Girls Just Wanna Have Fern: 5 modern fougères forging the way

When science meets art, fireworks happen, and so it is in fragrance, with the question of ‘what should a man smell like?’ seemingly answered by perfumer Paul Parquet for Houbigant in 1882. The conclusion? A fern. Now, this once traditionally masculine smell is a hot topic in fragrances marketed to women or perceived as ‘gender fluid’, for those leafy ferns have come a long way…

The problem for Parquet was, ferns don’t exactly smell of anything much. His technological developments created a whole new fragrance family – fougère roughly translates to ‘fern-like’ – say it ‘foo-jair’, with the ‘j’ a little soft, almost ‘foo-shair’.

When you think of a fern, what smell comes to mind? Misty woodlands, verdant undergrowth still wet with morning dew, a sense of stillness and contemplation, leafy green shoots pushing their way through a forest floor? Whatever you imagine, that smell memory was originally encapsulated by Houbigant’s Fougère Royale – created in 1882 and much copied by those who clamoured to achieve a measure of its success.

Called the ‘greatest perfumer of his time’ by no less than Ernest Beaux, the creator of Chanel No. 5, Parquet can be said to have been the first perfumer to truly understand and appreciate the use of synthetic aroma materials in fragrance composition. First used as mere substitutes for naturally derived raw materials, Parquet saw a chance to use them as unique smells in their own right – alchemically poetic creations that sought not to mimic the natural world but to add to it – to improve on perfection. He was a fragrant revolutionary, and that revolution continues to this day.

So what did the traditional fougère consist of? Oak moss, geranium, bergamot, sometimes lavender and amber, and (most notably) synthetic coumarin form the main structure. But how many outside the industry would be able to describe coumarin’s smell?

Found in natural sources such as the toasted almond-esque tonka beans, the essential oils derived from cinnamon bark and the spicy cassia plant; coumarin cannot really said to be a sum of those parts. So what does it smell like?

Complexly layered, imagine the scent of sweet hay drying in the sunshine with a slight waft of warm horse; a cold glass of fizz sipped on newly mown grass, a fine cigar fresh from the humidor, even an unadulterated cookie dunked in warm milk – all of these things and not one in particular, truly something ‘other’ – the scientist’s hand working in harmony with the artful perfumer to amplify the magical realism in its synthetic form. The skill of the perfumer is to take these ingredients and transform them into something we think we already recognise – a swathe of leafy green ferns in a woodland setting, in this case – sparking scent memories and creating new ones to fill the gaps.

If you haven’t yet explored this fragrance family, now is the perfect time to begin. This in-between time of seasons, when we crave some freshness but still require depth and interest to the scents we choose, is ideal for seeking out something new to try, and that traditional structure has some interesting notes added for contemporary interest.

Here’s a selection of some more modern fougères – regardless of gender – to get your noses in touch with. Let your fragrant fougère journey begin…

Although classified as a leather (the clue’s in the name) MEMO actually describe this as ‘a frozen fougère’, and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s minus the oak moss (many moderns are) but features a whole host of frosted herbaceous greeness, with basil, rosemary, clary sage and mint amidst snow-covered drifts of ferns, pine needles, tonka bean and a deliciously dry, woody-leathered base.

Memo Paris Russian Leather £205 for 75ml eau de parfum
harveynichols.com

In this 100% natural perfume, Simone de Beauvoir’s novel is brought to life; the lingering scent of a questioning glance that shakes your soul, warm as a cat curling bare legs, shivering as the fur tickles. A composition of contrasts, we have geranium, basil and lemon rubbing up against Indonesian clove and nutmeg; a sticky patchouli slinking into the cool dryness of vetiver, with a lick of amber rich labdanum nuzzling oak moss and cedar to finish

Timothy Han Edition Perfumes She Came to Stay £120 for 60ml eau de parfum
timothyhanedition.com

Reminiscent of rifling through a forgotten cove of personal treasures, leather-bound diaries reveal sketches of ferns and dried flowers pressed between the pages, bundles of love letters are tied in faded silk ribbons, a lipstick kiss on a foxed mirror, silk scarves with a mingled scent of powder and the faint tang of a gentleman’s Cologne. Mint, lavender, juniper berries and black pepper are swathed in layers of rose and ylang ylang; curls of tobacco expiring into vanilla and cocoa.

