“Thomas, AKA The Candy Perfume Boy, is explaining everything you need to know about fragrance families. From chypre to fougere, after reading this blog series you’ll be an expert in the different types of olfactive groups.”
You can be forgiven for thinking that ‘fougere’ is just another strange perfumery term that doesn’t mean anything unless you are working in the industry; after all, complicated words are somewhat a habit in the world of perfume. But here at Escentual, we like to demystify that world – to make it accessible so that whenever you read anything on our site, it makes sense. So, we can promise that after this short guide to the fougere, you will know exactly what it is and it will probably encourage you to add one, maybe more, to your collection.
What does Fougere mean?
So what is it? Well, a fougere is an olfactory family, much like the floral and the chypre (learn more about chypre perfumes here). And much like the chypre, which is a feminine strand of perfumery, the fougere is a distinctly masculine theme that comes in many guises. The first was Houbigant’s Fougere Royale, which sought to capture the scentless image of ferns in fragrant form. It’s a diverse genre that centres on the interplay of a citrus top note (usually bergamot), an aromatic heart of lavender, and a rose note (often replaced with the minty-fresh rosiness of geranium), dark, inky oakmoss, and coumarin, a warm, hay-like material found within tonic beans. Together these materials form the backbone of the fougere – the most iconic of masculine fragrance styles.
To help you navigate this legendary genre, I have picked out five fragrances that show just how diverse and intriguing the fougere can be. From the classic, standard-bearers to subversive, modern twists, every one showcases the handsome, sophisticated, and aromatic nature of the fougere.
#1 The Classic Fougere
Houbigant’s Fougere Royale was the fragrance that birthed the genre – it is the namesake of all fougeres that followed. In imagining the scent of the fern in 1882, perfumer Paul Parquet brought together bergamot, lavender, geranium, oakmoss and coumarin in perfect harmony to form an accord that would change the landscape of masculine perfumery forever. The version of Fougere Royale on the market today is not the same as the original (it was reworked in 2010), but it’s still a solid fougere that shows precisely why it has never gone out of style.
#2 The Old School Fougere
The fougere has been around for over 100 years, and in that time it’s evolved considerably. With each decade, new interpretations unfold. In the 1960s came Aramis – a scent that defined the masculinity of the decade. Aramis was a classic fougere, but it was drier and more herbaceous, with a spicier, more animalic feel. If Fougere Royale is a top hat-wearing dandy, then Aramis is full Burt Reynolds on Bearskin Rug, if you catch my drift. Unlike Burt and his lack of clothes, Aramis is quite sophisticated, and it will work perfectly with a tux for those James Bond moments.
#3 The Fresh Fougere
Le Male was a defining moment for the fougere. Playing up the soft, sweet, powdery and menthol facets of the fougere, Le Male felt at once, hyper-masculine in a barbershop-esque, steroid-fuelled way (it was and is anything if not tenacious), but also incredibly feminine. To put it simply; with mint, lavender and vanilla contained in the torso of a muscular sailor, Le Male was unashamedly queer. But it’s also butch enough for straight men not to notice, meaning that it was a thoroughly modern fougere that appealed to every type of man.
#4 The Handsome Fougere
If you forced me to only have one fougere for the rest of my life (please don’t do that, I hate making decisions), then it would be Rive Gauche Pour Homme. It is, hands down, the most handsome fougere in the world – actually, the most handsome fragrance in the world. It’s a rugged, designer stubble fragrance with suave, powdery lavender, warming patchouli and amber. To me, Rive Gauche is a sprayable Saint Laurent suit – one spritz and you’re suddenly the most attractive and stylish man around. Tens, tens across the board!
#5 The Modern Fougere
We have travelled a long way from 1882 and Fougere Royale, and it’s no surprise that the latest instalments in the fougere family – the fougeres of today – have changed in full ‘evolution of man’ style. Fougeres of now are fresher, more transparent and with a distinct mineral air. Take Dior’s Sauvage for example – it has the bright, bergamot top note of a fougere and aromatic pepper, but it replaces the warm underpinnings with fresh, transparent ambroxan; this style of fougere is clean-cut, effortlessly cool and athletic.
Read Thomas’ full review of Sauvage here.
There’s more! Read the last instalment of the series below…