fougère family


It’s bloody 25° C out here!  Highly unusual, even for Italy, and signs of Spring are everywhere.  There’s a magnificent Magnolia tree I must capture, probably will get to that tomorrow.

Since this post is about the Fougère, or Fern in English, family, here’s a picture of a fern in our yard.  This one is a bit dried out because it managed to survive the winter being close to our pond and because the winter was very mild.  It really isn’t time for the ferns to be up yet, way to early, so I’ll take what I can get, beggars not being able to be choosers and all.  But I did want an image to represent this family as I love ferns.

Fougère is a highly versatile family of notes made up principally of Geranium, Lavender, Coumarin, Vetiver and Oakmoss; it’s the bread and butter of perfumery giving structure to many a great perfume.  I needed to get better acquainted so chose three we haven’t covered yet:

Vetiver: this note is grassy, deep and thick like molasses! You can almost feel it sticking to your nose hairs.  Its presence is comforting and solid.  It’s grounding, winter-wet, damp, I sense my heart beat instantly slow down, my solar plexus seems to just ground itself, and I am calm, less anxious.  After 6 hours it dries down into an intoxicating odour for me! It’s gripping and I have to struggle to break free; still warm and dry, early fall, bottomless, an anchor.  Volatility: very low as it is still imposing.

Geranium: begins its journey smelling like Lychee fruit to me, juicy, sweet and rosy; thrilling, exciting and bountiful.  Clean, crisp, light, joyful and the sweetness of life I would call it.  There is a hint of citrus weaving in and out to add a gauzy brightness making it engaging, teasing the sides of your mouth for a smile.  It dries into a lemony, citrus coolness, strangely carnal, but somehow clean and uplifting — wait, I can smell tobacco too!  Volatility: low

Hay Absolute: green and damp, the way the earth smells early in the morning, inviting you to take a nap.  This note lurks!  It has an unpleasant opening similar to something rancid, clouded and heavy.  Hay only begins to open up, really, after a full 2o minutes!  There are definite olfactive similarities to Vetiver.  After 6 hours it’s much more sombre, serious, pensive, I feel like this could be paired easily with Tobacco or Osmanthus.  In the dry down it’s much more mellow, with amazing depth — you just don’t want to put it down! Volatility: low

Not sure what will catch my fancy to chat about tomorrow, but write I will!  Tomorrow is dedicated to perfumery, no housework, maybe a pic or two, and then Friday is the Exsence event in Milan!

Have a wonderful day!


snuffleupagus, vetiver and a week off

snuffleupagusWell it was bound to happen, I’m all stuffed up, can’t smell a thing!  I feel like the Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street bumbling around in a cloud of Kleenex, handkerchiefs and menthol.

This week I excitedly prepared the studio for a week of studying after some other commitments  had me busy over the last ten days and so I was all set to get right down to it and finish my last two families of notes so I could get to a homework assignment.  But now that’s all gone pear shaped. Damnit!

So when life gives you lemons you make lemonade or take pics.  My nose will probably be out of commission for a week, hopefully before, therefore I’ll use this time constructively and take myself off to shoot around here and in studio. If I capture anything remotely interesting I’ll post a pic if not I’ll be silent for a bit and shore up my creative energies.

But before I go, I gotta tell you about something cool that happened!

While out yesterday with Charlie on our walk – I smelled Vetiver!  Not that I could actually smell Vetiver because it doesn’t grow around here, my olfactive memory recalled the scent so strongly that I could actually smell it!  I was elated!  This was a real success for me to “see” my studying actually paying off in the form of scent recall.

Have a wonderful week!

note evaluations: the wood family

the handle of our front door made of a piece of lavender root.
the handle of our front door made of a piece of lavender root

Next to the resins this has got to be my favourite perfume family.  These are the notes that ground, guide and instruct me, not just in my daily life but also on the importance of constructing a perfume upon a solid base – firm and lasting. This in essence is what I extract from this family.

Some favourites that I have in my collection that are part of this group but are not part of the evaluation are: Davana, Oakwood CO2, Birch Tar rectified, Rosewood and Himalayan Cedarwood.

Myrrh: this opened with a freshness that was surprising, strangely I couldn’t smell it out of the left nostril.  Faintly woody, dry and brittle, reminiscent of paint somehow.  It was light, citrusy even and vaguely camphoraceous.  The dry down 6 hours later presented a warm, woody, bark, cinnamonish, drier than before but still present, almost seemed imbedded into the paper.  Volatility: mid-low.