4160 Tuesdays The Lion Cupboard from £50 for 30ml eau de parfum
4160tuesdays.com

Inspired by the river that runs through the heart of Keyneston Mill, where this UK house uniquely grow and distil many of the ingredients they use; this is a bare-foot meander through clover-strewn lawns, a budding freshness in the air signifying Spring. Squeezes of lemon and lime shot through with bergamot, mint and lemon-thyme are layered on herbaceously dry clary sage and soft orange flower, as an aromatically dreamy wisp of incense encircles oak moss in the langourous base.

Partere Run of the River £95 for 50ml eau de parfum
parterreatkeynestonmill.com

A bright young thing, in a gown too sheer to be decent, dances the night away at a discreetly riotous nightclub. Surrounded by velvet ropes, garlanded by blossoms, she sleeps until noon. Based on the traditional composition, it’s far from historic smelling – the geranium, oak moss, coumarin and bergamot are naughtily nudged in the ribs by a rather wanton orange blossom, given a shot of luminescent freshness with neroli and snuggled in a bosomy amber.

Mugler Fougère Furieuse £140 for 80ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

By Suzy Nightingale

A year of fragrant fun! Our highlights of 2018

What a year it’s been – with more new launches than ever before, new houses causing major ripples of excitement, niche brands breaking new ground and most of all, a firm sense that the scent of optimism is the air for all things fragrant… and constantly re-affirming exactly how much we love our jobs!

But with so much to choose from, what would you say are your scented highlights of 2018? We could honestly have picked twenty things each, but when absolutely forced to choose, we asked Co-Founders of The Perfume Society, Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay, along with Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale and Head of Social Media Carson Parkin-Fairley, to list some of theirs…

 

SUZY NIGHTINGALE

Visiting the rose harvest with Anima Vinci was an absolute dream, and a day which will live on in my scent memories forever. It was such an honour to meet the people who own the rose fields, pick the flowers and transport them to be processed; to hear about how long it takes, their worries for the future of the fields in France, but most of all to follow a fragrance from field to flaçon. If I close my eyes, I can still smell those piles of petals, and am transported there every time I spray that finished perfume…

• Having my mind blown by smelling ingredients at the launch of Ostens. Using these fabulous quality LMR ingredients – and, uniquely, making them available to the public in single form or blended into eaux de parfums – Ostens are daring to do something new in the fragrance retail space. They truly give perfume-lovers the respect they’re due. I had the pleasure of following the journey of founders Christopher Yu and Laurent Delafon, finally interviewing them at their launch for The Scented Letter Magazine. Genuinely one of my favourite moments of the whole year was seeing the joy and pride in their faces – and oh my god, getting to smell that Jasmine Absolute!

• When Jovoy Mayfair opened in Conduit Street, I actually squealed a little with happiness, as this was one of my favourite shops in Paris for niche perfume – but on my own doorstep! The staff are so friendly and welcoming, and there’s so many brands there to explore, all beautifully displayed and with pots of blotters and pencils arrayed ready for your sniffing adventures. They recently celebrated their first birthday, and it was such a pleasure to see how they’ve grown, how they support smaller houses, and to be there to celebrate with them.

• The complete revamp of Les Senteurs – London’s first independent has been such a treat to witness – their gloriously dramatic floral-bedecked frontage is surely one of the most Instagrammed sights in London this year – and within, there’s a whole world of fragrant expertise to enjoy. It’s where you can find fragrance archivist James Craven – one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever meet and with a host of fragrant anecdotes to keep you entertained. I think it’s so vital to suppoort these indie businesses, now more than ever, and I particularly love their Meet the Perfumer events, where you can enjoy a glass of bubbly while sniffing something new.

 


JO FAIRLEY

• The Chelsea Flower Show launch of Floris A Rose For… What more perfect setting could there be for the launch of a rosetastic new fragrance – from Jermyn Street’s fabled fragrance name – than the Grand Marquee at event which is the highlight of the floral calendar? A-swirl with deep, velvety roses and underpinned by lashings of patchouli, A Rose For… can also be personalised with the name of the person it’s given to. (Even if it’s A Rose For… You!)

