“If God gave ferns a scent, they would smell like Fougère Royale” is a sentence supposedly uttered by perfumer Paul Parquet who in 1882 created one of the earliest modern perfume legends, Fougère Royale for Houbigant. And so, you hear again and again the same story of ferns (fougères in French) being scentless and Parquet being the genius responsible for the first perfume that “didn’t imitate nature.” That Parquet was a creator of remarkable skill is beyond doubt, but are ferns really scentless?
For many years I thought so, but today I’ll gladly admit my mistake. There are numerous varieties of ferns, and even the ones with the most delicate of scents have a distinctive odor. In my new FT column, Fougères: fern-inspired perfumes, I explore my botanical discoveries and discuss some of my favorite fragrances in this ever popular family.
On a related topic, do you have any perfumes that evoke the smell of a forest to you?
Left image: Estonian forest, photography by Bois de Jasmin. Right image: Fougère Royale for Houbigant ad.