The fougère family is the backbone of masculine fragrance. Fougère is French for fern, and the name traces directly back to Fougère Royale.
A scent created by Paul Parquet for Houbigant in 1882, the original granddaddy of masculine fragrances, the first to use a synthetic note, a natural compound, in this case a synthesised coumarin molecule.
The key notes needed to define a classic fougère are oakmoss, tonka bean (coumarouna odorata) and lavender. A variety of notes can be woven around this basic structure to create a vast array of different variations – woody, floral, spicy, oceanic etc. These often include bergamot, geranium and vetiver.
They have warmth and dryness, sweet bitter woods, soft floral touches. Like their female equivalent, the chypré, fougères are ruthlessly tailored and wonderfully rigid in their top to toe drydown. They feel wearable, like a bespoke suit, fitted just to the wearer. A one off garment. Evolving over time, improving with age.
Coumarin (benzopyrene) is of synthetic origin. It can however be found in some natural sources like tonka bean and some grasses. It is a natural isolate that adds an intense new-mown hay odour to fragrances. But can also have a sweeter more gourmand side, with hints of sweet almond or touches of hay and undertones of tobacco.
Penhaligon’s have two fougères in the collection. English Fern was created in 1910 with notes of clover, lavender, sandalwood & oakmoss and is a very green and earthy medicinal take on the fougère style. Sartorial from 2010 is a deep, waxen spicy interpretation, with leather, patchouli, beexwax and honey.
When you wear a fougère you are connecting to a tradition of olfactory greatness. They smell resolutely masculine and correct, good to be around, secure and sexy. Guys, in a crisis, you’d want to be a fougère kinda guy. And ladies, you’d want a fougère shoulder to cry on.