Today’s further examination of Les Indémodables centers on Fougère Emeraude (hereinafter spelled without the accent) and Cuir de Chine. One is far more of an aromatic floral and a floral gourmand than an actual fougère, in my opinion, while the other is a lovely fruity osmanthus leather.
Before we begin, I think it would be useful to explain what exactly is a “fougère” in notes and structure since it’s an uncommon fragrance family these days. Wikipedia has a good synopsis:
Fougère, pronounced [fu.ʒɛʁ], is one of the main olfactive families of perfumes. The name comes from the French language word for “fern“. Fougère perfumes are made with a blend of fragrances: top-notes are sweet, with the scent of lavender flowers; as the more volatile components evaporate, the scents of oakmoss, derived from a species of lichen and described as woody, sharp and slightly sweet, and coumarin, similar to the scent of new-mown hay, become noticeable. Aromatic fougère, a derivative of this class, contains additional notes of herbs, spice and/or wood.  […¶]
Perfumes of this type are especially popular as fragrances for men. Many modern fougère perfumes have various citrus, herbaceous, green, floral and animalic notes included. The most common additions to the basic fragrance blend include vetiver and geranium. Bergamot is often present to add sharpness to the lavender top-note. [Additional links within text deleted by me.]
Fougere Emeraude is not, in my most fervent opinion, a real fougère: The mere inclusion of lavender and a smidge of vanilla-scented tonka (that does not smell of coumarin and which is awash in a flood of gourmand vanilla) does not a fougère make. There has to be much more. There also has to be a particular scent profile and bouquet which are missing here.
If I were to categorize Fougere Emeraude, I’d call it an aromatic floral dominated by tuberose that later turns into a gourmand vanilla-laced tuberose floral before ending as a vanilla gourmand. I guess this must be part of Les Indemodables’ explicit goal of making perfumes free from trends:
Paying homage to the roots of perfumery without falling into the trap of imitation [… while creating] perfumes with real olfactive character, freed from fashions and trends.
Personally, I fail to see how creating a misleadingly named “fougère” devoid of all the key, critical traditional elements (like oakmoss, citrus, geranium, hay-like coumarin, etc.) constitues “paying homage to the roots of perfumery.” I wish Les Indemodables would stop with these titles, like the way they called a simple orange soliflore with tarragon in lieu of oakmoss a “chypre” in the case of Chypre Azural. These titular misnomers lead to certain expectations which are soon dashed. I concede, however, that I’m a curmudgeonly conservative traditionalist when it comes to the classical fragrance genres and the standard, historically established ingredients therein, so let’s move on from my grumbling and look at the actual scent in question.
Fougere Emeraude is an eau de parfum that was created by Florence Fouillet Dubois and released in in 2016.
AROMATIC FLORAL FOUGÈRE
A 21st-century fougère that displays the sophistication of tailor-made pieces designed by Haute Couture’s best designers
Indian Tuberose alcoolat 15% ,
French (Saint Cristol area) fine Lavender Grand Cru 3%,
Moroccan Mimosa flowers absolute Grand Cru 1%,
Venezuelan Tonka beans absolute 3%
Contains Clary Sage oil from the Alps*
A few comments on that note list. First, if you’ve never encountered the word “alcoolat” before, Indigo Perfumery (one of Les Indemodables’ retailers) has a good, clear, and simple explanation:
*Acoolat [sic] is the “freshest” version of a botanical on its way to becoming an absolute, with more top notes than the absolute version. A portion of the alcohol that is evaporated to create the absolute is used in order to retain the freshness of the botanical.
Second, after now trying around 8 Les Indemodables fragrances, I’ve concluded that the brand is similar to Le Labo in terms of its misleading fragrance titles and the incompleteness of its note lists. Let’s take the example up above which mentions only 22% of the overall, total fragrance composition; what are the remaining 78% of the ingredients used in making the scent? Remember, the alcohol in which the totality of the raw materials are immersed does not count towards what olfactory oils or absolutes have been used. Here, with Fougere Emeraude, a mere fraction of the ingredients have been listed, even though an omitted element, vanilla, was clearly detectable for hours during the fragrance’s progression before turning into the dominant note during the drydown. I find this all very frustrating, but let’s move on.
Fougere Emeraude opens on my skin with crisp, fresh, sweet, green-tinted tuberose laced with clary sage’s clean, faintly soapy, herbaceous greenness. Within seconds a muscular lavender, smelling both floral and aromatic, barrels its way onto center stage, seizing the now herbal tuberose and giving it a spin.
