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fougere

So, this one will be entertaining for some of my friends at Grasse Institute of Perfumery I think, as they have been part of the process and we have had some real laughs while I describe ideas and blush regularly… One of our projects during the course has been to develop a fougère. Fougère means “like fern” and is a fragrance family, the name comes from the perfume Fougère Royale by Houbigant. A fougère has an aromatic top note accord with lavender and a base with oakmoss and coumarine. An aromatic fougère also has additional herbs, spice and wood. Our fougère base that we worked with in class had a lot of vetiver and bergamot. We all made the same base and then added notes individually so we ended up with eleven very different fougères in the end. We have then reworked and developed our creations during the course of the next days to find the exact right proportions.

Fougères are normally fragrances for men and I took this opportunity to experiment with a note that I have been thinking about for many months after I smelled it in a shop in Stockholm last year – fennel. Fennel has a certain kind of spicy, green, somewhat affirmative, freshness that I find very elegant. So I was very happy to see that we did indeed have fennel in the lab and that after an initial short analysis, with the help of scent strips, it did feel right. I decided to create a brief for myself that was to create a fougère that would be the olfactory reflection of a man that I would like to get to know. In order for this brief to be of help I needed to define this man and some characteristics a bit more, so that I could find the corresponding notes and olfactory details and effects that would be a correct portrait.

So, this is how I described this man. He is a man with a past, but with a young mind. Classic look with a twist. A liberal mind that likes to explore. He likes to read, both lines and space between them. For this fragrance I picture him on a Sunday afternoon in a big city like London or New York (he could be from anywhere though) reading the newspaper supplements. He has done some sort of sports activity before so he has just showered and changed his clothes which means he is fresh but with an increased pulse and blood flow. It is an intelligent person, intellectual, a home-brewed mix of books and life experience. Sometimes maybe just a little bit irritating when he gets into an encyclopedic mood (I have a weakness for men who know a lot about a lot). It is a men that knows social rules and how to use them to navigate through different contexts, polite and with poise, extrovert but not desperate for attention. He has high-quality leather or suede shoes that are not new (important detail) and he will sigh out a heavy burden in a moment and then, just as naturally, burst out in childish laughter the next. This man’s rainbow has many colors and you will never entirely know him but he is good company for all sorts of challenges and adventures. There are many other aspects and details of course but these are a few examples just to give you an idea.

Now the translation to notes. The raw materials I first used apart from the fougère base were: nutmeg, clove, fennel – and then a tobacco, vanilla, vanillin accord. The fougère base gave the freshness of the body and mind of this man, but also the classic aspect. The tobacco represented his experience and the casualness of an old leather reading chair. The perfect tux with a cigar. The spices were to give a freshness that is a bit coarse and with integrity. The vanilla gave the kind of softness that symbolizes the relaxed intimate feeling of a Sunday when there is no professional pressure, but also a warm heart with genuine intentions. It was important for me to use natural vanilla as this raw material has that combination of softness and unruly dynamic. Soft but not sweet. Smooth but not really trying to please. Sensual in an innate unpolished way, like an equatorial night sky surrounded by sounds of nature kind of way.

When my first formula had gone through maceration and the raw materials found their place I felt that the feeling of the fragrance was a bit too soft and light. It was too babyface. I needed more hairy chest kind of thing, maybe also some closeness to nature, a primitive (primordial?) aspect. So I increased the vetiver, the tobacco and added a difficult one – birch tar. Tiny tiny drops, one drop too much and the formula would be destroyed. It would go completely wood chopper groin sweat and lose the pocket square. Then I left the fragrance to go through maceration again and smelled it after a few hours. Perfect. I really like it myself which is an essential aspect for this particular idea of course. Now I just want to find the gentleman that is the real life reflection of this fragrance. If you have an idea of who it might be, do let me know.

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Does it matter if you can classify what fragrance you’re wearing? If you know whether it is a floral, fougère or oriental? In theory, if you ask someone like me who is against superficial pointless namedropping – the answer is no. There is absolutely no point in keeping that sort of stuff in your head just for the sake of it or because you “should” know. In practice however, there are two reasons for you to think about perfume classification – the main one being that it’s a great tool for new discoveries as it will provide you with concrete links between what you like or dislike, and this will lead you to new fragrance pleasures. And pleasure is a great reason to care about things. The other reason is just simply curiosity. Some people just like maps. I do.

19th century perfumer Charles Piesse was one of the first to start classifying perfumes. He quickly turned to the world of music for symbols and so the language of perfumers became similar to that of musicians (which it still is today). The terms used in perfume language have the purpose to describe the different aroma layers in a fragrance, like chords. We also talk about top notes and different tones when distinguishing between ingredients and specific scents. We talk about the tonality of a fragrance just like we when analyzing a music piece.

There is also a more architectonical way of visualizing perfumes. William Poucher was one of the first to use the ‘fragrance pyramid’ to explain the top, middle and foundation as layers. He created the structure based on measurement of evaporation rate of perfume ingredients (fastest evaporation = top).

Image borrowed from davidreport.com/201103/scent-tokyo/



Here are some terms (from different eras, let’s not be so dogmatic) that are good to know when going on your perfume quest. The terms continuously develop and some perfumes contain traits of different families.


Floral: There are a few different types of floral fragrances. A Single Floral is a fragrance dominated by one particular flower (if you are fragrance shopping in France just channel Vanessa Paradis or madame Deneuve and say “soliflore”). Floral Bouquet is combination of fragrance of several flowers in the perfume. And Bright Floral is a modern fusion between Single Floral & Floral Bouquet.


