Tag: fern

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

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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