5 minutes later, new additions (and colours) arrive: mimosa’s sweet yellow pollen and then creamy, ivory vanilla which ties all the plants together. The aromatic, sweet, herbal, clean, fresh, and floral aromas swirl together, enveloping me in a cloud of green, white, and purple that smells robust up close but voluminously sheer and soft from afar.
Over the next 90 minutes, Fougere Emeraude veers back and forth in its focal point and its dominant note from tuberose to lavender, then back again. The clary sage remains part of the tuberose but, after a mere 25 minutes, it is significantly less herbal or soapy. Instead, it comes across as an indeterminate, fresh, clean greenness whose presence serves merely to accentuate the tuberose’s innate, green facets when its in its budding infancy.
As for the lavender, it, too, quickly changes: after 20 minutes, its aroma turns predominantly floral in nature, the way it was in Bogue and Antonio Gardoni‘s MEM. I’m guessing that it’s due to Fougere Emeraude’s overall intense floralcy and the growing sweetness in the base. To be clear, the scent continues to have aromatic and mildly herbal nuances, but I’d estimate that they are less than 30% of the lavender’s profile on my skin and they are also rather muted. As a whole, the lavender smells like the fresh, quietly sweet flowers growing in a meadow. There is none of the aggressive pungency of the dried lavender sachets that turned me into a lavenderphobe during my childhood. Those sachets are typically made up of the lowest grade of lavender. Antonio Gardoni’s MEM showed the variety of other facets, especially the floralcy, that lavender can have when you use the highest quality, grade and/or varietals.
Fougere Emeraude undergoes other changes in the first few hours, but they are incremental, tiny, and largely insignificant to the fragrance’s dominant focus. Roughly 45 to 50 minutes in, the mimosa which had been a tertiary note even in the opening now dissolves, sinking into the tuberose and lavender, and imparting them with a different sort of sweet floralcy, one that feels bright, golden, vanillic, and just a wee bit pollinated in nature.
When taken as a cumulative whole, Fougere Emeraude is, in the first few hours, a unisex, extremely pretty, even somewhat heady, nuanced, aromatic, fresh, bright, and sweet floral scent. I categorize it as a “floral” intentionally because there is nothing in the overall feel, vibe, or notes that reads as a true fougère to me, and I want people who are expecting something more traditional or cologne-like to be prepared.
In fact, let me be as clear as possible, when one takes Fougere Emeraude as a whole and from start to finish, the tuberose is the lead and dominant note for hours on end. How could it not be when it has the highest (listed) percentage by far -15% versus just 3% for the next highest percentage and note, the lavender – in the composition? Since tuberose is the single most polarizing floral in perfumery and since many people hate it passionately, you might want to save yourself some time and just skip down to the Cuir de Chine review below.
An equally important part of Fougere Emeraude is an unlisted note: Vanilla. An intense flood of it appears 1.75 hours in and it remains to the very end. I’m talking about actual, creamy, and highly sugary vanilla, not tonka; there is a clear olfactory difference between the two, even though tonka can frequently take on vanillic properties. The note list does not list vanilla at all, but it was a major part of the fragrance in all my tests.
Even if we assume, arguendo and hypothetically, that the aroma on my skin actually stems from tonka, it still doesn’t make sense to me. How could only 3% of the overall composition, the tonka, be as strong as the 15% tuberose or even surpasses it by the end? A 3% component? I scoff. Honestly, I think Fougere Emeraude has a major vanilla component in the base but that it hasn’t been officially listed in order to keep up the ridiculous pretense that the composition is a “fougère.” That’s just my opinion.
At the end of the 2nd hour and start of the 3rd, about 1.75 hours in, the long heart stage begins and Emeraude Fougere turns into a gourmand floral. To be specific, it’s a simple indolic, syrupy tuberose drenched in cloying sweet vanilla that turns the flower candied in nature. The vanilla is almost like a crème brûlée in nature. The sweet mimosa pollen and the purely floral lavender are heavily subsumed within. There is no greenness, either from the clary sage or the tuberose.
Fougere Emeraude’s drydown begins at the end of the 6th hour and the start of the 7th. The candied, vanilla-drenched, sugary tuberose turns wholly abstract, a blur of white, syrupy, and indeterminate floral sweetness. Tonka arrives to add a subtle suggestion of sweet powder underneath the florals. There is not even a passing whiff of mimosa or lavender at this point.
