A fougere is a fougere is a fougere… or…?


As the article at Wikipedia.org tells us:

The sentence “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” was written by Gertrude Stein as part of the 1913 poem Sacred Emily, which appeared in the 1922 book Geography and Plays. In that poem, the first “Rose” is the name of a person. Stein later used variations on the sentence in other writings, and “A rose is a rose is a rose” is probably her most famous quotation, often interpreted as meaning “things are what they are”…

The graph pictured is something I came across as a newbie. It confused me, and I suggest you take it with at least a grain of salt. The “aromatic fougere” at the center is something I now find ridiculous, though on some level, humorous as well. Where is the chypre category? Does water have a smell? Is there a reason to arrange the elements in a wheel shape, for example, is opposition supposed to mean something significant? Does this graph do anything for someone who wants to buy a scent based upon a note pyramid, assuming it is accurate? And that brings me to another attempt that strikes me as at least as muddled, and perhaps more humorous! That is, in a recent post at the FromPyrgos blog, entitled “Musings On My Collection (How And Why I’ve Divided It Into ‘”Classifications’ Of Fragrance),” readers are told:

From 1970 onward, fougères became increasingly complex and “aromatic,” which created a whole range of different fragrances, some of which might be considered “hybrids” of fougère, oriental, and chypre families. However, the genealogy organizes these very succinctly, with a narrow band of orientals standing between the most ambery fougères and the woodiest chypres. Thus, there is no basis for saying that terms such as “fougère” and “chypre” are meaningless. These terms, to me, are very meaningful, relevant, and well organized in a historical context, thanks to the H&R (with subsequent corroborative organization from Perfume Intelligence and the Leffingwell)…

When we subscribe to the strict notion that all fougères MUST possess an unmistakable lavender/coumarin/musk accord, and all chypres MUST possess a bergamot/labdanum/oakmoss accord, one has to use process of elimination to determine classifications for the more unorthodox compositions of the last fifty years…

I don’t want to waste your time or mine trying to untangle these statements, and because I can’t stop anyone from contorting history into absurd, pretzel-like shapes (and note that the Wikipedia article on fougeres stated that these scents contain lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss, so where the musk idea originated is not something I could even venture a guess at), at least on their own blogs, I’d like to posit an idea for a way to classify scents that might be helpful to those who perceive them in a way similar to me. As a newbie, I thought that a “fragrance map” would be a good way to illustrate graphically scents, so that one could avoid “blind buying” ones that are very similar, for example. I abandoned that notion because I came to think it would have to be a complex, three-dimensional web, consuming a great deal of time, but not necessarily being that helpful, considering how scents can change so much over the course of several hours.

A couple of years later, I had an idea to create new categories, which led to at least one blog post, about scents I called “Baroque Fougeres.” However, after writing it I realized this too was likely a “monumental task,” and put the idea on hold. My thought now is to provide some ideas about drydowns that are similar among my favorite scents. For example, Boss Number One (formerly Boss Cologne) is quite close to Tenere (released a few years later), at least in the drydown. If you try to avoid most of the top notes, as I do, I can’t imagine feeling the need to own bottles of both, but perhaps you see things in reverse, so to speak. Either way, this is information you would seek to possess !

By contrast, Leonard Pour Homme and Van Cleef & Arpels Pour Homme (in vintage forms) are very similar at drydown as well, but in the former carnation dominates the floral section (other than lavender, which is also strong), whereas in the latter rose has that role. You can call these two fougeres, because they both have a clear lavender/coumarin accord, but the construction is not like other fougeres, except perhaps for a couple of others that are based on this same model (some have said this is the case for the 1978 “masculine” offering by Ted Lapidus, but the list of notes suggests otherwise, as it lavender is not listed, and the only floral note “proper” listed is jasmine).

For these two, there is a kind of top layer that features a mild fougere accord and the floral note, whereas the dry, resinous bottom layer includes castoreum, leather, oakmoss, etc. in very fine blend (it’s not “heavy,” the way vintage Polo is, for instance). I hope you can see how complicated things can get, and this assumes there is no disagreement or reformulation issues! Thus, an obvious question here is, is it worth the effort? Well, I prefer Boss Cologne/#1 to Tenere but I like having both LPH and VC&A PH, so my thought is that it’s so personal as to not be worth it. Instead, perhaps one should decide how much time and effort this hobby is worth, along with which “blind buys” to pursue.

So, I think it is best to simply describe the scent as best you can (mentioning personal idiosyncrasies if any are relevant) and mention others you think are similar. Calling a scent a fougeriental, fougypre, gourmandiental, floriental, etc. makes sense to me, but also is of limited use in determining what I’ll be smelling if I blind buy a bottle. One thing that has helped me a great deal is looking at the release date and the notes, then looking for ones with similar notes that were released at about the same time (perhaps up to three years), along with reading as many reviews as you can, of course. Doing this has led me to often say things like, “well, I don’t really like the one I already own that seems like it is similar, so I won’t buy unless I get a great deal or I think it has major swap value.” However, if you choose to go ahead with the kind of project I found too formidable, feel free to send me messages and ask me questions that arise, if you like. I wish you the best of luck but I hope you don’t become too obsessive about it !

