The Modern Fougere: Kurkdjian, Malle, Penhaligon’s


Post by Liam


Howdy Hum Salubrious Scentophiles.

Of the entire gamut of fragrances, I am most cautious of the Fougere.

Why? Do this for me- play a game of covert ops (if you are a man, this is easy. If you are a woman, pretend you are buying a gift for a boyfriend). Head on down to your local department store and ask the question: “I am looking for a safe fragrance at around the one-hundred dollar mark”. Tell them he doesn’t often wear scent, perhaps only for special occasions.

I am willing and happy to wager that if they do not offer you an aquatic to try, they will then offer you either a fragrance in the wood category or the Aromatic Fougere.

The Modern Fougere: Kurkdjian, Malle, Penhaligon’s

What’s wrong with the mass market Fougere? The structure of a Fougere is largely complex, richly layered with a harmonious topdown structure from a vibrant citrus top note, an aromatic hum in the middle, and a weighty wooded base at the bottom. When perfumes mess with these transitions, with cloying drydowns and/or linalool and ambroxan driven facets, piercing top notes, and imperceptible accords – the Fougere has been tarnished.

Jean-Paul Guerlain made a statement that I am inclined to adhere to. He believed that apart from Guerlain’s two Fougere scents – Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur, any other Fougere is for truck drivers. Given my current and (of course) personal perspective of the market, I am inclined to say the same.

However! The Fougere begins to shine a pulsating, welcoming, and soft glow when we begin to look at a few more ‘uppermarket’ scents. Here are my favourite Fougeres for a contemporary market.

Sartorial Penhaligon`s FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Sartorial by Penhaligon’s

A superstar in the fragrance community (and when you have the confidence, fragcom is the appropriate blend word to use), I personally really admire Sartorial for its classicism.

I get what I want from Sartorial: a lavender, amber, and sandalwood structure that alloys down a citrus impression at the opening. But Duchaufour takes it a step further. He places the scent in context. In a Saville Row tailor’s workroom. Beeswax, metallic notes, steam-iron notes, and a linen fabric accord intermingle with the classic structure giving depth, definition, and clarity. A wonderful scent.

Masculin Pluriel Maison Francis Kurkdjian FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Masculin Pluriel by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

This is the antidote to my woes. I am saddened by a lack of clarity in Fougere scents – with these instead presenting a musty static that I cannot bare. Much like Sartorial, the name suggests a throwback to what makes a masculine fragrance – a Fougere! Lavender is a must, along with red cedar, leather, and patchouli. A fragrance representing a quest for the ‘eternal masculine’, a ‘timeless scent’, this comes pretty close. It it predicable and forward, like a good gentleman.

GeraniumPourMonsieur FragranticaPhoto Stolen Fragrantica

Geranium Pour Monsieur – Frederic Malle

A minty wildcard, I am currently really liking this one. It is tenacious. It opens with a smooth abrasiveness from Chinese geranium – giving a floral potency lifted with nose tingling mint, anise, and ouzo notes. Combined with the spice of clove, cinnamon and then swept with crystalline musk – Geranium Pour Monsieur omits the toothpaste impression but retains its menthol-like freshness. It is precise; a well-tuned creation that plays on cool and hot. Creating a sophisticated, refreshing and tonic-like fragrance, Geranium Pour Monsieur is probably the best mint-driven scent on the market, and a superb quasi-fougere.

Be kind, and rethink your labelling of the (otherwise almighty) Fougere.
What’s a modern Fougere to you?


P.S I’m away for a while, Yr12 exams! See you soon!

10 thoughts on “The Modern Fougere: Kurkdjian, Malle, Penhaligon’s

  1. Hey there Liam,
    I would never have though of Geranium pour Monsieur as a fougere. You make me want to go spritz and live the whole extravaganza. This was my first ever Frederic Malle bottle.
    Portia xx


    • Hi Portia – see my comment in reply to Fazal to understand why I call this a fougere.

      My first Freddy Malle was Dans Tes Bras. Mmmmm concrete mushrooms. I have six at the moment, and I want them all!

      -Liam xoxo


  2. i have sartorial and masculin pluriel but i have been hesitant to try geranium since it is often called minty…even i would not have guessed its lavendary


    • Hi Fazal.
      The idea behind GPM is best described as “same structure, different components”.
      What I mean is, a fougere from my understanding doesn’t have to be lavender. It has to be a floral component. And so, Geranium fits the bill.
      Then of course comes the woody backbone which we expect, some white musk and amber for body and a rush of aromatics in the form of anise and mint in place of citrus.

      And so, GPM has everything a fougere should have: Aromatic top notes, floral heart, warm base. Wonderful!


      • thanks Liam..very very detailed response and has improved my understanding of fougere creations. you know, even more than lavendar, i associate fern with fougere category so it seems the def. of fougere has continued to evolve over time


  3. Thank you for another great post, Liam! Ace your exams and return to us soon.

    Of the three fragrances mentioned above I have only tried the GpM and like it a lot. I imagine a modern fougere using geranium, nasturtium and some leafy, wet thing. What does a fern smell like, anyway? I guess I’ll just go out to the garden and find out!

    Azar xx


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