19 marzo 2012

Houbigant: Fougère Royale and Quelques Fleurs (#2)

This post originates here
Fougère Royale (1882) is the first fougère scent in the history of perfumery, namely the head of a family characterized by the presence of aromatic notes (lavender, anise, sage, basil, tarragon, etc.) coupled with spices and woods, delicately contrasted by a sweet accord (vanilla, tonka bean, heliotropin). Fougère Royale contains coumarin, a synthetic molecule derived from hay which had just been discovered. Even Jicky by Guerlain (1889) contains coumarin, along with linalool and vanillin, and this makes them the first "modern" scents in history, that is not exclusively composed with natural raw materials, and thus with a certain degree of abstraction. 

From Fougère Royale descend all subsequent fougère scents: the most famous Brut (Faberge), Drakkar (G. Laroche), Azzaro, Paco Rabanne, Jazz, Kouros), Cool Water (Davidoff), up to the new modern fougères-type containing fruity, floral and fresh notes as Hugo (Boss), Minotaure (Picasso), L'Homme YSL, Prada Homme, Custo Man (Custo Barcelona) etc.
Maybe because the central note of this fragrance, coumarin, is still used today, the new Fougère Royale is pretty close the Osmothèque reconstruction  I smelled. The differences (from memory) reside mainly in the general feeling of roughness/warm hay of the original, golden and enveloping which in the modern version is fresher, greener, shadier. The effect is delightfully rètro (this fragrance is 130 years old!) and pretty well embodies the intent of the original approach: vigorous, elegant, pleasant to wear even without knowing the whole story!

At the center of Quelques Fleurs (1912) was a delicate bouquet of sumptuous white flowers perfectly balanced, accompanied by aldehydes (C12mna). The effect was not soapy nor enamelled, but bright and soft. A pinch of spice, musk and civet in the base accord gave the scent a sensual and enveloping feel, making it a direct ancestor of Chanel's N.5 -those who could smell a vintage version can feel this closeness. The modern version that I could try retains the floral bouquet though decreasing it in richness, and pushes on the aldehydes, with a result more brilliant, clean/soapy and "spring green". Being essentially a floral aldehydic it remains faithful in the sophistication and cleanness, but as entirely lacking in bottom notes of musk, which worked as a counterpart for aldehydes, it expresses in a cleaner, brighter, fresher, more metallic way. More contemporary, I would say. I think this is an honest attempt to celebrate, one hundred years after the launch, a fragrance that has really made the story. But unfortunately, all restrictions and difficulties in finding the right materials, still keep the original away.

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