Houbigant – Fougere Royale (2010)
For years the film industry has seen value in resurrecting movies of the past, coining the term ‘remake’. Sometimes classic cinema is taken, recast and shot in a way that is faithful to the original. For other remakes, film directors are given artistic license to refashion a modern version. In both instances, the project begins with a film that was originally a success and a pioneer of its genre. More often than not, these types of films attract criticism, so when the historic perfume house, Houbigant announced it would launch its own remake, I was not surprised to read some perfume bloggers’ skeptical approach to the news. In 2010 Houbigant refashioned Fougere Royale, one of the house’s successes created in 1882. After its launch it became a pioneer of a new genre of fragrances known as the fougere or fern, perfume family. The fougere accord is built from fresh citrus and herbaceous greens that sit upon a mossy base. Perfumer Paul Parquet’s creation was one of the catalysts for the modern age of perfumery. Within Fougere Royale, Parquet used a recently discovered natural isolate known as coumarin, a molecule that has the scent of new-mown hay. This new molecule helped perfumers escape the confines of nature, increasing their creative freedom. The fougere perfume accord has been a cornerstone of men’s perfumery for the past century giving birth to literally hundreds of interpretations. Any man who has worn cologne since 1882 is likely to have worn a fougere of some description. Although the men’s market has been flooded with different variations of fougeres, author Roja Dove quoted Jean-Paul Guerlain who said, “There are only two good fougeres, Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur- all the rest are for truck-drivers.” Of course, Jean-Paul Guerlain had a vested interest in promoting his family’s own products however I tend to agree that amongst the department stores shelves filled with fougeres, only a handful meet a perfume collector’s standards of quality and creativity. Guerlain’s Jicky (1889) is one of very few 19th century fougeres still in production. This is not the first time Houbigant has relaunched Fougere Royale. The first time was in 1959 with a flacon designed by Enrico Donati. 2010’s version has a strong emphasis on quality. The flacon is ornate with bold metal details and a lattice motif etched across the glass body, reminiscent of the infamous flacon created by Lalique for the house of Houbigant. Overall it has a masculine feel and weight to it. Head perfumer at Givaudan, Rodrigo Flores-Roux worked with author and perfumer Roja Dove to direct this ‘remake’.
The original Fougere Royale fell victim to its own success. A fougere is not necessarily an expensive thing, as none of the components are overly expensive to produce. The low production cost and popularity of the scent is no doubt one of the reasons why so many imitations have been made over the years and why most men are now sadly exhausted by this style of perfume. Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Roja Dove certainly had their work cut out for them. The pair approached the brief with quality in mind. Sourcing niche synthetics from Givaudan and costly naturals from Robertet, nothing about this new Fougere Royale was going to be ordinary. The result is a stunning fougere from top to bottom. It starts with fizzing citrus notes. Mediterranean herbs and lavender absolute are paired with a floral bouquet of Rose de Mai absolute, carnation and geranium. Spices and darker tones underpin the whole creation; cinnamon, amber, patchouli and tonka bean add a warmth and complexity you will not see in lower grade fougeres. There is an animalic growl at the start. This fades off and is replaced with powdery musk and sandalwood notes reminiscent of the great 1980s fougeres. In terms of tenacity, the fragrance is offered in an eau de parfum concentration or a special parfum edition if cost is no issue. I find the fragrance lasts well; it is a faithful companion throughout a full day of wear.
This is a perfect scent for those men lamenting the loss of the great power fragrances of the 1980s. Although many of these perfumes are back in vogue, most of them are leather or oriental styles. The time of the fougere is well and truly over. I grew up on fougeres, Yves Saint Laurent’s Jazz, Azzaro Pour Homme, Ralph Lauren Polo; the list goes on and on. Discovering this new Fougere Royale was a welcome reincarnation of a classic style. Flores-Roux and Dove’s work is not a vintage restoration as it has a very contemporary feel. Those men wanting to explore the ghost of the original Fougere Royale will become disappointed and those men wanting to have a modern fougere built around quality ingredients should be happy with this find. It is a straightforward fragrance offering little in terms of surprise. The perfume’s strength is simply that is smells so good.
Perfumer: Rodrigo Flores-Roux
Bottle designer: Jean-Christophe Gaydon (Lalique Creation Studio)
Release date: 2010
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Mossy woods