Lunch with The Lauder Family – an amazing get-together with all the members of the family whose doyenne, Estée Lauder, changed the face of fragrance with the launch of Youth Dew (originally a bath oil, that meant women could guiltlessly buy it for themselves rather than waiting for a birthday and a ‘special’ bottle of perfume). Leonard, Ronald, Aerin, William and Jane Lauder were all present – and the attention to detail was quite astonishing, from the Union Jack powder compacts which were the table gifts through to the monogrammed ribbons tied around the Christmas crackers.

A visit to the Diptyque archive in Paris – I’ve spent lots of time on Eurostar this year (file under: ‘it’s a tough job’, etc.) but a real highlight was being the first to see the beautifully revamped upstairs rooms above their boutique at 34 Boulevard Saint Germain where Diptyque stores the artwork, fabrics and other souvenirs of their 60 years in business. It was completely fascinating to see early designs for the logo and discover scents that no longer feature in the collection (but which are surely ripe for revival!) V.I.P. Club Members can read the full story in our current edition of The Scented Letterhere

The Chanel No.5 ‘Red’ dinner at Annabel’s – to celebrate this show-stopping incarnation of the iconic Chanel No.5, which got all dressed up in red for a limited edition season. The Berkeley Square nightclub was all dressed up in red, too – and it’s always fun to rub shoulders with the likes of Amanda Harlech, superstylist Sam McKnight and Lily-Rose Depp, don’t ya know?

Stepping inside the Guerlain fragrance laboratory at their HQ with Thierry Wasser. I don’t really need to add anything to that, do I…?

LORNA McKAY

Here are just a few of the fragrances which give me the ‘feel good factor’ for 2018, and while wearing them have had people actually stop me in the street to tell me how great I smelled and ask the name of what I was wearing. I think any perfume lover really lives for these moments, and it always gives me a thrill when it happens! [Lorna tells us she’s even been cuddled and sniffed by strangers who were so enraptured by her perfumes, but we can assure you it was all consensual]

• Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge ALWAYS and every time.

Miller Harris La Feuille  – worn alone and adding to lots gives a personalisation and different edge to many  smells – LOVE it!

Liz Earle No 15 –  honestly, people ask me every time I wear it ‘where can I get it?’ rather than what are you wearing … big difference.

• Highlight of the year –the amount of times I have used Fragrance Finder to solve a person’s search for their next fragrance or one they can’t buy anymore. People are amazed it really works! It thrills me when people discover the world of perfume .

• I have great pride in being part of The Scented Letter Magazine, which I know perfume lovers all over the world read, as well as many industry professionals and perfumers. I have a little cry when I see each issue in print!

CARSON PARKIN-FAIRLEY

• The launch of Tonka 25 by Le Labo – I’ve never had a signature scent, and probably never will – too much choice, too many wonderful smells, and why would I limit myself? – but if I did, Le Labo’s Tonka 25 would be pretty close to it. Never having thoroughly delved into the brand, I was invited to interview one of the founders this summer, and was utterly delighted by their latest scent, Tonka 25. Don’t be fooled, this is no tonka scent, no sweet nuttiness here. All dark Cedar Atlas, rich resins and addictive woods. It feels shadow-like, smouldering, inky. And I love it.

•  The Anya Hindmarch diffuser – nothing brings a smile to my face quite like the Anya Hindmarch candles. I remember going to the first launch, discovering their irreverent ingredient lists (teenage romance and regrettable tan lines feature amongst Italian bergamot and Tunisian Orange Blossom) and being blown away by the fun of it all. So you can imagine how my heart leapt once I found out there was diffusers. Housed in a funny-faced pot with reed diffusing sticks that look like pencils, they are the most covetable item that’s come by my desk in a while.

• Interviewing Christine Nagel for Hermes – A personal highlight was interviewing the perfumer of my teenage fragrance love, (Narciso for Her by Narciso Rodriguez) Christine Nagel. Not only was she an absolute pleasure to talk with but I came away being sure she had the best job in the world. In her role as in-house perfumer for Hermes, she has complete freedom in the scents she creates, she seemed so happy, so content. I often think about perfumers as a kind of artist for hire, and so seeing one who creates freely is not only a rarity, but also a immense pleasure.

