Fougère Bengale: from the Cyclades to India in a whiff

tobacco nights

There are some perfumers who aim not only at making beautiful perfumes but whose work also aims at creating atmospheres, instant clouds of illusions that transport us in different places, situations. Some perfumes are just liquid air from a place bottled. Not many. They are rare. For me Fougère Bengale is one of the most impressive ones of this kind. It was composed to recreate the scent of tiger hunt. I wouldn’t know. I have never been tiger hunting and I wouldn’t even if I could. I have never been to India. Yet it does transport me. Not to India. To a Greek island.

It is a warm summer night. Walking back from the beach through sun dried land. Dried mediterranean bushes lace the path. It is night, too dark to see, only a few meters around. Dried, golden, thorny bushes and grass. The darkness is familiar but still the noises of nature make jump. The night mist is coming from the sea, returning to the tried land the moisture the sun has taken away. And some salt. The dried, thorny busshes soften, they become leathery. The mist seeps into the leaves and twigs and frees the herbal aromas. The burst of  scents is thick, concentrated. This is Fougère Bengale to me. The essence of my childhood’s summer nights.

It opens with a mildly sweet balsamic herbal top. There is a hint of wine vinegar in there too. An unusual lavender pokes its head through the herbs, very shyly though. Golden hues of dried herbs form a dense canvas. Aniseed, fennel, tea, sage, thyme, juniper. And above and beyond all, tobacco leaves. Blond, freshly dried tobacco leaves. The overall effect is the smell of thatch soaking in deep night mist. It doesn’t develop much. It just rounds up a bit with some sweet port notes.

Most reviewers smell curry in this. Curry in the perfumer’s cabinet is immortelle. I smell none of this and immortelle is one of my favourite notes. And immortelle is not listed in the official list. Is this massive illusion of India a testament to Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s magic ability to create olfactory landscapes? Give it a try and decide for yourself.

Notes from official site: assam tea, warm gingerbread, hay, tonka bean, mossy and woody notes, patchouli, vanilla, honeyed blond tobacco accord

Notes from my nose: garigue shrubs, thatch, port wine, tobacco

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

18 comments

  1. This one sounds interesting, imortelle is a note that can really be hit or miss in a perfume. I really like your description of where this scent takes you!

  2. I’ve never tried this one but your review of it is stirring and lovely. Enjoyed seeing the place where you experienced your childhood’s summer nights — did you grow up on the island, or was that the place of your holidays/vacations?

    • I grew up in Athens so the memory of the rural environment and the contradiction of smells was stronger. It is very interesting that scents with a strong emotional impact usually draw me back to childhood.

  3. I was pointed to your blog by Suzanne of The Perfume Journal and I’m very glad for it.
    First, L’Air de Rien which I only discovered yesterday and then Fougere Bengale (which I recently bought a bottle of) – great reviews.
    I can’t help the feeling, but Fougere Bengale always makes me want to roar (I guess that makes it a lion hunt then for me). ;)

    • Thanks for looking for my blog Ines. I am glad you find posts you can relate to. What did you think of L’Air de Rien? EDIT: I read your post. Great take on this! You managed to break into the notes. Isn’t it just plain weird in terms of composition? I don’t think there are any topnotes in this.

      Fougere Bengale has an unprocessed quality, it feels raw and herbal. I think this is why it makes you want to roar. It smells like a force of nature.

  4. Why didn’t I think of that?! Now you said it, yes, it does smell like force of nature. :)

    L’Air de Rien is one of those rare perfumes that make me wonder if I should even write about them. It sort of hovers at the edge of words and doesn’t let you describe it or break it down into notes (or very barely). All the while smelling fascinating – my take on the notes was more looking over my shoulder at what I wrote and then seeing the notes listed (and thank you). :)
    I’m always fascinated by compositions like that.

  5. Great review, Though not one of my favourites from PdE. Fragrance equals emotions, images and senses for me too. Unfortunately FB transfers me directly to Pak-Indian kitchens… Sorry Chris

  6. Sometimes I wonder if I like the review more than I [would] like the perfume itself. I liked peeking into your childhood summer, I enjoy your description of this perfume and I have no idea if I’d like it or not. One day I’ll try it and see.

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  9. I didn’t know I wanted Fougere Bengal till I read your review. Oh dear! I must seek and smell. thanks
    Portia x

    • It’s a force of nature… Although I realize it is not a conventional composition every time I smell it I cannot understand how someone can not like it. Contradicting but I hope it makes sense :)

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