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 !