Cool, green, shady: we’re eternally fascinated by how perfumers use scented ingredients to give a sense of temperature, through their creations. Fern gives a cool, damp, sweet and woody feel to a fragrance – like walking into the embrace of a shady spot.
Ferns have actually given their name to an entire category of fragrances: fougère. (Say it ‘foo-jair’, with the ‘j’ a little soft – almost ‘foo-shair’.) Fougère means ‘fern-like’, in French, and the category grew from the launch of Houbigant’s Fougère Royale, in 1882. (Almost all fougère fragrances are targeted at men, by the way.)
The fern most widely used in perfumery is the Common Male Fern, which grows widely in Britain and the rest of Europe. Those frond-like leaves evoke the forest, and its damp, earthy, humus-rich floor – but actually, it’s the rhizomes (gnarly roots) from which the fern’s essential oil is extracted, using volatile solvents. Fern blends perfectly with lavender, oakmoss and coumarin, in fragrance creation.
Smell fern in:
Penhaligon’s English Fern