Unless something “major” is done in terms of classification, my thought now is that it’s probably a waste of time, because those who don’t know will likely be confused, no matter how you do it, and those who do know don’t need the classification system! And for those who don’t know, there is a fougere accord, and then there are fougere scents. Today, and in recent years at least, people have been calling scents fougeres (meaning a fougere scent) if it has a fougere accord, even if that accord is very mild. This confused me as a newbie. Of course, as I’ve said, many people are now calling scents a fougere when there is no fougere accord, and in a sense, if one is to follow that lead, it may be that any “men’s” scent that included linalool on the ingredient list can be called a fougere.

There is no “Emperor of Scent,” despite what Chandler Burr may think or want us to believe, and because of that, we can’t stop anyone from making ridiculous claims. I happen to own a scent from the 70s that seems to be a great example of a fougere scent, Woodard for Men, Play it Again, which features not only a strong fougere accord, but strong oakmoss as well. It’s a simple scent, with a minty element as well as some musk, and it’s not sweet. If you add an herbal element you can create an “aromatic fougere,” but once you go beyond that sort of construction, you are creating what I once referred to as a Baroque Fougere. I wasn’t using this phrase in a “technically correct” way, as I noted in that old post, but I thought it might work for certain kinds of “masculine” scents from a specific period of time.

Considering how muddled things were, I didn’t think it would make any difference to use the word fougere in that phrase, and I can’t say I view it as a “major issue” now, unless one is discussing the traditional notion of a fougere scent. If you are discussing it, however, you need to tell your readers exactly what it is supposed to be like or I’ll have to wonder if you just don’t care if you confuse them or not. Aside from it being “out of style,” the “real” fougere scent probably requires good quality ingredients: otherwise, my guess is that this kind of scent made “on the cheap” would smell awful. By contrast, placing a mild fougere accord in a more complex scent that uses synthetics the way recent designer ones usually do is not a major problem if done well (an example is Polo Double Black). Clearly, the scent is no longer a fougere. However, as things stand today, both in the industry and on the relevant web sites, it seems that we might need to conclude that, a fougere is not necessarily a fougere is not necessarily a fougere! Too bad Gloria isn’t still alive to tell us what she thinks.

NOTE: For those of you who haven’t encountered the kind of fougere claim I referenced above, here is just one common example (from a Fragrantica.com review of Body Kouros):

Yeap, I got my 2010 “reformulated” bottle of Body Kouros and with it I have completed my benzoin circle, enough is enough ( Prada pour Homme, PPH Intense, Hermes Rocabar, Davidoff Silver shadow and YSL Body Kouros ) and it seems that the further from the Prada ones the more medicine like it gets, I do llike it but was expecting more eucaliptous and rosemary from an aromatic fougere…

The notes for Body Kouros are listed as:

Top notes are eucalyptus and incense; middle notes are chinese cedar and clary sage; base note is benzoin.

If you call scents like Cool Water or Boss Number One a fougere, where does it end? How could you criticize someone who thinks Body Kouros is an aromatic fougere if you too are making inappropriate fougere claims? In my opinion, it’s time for those who have relevant blogs or who write many reviews or posts to start using this term properly; it will help you as well as newbies, because if you can’t get a simple concept as a fougere correct, how can anyone take anything else you have to say seriously? If you want to make up your own terminology, as I once did with “Baroque Fougere,” that is not especially problematic if you explain exactly what you mean. So, for example, if Mr. Ross over at the FromPyrgos blog wanted to create a phrase such as “Neo-Fougere” (and he explained what he meant), I might not think it best, but I could understand that notion. However, what we see far too often, especially with the fougere term, is an olfactory version of trying to force large square pets into small round holes!

UPDATE: I’m not looking for these examples, but I seem to keep encountering them:

A clean and modern chilly young Aromatic Fougere in a fancy and handsome design…

This was a review I found when I was reading reviews for Tous in Heaven for Him on the Fragrantica.com site. I then went and looked for an ingredient list for this scent, finding this one:

Alcohol Denat., Aqua (Water), Parfum (Fragrance), Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citral, Citronellol, Limonene, Linalool

And the listed notes for it are:

…mandarin, pineapple and pimento in top notes. A heart offers cardamom and violet leaves, while base notes add elegant patchouli.

