs and baked custard – similar ingredients, totally different finished dishes.

  4. Ok. So I’m having so much fun reading the descriptions… of all these scents I know I’d hate.. Well, good writing takes you places you don’t have to go yourself.

    *Love* the throwdown idea and execution– keep it up!

    1. R, I probably would have guessed that HE wouldn’t suit you – but No. 19?? Such a gutsy gal. Oh, well – some of the scents that I *thought* would be right up my alley, aren’t. For no discernible reason.

      Fragrance Throwdown will be a regular feature. It’s too much fun not to be.

      Glad you enjoyed your little trip to a place you’d never live in!

  5. VERY late to this party…. but gee wiz Mals, I am certainly enjoying the catch up! You should have told me you were reviewing my HG…

    I love your review – spot on. I actually fell for HE way before I even bothred to revisit No 19. It was the classic galbanum meets perfumista affair, and after HE opened my nose and heart, it was all over. I adore the opening of No 19 edt (current) and No 19 parfum (pre-reformulation which I am fortunate enough to own.) All that galbanum and white flowers makes me all swoony.

    I think the “HE eats 19’s lunch” is about how I would put it too – HE has it all over the drydown. I do like a good tempered dose of vetiver in any fragrance. But the drydown of 19 really gets out some major attitude that I am not ready for at that point in development. I like my attitude up front too. And I’ll throw another monkey wrench into this match up to say that to my humble nose, the drydown of HE is almost a dead parallel match in structure to the drydown of Temps d’Une Fete…..

    I digress… I was and remain completely impressed by the bone dry sandalwood iris powdery drydown of HE. It wears especially beautiful in the excessive humidity of summertime, which is when I fell in love with it in the first place. There is something about humidity that just makes HE bloom off the skin. I think the drydown is a feat of fragrance engineering that is rarely seen elsewhere.

    But let me muddle the results of this throwdown: you may need to host another bout – the edp version of HE is about as wet and dewey as you can imagine. Almost a completely different fragrance all together.

    You may have to do a tag team match, 😉

    I will admit that I often wear the No 19 edt until I am into that drydown phase, and then I’ll put on some of the HE dry body oil, which has a yummy (nutty) salicilate and roses thing going on…..about the same effect as aforementioned use of Mille et Une Roses to temper the armour.

    Good match!

    1. Ann – first, sorry to be so tardy in getting back to you!

      And it continues to amaze me how we all have different impressions about the same scent. Glad you enjoyed the review, and I always like reading your comments as well.

      …”the classic galbanum meets perfumista affair” – I love that! Seems like many of us do go weak in the knees for galbanum, and I can’t really explain that. It’s a cold, green, windy, powdery smell, and I don’t know why I love it.

      I actually prefer the vintage No. 19 edt to the parfum, I think because it is rather biting, in comparison to the smoother parfum. And the drydown of 19 is my favorite part, galbanum notwithstanding… but you’re right, HE just pushed a pie into the modern No. 19’s face, particularly in the drydown. I’d rather have no No. 19 than the modern, I think.

      I have not smelled HE edp, and now I’m thinking I might need to do that – or at the least, try HE on a sticky summer day.

      1. Yes, amazing how we all smell things differently – that’s what keeps it so much fun! I’ve not smelled vintage No 19 edt…

        If you want any of the HE edp or dry body oil, just give a holler via email – I got tons of it. I’m always afraid it will get pulled or reformulated beyond recognition. So I have a few bottles of each version for backup.

        (And, btw, my first time getting bowled over by our keen, sharp shouldered galbanum was on a very hot August day right before one of those blessed major thunderstorms that blows cold and windy with lots of thunder right in the late afternoon. Something about the humidity, intense pressure and heat, and then the blustery hard rain is what did it. The HE sillage just floated up in the air around me and the notes all made themselves apparent. Very passionate moment to fall in love with galbanum I can tell you. So even though HE is not as amazing as Chamade, it remains one of my HG’s just because it opened the door to all the other fabulous galbanum florals I now love.)

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