The Ultimate Fougermand is… Paul Smith’s London for Men?


I was inspired to write this post after reading a review of Cotton Club for Men over at the FromPyrgos blog. The author, Mr. Ross, views this scent as a fougere, though there is not even a fougere accord present, to my nose (and the note pyramid does not list coumarin or tonka bean). And while I don’t think London should be called a “fougere” scent either, it does possess a clear fougere accord, which is one reason I never really liked it, though I like the other notes in it and think it’s reasonably natural smelling. Just so nobody thinks I’m putting words in his mouth, this is his exact statement:

I happened across another very good fougère, a little scent called Cotton Club…

There are a few non-niche scents like Cotton Club, including Cristobal Pour Homme, Rochas Man, and Legend by Michael Jordan. These three list amber but not coumarin or tonka bean in their note pyramids, whereas London does list it. I’m not sure why this is something Mr. Ross doesn’t understand, as it seems about as obvious as anything in “modern perfumery,” but I feel obligated to point what I consider to be a glaring flaw in his thought process on this subject to my readers. All these scents have lavender notes, but having a lavender note is irrelevant, and in fact if a scent only needed a lavender note to be a “fougere,” more than a few “feminine” scents would be fougeres as well !

What is so “bad” about calling a scent a “masculine lavender gourmand?” Anyway, since I’ve recently spoken on this subject a couple of posts ago, I’ll move on to London. First, I’ll point out that I think the term fougermand works nicely here on an abstract level, because the fougere accord is clear but so are the gourmand elements. I don’t know if this is what the perfumer intended but it certainly seems like the idea was to create dynamism between the two major elements that are present in this scent. Here are the notes (from Fragrantica.com):

Its formula combines mint, violet flower and leaf, mandarin leaf and orange at the top, followed by vetiver, jasmine and lavender in the middle, drying down to the base of amber, Tonka bean and Australian sandalwood.

At Basenotes.net, a brandy note is also listed in the base, and it certainly seems like one is present to me. And while some fougermands were created before London, none have the balance and liveliness that London possesses, without having a scintilla of crudeness in it. In fact, I’d say this general idea has been rather heavy-handed and clumsy, A*Men being an obvious example, though for me I like some of them as a “change of pace” once in a while. So, I would be more than willing to concede that if you want something that is more “in your face,” London is not likely to be your ultimate fougermand. However, I think London is an “artful” composition, and I really wish I could appreciate it, but the fougere accord ruins it for me. By contrast, I find scents like Cotton Club to be enjoyable because I don’t encounter that accord !

For this post, I decided to do an ankle sampling of London. I wore it normally a few months ago but didn’t enjoy it, so I decided to do an ankle sampling. I’ve found that one kind of wearing/sampling can vary significantly from the other. Yesterday, I did an ankle sample of London, and liked it a bit more that way. My main problem with it is that the fougere accord here persists to long, like the proverbial “crazy uncle” who has to interrupt every conversation to tell everyone about his conspiracy theory that he claims explains everything. This is a case where I’d really like to know what it would smell like if the fougere accord had not been added and instead only the “best” ingredients were used. I’ve come to think that fougere accords might be used to mask lower quality ingredients!

Of course if you don’t the violet or brandy notes, you may dislike London. Calling it a fougermand may cause more problems for someone with such preferences. Thus, I have my reservations about using terms like fougermand, and I thought it would be good to discuss London for this reason as well. That is, there is a rather novel brandy note in it and it begins with some clear violet, which is not something that anyone has claimed to be important (or even useful) to scents with a strong fougere accord. And so I can reiterate a question I’ve put forth before, which is, “why do some people consider it so important to reduce a scent to a one or two word designation?” If someone is willing to spend some time reading about a scent like London, why not tell them that you detect a unique brandy note, that the fougere accord is obvious, that there is violet in the opening, and that the drydown dynamism is mostly about the fougere accord playing off the slightly powdery gourmand element?

Not doing this may generate more confusion than anything else, especially for the newbie. Perhaps there is a kind of “intermediate” range of understanding which renders new terms like fougermand (or gourmanere) useful. However, I think this is a case where the sophomore is asked for advice by the freshman and often misleads him or her. It may be a “classic” instance of the old saying, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, though here the danger is likely mostly to the person’s wallet. In any case, what I’d like to see more than anything else (in this context) is for those who write about scents to either be more detailed in their descriptions or to admit that they are not to be considered “experts” in certain areas, as I’ve said about my attempts to largely avoid top notes, for example. If one does this, then I think there would be much less confusion “out there.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

One response to “The Ultimate Fougermand is… Paul Smith’s London for Men?

  1. EDP

    Brilliant remarks on London. Kudos.

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