UPDATE #2: Now the author of the FromPyrgos blog is claiming that lavender contains it’s own coumarin and so even if it’s not listed it’s still a “fougere.” Or something. I have lost interest in his attempts at casuistry on these points, and if he can’t tell the difference between a clear fougere accord and a scent that possesses a clear lavender note but not a fougere accord, so be it. It’s certainly not going to harm me, and if it confuses some newbies, it won’t be the first or last time that sort of thing occurs with online “information.” However, I’ll just reiterate that once you claim that scents with a lavender note are fougere scents you have destroyed the usefulness of the term, and what percentage of “men’s” scents would not be fougeres? Who would decide? I suggest everyone obtain a little lavender essential oil and then compare how that smells to a scent that is obviously a fougere scent, such as Drakkar Noir, Lomani, or Caesar’s World for Men.

UPDATE #3 (5/27/14): Now Mr. Ross is claiming that: “Chergui is in no uncertain terms a classical fougère…” See his post entitled “Chergui (Serge Lutens).” What scent isn’t a fougere in the minds of such people !

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22 Comments

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

22 responses to “A fougere is a fougere is a fougere… or…?

  1. Abi

    interesting post bigsly!…so you believe in making up definition instead of adhering to recognized definition of fragrances like aromatic fougeres? if i understand you dislike the “aromitic” idea and like the traditional fougere idea…btw lavender does contain considerable coumarin…that post of lavender colognes is historically accurate, because lavender was used to disinfect hospital ….and there are not that many fougeres listed on HR charts, but you say there are too many things called fougere…

    i appreciate your insight into how different perfume can be from itself when one takes standard like “fougere” and then applies it to hundreds of fragrances……but i still have trouble following your thought process here as it relates to frompyrgos…reducing a fougere to an accord seems strange to me…as he points out the nature of this fragrance is to start with lavender, which in itself contains coumarin, then extent the coumrain by adding more, then do anything else you want!!! obviously there are also orientals and chypres…what is the problem??? i misundersand why you say this is muddled…as he presented it, seems clear…but you confuse me a little with saying something is “baroque fougere” and then “not a fougere” like boss…however i agree that this can be very confusing for newbie noses!! but to put simply how exactly is he wrong about the history of fougere….and why you put so much faith in Wikipedia??…thats not a reliable source of information! it always change, and edited by the public. he cites scientific journal and book, you cite wikipedia? why????

    • You don’t need wikipedia to know such basic information. I won’t argue with you if you disagree that 2+2=4, so I’ll let you do your research on that one, but if you don’t agree then we’ll just “agree to disagree.” Here’s an analogy: there are chords in music, such as a fourth, which most people recognize in the “Here comes the bride” song. If you play a fourth, but one note is very weak, it’s not going to sound like a fourth. So, you need enough lavender and coumarin for a fougere accord, though it still isn’t necessarily a fougere scent. What he’s claiming is beyond silly, because there would have never been any reason to come up with this “imaginary fern” smell in the first place! Lavender smells like lavender, with some minor variations of course. When you add enough coumarin you get a fougere accord. Even if a list of ingredients included coumarin, it wouldn’t mean there was enough to generate a fougere accord, so the “evidence” that he thinks supports his illogical claim is actually evidence against it. As I said, when you get to these kinds of 2+2=4 situations, you have to decide how much time you want to waste on them. I really don’t want to waste a lot more, so please let’s move on, unless there is something you think really important that needs to be said.

      And please, pay close attention to my argument. I am not saying there are a lot of fougeres on any chart, but rather that people who write commentary of one kind or another these days seem to be calling just about any kind of “men’s” scent a fougere, or even a specific kind of one! I have no problem with the concept of the aromatic fougere, but rather I’m pointing out that people are using such phrases in incredibly silly ways. If you want to claim that the examples I used are not very good, then you need to address a major point I made, which is that if we allow such scents to be called fougeres, then doesn’t the term lose it’s usefulness?

  2. Abi

    well just one thing seems important to me at this point because i am not sure how you feel on this …. is the HR charts from leffingwell complete waste of time? if so, why? it seems to organize and get rid of the confusion and muddle. the circle above seems similar to something by michael edwards more recent fragrance “wheels” which i agree are more confusing…but the HR charts are very clear!! so why you feel that way about them? is it not a waste of time to argue that “aromatic fougere” is confusing but making up your own term is clearer? so if he calls his fougere “neo fougere” instead of “aromatic fougere” it makes more sense to you? first please answer my HR chart question….then this second question about using your own terms…

    • Yes, I’d say you should disregard that chart – I think it obfuscates more than it clarifies. I could write up a bunch of posts about what I’ve found to be inaccurate in them, and my guess is that they are based upon what the companies said about the scent or perhaps whoever created it did a quick sampling of some of them, but otherwise you won’t get me to believe that the author studied more than a few of them in detail. And I have a question for you on this point: can you provide an example of how this chart has helped you? If you think it has, please be as specific as possible.