In its final hours, all that’s left is a simple vanillic sweetness with occasional pops of a nebulous floralcy.
Fougere Emeraude had low sillage when taken as a whole from start to finish but good longevity. With 2 sprays from my atomizer equal to 2 sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opened with about 5-6 inches of sillage that dropped to about 3 inches after an hour. There was no real cloud or scent trail around me. I have to either bring my nose to within 3 inches of my forearm or wave my arm around my face in order to detect the scent. The sillage dropped further 4.25 hours in. Fougere Emeraude became a skin scent on me at the start of the 7th hour, or about 6.25 hours in, though it wasn’t difficult to detect until the 9th hour. In total, it lasted just a hair under 13.5 hours.
For other opinions on or experiences with Fougere Emeraude, you can turn to Fragrantica.
CUIR DE CHINE:
Cuir de Chine is an eau de parfum that was also created by Florence Fouillet Dubois and released in 2016. Les Indémodables describes the fragrance, its notes, and their percentages as follows:
A fresh, elegant and surprising trail paying homage to suede and leather. A sporty chic outfit for unexpected getaways
Chinese Osmanthus alcoolat Grand Cru 10%,
Egyptian late-crop Jasmine absolute Grand Cru 1%,
Chinese Osmanthus absolute 1%,
Turkish Mild Tobacco absolute 0.2%
Contains Clary Sage oil from the Alps*
Cuir de Chine opens on my skin with juicy, sweet, and tangy fruits inlaid with fresh, bright, clean floralcy. The primary and dominant note is, by a wide margin, osmanthus that smells intensely of apricots: There is the tart, slightly acidulated juice of an unripe apricot; the sweet, dripping-down-your-chin juices of a ripe apricot; and the soft muskiness of its fuzzy skin. Lurking in the background is a mixed floralcy that is mainly composed of delicate osmanthus. Minutes in, a subtle nuance of smokiness arrives which gradually buds into a suggestion of leather.
To give you an idea of things, if I had to estimate the prominence of the individual notes in the opening, I’d guess that 85% is comprised of beautifully fragrant, rich, strong, and mouthwatering apricots. The remainder consists of floralcy (13% osmanthus flowers with a sliver of indolic, syrupy jasmine) and the aforementioned abstract, budding base darkness (2%).
It takes Cuir de Chine roughly 35 to 40 minutes for the inchoate darkness to solidify in shape into smoky, resinous leather. Though osmanthus frequently manifests a leather olfactory element, here it feels as though they are separate entities that have been joined together. That is how clear and well-delineated each note is on my skin.
The same cannot be said for the jasmine, tobacco, or clary sage, but that virtual invisibility is hardly surprising given the minuscule quantities of 1% jasmine or 0.2% tobacco. The minute amounts suggest that the perfumer used the notes to, respectively, bolster the floralcy and enrich the leather.
Cuir de Chine is, like all the 8 other Indemodables fragrances that I’ve tried so far, an extremely simple and linear scent. On me, it is primarily a dual-pronged osmanthus soliflore, showcasing the flower’s apricot and leather facets. About 2.5 hours in, a light sprinkling of citrus appears, but that is really the only noticeable olfactory change for hours on end. There is no jasmine, tobacco, or clary sage on my skin in any overt or clearly delineated way, though there is a minor surprise with regard to the jasmine at the very end. About 4.75 hours in, the scent turns blurry and the sillage hovers just above the skin.
Just before the 7th hour, the osmanthus’ floral side takes over, followed by the smoky leather, while its apricot fruitiness temporarily retreats to the background. In the base, a muffled but distinctly tonka-like vanillic sweetness quietly stirs. About 8.25 hours in, Cuir de Chine is an amorphous, sweet, leathery, apricot-ish fruitiness with lurking whispers of jasmine and vanillic tonka (and/or orris powder?) underneath.
The unexpected curveball occurs 10.25 hours in when Cuir de Chine’s drydown begins. Suddenly, the bouquet consists of nothing more than sweet, jasmine-ish floralcy with a hint of vanilla. There is no osmanthus apricot, leather, or flowers. In the final hours, all that’s left is an abstract, impressionistic suggestion of jasmine.
