The first fougère perfume was 1882’s Houbigant Fougère Royale — just reissued.* Fougère (fern) fragrances make up a huge proportion of men’s fragrances, but fougère colognes are not well represented in my perfume collection. For a long time, I’ve smelled fougère perfumes, searching for one that I can love and that doesn’t make me smell like a fuddy-duddy.
Fougères come in a variety of formulations: Hermès Brin de Réglisse, Diesel Fuel for Life, Yves Saint Laurent Kouros, Brut, Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Mâle — fougères all! Recently, the fougère genre has revived after years of dormancy. Two new fougère entries are Amouage Memoir Man (a demi-fougère that turns quickly into an incense fragrance) and Penhaligon’s dowdy Sartorial (loved by many, but not by me). To find a fougère I could enjoy wearing, I went back in time to the “archives.”
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche pour Homme (2003), developed by perfumer Jacques Cavallier, includes notes of bergamot, rosemary, star anise, lavender, geranium, clove, coumarin, patchouli, oak moss, guaiac wood, and vetiver. Rive Gauche pour Homme starts off with bergamot and anise (that go from “crisp/tart” to “creamy” in seconds) followed by a rosemary-lavender-geranium progression that quivers between green/herbal rosemary-lavender leaves, and furry, aromatic geranium leaf. A mild sweetness emerges in the shift from top and middle notes to Rive Gauche pour Homme’s base notes (a mingling of dusty, mild clove, coumarin, moss and patchouli). The base notes feel “moist” and “talc-y” at the same time.
All Rive Gauche pour Homme’s transitions are smooth as can be, and though I have fulminated against classifying vintage women’s scents as “Old Lady Perfumes” there is an air of “Old Gentleman Colognes” surrounding Rive Gauche pour Homme; it’s not the type of fougère scent I love.
Pascal Morabito Or Black (1982) tells a different fougère story; it was developed by perfumer Jean Louis Sieuzac and includes notes of bergamot, pepper, leather, sage, benzoin, cistus, vetiver, ylang-ylang, amber, Tonkin musk, and oak moss. Or Black opens with lightly smoked, leather-saturated bergamot (or should I say bergamot-saturated leather?) The “cologne-y/creaminess” that often gives fougère fragrances a tweedy, “venerable” vibe on my skin is thankfully absent from Or Black, which is a sterner, “cold/hard” fragrance. (Or Black’s personification is certainly not a rosy-cheeked, smiling older gentleman traipsing through the woods with his “Guide to the Ferns of the Pacific Northwest” tucked under his arm; Or Black is leaner, maybe even ‘meaner’, a haughty fougère.)
Or Black is linear smelled from afar, but up close, you can detect cistus, benzoin, sage and vetiver. There is an interesting floral facet to Or Black…perhaps the ylang-ylang mingling with other notes? The base of Or Black is musky amber accompanied by leather and a whorl of lingering smoke. Or Black smells great on me…and didn’t make me feel like a gentleman of a certain age, even as I used a cane in public this past week due to a back injury.
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche pour Homme is readily available at online perfume discounters; Pascal Morabito Or Black is more difficult to find in the U.S. Or Black “minis” are available at many online discounters for under $20 for a 4 ml splash; a full-size bottle (100 ml) of Or Black (if you can find one) costs about $150.
* The newly reissued Houbigant Fougère Royale will be reviewed tomorrow.