Chanel, Guerlain, Creed; all prominent perfume houses that your ears are familiar in hearing; nevertheless, when it comes to perfumery, the House of Houbigant deserves just as much attention. A house of high importance to the fragrance industry, shaping the history and our current scent knowledge. Houbigant perfumers have progressed how fragrance is seen, establishing a new fragrance family that still remains one of the most popular families for male fragrances today: Fougère!
A LITTLE HISTORY
Diving into the history of the House of Houbigant, it was founded in Paris in 1775 by Jean-François Houbigant of Grasse. The shop based in the heart of Paris, surrounded by the most luxurious fashion boutiques and the most exquisite of French cuisines, on the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, was initially called ‘A la Corbeille de Fleurs’, with the literal translation being ‘a basket of flowers’. Originally selling gloves, perfumes and bridal bouquets, the shop gained fame for its products and quickly became a favoured house of the royal courts, including customers such as Napoleon, Napoleon III, Queen Victoria, and even expanding further out of Europe into Russia, providing its perfumes to Alexander III.
The House of Houbigant remains most prominent for its creation of the very first Fougère, French for “fern” fragrance; the Fougère Royale in 1882. The mastermind, the nose behind this perfume, Paul Parquet composed his potion with an array of ingredients, the main four being lavender as the top note, geranium for the middle, the heart note, synthetic coumarin as the base, and Oakmoss. These four ingredients differentiate perfume bottles as Fougère, and invariably feature in compositions even today.
Parquet was specific in his creation, with a driving motive to translate his vision of the fern into a scent. To this, he said, “If God gave ferns a scent, they would smell like Fougère Royale.” With each and every spray of this perfume, it was inveterate; a timeless scent had been created.
MORE THAN A PERFUME HOUSE…
In addition to their treasure of a perfume creation, Houbigant was also the first perfume house to discover the process of the isolation of particular molecules from natural raw materials, and more specifically, the isolation of coumarin from the tonka bean.
Initially practiced during the production of Fougère Royale, where the coumarin, which was synthesised in the laboratory from salicylic acid, largely compiled the base note. With this specific use of the synthetic note, the fragrance was given a clear distinction of being the first ‘modern’ perfume, and sprawled excitement amongst its consumers. The crisp, fresh, and sprightly fragrance travelled across borders, across years, decades, even reaching into the 19th century, with celebrities such as Oscar Wilde to have it enveloped on their skin!
THE EVOLUTION OF FOUGERE FRAGRANCES
To say that this fragrance family has gone through several reformations is surely an understatement…From the ingredients, the character portrayed, to the overall scent, these factors reflect the evolution of the fougère family over the years. Categorising the stages into four groups, with each stage capturing different perfume houses, different noses, who have captivated nuances, essences of the fragrance family, to create their own, different variations.
Firstly, the pioneers. They tackle the fragrance by rooting to the origin, creating sensuality, along with a smooth and velvety perfume. This is best exemplified by the aromatic, spicy fragrance for men, BRUT by Faberge.
Then the modernists. They refer to the modern fougère that we smell today. Most commonly aromatic, herbaceous, as well as woody and spicy. With a simple spray onto your skin, you will have a scent tracing behind, after your footsteps, powerful, and with status just like Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche.
The innovators. They have introduced a new composition. Uplifting the Fougère fragrance with vibrant, woody accords, as well as further green, fruity accents, to produce a harmonious blend of classic, and light, contemporary scents. This is best seen in Eternity by Calvin Klein.
And finally, the new talents; these split into two. The first of the branch use leafy transparent watery effects, in combination with accents of mint, citrus, green and ozonic notes. The best example for this, is POLO BLUE, by Ralph Lauren.
The second branch of new talents experiment with effervescence, and fruity notes, bringing more freshness and energy to the fragrance. This is particularly seen in Lacoste Essential by Lacoste.