      • Abi

        one example of how it helped me is in understanding how perfumes relate…before i knew what cool water and eternity for men smelled like i thought maybe they were just both “fresh” in a abstrac way that didnt connect at all…then i smell them both and realize they are very different but they both use lavender notes in similar way, one being very salty-aquatic the other bein dry and loud and “soapy” in a smooth clean way, and it made sense that polo sport came next because again there is a strong lavender note and this time some differen fruits….but still similar kind of smell in several ways, basically how the lavender and salty notes go together…but i still sketpical about HR charts…then i experience two more fougeres, tsar by vc&A and jazz by ysl… this time i smell the fougeres before i look at the charts, and i think these smell very similar! why???

        then i look at the chart and surprised to see they are right next to each other! so the way lavender and wormwood was used in these is how they relate…

        but third way the chart help me is in understanding earlier fougeres using strong lavender….for example i dislike caron pour un homme first time i smell it….then i realize the lavender is almost entire fragrance….little bit of coumarin and syntehtic musk/vanilla in the end….not much else but strong lavender…so i wonder, if it mainly just lavender then it is just lavender, or fougere? so there on the chart it is next to two mainly-lavender fougeres, atkinsons and yardley…i smell yardley, and different kind of lavender, but same focus…and some sweetness with musk in the base…tiny bit of coumarin added, but mostly lavender, and in caron….so now i think there is different category…not fougere, not chypre, but actually A LAVENDER PURE scent!!!…but what happen….i look at HR chart, and realize there is historical context for this smell…why these older fragrances feature such strong lavender with almost nothing else….they are earliest example of fougere, other than fougere royal….then it make more sense to me that these perfume come at the top historically and more complicated thing like cool water and jazz and tsar come many years later…more than just classification, but a clear way of understanding how the fragrances are similar, with a “vertical” historical map….now when i smell fragrance i am unfamilir with i look for lavender and geranium and few other things, and maybe little sweetness, and refer to HR chart. its helpful!

        one other thing….the chart was the first of its kind by haarmann and reimer, pioneers in perfumery with a very well respected school of perfumery…how can you think this is a careless representation of fragrance classification when it is published by reputable source?

      • No, I wouldn’t say it is “careless,” but I would say that if you just placed those scent names randomly you might find that it’s “helpful” to some degree as well. That is, there are so many similarities that the “newbie nose” might say to himself, “oh, now I see, these two scents are quite similar and the chart is very good.” What I’m saying is that beyond that kind of “helpfulness,” there are a lot of things that I would take issue with, and that is one thing that led me to the idea of a “Baroque Fougere.” But again, I don’t want to waste time – just go read that post again. If you don’t like my way of thinking about scents, then by all means keep using the chart. I don’t think whoever created it spent a lot of time studying the scents on it (other than perhaps a few), whereas I have studied many of them.

        I’m glad you brought up Caron Pour un Homme, because it’s a great example of a scent many would now claim is a fougere, but isn’t. The lavender in that scent is strong, and I would call that a lavender scent (or a lavender-dominant one) for sure, but whatever coumarin is present, if any, it’s too weak to bring it to the level of a fougere accord. As another blogger stated: “Its perfect duet of lavender and vanilla notes with a quiet powdery subtext pulled me in. At first, the sharp, invigorating lavender took centre stage but by the end of the evening, it was replaced by the vanilla with the lavender still present… but considerably toned down… In fact, it’s only a few molecules away from being a fougère… simply add coumarin and civet and you’re bumping into the archetypal fougère Jicky by Guerlain.”

        http://theperfumechronicles.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/caron-pour-un-homme/

        To me this is useful information. And it doesn’t matter how many molecules it actually takes to transform a lavender-dominant scent into a fougere – you know the difference when you smell it, or else you are a newbie, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you are not being “aggressively ignorant” about it. I would guess the chart, by contrast, will confuse more people on this point, and there are plenty of other examples there! But again, as I said, I have decided that I should try and provide “useful tools” to my readers, because trying to create some sort of map is just too much of a task for one person. So, I applaud the author(s) for his attempt, but I think it’s time to retire it, and instead use other information that is now available (online mostly).

  3. Abi

    this is very strange to me, bigsly, i must admit. if caron pour un homme is not a fougere then i do not know what is. lavender, followed by coumarin and some vanilla and musk. perfect fougere….actually what most people interpret as vanilla smells more like coumarin to me, very tonka-sweet…coumarin listed high on the ingredeints list on the box….does not seem a matter of being a newbie or something like that to me, but then again all opinions are different!

    • Aren’t we back to what I said before? That is, if you can put lavender and vanilla together and call it a fougere, then why would there be a need to come up with the notion of something different, the imaginary fern smell? I can tell the difference between a scent with lavender and amber, vanilla, benzoin, etc., but without enough coumarin to generate a fougere accord. In fact, I am so sensitive to fougere accords that I hardly wear many scents like this because I generally don’t like it and really have to be in the mood for it. Because I have so many scents with a clear fougere accord, I may wear each one once a year (or even less!). I can understand that many people are unable to tell the difference, but that person should have the mental ability to realize that logically there would be no fougere accord in the first place if it was just lavender. In that case, they would have just said something like, “lavender scent,” right? Back then, they (or at least many people) did recognize that it was novel and interesting, even if they didn’t like it. Back to the musical analogy: if someone told you that to their ears, a fourth sounded exactly the same as a fifth, what would you say to him or her?

