L’Artisan Fou d’Absinthe : Perfume Review

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Fou_dabsinthe

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The initial crisp clarity of Fou d’Absinthe gives only a slight hint to its beguiling character. Although the newest release created by Olivia Giacobetti for L’Artisan Parfumeur retains the luminous quality present in her other work, it is a substantial composition, especially for the perfumer known to create fragrances that are better understood as olfactory dreams rather than cold realities. Yet, considering the mysterious and controversial drink serving as an inspiration for the perfume, Giacobetti’s latest creation weaves a fantasy of its own, and I cannot resist partaking in it. …

Fou d’Absinthe is constructed as a fougère, a genre of perfume compositions that rely on the interplay of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss in order to produce its intriguing juxtaposition of freshness and dryness, sweetness and woodiness. The crisp spicy and herbal opening of Fou d’Absinthe hits like a sharp sting of liquor against the palate, offering a prelude for the intoxicating resinous sweetness.

The chilly bite of anise replaces the traditional citrus and lavender top notes, thus refashioning the traditional fougère. While retaining the intriguing contrast and reminding me of other crisp fougères in spirit, such as Yves Saint Laurent Jazz, Fou d’Absinthe maintains its absinthe theme with Giacobetti’s characteristic precision. The spicy verdancy scatters across the polished pine base cradled in vetiver. Where the initial accords are vivid and exhilarating, the drydown possesses a languid and yet assertive character.

The distinctive elegance of this composition is undoubtedly masculine, which is not surprising given that fougères rarely make it into the feminine domain, with few exceptions such as Jean Patou Ma Liberte and Parfums DelRae Eau Illuminée. At first encounter, I did not find Fou d’Absinthe easy to wear, as it would not soften its resinous brightness with either vanilla or incense a la L’Artisan Timbuktu. And yet, the kaleidoscopic change of nuances characteristic of fougère intrigues me. Preparing for a work related meeting, I don an ensemble of wraparound white shirt and slim black skirt. As I look in the mirror, I reach for Fou d’Absinthe as a finishing touch. It feels so effortlessly elegant that my preconception about fougère as a quintessentially masculine genre simply needs to be reconsidered.

Fou d’Absinthe features notes of absinthe, angelica flower, blackcurrant buds, clove, ginger, nutmeg, star anise, patchouli, pepper, pine needles, cistus labdanum, fir balsam. It is available from L’Artisan boutiques and Barneys.

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49 Comments

  • Andy: Thank you for this most interesting post. I agree with you: Fougère shouldn’t considered to be an exclusive masculine genre. You’d miss a lot of fine perfumes out there. I think for instance in English Fern, for me a very fine fougère, most men I know find it too sweet 😉 May 16, 2006 at 2:18am Reply

  • helg: This is a very interesting review about a very intriguing perfume. I admit that although Mandarine Tout Simplement was magnificently life-like, it disappeared much too soon to warrant a purchase and I was disappointed. I was looking forward to Absinthe and by the look of it it must be at least worth sampling at leisure.
    Could you compare it to Timbuktu a bit more analytically, besides the fact that it lacks the slight sweetness of the latter? (I do like Timbuktu)
    Thanks V! May 16, 2006 at 6:56am Reply

  • ChristinaH: Sounds that it lacks any sweetness,thus probably not for me.Intriguing,nonetheless.I usually need a bit of sweetness in my fragrances.I suppose that’s what I was hoping for in Malle Noir Epices but it had none.Thank you for the review. May 16, 2006 at 8:06am Reply

  • Judith: I was able to try this in NY before it came out. I liked it on the strip–but when it interacted with my skin, it somehow produced magic–a magic that everyone who sniffed me felt! I am so glad it’s out! Thank you for the lovely review. One question–when they were describing the fragrance, I am pretty sure they attributed it to a male perfumer of whom I had never heard, known for his work with woods and spices. Is it settled now that it is, in fact, Giacobetti’s creation? May 16, 2006 at 10:08am Reply

  • Tania: Aha! As you know, I’ve been wearing Caron’s 3e Homme religiously over the past few rainy days in New York, completely charmed by it and wondering at how well its sweet-and-tart, light-and-dark floral fougère is suited to this mild wet spring. Fou d’Absinthe, with its crisp brightness, sounds absolutely worth trying. Reminds me, Guerlain’s L’Instant Pour Homme surprised me with its wonderful dark take on anise; I like the idea of licoriced men (I liked Lolita Lempicka au Masculin too), so let’s hope this trend keeps up. 🙂 May 16, 2006 at 10:31am Reply

