Fougère. How could an inodorous plant like the fern become the symbol of one of the most appreciated fragrance family? Geo F. Trumper, a discreet men’s grooming house in London, is supposedly the first to have created an imaginary accord for the fern in 1877. Paul Parquet, one of the greatest perfumer of his time and co-owner of the then-prestigious house of Houbigant, was, however, the man behind the fame of this singularity.
Paul Parquet is considered as the founder of modern perfumery, as he was the first perfumer to use successfully some newly synthesized aroma chemicals such as coumarin. In his quest to reproduce the scent of a forest, and perhaps inspired by Trumper, he created the landmark fragrance called Fougère Royale, in 1882, under the brand of Houbigant. Parquet claimed: “If God gave ferns a scent, they would smell like Fougère Royale !”
Fougère Royale was unique in its composition. Its main top notes were bergamot and lavender, rose and geranium in the heart, and base notes of oak moss, vanilla, and coumarin. This unique accord was initially created for women but became a hit in appealing to the gentlemen of this generation. Very soon, Fougère Royale was synonymous of the ultimate classy fragrance for men and hence imitated by many. The legendary juice was relaunched in 2010 by the resuscitated house of Houbigant, after years of financial struggle.
The then rather new British perfume house of Penhaligon’s, which started initially as a barber shop, launched eight years after Houbigant, in 1890, a similar accord under the name of English Fern. Penhaligon’s dropped the citruses notes of Fougère Royale, and instead, made the fern note more oriental by adding cloves, sandalwood, and patchouli.
In the last two decades, many perfumers revisited the classic fougère accord, adding some aromatic herbal notes and new aroma chemicals to add some freshness and depth. Sartorial is an amazingly complex fougère from Penhaligon’s, with an excellent longevity, which is not always the case from this house. From the same brand, l’Eau sans Pareil expresses the feminity of the fougère note with a sophisticated accord of fruits, flowers and the oakmoss as a base. Jicky by Guerlain, created in 1889 by Jacques Guerlain, is perhaps the most feminine fougère ever created, and still on sale today.
My pick of the year, Bracken Man from Amouage, is probably my top choice in this family of fragrances that I love so much. That is really a chef-d’oeuvre of refinement! I have not tried yet the ladies’ version called Bracken for Woman, and will surely look for it during my Christmas holidays in Tokyo. I can’t wait for it.
In the meantime, wear well and enjoy your fragrant moments.
Cheers my friends,