Cuir de Chine had low projection on my skin but excellent longevity. In both my tests, I used 2 good spritzes from an atomiser sample or the equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle. With that amount, Cuir de Chine opened with about 5 inches of sillage. The scent cloud felt weightless and diaphanous in body but, thanks to the concentrated nature of that incredible osmanthus, the scent also felt intense, powerful, and strong when I smelled my forearm up close. Put another way, there is a paradox of airy sheerness from afar and strength up close. (I really wanted to use 3 sprays because I think that would have increased the sillage to a moderate level but, for standardization and consistency purposes, I typically use the equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle in my tests.)
Though Cuir de Chine’s sillage dropped gradually, at the 4.25 hour mark there was no scent trail or surrounding at all. The scent, while continuing to be strong up close in its notes, hovered just above the skin. At the start of the 6th hour, Cuir de Chine becomes harder to detect. At the start of the 7th hour (roughly 6 hours and 10 minutes in), Cuir de Chine is a skin scent. To my surprise, however, the scent lingered on for hours, finally dying away 14.5 hours from its inception. (But 7-8 of those hours involved a skin scent.)
For other opinions on or experiences with Cuir de Chine, you can turn to Fragrantica.
ALL IN ALL:
I may not be hugely enthused by the singularity, simplicity, linearity, and price of the Indemodables fragrances, but there are many things to applaud about the brand’s approach.
First, for all my irritability over the many omissions in the note lists and the inclusion of only a small fraction of the fragrance’s ingredients, I greatly appreciate the brand’s unique transparency regarding the percentages of those listed few because it lets the consumer know just how prevalent each element will be. When brands breezily list, for example, “tobacco,” even though or when that note is a mere 0.2% of the overall fragrance, it can create the expectation that the tobacco will be a noticeable, prominent feature of the scent; a note list that states it’s a mere minute 0.2% of the overall bouquet avoids that consumer trap. So, in my opinion, this aspect of Les Indemodables’ list is highly commendable. I wish other companies would adopt the same candid openness.
Second, after having tried about 7 Indemodables releases at this point, I’ve noticed a few trends. One is the clarity of the dominant two notes during the first 4.25 to 4.5 hours of many of the fragrances. Another is the surprising freshness of many of the scents. To be clear, by “freshness,” I do not mean cleanness like soapiness or aromachemicals like white musk galoxolide or calone. I’m talking about a somewhat innate, authentic freshness and brightness that exists in nature. For example, the tarragon and orange in Chypre Azural, and the floral, fresh lavender and opening green-tinted tuberose buds in Fougere Emeraude. (I’ve never smelled osmanthus in nature or in undistilled non-fragrance form, so I’m not including it.)
Third, I wanted to briefly talk about fragrance prices. As I wrote in my Chypre Azural review, whether or not something is over-priced for the scent in question is a valuation that is purely personal and subjective.
While I wish the $225 price-tag were for a 100 ml bottle rather than a small 50 ml one, I can make a theoretical case for it with regard to Fougere Emeraude and Cuir de Chine. Top-grade tuberose and osmanthus are extremely expensive, and I imagine that the intensely rich, concentrated, opulent Alcoolat versions must be even more so. So, as I’ve mentioned before, you’re paying for the raw materials as much as you’re paying for the overall bouquet.
That said, so many of the Indemodables fragrances that I’ve tried could be categorized as mere soliflores and I, personally speaking, am much less willing to pay these size/price levels for a linear, minimalistic, simple soliflore than I am for a fragrance with more complexity. It is, however, a purely individualistic valuation and calculation. You may feel quite differently. Further, if you are passionate about whatever is the main note in an Indemodables composition, I suspect the price will be worth it for you once you smell the intensity and quality of that note.
To be clear, I am not suggesting a reckless blind buy. If you’ve read me for a while, you’ll know that gambling on how a scent may appear on you (versus on a reviewer) gives me a fit of the vapours. Please order a mere sample or, if you can afford it, one of the sample Discovery sets listed below.
With regard to the two fragrances reviewed today, my personal feelings are as follows: I have a very low tolerance level for sugary or gourmand fragrances so, despite being a die-hard tuberose addict, Fougere Emeraude is not for me, but I’d suggest sampling it if you love sweet florals or the floral gourmand genre. As for Cuir de Chine, it’s one of the loveliest, if not the loveliest, osmanthus soliflores that I’ve encountered – so much so that I’d strongly recommend sampling it if you love fruity floral leathers or fruity leathers. (I imagine it would work particularly well as a layering scent in conjunction with ouds or ambers.) Needless to say, if you’re an osmanthus lover, this one is a must-try.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.