  • Madelyn Etkind: Dear Victoria,
    Happy Tuesday ! Well – I did my research- the three great biiographies of our Vivien Leigh- are the following. Vivien Leigh – A Biography by Hugo Vickers,
    Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker and lastly Vivien Leigh by Anne Edwards . There are also books about the great love affair with Lawrence Olivier – too. Each of these books offers a differnt glimpse into the psyche of this most beautiful yet complicated actress ! Maybe, I will wear Joy later on this week – in her honor! Oh, V- I also forgot to tell you that I bought nearly the entire line of the new Patou- Sira des Indes ! Strange name – but it is different – not the familiar florals we know and love ! I usually prefer the Eau de parfum – with Joy and 1000-But, yes I agree Joy in any form is a joy! Have a fragrant -day !
    Madelyn E May 16, 2006 at 10:58am Reply

  • Robin: Liked it on a card and looking forward to trying it on skin, although it was more of an instant “like very much” than an instant “love”. I am saving big money so far this year! May 16, 2006 at 11:04am Reply

  • Marina: I am looking forward to trying this, especially after reading your lovely description. May 16, 2006 at 11:30am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Andy, it has taken me some time, but I am coming around. 🙂 I think that I have these preconceptions based on my experiences with fougères like Cool Water, Drakkar Noir and Kouros (well, when worn by others). However, there are many fougères that have a much more gentle character. I have been enjoying Hermes Equipage and Caron Third Man very much as of late. May 16, 2006 at 1:33pm Reply

  • Tara: I tried a liquid sample of this on my skin last week, and liked it very much. Looking forward to getting a full-on spritz of it in Paris soon, to get a full picture of it. May 16, 2006 at 1:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: E, I was not impressed with Mandarine either, especially since it hardly lasted on me. Fou d’Absinthe is a completely different story however. Timbuktu is an incense-woods combination, but Fou d’Absinthe is fresher, brighter and more resinous. It has a character of a classical fougère. May 16, 2006 at 1:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, on the contrary, it has plenty of sweetness, but it does not come from vanilla and other vanillic notes. This sweetness is resinous. I recommend sampling it first, because it definitely has a masculine character. May 16, 2006 at 1:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, I smelled it on a friend recently, and it was great on her as well. What I love about Giacobetti’s creations is their close connection with organic matter–twigs, flowers, spices–rendered in a dream-like manner.

    I do remember our having this discussion on Robin’s blog. I have not been able to confirm that Fou d’Absinthe was attributed to anyone else. The press release from L’Artisan states that it was made by Giacobetti, and I have seen this mentioned in other reputable sources. Perhaps, the SA made a mistake, or else there is another fragrance in the works? May 16, 2006 at 1:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, I also love L’Instant Pour Homme, and in general, licorice notes appeal more and more to me. As for fougere, I am find the genre to be more and more fascinating. However, I still steer clear of Drakkar Noir and its close siblings. May 16, 2006 at 2:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, thank you very much for these recommendations. I shall go to the bookstore soon, and I will check whether I might find one of these books. I need some pleasure reading for the summer. May 16, 2006 at 2:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, it was not nearly as interesting on the blotter as it was on the skin. Somehow, I think that you might enjoy it, because it has a fair dose of green notes. For instance, I like it much more than Sel de Vetiver (in terms of how quickly it grew on me, rather than any similarities of compositions). May 16, 2006 at 2:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, thank you. It is a very interesting fragrance, and I think that it is definitely worth trying. May 16, 2006 at 2:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, I hope that you enjoy your trip! I am already anticipating your interesting posts about it. May 16, 2006 at 2:15pm Reply

  • mc: Once again a lovely review Victoria; I think Fou d’Absinthe is one of the better fragrances released this year – but I am still holding out some hope that Frederic Malle will come up with a beauty before Christmas!

    Did you ever drink Absinthe? I’ve tried it a few times but have yet to enjoy the full hallucinogenic experience. When it was re-released in the UK by people connected with the wonderful (British) Idler magazine – http://www.idler.co.uk/ – it still retained some of its aura of madness and danger. Unfortunately these days it has become a stag night drink. Ruins the appeal somewhat.

    There is an absinthe shop just around the corner from Marché Ste Catherine in the Marais, which sells several different brands of the drink alongside a collection of absinthe drinking paraphernalia like spoons and crystal glasses, as well as reproductions of 19th century advertising material. May 16, 2006 at 3:29pm Reply

  • SpIn (spezzaincantesimi): hi!!

