Category: Knowledge database

Fougère II – the smell of fern

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Ferns in a Dutch forest, picture by Aromyth

The olfactory family of fougères begins with Fougère Royale by Houbigant, a fragrance created by Paul Parquet in 1882 approaching the smell of ferns. It raises an interesting question: Do ferns smell?

An answer to this question can be as vague as an attempt to describe the smell of tulips for example. Some would say they don’t smell at all while others would mention a generic green smell without distinguishing notes. But as an exception one can also find a couple of very fragrant variations. The situation with ferns is similar. In general they do possess a generic green vegetal smell without distinct nuances. But there is also a hay scented fern or Dennstaedtia punctilobula, a plant releasing a haylike aroma when touched or broken. A fern from New Zeland with the name Asplenium lamprophyllum seems to contain methyl salicylate, a sweet smelling substance which is also responsible for the smell of wintergreen and sweet birch. There is also a Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), a fragrant plant which looks like a fern, but is in fact a family of bayberry.

Two odorants are mentioned to be responsible for the smell of ferns – hexyl butyrate and octyl butyrate. They have a green odor with fruity and waxy nuances. But they are not used in fern fragrances. Fougères are fantasy perfumes approaching the smell of fern within its natural habitat (the nuances of forest, leaves, soil etc). The core of fougère accord is formed by lavender, coumarin and oak moss. Coumarin is responsible for the haylike herbaceous sweetness (think of hay-scented fern mentioned above). Herbs (rosemary, thyme), woody and camphor notes, salicylates (clover or wintergreen smell), mushroom nuances and iris/violet aspects can be used to adorn the fougère accord.

The earlier fern perfumes seemed to be quite floral with their hearts made of lavender, rose and jasmine with an addition of narcissus and hyacinth (with their haylike aspects). Later geranium and rose molecules, synthetic jasmine bases, clary sage and fresh floral molecules like linalool and linalyl acetate were used to accompany lavender in the heart. Three types of fragrances were considered to be fougères: complex lavender perfumes, Foin Coupe type of fragrances (perfumes approaching the smell of new mown hay) and chypres with lavender heart and spicy nuances.

Fougère Royale, the beginning of Fougère family

Fougère_Royale_by_Paul_Parquet_(Houbigant)

Fougère Royale, photo via Wikimedia Commons (provided by the Osmothèque for public domain)

Name: Fougère Royale

Brand: Houbigant

Perfumer: Paul Parquet

Year of creation: 1882 (re-launched and re-orchestrated in 2010).

Pyramid according to H&R Fragrance Guide:

Top notes: Fresh, Herbaceous
Main: Lavender
Supported by: Clary Sage, Spike (lavender), Bergamot, Petitgrain

Heart notes: Dry, Floral
Main: Geranium
Supported by: Rose, Heliotrope, Carnation, Orchid

Base notes: Sweet, Mossy, Powdery
Main: Oakmoss, Musk
Supported by: Tonka, Hay, Vanilla

Classification by H&R Genealogy:
Masculine, Fougère, Fresh (end 80’s version),
Masculine, Fougère, Woody (end 2000’s version)

Classification by Symrise Genealogy: Masculine, Fougère, Ambery, Vanilla

Classification by SFP (Société Française des Parfumeurs): C1m (other version C1f) – Fougère, Fougère.

This fragrance is compared to: English Fern by Penhaligon’s and Wild Fern Cologne by Geo F. Trumper

Interesting facts:

Fougère Royale is a fantasy bouquet exploring the smell of fern.

Fougère Royale is often mentioned to be the first fern fragrance. But there seem to be other fern perfumes before 1882. Like Fougère Ambrée by Savonnerie Maubert and Fougère Dorée by Isnard Maubert Parfumeur both from 1870. Or Wild Fern Cologde by Geo F. Trumber from 1877, There also seem to be an earlier version a Fougère Royale made by Paul Parquet for Eugene Rimmel in 1875 for Princess Alexandra.

In fact the fern theme was popular in the time of creation of Fougère Royale, but fern scents were predominantly used for perfuming soaps. So, Fougère Royale is a rare example of a functional scent that found its way into the Fine Perfumery.

Fougère Royale is considered to be the first perfume utilizing a synthetic aromachemical coumarin. It possesses a bittersweet, herbaceous, haylike odor and is still one of the main ingredients of the fougère fragrances.

It is a milestone perfume. Its success made this fragrance to inspire many other creations and even to become an ancestor for the olfactory family of fougères.

Fougère Royale seemed to be created as a feminine scent. As also the first other fougères. Later it was marketed as an ultimate gentlemen’s fragrance as you can see on this advertisements below. The later and present fougère perfumes are exclusively men’s fragrances.