Amber or Oriental: Fragrances with slightly animalic scents of ambergris or labdanum, combined with vanilla, tonka bean, flowers and woods. Orientals are not fragrances from the Orient but rather evoke the European (or specifically Victorian) 19th century image of the Orient.

Wood: Fragrances dominated by woody scents, usually sandalwood and cedarwood.

Leather: Fragrances with a middle note with honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars.

Chypre: Bergamot, oakmoss, patchouli, and labdanum. “Green” is a modern more light version of this group.

Fougère: A base of lavender, coumarin and oakmoss. (More info in post on Houbigant)

Aquatic/Oceanic: A modern category with clean often androgynous fragrances.

Citrus: Used to be a term used about eau de colognes now used for, well, citrus fragrances. (I know, a bit boring this description but some things are just not that complicated).

Fruity: Fragrances characterized by other fruits than citrus for example peach or passion fruit.

Gourmand: A term used for fragrances that often contain tonka bean, vanilla etc and create associations to desserts or flavors.

If these terms seem confusing or too many, The Fragrance Wheel might be your tool. It was developed in 1983 by Michael Edwards and based on four standard families: Floral, Oriental, Woody and Fresh. (Edwards divides these into three sub-groups which helps us see connections. The subgroups are Floral, Soft Floral, Floral Oriental, Oriental, Soft Oriental, Woody Oriental, Mossy Woods, Dry Woods, Citrus, Green and Water. But I think you might be ok just remembering the four main ones). 


Fougére gets a special position in the center as it combines elements of all four. If you know just these five terms you are safe, and it is likely that by studying the wheel and fragrances that you like you will be able to tell your preferred scent family/families. Also, if you ask someone in a perfume store for help and they give you a puzzled look – then I would suggest go to another store. Let’s encourage enlightenment, shall we?

I have found several “how to find your fragrance” articles that talk about how a certain type of person or age is recommended to go for one of the fragrance groups (eg fruity – young girl, fougére – man, green – sporty, oriental – in the evening). This is not my kind of fragrance approach. Be aware of the signals that your fragrance sends out, what it communicates about you. But find your thing. Go for what makes you feel good – and feel like you.

CREED, or House of CREED to be correct, was founded in London by perfumer James Henry Creed in 1760. Throughout it’s long history this house of perfume has had many royal clients. The first royal commission came already in 1781 from King George III, for whom CREED made the scent Royal English Leather. When it was time for CREED’s 100th anniversary the company moved to Paris at the request of client Empress Eugénie for whom CREED created Jasmine Impératice, a fragrance that the company to this day continues to make and sell. (Top notes: bergamot, middle notes: Bulgarian rose, ambergris and Italian jasmine, base notes: vanilla and sandalwood). Eugénies husband, a certain Napoleon III, was also one of CREED’s clients.

In 1885, Queen Victoria appointed CREED “official supplier” to the British royal court. For her majesty, CREED created the scent Fleurs de Bulgarie by commission. This engaging scent, rich with roses, is available today. (Top note: bergamot, middle note: Bulgarian rose, base notes: ambergris infusion and musk).
The list of famous persons who have not left their home without their favorite CREED on their skin is as endless as diverse. Queen Maria Cristina of Spain was a client, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor wore CREED, for some time Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite perfume was Tabarome. In 1933 CREED created Angelique Encens,  for the Bishop of Paris. And in 1956, CREED created Grace Kelly’s wedding scent, Fleurissimo, by order of her fiancé Prince Rainier.

The brand had a powerful revival in the 1980’s with the fougère Green Irish Tweed, created by Olivier Creed and Pierre Bourdon. I cannot really go in without mentioning something more about fougère… A fougère is a classification. These perfumes belongs to a family with a top note of lavender and base note of oak moss and coumarin and are more common in fragrances pour les hommes. There are also aromatic fougères which then also have spices and wood in them. You often find vetiver and bergamot in a fougère. The name comes from the paradigmatic perfume Fougère Royale for Houbigant created by Paul Parquet in 1882. It was relaunched in an updated version in the late 1980’s, then production was not produced anymore but I heard that it has just been relaunched again? Epic however regardless.

Back to CREED. CREED is a rare fragrance company, not only for it’s respect for the traditions of perfume making but also because it is the world’s only privately held fragrance dynasty. It was founded by a CREED and it is still 250 years later passionately developed by the same family. This also makes it one of the world’s oldest family businesses in general. Today, the company is based in Paris and led by Olivier Creed. His son Erwin works with him and is likely to be the seventh generation of CREED perfume makers. I find this aspect of the company immensely admirable and fascinating. 
Olivier Creed
CREED perfumes are created using the techniques of maceration and filtration. The house is famous for being a strong proponent for natural ingredients.

As you can imagine there is quite a range of CREED fragrances to choose between. I have yet to find a favorite but wouldn’t mind owning a selection of bottles with magic from this house. Especially Sublime Vanille from 2009. You can find a complete list of CREED fragrances and information about them here.

Another great feature of CREEDs homepage is their scent finder form which is sent to their staff who will help you find the right fragrance, you find it here. (Penhaligons also has this kind of service and it is actually a good exercise in itself to think about the questions in the form as this will help you define your fragrance preferences for yourself regardless of where you then go looking for them).

For US citizens, I am happy to tell you that you can order samples from this admirable brand. There is also the store at 794 Madison Avenue in Manhattan which was opened when CREED celebrated its 250th year in 2010.