And Breathe – Annick Goutal L’Ile au Thé Perfume Review

"The Volcanic Island of Jeju"
“The Volcanic Island of Jeju”

Work is stressful. I know, I know, I’m playing the role of Captain Obvious here, but sometimes it just needs to be said, and I’m sure many of you would agree. Anyway, work is stressful and it’s important to enjoy some ‘me’ time after a long hard day at the office. We all have ways of relaxing. My method is tea. I don’t drink tea all day at work but when I get home, I always have a cup of Earl Grey. This has almost become a ritual and often, when that cup is finished, the stress of the day has been washed away and I’m ready to enjoy the evening. I feel cleansed. I think that putting on my skeleton pyjamas helps too, but that’s another post for another day.

Tea has been used for ritualistic purposes in many cultures for thousands of years, but it hasn’t really made much of a break into perfume, despite the fact that it smells heavenly, in all of its varieties. Honestly, there is no odour on Earth more pleasing than a fresh box of bergamot heavy Earl Grey – it’s powdery, zesty and fizzing with black tea goodness. Let’s not even get into the realms of Lapsang Souchong and Jasmine tea – we’ll be here for a while. In short, tea smells great and there is only a handful of decent tea fragrances out there, which is a shame.

Well stop the presses, dear friends, because I think I’ve found a really good one. It’s called L’Ile au Thé (Island Tea) and it comes from chic French fragrance house, Annick Goutal. Created by Goutal’s in-house perfumers, Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal, L’Ile au Thé takes inspiration from the volcanic South Korean island of Jeju, where the landscape is littered with fields of tangerines and hills brimming with tea. L’Ile au Thé is more than just a tea fragrance thought – it’s a mood and a feeling, and a restorative landscape born from fire, air and greenery. This is a fragrance that encourages one to spritz, sit back and just breathe.

“Where lava rocks give birth to lush green plant-life buffeted by the winds. Journeying through its undulating landscape, Camille and Isabelle are taken away by their emotions”

– The Island of Jeju

L'Ile au Thé by Annick Goutal
L’Ile au Thé by Annick Goutal

“When they travel, Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen are drawn to exotic colours. From their last visit to an island off the coast of Korea, Jeju, they brought back a palette of greens and oranges, and imagined a perfume to be shared, infused with a tea note.”

– L’Ile au Thé

The Notes

Mandarin, Osmanthus, White Musk and Tea Absolute

How Does it Smell?

Unusually for a tea scent, which often tend to be all  about everything ‘green’, L’Ile au Thé opens juicy and orange-like with a big squeeze of vibrant mandarin. The effect is both sunny and mouthwatering, evoking the image of a sea of ripe trees overflowing with ripening oranges on the verge of bursting forth their vitamins and juice. As is the way with citrus notes, this initial vibrancy lasts momentarily, moving forth like a starburst losing its light with time, but that juicy mandarin never completely fades – it’s always there, humming gently along in the background, thankfully.

The main body of L’Ile du Thé relies on the pairing of white musk and tea absolute. What I find particularly interesting about the fragrance is that the dryness of the tea, which feels green and grainy, is in stark contrast to the juiciness of the top notes, creating a pleasing sense of tension and depth. The musk exists in the distance between the citrus and the tea, bouncing from each level and pulling forward each facet to join in the middle. This may make the whole thing sound as if it is very precisely put together, and I’m sure it is, but the feel is quite the opposite, and that’s what is truly lovely about L’Ile au Thé – the fact that it smells completely effortless.

As L’Ile au Thé dries down the osmanthus note really starts to work its way out from behind the curtain. Here, the note serves as just a tiny drop of apricot jam that provides a touch of honeyed white petals to all that greenery. The base itself is musky and slightly earthy, with lots of green tea circling the air. Interestingly, the tea never really comes across as a freshly brewed pot of green tea, instead the impression is more of the a warm breeze through a plantation of tea leaves, ready to be picked. It’s really lovely and I must add that the lasting power and sillage are above average for this style of fragrance.

L’Ile au Thé was a marvellous surprise. It appeared out of the ether on to my doorstep one day and unleashed a calming breath of fresh air. It is serene, juicy and green, with a relaxed disposition that almost feels like an antidote to the complexity and noise found within many of today’s modern launches. It’s the type of fragrance one can wear when their olfactory receptors are in desperate need of recalibration. One spritz of this stuff feels cleansing and mood lifting, and not many fragrances deliver that, I must say.


Launching on 13 April 2015, L’Ile au Thé will be available in 50ml (£67) and 100ml (£87) Eau de Toilette. The 100ml will be available in both Goutal’s signature masculine and feminine bottles (£82/£87 respectively). The scent is the same in both. A scented candle will also be available (£49/190g).

Sample, notes and quotes via Annick Goutal. Image 1 via Image 2 via