Not long ago on one of the major fragrance sites, I said that calling a “masculine” scent a fougere these days is like going to a non-ethnic restaurant (in the USA) and ordering “American food.” Many seem to think that if a scent possesses a fougere accord, even if largely imaginary, it should be called a fougere. It could have a strong oriental or gourmand element, but it gets classified as a fougere, again, even if one can barely smell anything remotely resembling a fougere accord. And then there are the scents that simply do not possess a fougere accord, but again get classified as fougeres because there is a lavender note that is detectable, though not necessarily strong. A good example of this is Cool Water for Men, which doesn’t have the tonka/coumarin that is necessary for the fougere accord.
Some claim that oakmoss is necessary too, but in these oakmoss-restriction days, the fougere claim can be even more ridiculous. Why is the oakmoss important, assuming it is? My guess is that some “bite” is needed, which balances the fougere accord enough to prevent it from becoming irritating (though that doesn’t seem to work for me). Perhaps this (i. e., little or no oakmoss) is the reason why so many scents with a strong fougere accord have irritated me, though I doubt it. On the other hand there are the really sweet scents that possess a fougere accord, but again, there’s often nothing to counter-balance the fougere accord – the sweetness tends to enhance it, actually, making it outright cloying to me!
Another phrase used quite a bit is “barbershop fougere,” which of course can mean different things to different people. However, I do think most who say this mean that the scent has a strong fougere accord, though not necessarily any oakmoss. These can be sweet, a bit bitter/herbal, or contain something else that seems to generate the “barbershop” effect (such as anise), but usually aren’t outright gourmand (the fougere accord being strong enough to render any sweetness as non-edible). In 2003, Yves Saint Laurent released Rive Gauche Pour Homme, which is a rather gentle star anisic fougere that has often been called a “barbershop fougere.” I tried it a few times, and while the star anise and fougere accord are acceptable to me, there is something in the drydown I find irritating (perhaps the vetiver/guaiac wood combination, or a musk aroma chemical) By contrast, I have enjoyed Grigioperla (1991), though the fougere accord there is a bit stronger than I would like it to be. Thus, I really have to be in the mood to wear this one.
Not long ago, I acquired a bottle of Cabaret Pour Homme (2004), which seems to have been part of the gentle fougere trend of about a dozen years ago. I had held off on this one because it has been called weak, and it sounded like the fougere accord was at least clear if not strong. However, when a good opportunity presented itself I decided to give it a try. The notes for it, from Fragrantica.com, are:
“Top notes are rosemary, pineapple, coriander, juniper berries, basil and bergamot; middle notes are lavender, jasmine and lily-of-the-valley; base notes are wormwood, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, musk, cloves, oakmoss and vetiver. ”
The atomizer produces a very fine mist, so I sprayed three times to the chest, but I’m not sure if that is equivalent to one spray of an atomizer that produces a strong stream of liquid. I was surprised by the pleasant fruitiness, especially with a fougere accord being present, though it wasn’t strong at all (and I don’t perceive any “synthetic” qualities). The florals provided a softness without being obvious, and the base notes were also gentle. It’s the kind of scent I would wear when I knew I couldn’t pay as much attention to a scent as I’d like, but still want to experience some amount of enjoyment from it. I am surprised by all the online praise for Rive Gauche Pour Homme and all the scorn for this one, though I’d guess many aren’t bothered by whatever bothers me in the base of RGPH. Moreover, I also tend to dislike fruity qualities, whereas so many others seem to become enamored by these (the pineapple note in Aventus is an obvious example).
“What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play…”
And splash on some Cabaret !
NOTE: Due to the apparently large amount of the”fresh” aroma chemical, dihydromyrcenol, in scents like Cool Water, I suggest calling these “chemical fresh lavender scents,” though of course I doubt this will become a popular designation. Also, there have been a few other fougeres that I enjoyed at times, but the fougere accords were always stronger than I wish they were.