• The Beautiful Mind Series event for The Perfume Society, which we hosted with Geza Schoen at Jovoy Mayair, provided me with countless insights into both the fragrance world and the mind of this maverick perfumer. His answers were thoughtful, witty and composed. He was approachable and affable and it’s always refreshing to meet a legend who is as nice as pie. But most of all it was a pleasure to be surrounded by so many engaged and interested perfume people. Fragrance is a small world full of big passion and it is a wonderful feeling bringing people of mutual appreciation together.
By The Perfume Society Team

The Candy Perfume Boy’s Trend Report

There are many bloggers we admire at The Perfume Society, and occasionally, we like to feature some of our favourites to share with you here. Thomas Dunckley – a.k.a. The Candy Perfume Boy – is a longtime friend, award-winning writer and fellow contributor to The Scented Letter magazine. Along with a wealth of fragrance expertise he brings a completely refreshing and totally down-to-earth voice to the perfume world, offering his opinions and providing information in a way that’s not only accesible but makes us want to rush out and try all the things he’s mentioned.

And so, get ready to add to your ‘must sniff’ list, as we look back to the most interesting scent trends The Candy Perfume Boy saw in 2017. Which of these have you tried and loved, and which, we wonder, will continue to shape the face of fragrance throughout 2018…?

‘We’re officially in quarter four of 2017 and what a year it has been. By my count there has been at least 20 million fragrance launches this year, but I do have a tendency to exaggerate. In truth it has felt like a particularly busy year, with lots of behemoth launches from equally gigantic brands. I also think it has been a phenomenally good year for perfume and I’ve fallen in love with more than a handful of wonderful fragrances already. But this post is not a retrospective of the year – you can have that at the annual Candies (my fragrance awards) in December, no this is something a little bit different.

As we’re heading towards the end of this year I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick recap of the big perfume trends we’ve seen this year. I’ve certainly noticed a handful of key themes over the last 12 months and it’s kind of fascinating to look back at them at this point in the year. So in this post you will find four trends that have populated the perfume landscape in 2017. These are just my thoughts however, and I’d be more than happy to hear about any trends you’ve identified too!


Sandalwoods

Let’s kick off by talking about sandalwoods because if there is any material I’ve seen lots of this year, it’s sandalwood. I’m used to the note being treated as a gateway to the exotic, with spicy, creamy and warm facets that lead one to think of oriental opulence. This year however, there seems to be somewhat of a shift in the olfactory lexicon of the sandalwood, with a much more minimalistic approach that sees the more intimate, softer and fresher sides of the material showcased in all their glory.

Firstly let’s take a look at Molecule 04 and Escentric 04 by Escentric Molecules, both of which showcase the sandalwood material Javanol. In Escentric 04, the traditional fragrance composition of the pair (rather than Molecule 04 which is simply Javanol in alcohol) we see a fresh, almost metallic sandalwood paired with grapefruit and cannabis to create a sharper tone. It’s a wonderfully fresh take on a note that hasn’t really known freshness before.

This year Juliette Has a Gun created Sunny Side Up, a sunny, beachy fragrance that did not focus on aquatics or florals and instead showcased a rather sexy sandalwood note. The presentation of the note was intimate, nutty and creamy, with a salty skin-like vibe that brought out the sexier vibes of sandalwood. There was even a delightfully rosy take on sandalwood from Comme des Garçons in the form of Concrete, which felt plush yet dry and smooth at the same time.

So sandalwood definitely has been the note of the year and I hope we’ll see more intriguing takes on it in the year to come.


Androgynous not Unisex

One trend that has really piqued my interest appears to be in its infancy. So far I’ve only noticed two fragrances that have done this, but I expect that we will see more over the next year. The trend is brands referring to their fragrances as ‘androgynous’ or ‘gender fluid’. Now, if you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m all for removing gender labels on scents, because anyone can wear anything that they want to. I’m also a pretty liberal guy and I’m very much in support of gender identities that are non-binary or otherwise. So I see this all as a very good thing.

With the rise in discourse around gender identity it seems that brands are cottoning on to this and are using these terms to replace the description of unisex. Katy Perry described her latest fragrance, INDI, as being “androgynous” as opposed to unisex and Guerlain launched Lui with mention of gender fluidity in the press release and a description of a scent that is “not entirely feminine, nor truly masculine”. I’m totally here for this and hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll start to do away with gendered labels on fragrance entirely. Wishful thinking? Probably!