      Here is a recent thread over at B&B that demonstrates various levels of understanding (and misunderstanding) on the subject of “lavender fragrances:”

      http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php/385128-Lavender-Fragrance

      Lastly, one thing that might help you are scents that have a lot of lavender “up front” but then seem to transition into a fougere accord. If I remember correctly, Francesco Smalto Pour Homme had this quality, but it’s rather complex overall and I haven’t worn it in such a long time I just can’t say for sure. After wearing such a scent several times, you may begin to recognize how lavender differs from the fougere accord

      • Abi

        maybe it would be helpful to me and readers for you to write a list of the fragrances that you feel are indisputably fougeres containing a crystal-clear fouger accord…this way i can reference that and fully compare to the fragrances you do not consider to be fougeres…because right now what i am reading is that lavender, coumarin, vanilla, and musk is not a fougere to you if it is “without enough coumarin to generate a fougere accord” like i smell in caron pour un homme….what confuses me right now is that you point to the importance of coumarin being listed highly on the ingredients list in combination with lavender for something to be a fougere….you establish this rule by pointing out that boss number one is not a fougere for there being no coumarin listed….then when i give you example of fragrance with plenty of lavender and significant coumarin – high listing of coumarin on the box even – you say this is not a fougere….but maybe if you show me a family of fougeres to compare, i can see the major difference between what you consider “lavender scents,” “baroque fougeres” and “fougeres.” could you write that for me please? when you have time?

      • As I said, I really don’t like the fougere accord, even when it’s mild, though if there are other major elements I sometimes can tolerate it, especially if it largely dissipates within one or two hours. But to put together a list of scents that have a clear and at least somewhat strong fougere accord (without too much opposition, so to speak) isn’t difficult; besides the ones I already mentioned, here are some that you may be able to sample without a lot of difficulty (Woodard for Men may not be easy to find, for example): Azzaro Pour Homme, Rive Gauche Pour Homme, Grigioperla, Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, Montana Parfum d’Homme (the fougere accord is strong in this one, but other notes are strong too), and Quorum. Interestingly, this is what the FromPyrgos author states about Sung Homme:

        Sung Homme could very well be considered a fougère – it has hints of lavender, coumarin listed as an ingredient…

        However, for some reason he goes on to call it a chypre, which is why I said I don’t want to try and untangle the disordered web he has woven here! Who gets to be the Emperor of Scent and declare that despite a strong fougere accord we should not pay much attention to that accord, and why? His explanation is:

        Yet smelling Sung Homme, I’m struck by how sharp and woody it smells. At no point is lavender obvious.

        It may not be to him, but how does he know this is also true for a large majority of others? To me it is glaringly obvious, and he states that it is woody while classifying it as a chypre! These claims of his have become so ridiculous that as I said I am not going to get too involved. If someone wants to listen to him, then I wish you the best of luck. To others, I suggest you don’t get too caught up in labels and classification schemes; either keep studying and let the knowledge come to you, so to speak, or don’t take it so seriously!

  4. Abi

    to you it is glaringly obvious that lavender is in sung home??…why then you never mention it??? here you wrote on basenotes in 2011 about sung homme in your own thread: “What I think the idea with this was to “amp up” Tuscany Uomo type frags. SH is also an “herbal patchouli,” as LT calls TU, but it’s got strong “brightness,” most likely from aldehydes, too. And it’s certainly sweet, as well as “sweaty” (I guess that’s mostly the caraway note). I don’t get the “synthetic” idea that some claim, but that might be the way they are interpreting the aldehydes…I think the SH idea is very good (with the sweaty caraway and a touch of spice and wood), but the patchouli and aldehydes are too strong, and it may be just a bit too sweet as well.”

    and then on fragrantica your review: “I think it’s a combination of several notes, but especially patchouli and castoreum. Though not listed, a castoreum-like effect is quite prominent to me. I do get the lemon at first but it’s quite blended after that, and in fact this may be a great example of a “blob” scent that smells reasonably natural…” you never once mention lavender…

    i agree with you on one thing though….if sung homme is not a fougere, then it is a very strange chypre….is it possible it is an oriental??? is that a weird amber in the heart? like prada amber? you try that one? i remember reading you said orientals were based on amber….and these two, sung homme and prada have amber….

    • My response to that is very simple: I thought it was so obviously a fougere that there was no need to mention it. Back then SH really made me feel ill, so I was curious about what it was that was causing it. The problem couldn’t have been the fougere accord because I was able to tolerate it in other scents, such as some of the ones I mentioned in this post or comments to it. If I had to write a review about it now, I would say that the fougere accord is strong it in, because clearly it has become contentious, at least in the FromPyrgos author’s mind. Another one I remember having this kind of quality is Open (that is, it has a strong fougere accord), by Roger & Gallet, which sells for very little, if you are looking to obtain an example of this type.

