Most fougère fragrances are overtly manly and smell old fashioned to contemporary "noses." When I smell a classic fougère, I think of a well-off/well-fed, outdoorsy, conservatively dressed and groomed man of a certain age, who, when not traipsing through wet woods hunting or hiking, holds court in a plaid-rich den (in a log cabin if resources allow) with one hand clutching a whiskey and the other resting on the forehead of a happy Labrador retriever. Let's call this guy Traditional. The only fougère perfume I truly loved is extinct: Houbigant Fougère Royale (I don't much care for the reissue) — it conjured the outdoors, but was dry and buoyant, not soggy.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian just released a new fougère fragrance, Pluriel Masculin: a man can be "one and many things at the same time" sayeth Kurkdjian. I guess the same can be said for women (see Pluriel Féminin), pets — and even robots: efficient, but cold...helpful, yet infuriating (think: your computer). Philosophy aside (and there are plenty of arty references to the creation of the two Pluriel perfumes in its marketing push), a fragrance is a commodity in a container and thrives or dies by its aroma. Can the only man in well-publicized perfume circles who unbuttons his shirt as far down as Tom Ford make me love a fougère again?
Pluriel Masculin goes on smelling like a straightforward fougère, but a watercolor version...not dense, too structured, or chest-thumping. There's lavender mixing with leather, a splatter or two of rinsed-clean patchouli. In mid-development, there is a note or mix of notes that produces a "watery" aroma that, perhaps, tries to convey the "damp forest" aspect of a fougère. I've noticed this note/accord in other contemporary fougère fragrances (is it violet leaf? an ozonic note?), and I simply can't abide it; to my nose, the aroma cheapens the perfume. But this "fresh" note fades, and Pluriel Masculin dries down to smooth vetiver and sweet woods, with hints of residual patchouli and leather. Pleasant, nice...but not for me. Why do fougère fragrances make me feel...despondent? (Is there a Perfume Doctor in the house?)
I'll be curious to see if Pluriel Masculin can convert younger men to this "staid" genre of masculine perfumery. With vintage everything the rage, why not?
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Pluriel Masculin has great lasting power and sillage, and is available in 70 ml Eau de Toilette ($185). For buying information, see the listing for Maison Francis Kurkdjian under Perfume Houses.
Note: Top image [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.