Fougere: 16 posts

Fougère is a fragrance family inspired by Houbigant Fougère Royale (1882,) the first fragrance to combine natural materials with synthetics. Perfumer Paul Parquet added the synthetic material coumarin to the classical eau de cologne accord of citrus, lavender, geranium, amber, musk and oakmoss. Fougère means fern in French, and it was also the first abstract perfume—ferns are scentless, after all. The classical fougère fragrances include Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981), Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir (1982) and Davidoff Cool Water (1988). It’s one of the most popular perfume styles for masculine fragrances.

Fougere Perfumes and Fragrant Ferns

The first abstract fragrance in modern perfumery is considered to be Houbigant’s Fougère Royale created in 1882. Since I didn’t find myself around ferns (fougère in French) often enough, I assumed that they are scentless, and that’s the reason Fougère Royale must be pure fantasy. Its creator Paul Parquet had to use his imagination to create an intensely aromatic accord by blending the synthetic material coumarin into citrus, lavender, rose geranium, amber, musk and oakmoss.

Then I had a revelation. My Estonian friend, who has long tempted me with her eloquent descriptions of Baltic woodlands, whisked me off to her family cottage set on the edge of a fairy-tale forest. The light diffused by the evergreen canopy cast a soft glow onto the golden tree trunks and the quilt of emerald mosses. I noticed the scent of pine balsam and damp foliage. I lowered my face to a cluster of ferns and they too had a scent—loamy earth, spice and hay.

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Scented Ferns : On Fougeres

“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?

estonia-forestfougere royale

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.

Extra readingPerfumers on Perfume : Paul Parquet and fougère perfume reviews.

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.

 

Christian Dior Sauvage : Perfume Review

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Replace Alain Delon with Johnny Depp, add a generous dose of Bleu de Chanel in the mix, shorten the name–and voilà, a new bestseller in the making. Although this kind of launch often strikes me as lazy, its make a lot of marketing sense. Sauvage banks on the impressive heritage accrued by its predecessor Eau Sauvage, and what it lacks in originality it makes up with presence. If you complain that perfumes don’t last on you, then look no further. Sauvage will not leave you alone.

dior sauvage

On the other hand, those who would like complexity and interesting stories should take to other pastures. Sauvage offers neither. It’s fresh, bright and radiant, with a pearly toothed Colgate commercial in a perfume bottle. I predict that we will smell many similar fresh-enough-to-disinfect accords in other fragrances in the coming months.

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Penhaligon’s Sartorial : Fragrance Review

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Sarto2

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

As I wrote in Running with the Boys, some fragrance types seem so quintessentially masculine that I find it hard to wear them. The fougère style fragrances combine herbal notes with the rich sweetness of amber, tonka bean and musk and are among the most classical of masculine perfumes (think Calvin Klein Eternity for Men!) I have used words like virile, burly and hair-chested to describe this genre, but it is a gross generalization. Manly though this style is, it can also be elegant and polished. I only need to reach for Tom Ford Lavender Palm and Penhaligon’s Sartorial to find two recent examples.

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Guerlain Arsene Lupin Dandy and Arsene Lupin Voyou : Fragrance Reviews

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Guerlain-arsene-lupin

Arsène Lupin Dandy:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Arsène Lupin Voyou:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

When I reflect on Jean-Paul Guerlain’s impressive body of work, from Vétiver de Guerlain to Chamade to Samsara, the recent Guerlain PR fiascos involving him sadden me even more. With the fragrances he created, he managed to do what LVMH is still struggling with: to take the classical Guerlain signature of warm tonka bean, rose, iris, vanilla and modernize it. Even more so, he has created scents that have a timeless appeal and that (if regulations do not interfere) will outlive all of the L’Instants, Insolences and Idylles. Jean-Paul Guerlain mentioned in a few interviews that Arsène Lupin Dandy and  Voyou, on which he has worked with Guerlain in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser, are the last fragrances he will create. If so, then this chapter in Guerlain history will be closing on a high note, because out of the two, Arsène Lupin Dandy is a refined, elegant composition with a timeless quality.

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