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An advertisement from the LIFE magazine, May 11th 1937, p. 49

Fougere-Royale-Life-11okt37-p58-Ad

An advertisement from the LIFE magazine, October 11th, 1937, p3 58

A floral bouquet

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Florals seems to be the most popular family within the world of perfumes. It embraces a huge group of fragrances with floral notes as a main theme. Whether it’s a smell of a single flower or a complex bouquet, an aroma of an existent flower, its abstract interpretation or a perfumer’s floral fantasy. The huge majority of them are marketed as feminine perfumes.

The H&R Genealogy of Perfumes places the entire floral family in the feminine section and makes the following subdivisions: Floral Green, Floral Fruity, Floral Fresh, Floral Floral, Floral Aldehydic and Floral Sweet. In the masculine section there was a separate group of Lavender perfumes as the only masculine floral. Later it was replaced under Fougères. The modern Symrise Genealogy recognizes much more subcategories under the floral family: Floral Citrus, Floral Aqueous, Floral Green, Floral Fruity, Floral Aldehydic, Floral Spicy, Floral Floral, Floral White Flower, Floral Orange Flower, Floral Woody, Floral Edible, Floral Musky. Florals also got a permanent place within the masculine section with two subcategories: Floral Green and Floral Woody.

The SFP classification (official perfumes classification by the Society of French Perfumers) divided florals into seven groups: florals soliflore (B1), florals lavender soliflore (B2), floral bouquet (B3), green florals (B4), aldehydic florals (B5), woody florals (B6) and woody fruity florals (B7). The newest version of this classification has a slightly different subdivision:

B1 – Soliflore with the smell of a single flower as the main theme. This subgroup refers to the beginning of the modern perfumery when the perfumers started to reconstruct the smell of flowers so they become more stylized and abstract.

Examples: Diorissimo by Dior (lily of the valley), A la Nuit by Serge Lutens (jasmine), Fracas by Piguet (tuberose)

B2 – Musky Florals with the central floral accord accompanied with the musky note presented from the beginning. May be accentuated with fruity, woody or aldehydic notes.

Examples: Musc Koublaï Khan by Serge Lutens, Pure Poison by Dior, For Her Musc Collection by Narciso Rodrigquez

B3 – Floral Bouquet with a complex harmony of different flowers combined into a bouquet.

Examples: Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant, Eternity by Calvin Klein, Elie Saab Le Parfum.

B4 – Aldehydic Florals – a combination of a floral bouquet with aldehydes that gives a fantasy touch to floral heart, a sparkle in the top in combination with citrus notes and a powdery base, especially with iris. Mostly those are perfumes with a classic structure, warm base of woods and resins and an animalic touch. Read more about this group here.

Examples: Chanel N5, Arpège by Lanvin, First by Van Cleef & Arpels.

B5 – Green Florals. A fresh floral bouquet with a touch of green notes like galbanum, cut grass or herbs. Hyacinth with its prominent green nuance is often used as a part of a green floral bouquet. The fresh and green aspects of Lily of the Valley, Freesia, Gardenia, Narcissus, Blackcurrent, Violet Leaf may also be used.

Examples: Vent Vert by Balmain, Bas de Soie by Serge Lutens, Pleasures by Estée Lauder

B6 – Woody Flruity Florals. A fruity bouquet on a woody base with a touch of fruity notes like peach, apple, plum, apricot.

Examples: Iris Gris by Jacques Fath, Amazone by Hermès, Lady Million by Paco Rabanne

B7 – Woody Florals. A floral bouquet extended with a woody base, mostly with a powdery touch of resins and vanilla. With a classic citrus of herbaceous top.

Examples: Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene, Fahrenheit by Dior, Balmya by Balmain

B8 – Marine or Aquatic Florals. A newcomer from the early nineties where a floral accord is combined with aquatic notes.

Examples: Escape by Calvin Klein, L’Eau D’Issey by Issey Miyaki, Tommy Summer by Tommy Hilfiger

B9 – Fruity Florals. The popularity of fruity florals started to increase in the late nineties with an explosive growth in the last two deccenia. A floral bouquet with an unmistakable presence of a fruity note .

Examples: J’Adore by Dior, Burberry London, Bright Crystal by Versace

The Fragrance Wheel by Michael Edwards describes three floral groups: Floral, Floral Oriental (a combination of sweet spices and a floral bouquet based on heavy florals like tuberose and orange blossom) and Soft Floral (corresponds with floral aldehydic group, but also includes iris perfumes and musky florals). It has separate groups for Green, Fruity and Aquatic (Water) perfumes.

Floramye by L.T. Piver, the first aldehydic floral?