    Scentzilla said that you know Fragonard perfumes and that you are very kind: could you tell me something about this brand?
    I heard the perfumes are clones of more famous perfumes, do you know what is the clone of what?

    Thanks 🙂 May 16, 2006 at 3:32pm Reply

  • michelle: I got to try this a few weeks back, and really liked it. It feels cool and hot at the same time. I didn’t find it too masculine on my skin, and it didn’t have the same absinthe smell that KM Paname has (which, for me, is a good thing). One of the SAs said it smells softer and better on me than it does on him. I can’t wear Timbuktu at all, but this is definitely one I will add to my growing L’Artisan collection. May 16, 2006 at 4:00pm Reply

  • violetnoir: I tested this at Barneys the other weekend, and then sent my sample to someone I knew would appreciate it more than I. :):)

    Honey, I’m old…I need to wear pretty scents. :):)

    Hugs! May 16, 2006 at 4:11pm Reply

  • Mikhail: MC, I could never understand what’s the deal with the ‘re-legalized’ absinthe. My understanding is that it is not what it used to be in early 20th century, that it is some kind of imitation. If it was even remotely hallucinogenic, I cannot imagine that FDA (or its European counterparts) would allow its production.

    I have been to the store in the Marais that you mention and asked this to the salesman there but the answer was, let’s say, ambiguous.

    My other understanding was that the main ingredient in the original absinthe was the herb called arthemisia, a plant from the sage family (which also includes the famous Salvia Divinorum) which is a common garden plant. But may be there is a difference in species as between Salvia Divinorum and more familiar Salvia Officinalis.

    To employ this analogy, I can imagine that the new version has some kind of “Arthemisia Officinalis” while the old one had “Arthemisia divinorum” (I’m making up the names). If this is so, the new version isn’t worth spending money on. May 16, 2006 at 8:56pm Reply

  • co: huu,
    this all sounds like a great spring perfume!
    …if the current Vent Vert is not green and dry enough for me (long live the vintage=original!) and my beloved Bandit is not for everyday, maybe this one is IT…

    as for masculine/feminine categories…who cares! boxes of thinking are meant to be torn down!
    you couldn’t have said it better, an elegant scent can be worn by all of us, man or woman! May 16, 2006 at 10:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, yes, I remember your comments about it, and you are absolutely right–Fou d’Absinthe is among my favourite new releases, and the more I wear it, the more I am completely taken by it. I have always wanted a fragrance that captured the smell of absinthe, but most are either too herbal (Gobin Daude Biche dans l’Absinthe) or too sweet (Lutens Douce Amere). This one is just perfect.

    I tried absinthe a couple of times, but it did not have any effect on me. Thank you for the shop recommendation. It sounds like an interesting place to visit, even if one does not drink absinthe. May 17, 2006 at 3:03am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Spin, I wish I could be more helpful about Fragonard, but other than bits on its history as one of Grasse original perfumeries, I do not have much information. Have you checked their website? It might be useful. I have tried nearly all of their fragrances a few years ago, but I have not revisited them lately. I recall liking Lune de Miel, Arielle and Soleil. Here are some descriptions from the website that sells them in the States:
    http://www.fourseasonsproducts.com/cat–Fragonard-Soleil-Line–fragonards May 17, 2006 at 3:07am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Michelle, your hot and cold mention is great, because this is how Fou d’Absinthe strikes me as well. I also do not think that it is particularly similar to Timbuktu, but when I was trying Fou d’Absinthe, the piney resinous element struck me as vivid. The piney notes in Timbuktu are much darker in contrast. May 17, 2006 at 3:11am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R (violetnoir), you old? Oh, come on! I do not even want to hear this. 🙂 May 17, 2006 at 3:12am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mikhail, my understanding was that the controversy revolved around the level of thujone, which is the compound present in artemisia. I read that re-legalized absinthe allowed for importation does not contain wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, that was traditionally used to manufacture the drink. May 17, 2006 at 3:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Co, oh, do not mention vintage Vent Vert. What a perfection it was! I am yet to find anything that can compare. May 17, 2006 at 3:20am Reply

  • SpIn (spezzaincantesimi): Thank you for your answer… May 17, 2006 at 7:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Glad to help! May 17, 2006 at 10:01pm Reply

  • helg: Thanks Vic for the comparison.
    What can I say? I am looking forward to sampling it then! May 22, 2006 at 8:22am Reply