Decent Celebrity Scents

This trend technically started in 2016 with SJP Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker, but one scent does not a trend make – four however, do. A year or so ago there were numerous articles in the beauty press about how celebrity fragrances are dead and that consumers are no longer buying them. In that year next to no celebrities launched a new fragrance and with any kind of reality ‘star’ launching a scent, it really did feel as if we had reached ‘peak celebrity’ in terms of fragrance. Well now things are a little different and this year alone we have seen three celebrity launches that are far removed from the sickly sweet fruity florals that lead one reaching for the Gaviscon – these celebuscents are unique and actually rather good.

First off we have Shawn Mendes Signature from dreamy, put a poster of his face on your wall, singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes. Created for all of his fans, whether they be a boy or a girl, Shawn Mendes Signature is a well put together woody gourmand that feels as if it has been made with thought and links to the singer’s roots and personality. Then there’s Katy Perry’s INDI, an effortless woody musk that wears like a second skin, and finally we have Xyrena’s Scented by Willam (which I vow to review soon), a drag queen known for her acerbic wit and controversial appearance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Scented is really quite beautiful – a violet-tinged iris with woods and musk that channels shades of Tauer’s discontinued Pentachord White. Each of these celebrity fragrances is really good and it’s refreshing to see such care, attention and quality applied to fragrances which so often have simply been a cash cow to complete a celebrity’s brand.

It seems as if celebrities now know that they have to work a little bit harder to sell a scent. They can’t just release yet another fruity floral in a clingy bottle and call it the Emperor’s New Clothes – they actually have to make it smell good. With the continuing rise of nice and luxe, people are willing to spend more money on a bottle of perfumer, but they’re going to buy less bottles, so whatever they buy must be interesting. Celebrities have caught on to this. The biggest thing though – they actually need to be a celebrity, ain’t nobody gonna buy Eau de Tan Mom any more.


Crowd Pleasing Concoctions

What do Mon Guerlain, Gabrielle de Chanel, AURA by Mugler, Twilly d’Hermès and Scandal by Jean Paul Gaultier all have in common? Well, first and foremost they all launched in 2017 – and let’s face it, each is an absolutely massive release from some of perfumery’s biggest brands. 2017 will definitely go down in history as the year of the launch (the mainstream feminine pillar launch if we want to get specific) and these five big brands have pulled out literally every stop to make their olfactory mark on 2017. They’ve recruited big stars like Angelina Jolie (Mon Guerlain) and Kristen Stewart (Gabrielle), and have created visually stunning bottles that range from glass hearts formed in the Emerald City (AURA) to carriage lanterns topped with little bowler hats (Twilly), not to mention a pair of legs falling out of a taxi (Scandal). In the case of two of these launches, the fragrances are the first feminine pillars from their respective brands in quite some time. It has been quite the year for launches, indeed – launches that are eye catching and nose catching for many.

But the trend we’re talking about here is not the simple fact that these brands have all had big launches, no, the trend is specifically in reference to a commercial theme that has run through each and every one of them. There’s no use beating around the bush – all five of these launches are very commercial and whilst there may be some interesting work going on inside the bottles, such as the super-radiance of Gabrielle’s floral notes, the clash of smoke, vanilla and jungle greenery in AURA, and the ginger-tuberose shock of Twilly, the overarching feel of these fragrances is that they were created to appeal to a wide audience. Even MUGLER, who are renowned for their divisive compositions, could be accused of a less polarising approach with their latest output. They all smell great but they lack a sense of boldness in their signatures.

So why is this happening? Are consumers buying less? Are they moving away from mainstream to niche? If so, why aren’t these fragrances more daring? That’s a lot to answer, but I wonder whether it has something to do with the level of investment these brands have to inject into the development, marketing and visual impact of a new scent. Perhaps they are worried about their return of investment? Take Guerlain for example, they have funnelled millions into the launch of Mon Guerlain and just to be sure that the scent would resonate with consumers, they tested it as a boutique exclusive (the new discontinued Mon Exclusif) prior to its launch.

So who knows why the big brands are being commercial? They’re getting the packaging and concepts right, that’s for sure, so let’s just hope that in 2018 they will bring a little bit more innovation to our noses. I know that my nose is waiting with great anticipation.’

Originally written by, and used with permission of, Thomas Dunckley: The Candy Perfume Boy. Pictures ©Thomas Dunckley.