  5. willread

    As much as I appreciate this back and forth, it is even more funny that it’s so obvious that ‘Abi’ is the same person as Bryan Ross. I assume that Bigsly knows this. Difficult to stay away Bryan 🙂

    • That was my thought too, but I’m not going to let that stand in the way of the discussion. If it is him, he may feel that he doesn’t want to “help” my blog my mentioning it on his blog, but I am not interested in playing those kinds of games. Let readers decide for themselves !

  6. I admit with some embarrassment that I still read this blog on a weekly basis (usually on the weekends), but unlike Bigsly and some of his readers, I don’t hide behind phony make-believe internet names. Can anyone explain to me what the need is for these weird meaningless monikers? (Bigsly? Sherapop? Some insight, please?)

    The dialogue of the last day or so here has been interesting to read, although I disagree with some of Abi’s points, and agree with some of Bigsly’s. For one thing, it’s silly of Abi to suggest, or even question that Sung could be an oriental – there is not a single oriental accord in its structure, and the amber is not big enough to constitute an oriental. Anyone who knows how these fragrances are classified will recognize the importance of amber in an oriental structure, something that isn’t “sidelined” by a slew of aromatic green notes, as are found in Sung. And I agree with Bigsly that fragrances like Drakkar Noir, Lomani, and the others he lists are excellent examples of fougeres. I also happen to agree that a fragrance like Sung Homme has a possible fougere accord that could arguably make it a fougere, so that’s another point on which I can lean more into his “camp” so to speak. I personally believe the strong presence of synthetic labdanum and moss overrides the fougere classification here and makes it a chypre, but that’s simply my interpretation, as I’ve mentioned already on From Pyrgos.

    Since my name has been mentioned, I think it’s only fair at this point, to put in my opinion. The general gist of what I’ve read in this particular blog post (and indeed in posts dating all the way back to 2010 here) is that fragrance classifications are, as far as Bigsly is concerned, increasingly irrelevant, because if you’re a newcomer to this arena, these classifications are just confusing, and if you’re experienced, the classifications are unnecessary because you know all of this stuff already, and have moved on to greener pastures of enjoying more complex note combinations and styles. This much has been made clear.

    In parsing these comments, what surprises me is how easy it has been for Abi to point out the obvious contradictions here. It’s also surprising that Bigsly did not refer to his own posts beforehand, to avoid these strange convolutions. I congratulate Abi on discovering the “baroque fougere” position from two years ago, and noting how that contradicts the latest claim that Boss Number One is “not a fougere.” But in fairness, I also recognize that Bigsly believes in what seems like a very subjective form of “self-classification,” in which he decides what kind of fragrance he is smelling, based on its structure. I certainly cannot change his mind on these matters, although it would be interesting to see how his positions hold up in a room full of Jeffrey Dames – i.e., professionals with fragrance industry experience who make it their business to segment their products into specific markets and classifications. Over the years, I have made that somewhat clear on my own blog.

    I’ll leave it here with one last question, just out of pure curiosity, which Bigsly can either ignore again, or answer this time, seeing as I’m the one asking it, and we have a little bit of a “history” with each other – Abi asked you Bigsly in an earlier post why you would change your classification of Boss Number One to a “Baroque masculine lavender fragrance,” when you previously stated that Boss has a very light and relatively insignificant lavender note. For whatever reason you skipped the answer to that question, and I can’t help but feel very curious as to what your answer would be. Is it fair to say that as far as “Fougeres” and “Baroque Fougeres” go, you would exclude Boss from their ranks altogether? Or is this particular fragrance something you classify as a chypre, or an oriental? Or do you not have any classification for it? I’m focused on Boss because I’ve been wearing it this week, and with each passing day, I’m increasingly convinced that it is one of the finest fougeres I’ve had the pleasure of owning. Never in a million years would I call it a “lavender scent” but then again, I’m not you.

    • Hi Bryan: To answer your direct question, I did point out (somewhere on this blog) that I would now go with the “complex masculine lavender” scent idea, because I’ve come to realize how “abused” the fougere term has become, which I don’t think was the case back then, or if it was I didn’t see as many reviews as I do now where the person classifies just about anything as a fougere. And as to a “room full of Jeffrey Dames,” I’ve said before (don’t remember which posts) that I think those of us who are studying these vintage scents in detail are in a different position. In at least this area, we are the “experts,” not the perfumers. Of course anyone can disagree, but have they studied many of these scents in detail? I brought this sort of point up at Basenotes.net with perfumer Chris Bartlett and he agreed with me. Also, my guess is that they are much more top notes oriented, especially in recent years, which as you know is the opposite of my main interest in a scent.