Name: Floramye

Brand: L.T. Piver

Perfumer: Jacques Rouché (perfumer and administrator of L.T. Piver) and George Darzens (fragrant chemist and the director of Piver laboratory); some sources refer Pierre Armingeat

Year of creation: 1905 (discontinued and re-launched in 1991)

Perfume notes: not much known except a floral bouquet with aldehydes on top

Classification by SFP (Société Française des Parfumeurs): B3f Floral, floral bouquet, feminine (probably based on the older version)

Fragrance Wheel (by Michael Edwards) classification: Chypre, Crisp/Petillant, subcategory Green/Vert, feminine (probably based on the new version)

Interesting facts:
Being a fragrance chemist George Darzens has synthesized and introduced new aromachemicals into perfumery. One of them was 2-methylundecanal better known as aldehyde C-12 MNA (methyl nonyl aldehyde) in 1904. This new chemical was the first aldehyde used in perfumery in Floramye in 1905 on the top of the floral bouquet. Also it was used in the re-rofmulation of Rêve d’Or, another Piver creation from 1898. In 1905 its balsamic aspect was enriched by paring a newly discovered aldehyde with the incense note. In 1907 the same C-12 MNA aldehyde was used in Pompeia (again by Piver), but this time in combination with other aldehydes.

Some visual impressions:

An older version of Floramye from L’Art Français (http://www.artfrancais.nl/l-t-piver-floramye.html):

Floramye1

Another picture from the same website (http://www.artfrancais.nl/floramye-van-l-t-piver.html):

Floramye2

Another version of Floramye submitted to the Parfumo database by Florblanca user (http://www.parfumo.net/Perfumes/L_T_Piver/Floramye):

Floramye3

Floral aldehydic perfumes

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For the general classificaiton of Florals, please, read this post.

Floral aldehydic is an interesting example of a perfume family originated from a group of aromachemicals. Technically speaking aldehydes are forming a huge group of chemical compounds containing a “formyl group”. It includes a very big group of perfume odorants. But only few of them are used as a reference for an aldehydic smell in perfumery. Mostly those are alifatic (or “fatty”) aldehydes with 10-12 carbon atoms like C10 (decanal), C11 (undecanal), C11 (undecylenic), C12 (lauric) or C12 (MNA). But there are no strict rules here as other aldehydes may be used as well.

Fatty aldehydes are not really pleasant odorants. Their smell can be described as waxy, fatty, soapy and candle-like with citrus, green, floral or metallic nuances. But when diluted and pared with florals they can bring a sparkle in the top, a soft fantasy floral note in the hart and a powdery nuance in the base of a perfume (often in combination with iris and vanilla).

The use of fatty aldehydes in perfumes goes all way back to the beginning of the 20th century. The most famous aldehydic floral created in 1921 is of course Chanel N5 often referred as the first aldehydic perfume. Chanel N5 might be the milestone of the aldeydic floral family, but the use of aldehydes is also mentioned in earlier creations like Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant from 1912. The first use of synthetic C-12 MNA aldehyde is mentioned in Floramye and Rêve d’Or by Piver in 1905 (read more here).

Aldehydes are often associated with a fantasy or artificial smell. But they do occur in nature. Citrus peel for example may contain up to several percent of fatty aldehydes. In lesser quantities they can be found in herbs (especially coriander), flowers (rose for example), conifers. They form the products of burning and ironing (think of a just-snuffed candle smell and a fresh laundry feeling).

There are three major fragrance classifications used in perfumery: a H&R-Genealogy, classification of the French Perfumer’s Society (SFP-classification) and Fragrance Wheel by Michael Edwards. H&R Genealogy determines Floral Aldehydic group as a part of a bigger Floral Family. SFP-classification uses the similar approach. It defines Floral Aldehydic as a separate group of the Floral Family and assigns it with a B4 code. In earlier version of SFP-classification B5 code was used, which is a bit confusing when reading older books and reviews. The Fragrance Wheel of Michael Edwards doesn’t have Floral Aldehydic group, but uses the term Soft Florals instead to describe this fragrance family. Inside this group he also differentiates Citrus Fruity, Gourmand, Green, Iris, Musc, Marine and White Floral subgroups to emphasize different nuances of Soft Florals. The same perfume can be classified differently. Like My Sin by Lanvin belongs to B3 (floral bouquet) group according to SFP-classification, but is placed under Floral Aldehydic by the H&R-Genealogy.

The milestone aldehydic florals are: Chanel N5, Arpège by Lanvin, Je Reviens by Worth, Calèche by Hermès, Madame Rochas, Climat by Lancôme, Calandre by Paco Rabanne, Chamade by Guerlain, Nocturnes by Caron, Estée by Estée Lauder.