  • patchamour: V,
    Thanks for the lovely review. I’m just back from New York, and I was given a sample of FdA at Barney’s. My husband hated it, and was reminded of Drakkar Noir. So while he’s off at work, I’m trying it today :). On my skin, the anise lasts through the drydown, and the fragrance becomes much softer. I don’t like it well enough to buy, but it’s fun and emboldening. I’ve always heard that the old Absinthe (mentioned in Hemingway) was poisonous as well as being hallucinogenic. Has anyone else heard this? Patchamour May 22, 2006 at 11:13am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Helg, I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts! May 23, 2006 at 2:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patchamour, I am beginning to realize why I cannot tolerate Drakkar Noir–it is a common scent for those little trees that hangs in taxi cabs. At least, it is in Ukraine. As for Fou d’Absinthe, I agree with you that it gets softer in the drydown.

    The evidence is mixed on whether absinthe was poisonous, although it had a high level of the chemical thujone which is naturally present in artemesia, it probably was. May 23, 2006 at 2:15pm Reply

  • k-amber: I love Oliver G.’s fragrance and love, love your reviews. Beautiful, thoughtful descriptions that inspire me a lot 🙂 As a long time fragrance devotee, finding this site was a bliss!

    I love Oliver’s Tea for Two as my winter staple scent and I have to TRY new one!

    Thank you for wonderful comments as always. May 27, 2006 at 4:11am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: K-amber, thank you for your nice compliment. I also love Olivia Giacobetti’s fragrance, and her work never fails to move me. Tea for Two is one of my winter staples too. May 30, 2006 at 1:18pm Reply

  • BGfan: I was looking for a smokey, dreamy fragrance, and this is exactly how it evolves on my skin. Black silk-satin wraparound shirt… May 24, 2007 at 2:10pm Reply

  • marios: Hi Victoria, a friend will send me from USA one l’artisan perfume as a gift. He asked me which one i want. Can you please help? I have timbuktu already. Which one you suggest? I want something masculine but no powdery (tonka type) or balsamic. I’m between Dzing, merchant loup and fou d’absinthe. anyone from these or you suggest something else? November 14, 2013 at 3:02am Reply

    • Victoria: I do recommend trying them first, but if you’re picking among Dzing and others, I think that Fou d’Absinthe will fit more with your taste for Timbuktu. Dzing will be something different, but it’s also more interesting and distinctive. November 14, 2013 at 10:05am Reply

      • marios: Dzing is considered for women as per l’artisan. I idont want a feminine fragrance or something that will be close to Timbuktu. If u had to give a present to a man late 40s, which would be your option? November 14, 2013 at 1:27pm Reply

        • Hannah: Dzing being feminine seems quite arbitrary to me. It’s squarely unisex, maybe leaning towards masculine, for me. Fou D’Absinthe is probably my favorite by L’Artistan, though. November 14, 2013 at 2:18pm Reply

          • Victoria: Agree with Hannah! There is nothing about Dzing that makes it feminine in some conventional way. If it wears well on you, then go for it. I think that it’s one of L’Artisan’s most androgynous perfumes. November 14, 2013 at 2:25pm Reply

            • marios: Thanks both…so will see between dzing and fou d’absinthe. These are the best as far as i understand. I read good reviews about mechant loup as well. How about this? No worthing any discission? November 14, 2013 at 2:55pm Reply

              • Hannah: Mechant Loup is something that is at the top of my “to try” list but I haven’t tried it.
                Dzing has a lot of lovers, but to be frank, some people think it smells like a hamster cage. I don’t mean to deter you from trying it, but I think getting a full bottle without trying it is a bit risky.
                I think Fou D’Absinthe is a safer blind buy. This review is a very good assessment. November 14, 2013 at 3:25pm Reply

                • marios: Hannah, finally, Mechant loup arrived and after wearing it for 2-3 days, unfortunately it doent work on me. it is not a gourmand although i was expecting something very sweet but is not….is it quite unusual but doent work on my skin. i get tea and tobacco notes and at the end, licorise..very nice but :-(….I will try to swap it with something else if i find someone… November 29, 2013 at 2:10am Reply

  • marios: bought it finally after some months thinking about it….indeed a remarkable composition and safe on the same time. As i like old powerhouses and animalic perfumes, i find fou d’asbinthe an outstanding creation that reminds old times but taylored to today’s tastes. This together with Dzing and timbuktu are the best from the house indeed. July 30, 2014 at 9:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so glad to hear it! Enjoy it, Marios. July 30, 2014 at 7:05pm Reply

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