fougere: 2 posts

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.

 

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