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Houbigant’s Fougere Royale, Royal Fern

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Houbigant’s Fougere Royale, or Royal Fern is an important historical fragrance, unfortunately very hard to come by today. It was created in 1882 by Houbigant’s owner Paul Parquet. Several sources on the web list it as the first perfume containing a synthetic chemical to receive popular acclaim. That chemical was, I believe, coumarin. Coumarin is found naturally in lavender, clover, and tonka beans. The synthetic production of coumarin allowed greater control in creating the distinctive new-mown hay smell. Royal Fern was the first and defining example of the fougere, and lent its name to a whole family of perfumes. Fougere is French for "fern." Most fougeres contain lavender and oakmoss, and are known for their “green” herbaceous smell. The fougere family is pleasing to almost all tastes. One conceptizualization of the fragrance families places fougere in the center, surrounded by the other families, because of the almost universally pleasing nature of the fougere. Literally hundreds of male and female fragrances are in the family of this venerable elder, including ones familiar to us like Penhaligon's English Fern, Trumper Wild Fern, Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren, Cool Water by Davidoff, Creed's Green Irish Tweed, and Paco Rabanne pour Homme. Although the Royal Fern fragrance had a long life, and was apparently revived in 1959 and again in 1988, it is not now in production. Only its many descendents remain.

Basenotes lists the fragrance notes thusly:

Top Notes - Lavender, Bergamot, Clary Sage ,

Middle Notes - Geranium, Heliotrope, Rose, Orchid, Carnation ,

Base Notes - Oakmoss, Tonka, Musk, Vanilla,


I was recently able to find a 4 oz bottle of new old stock Fougere Royale from a drugstore that was open from the 1940s to the 1970s. The decades have been kind to this bottle. It was still in its original box. The bottle was still full. There may have been some minor chemical changes over the decades, but the liquid inside still has the pleasing notes I’ve come to associate with a fougere. As I write this I have Houbigant’s Fougere Royale on my left wrist, and Penhaligon’s English Fern on my right wrist. Every once in a while I sniff one or the other to compare the two in my mind.

The first thing I notice is that the Penhaligons is stronger. This may be due to being several decades newer, or to being applied with an atomizer. The Fougere Royal came in a splash bottle. After each sniff of the Penhaligons I have to wait several minutes before I can smell the fragrance on my left wrist. After a few minutes though, the smell is once again quite evident. The old Fougere Royale can without a doubt stand on its own merits. However, in direct competition with the youngster it is overwhelmed.

The next thing I notice is that the Fougere Royale has a small bit more of a sharp, tobacco note than the English Fern does. Otherwise the two are quite similar, and evoke similar thoughts of a sylvian nature.

The staying power of my sample of Fougere Royale is difficult to rate. After wearing it for several hours I can no longer smell much of it. However, my wife tells me it is still strong.

Fougere Royale spawned not only a host of other colognes and perfumes that continue on to this day, but also lent its characteristic fragrance to many other products. See for example this add which I believe dates from the ‘30s.

attachment.php


The discussion thread for this review is here. If you don’t want to rate this old product please don’t post in this thread, so as not to skew the review scores. If you have memories of this fragrance, please feel free to contribute a review.

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Houbigant’s Fougere Royale, or Royal Fern is an important historical fragrance, unfortunately very hard to come by today. It was created in 1882 by Houbigant’s owner Paul Parquet. Several sources on the web list it as the first perfume containing a synthetic chemical to receive popular acclaim. That chemical was, I believe, coumarin. Coumarin is found naturally in lavender, clover, and tonka beans. The synthetic production of coumarin allowed greater control in creating the distinctive new-mown hay smell. Royal Fern was the first and defining example of the fougere, and lent its name to a whole family of perfumes. Fougere is French for "fern." Most fougeres contain lavender and oakmoss, and are known for their “green” herbaceous smell. The fougere family is pleasing to almost all tastes. One conceptizualization of the fragrance families places fougere in the center, surrounded by the other families, because of the almost universally pleasing nature of the fougere. Literally hundreds of male and female fragrances are in the family of this venerable elder, including ones familiar to us like Penhaligon's English Fern, Trumper Wild Fern, Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren, Cool Water by Davidoff, Creed's Green Irish Tweed, and Paco Rabanne pour Homme. Although the Royal Fern fragrance had a long life, and was apparently revived in 1959 and again in 1988, it is not now in production. Only its many descendents remain.

Basenotes lists the fragrance notes thusly:

Top Notes - Lavender, Bergamot, Clary Sage ,

Middle Notes - Geranium, Heliotrope, Rose, Orchid, Carnation ,

Base Notes - Oakmoss, Tonka, Musk, Vanilla,


I was recently able to find a 4 oz bottle of new old stock Fougere Royale from a drugstore that was open from the 1940s to the 1970s. The decades have been kind to this bottle. It was still in its original box. The bottle was still full. There may have been some minor chemical changes over the decades, but the liquid inside still has the pleasing notes I’ve come to associate with a fougere. As I write this I have Houbigant’s Fougere Royale on my left wrist, and Penhaligon’s English Fern on my right wrist. Every once in a while I sniff one or the other to compare the two in my mind.

The first thing I notice is that the Penhaligons is stronger. This may be due to being several decades newer, or to being applied with an atomizer. The Fougere Royal came in a splash bottle. After each sniff of the Penhaligons I have to wait several minutes before I can smell the fragrance on my left wrist. After a few minutes though, the smell is once again quite evident. The old Fougere Royale can without a doubt stand on its own merits. However, in direct competition with the youngster it is overwhelmed.

The next thing I notice is that the Fougere Royale has a small bit more of a sharp, tobacco note than the English Fern does. Otherwise the two are quite similar, and evoke similar thoughts of a sylvian nature.

The staying power of my sample of Fougere Royale is difficult to rate. After wearing it for several hours I can no longer smell much of it. However, my wife tells me it is still strong.

Fougere Royale spawned not only a host of other colognes and perfumes that continue on to this day, but also lent its characteristic fragrance to many other products. See for example this add which I believe dates from the ‘30s.

attachment.php


The discussion thread for this review is here. If you don’t want to rate this old product please don’t post in this thread, so as not to skew the review scores. If you have memories of this fragrance, please feel free to contribute a review.

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