  7. Our perceptions of this issue are certainly vastly different. You feel that the term “fougere” is being abused. I don’t see that happening at all. What I perceive instead in the last three or four years is a sort of general malaise about these classifications, especially as they pertain to fragrances of the last ten years or so. It seems that people have all but given up on seriously classifying things, from Thierry Mugler, to Chanel, etc. An example is Bleu de Chanel, which for whatever reason has never been officially classified, either by Chanel or anyone else. I think that because Bleu has no clear fougere structure, and does not have a strong oriental amber, the suggestion of labdanum (Chanel’s trademark department store synthetic labdanum) and a mossy-woody type of base, admittedly hindered by iso E Super, makes it more of a chypre than anything else, and indeed there is a bit of bergamot to go with the grapefruit in the top notes. But people aren’t really too concerned with classifying fragrances like Bleu, or Mont Blanc Legend, or Versace Eros for that matter. The phrase “aromatic” does get thrown around a lot, but in a sense that covers all categories (you can have aromatic fougeres, chypres, and orientals). People don’t seem worried about it, at least not to me. Those who call something like Bleu a fougere are not disagreeing with anyone, simply because no solid positions on what Bleu is have been taken by anyone.

    So I think there is not much of a “muddle” going on these days with the issue of classifying fragrances – unless we make it a muddle intentionally. My thesis is that self-classification of fragrances creates a kind of Tower of Babel issue, with every fragrance connoisseur speaking his own language, and with nobody capable of really understanding anything. I think that if classification is important to you, it’s better to defer to a “guide” of some kind. Doctors have told me that when I’m stricken with vertigo, it’s best to fix my eyes on a motionless object in the room, and keep staring at it until the swirlies go away. If a newcomer is confused and disoriented by the terms that reviewers on blogs and forums keep throwing around, it makes sense to me that the best course of action is to look for an at least somewhat known and respected reference, be it the H&R genealogy charts, or the charts by Michael Edwards (I have some problems with his current classification method, but to each his own). There’s the remote possibility that Haarmann & Reimer were at least fifty or sixty percent accurate in their definitions of masculine fragrances dating to 2001 – their feminines are a little more “loosey-goosey,” – and that gives a confused person a chance to get their bearings and draw their own conclusions.

    My view on your position, and do take it in here, because I will not directly publish this on my blog, is that the idea of there being a “muddle” in the world of fragrance identities is not based on much fact. It’s your opinion, certainly, but I think when it comes to older “classics” like Brut and Arden’s Sandalwood, people generally agree these are traditional woody fougeres. From cornerstones of those fragrances, even you agree that fragrances like Drakkar Noir and Azzaro PH are “aromatic” fougeres. Sometimes in reading your posts and your comments, I wonder if you rely a little too much on the fougere accord rendered in “aromatic” fougeres of the last forty years, and that this confuses you a bit in regards to how a fougere accord works in an old-school traditional fougere like Moustache. But I’ll let you address that in your response, if you wish.

    I remember quite a while ago you published a post that addressed Caron Pour un Homme, I don’t quite remember which one exactly, and you do not seem to feel that fragrance is a fougere because the lavender overwhelms the coumarin, which eclipses the solidity of what you call the “fougere accord.” Here’s where I think the muddle comes in, Bigsly. As Abi mentioned above, if people are led to believe by you that noticeable quantities of lavender and coumarin are the two necessities to make a fougere (by creating a fougere accord), then a newcomer will buy Caron PuH, smell the strong lavender with a sweet vanillic note on the end of it, take a glance at the box, and see that indeed, coumarin is a prominent ingredient, alongside linalool. It wouldn’t be such a big deal for that person to then conclude that Caron PuH is simply a very old and rather simplistic fougere. But if you try to compare Caron – a “traditional” fougere – to one of the aromatic fougeres, like Drakkar and Azzaro PH – then there is grounds for confusion. Saying that the fougere accord in Drakkar and Azzaro is not found in Caron PuH is a foregone conclusion, as these fragrances are separated by nearly fifty years. Do you not think it would be more fitting and prudent to suggest that the fougere accord in Caron PuH might be something that evolved into the fougere accord of Paco Rabanne, Azzaro, and Drakkar?

    If, however, you address that there is a whole different idea of what Caron PuH is, and consider this type of fragrance to simply be a “lavender scent,” then that’s okay, but newcomers are more likely to try to find officially published sources that verify what a fragrance is called, and they’ll not be so quick to go by what strangers on the internet say in forums or reviews, or even blog posts (human nature seeks answers that come with tiny little “R’s” and “T’s” in tiny little circles next to them, because we seem to feel that whatever is “registered” and “trademarked” is more reliable). That’s why finding the H&R chart is considered a “reference,” and not a “rule,” whereas just going out on an instinctual limb and saying something like, “I smell a lot of lavender, so this must be a lavender fragrance,” is fine in one’s head, but questionable in dinner party conversations with anyone who works in the industry. The H&R charts order the answers to these questions in a concise, visual way that, while not perfect, are at least inert, fairly consistent, and easy to reference. I think you would find it difficult to argue with any accuracy that whoever created the H&R chart did it in a “cursory manner,” seeing as fragrances like Cool Water and Polo Sport are put right next to each other, and Jazz and Tsar are also put right next to each other in the fresh fougeres column – they were accurate on those being very similar. Placing the vetivers in the woody chypre categories seems sensible also. Guerlain and Carven’s renditions were not very far removed, certainly not fougeres or orientals, and boasted big bergamot notes. To question some of the more recent releases might be more feasible, especially those that the general population could care less about classifying.