Cistus Labdanum: oh, my God, I’m in love! Resinous, penetrating, sharing aspects in common with citrus for me, woody. Light, warm, reassuring yet sharp (that’s gotta be the camphene I’m detecting).  There is a dark side to this, it’s moving and has the ability to stir the soul, touches the belly, ancient and balsamic.  Drying down reveals tendrils of smoke wafting into the air that are still distinctly resinous, ritualistic, conjuring impressions of an orthodox church, comforting in its permanence, captivating, earth-bound, recalling sounds of Gregorian chants; medieval.  Volatility: still very impressive, so low-mid volatility.

Patchouli: how do I love thee, let me count the ways! Patch equals inner peace for me. Dark and woody, mysterious and creamy in quality. It expresses the woman I aspire to be at my core. Ritualistic, lush, narcotic, dense and bold. Reverent, true to itself, mature, like an anchor, raw power, untamed and unorthodox.  After 6 hours it is still vibrant, but in a much more contemplative way, still creamy, devout and evocative.  In a word: sultry.  Volatility: very low-mid volatility.

Vetiver: reminds me of citrus, dry and woody. I can pick up an animalic note, fecal even, but so soft.  Grassy, cabin in the woods, damp, wet sensation, a feeling of deepness, character, dense, expansive wilderness.  I get the ghost of an impression of Iris root, with a sense that these two could blend very well together.  This note is very persistent, whenever I leave and re-enter the studio I can smell it above all the others I’m currently evaluating!  In the dry down it is still very powerful. Grassy, beige quality, like a blanket. Now it is very warm. Volatility: very low volatility.

Oakmoss: opens clean, fresh, soggy and wet, earthy.  Out of the right nostril I can barely detect it only an impression of “clean”.  Wet woods, green forest sparkling after a warm rainfall, a bit sweet, somewhat dark and leathery.  After 6 hours it has faded to a sweet, balsamic quality, thicker than in the beginning.  Something I hadn’t noticed when I first evaluated this months ago is a faint smoky quality in the dry down, almost of tobacco.  Perhaps it is this sample that has that facet.  Volatility: low to mid volatility.

Cedarwood: awakens with a resinous appearance, soft, clear, clean, crisp with a touch of sweetness, balsamic. I get an impression of the outdoors in the middle of winter, snow, exciting, white! Shortly after I am struck by a sense of majesty, immenseness, a bit sticky, sharing common elements with Birch Tar rectified, leather! Could be a good marriage. Volatility: after 6 hours this dries down to a zingy bite, a touch citrusy, sweet, almost balsamic, similar to Davana, sort of spicy! Low to mid volatility.

Sandalwood: brighter than Cedarwood, woody, I can barely smell it out of my left nostril and it’s almost invisible through my right.  With both I get soft, dry, a bit sweet, exotic, graceful and delicate, creamy, impressions of the Middle East. Hushed. This note lurks in the shadows!  What other mysteries is it leading me to? In the dry down it reminds me of an Indian store I used to work in as a teen. I get wooden jewellery boxes, filled with treasures.  The gem of this note seems to be coming out now after 6 hours with a distinctly round, soft character.  Sandalwood is unapologetic in its nature.  In one word I would describe this note as: Ageless.  Volatility: very low to mid volatility.

Next up is the Powder family and a class experiment. Finally some mad scientist stuff!


Myrrh: 48 hours later still soft, I have to get up close but it’s more intimate now.

Labdanum: 48 hours later it’s very present, less incensey, now just a very lived in feeling, smokey leathery.

Patchouli: 48 hours in and it’s more leafy, comes and goes, softer, more powdery, less noticeable somehow.

Vetiver: 24 hours after and to me this is sort of soapy, still dry and very much out there!  Clear and decisive but tamer though.

Oakmoss: 24 hours later and I still get tendrils of tobacco, plumes of leather, less of an impression but the impression it does leave is darker if that makes any sense.

Cedarwood: 24 hours into the dry down and if this were a colour it would be yellow/green now with a light citrus edge, hints of similarities with African Bluegrass, and still quite perceptible.

Sandalwood: 24 hours on and this note is much more powdery, softer, talcum soft, reminds me of a talc I used to have as a pre-teen with a puffer. It also brings to mind  embers in a hearth early the next morning.


Photo credits: whenever not mentioned the images are taken by me. Door handle image credit goes to our friend: Luca De Nale.