    So I submit to you that while it is admirable to try to steer people into making their own classifications based on what they smell, it’s not exactly admirable to steer people like Abi away from something like the H&R. It’s also tricky to say things like, “fougeres must have a fougere accord of lavender and coumarin,” and then say that something like Caron PuH is NOT a fougere because there’s not ENOUGH coumarin, and TOO MUCH lavender. This strays dangerously close to a sort of super-subjective relativism that truly confuses people. If you simply say that historically this Caron has been called a fougere – and Haarmann & Reimer did not pull that notion out of thin air, mind you – and agree that it complies with the basic principles of what constitutes a fougere that you have laid out here, then the “muddle” issue suddenly doesn’t seem like much of an issue at all, don’t you think? You could then go on to say that, although this is recognized as a fougere in some quarters, it is not recognized as such in your quarter – but that does not necessarily mean it is NOT a fougere, right? Just trying to eliminate your sense that this issue is a “muddle” for yourself and other people.

    • Because, as I said, I have been confused by various comments, some things Turin has said, that chart, etc., as a newbie, I certainly may have said something a while back that I would now retract if I knew where it was. My advice to newbies is to think of CPuH as a scent dominated by vanilla and lavender notes, because I think that what often happens if that if one of them buys a bottle of it, really likes it, then thinks it is a fougere, he may then buy one of the scents I have said seem to have a strong fougere accord and really hate it. I have seen these kinds of comments over the years, such as “what are you guys thinking – this fragrance is a terrible, soapy, old man disaster!” I think that is where my idea of a “Baroque Fougere” originated, that is, because lavender plays a lesser role in these scents, and also that they have other unique features, they deserve a new name that applies to them only. However, after seeing how so many people are now calling just about any “men’s” scent a fougere, I think it would be better to just be specific, even if the language is clumsy. Because mild fougere accords are quite common, I now favor saying something like, “this scent features a strong fougere accord that lasts a long time.”

  8. jtd0000

    Hello, Bigsly. I’m writing a bit about the fougère genre on my site scenthurdle.com. I don’t think we’ll be overlapping in terms of content, and your writing is so informative on the fougère that I was wondering if I may link to your site in my writing. I see that you and the writer from By Pyrgos have some disagreements, and I’ll make the same offer to him as well. I think your discussion of the fragrance wheel and how we categorize perfumes is fascinating. Thanks, jtd

    • Sure, that’s fine. I took a look at your fougere project page and I’ll mention that, as I’ve said before, there is no Olfactory Supreme Court to decide such matters, and when this is the case, I think logic should prevail. That leads to my question, why would there be a fougere in the first place if it’s basically just a “lavender scent?” And as a blog author, one of if not my main concerns is to explain my point of view to readers and possibly help some of them understand at least one way to think about and appreciate scents. And that being the case, I’d say that your classification of Equipage as a fougere is not something that makes sense to me. I’m not sure if it’s got what deserves to be called a fougere accord, but it’s clearly not a “fougere scent” to my nose. Again, if it is, wouldn’t a huge number of “men’s” scent have to be classified that same way? I think Polo Double Black is more of a fougere than Equipage, though for me PDB just features a mild fougere accord and should not be called a fougere scent.

      • jtd0000

        Thanks so much! Categorizing and discussing the qualities of fragrances is tough work. I find the points of differing opinion so interesting because they point to the grey areas. I take your point about Equipage and struggle with finding a ‘place’ for it. Maybe that’s why I love the fragrance. I feel similarly about Sagamore by Lancome, a fragrance I’m wearing right now. Where does it fit? Thanks for your thoughts and consideration. jtd

      • You’re welcome. I think I’d call Equipage a “masculine floral/rosewood scent.” Anything more “abstract” wouldn’t make sense to me. I don’t think classifying scents is easy, because they can be quite complex and one can’t ignore how it relates to other scents that are at least somewhat similar. The old terminology, especially fougere/chypre/oriental, is no longer functional, IMO. And even the older chypres, for example Mitsouko or Rochas Femme as compared to many of the aldehydic chypres of the 70s, don’t seem to deserve to be classified together (as the former two are much softer and have an ambery quality). This is why I came to the conclusion that if you already know a lot about these things, then you don’t need much of a classification scheme, whereas if you don’t you’ll probably be more confused by things like that ‘fragrance wheel.” However, I think that telling a newbie that Equipage is a masculine floral/rosewood would help give them a sense of direction. They could then ask themselves what other masculine florals are like, for example, and think about how they compare to each other.

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