Friday, June 7, 2019

Drinking Fig Gin and Smelling of Fig Perfume

Figs were revered by the ancient Greeks as a staple of life and this year on the annual sojourn to my husband's home in Adelaide I discovered a drink that would have truly been considered a nectar of the gods by those ancient Greeks. Pot & Stills Fig Gin is produced in the Adelaide Hills by a fig grower who was wondering what to do with all their excess figs a few years ago and with the help of a local distiller began turning them into gin. My introduction to the brand came at Cellar Door Fest, a monumental extravaganza for local small wineries who want to make consumers aware of their products. Amidst all the gorgeous wine displays I came across a sight similar to the one below.

The beautiful display of figs and the attractive gin bottles got our attention and after sipping it we left with a bottle of the stuff. I'm not always a gin lover but this drink is fantastic mixed with tonic and excellent just to sip straight with ice and a lime, but don't try bothering to find it unless you're in Australia. Production isn't that large and it has become so popular you have to practically be there when it's being unloaded from the truck to put on the store shelves.

All of this interest in figs got me to thinking about figs in perfumery, for as those of you that love perfumes know, it is always about the scent! Fig is one of the favorite notes I love to wear in summer. It is totally unisex. Almost any fig perfume I can name suits men and women equally well. It is refreshing on its on, but depending what notes the perfumer chooses to surround the fig it can be green, beachy, or jammy, and in my opinion they all have their own appeal. The recent history of fig perfume all started with one woman, though, Olivia Giacobetti who created Premier Figuier for the at-the-time newish brand L'Artisan Parfumeur in 1994. Premier Figuier is said to be the first fig perfume. Two years later Giacobetti would make a fig scent for Diptyque called Philosykos. I own both and only when testing side by side for this post realized that having both is probably redundant.

Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti.

L'Artisan Primier Figuer EDT is like a love letter to figs. Green and succulent, fresh and realistic as if one's hands are covered in figgy pulp. I can smell the purple bruise-colored skin of the fig, the green leaves of the tree, and the way the delicate branch holding the weight of the fig gives a "snap" and you get a hint of the goodness inside the fruit, escaping through the tiny hole left by breaking the connection to Mother Tree. Let me add here that I tried Premier Figuier Extreme and did not get this opening. I didn't find it very interesting so the review is only for the original version. A light milky scent tinged only slightly by coconut creeps in and everything in the scent comes down a notch, not an uncommon occurrence with L'Artisan scents, which are not known for their longevity. Long before its base note of sandalwood appears the scent is just a slight imprint on my skin. I guess this is why the Extreme version was made, but it does not feel like the same scent on my skin. I give this one a 10/10 for the realistic and natural scent but a 3/10 for longevity. But by perfume standards today it's not too expensive so my solution is to carry a decant with me and periodically respray throughout the day, giving myself a small thrill of pleasure each time that I do. I will add that like several of the L'Artisan fragrances, I think it is long gone and then it pops up again, out of the blue.

When I spray Diptyque Philosykos on its own I really enjoy the opening and it feels like fresh fig, but when I do the side-by-side comparison to the L'Artisan it pales for me. It's opening is at first green, but it made me think swampy green. The fig comes in next and it is pulpy and more green than sweet. The milky essence becomes very noticeable. As the scent develops I sense a wetness as if the rain is sitting on the broad fig leaves in droplets and also that smell of wet earth. The scent becomes slightly fruitier and the coconut is there, although not super strong. This one outlasts the L'Artisan EDT on my skin and it becomes a clean yet sensual skin scent eventually. Yet if I had to pick a favorite it is the L'Artisan. The first try was the charm, Olivia.

When I reviewed the Imaginary Authors scents back in 2016, Yesterday's Haze was one of my favorites and you can read the review here. In my original review I wrote about the warmth of the tonka and the delicious figgy vanilla cream. This time, though, I smell just a hint of smoke and woods, like a campfire smoldering near a fig orchard. The smoke smells very organic and it mingles with the slight sweetness of the fig. The Imaginary Authors website lists playful notes of walnut bitters and orchard dust, so perhaps it is the "hazy" notes which create this sense of smoke or dust for me. The greenness of the fig--the twigs, leaves and branches-- are emphasized over the sweetness of the fig in this scent. I am finding this less gourmand than I did three years ago. Can aging skin account for these changes? In any case, I liked it in 2016 and I like it in 2019.

Lothair by Penhaligon's London is a part of the Trade Routes perfume series and is meant to "evoke the tea clipper ships that navigated the globe to bring exotic treasures to Britain's shores." Opening notes are cardamom, grapefruit, juniper, and fig leaf, with heart notes of fig milk, lavender, magnolia, and black tea. Notes of wood, vanilla, and musk round out the base so it is obviously not a fig dominant scent, however the fig note is significant enough to include Lothair in this review. Lothair's opening is dry and spicy and one can picture sailors hauling big wooden trunks on board, fragrant with the scent of cardamom and other spices. Their is the salty tang of sea air and I can almost hear the waves beating against the boat's wooden hull. A whiff of black tea leaves comes from the bulging burlap bags. The fig leaf and fig milk add a slightly gourmand touch to the scent. English tea with cream anyone? This scent has a story to tell and it takes it's time unfolding. Towards the end of the scent life I get a mixture of spice and nuts that is addictive to me, almost like a warm grain cereal seasoned with spice and warm milk and sugar. This scent has a masculine vibe but I love to wear it for it's yum factor. Bertrand Duchaufour is the perfumer.

Detail of lotus painting from Jaipur City Palace, India.

Duchaufour is also responsible for the next perfume I want to discuss, Neela Vermeire Ashoka. The journey of Ashoka is meant to reflect the evolution of the Indian emperor from a ruthless conqueror to a benevolent ruler after his conversion to the Buddha's peaceful teachings. The scent starts with a fierce opening and softens into a floral heart. My own reflections when I spray this scent are Holy Fig! It's that beautiful to me and it is interesting that my mind went there, as Ashoka was a man transformed by his religion.

First are watery notes of lotus, hyacinth and fig leaf which make me think of the lotus dappled water surrounding the floating palace in Udaipur (or they were thirty years ago when I was there on my one year wedding anniversary). There is a thread of scent in this opening that takes me immediately back to the scents of India, garnered from the four years I lived there. I can't describe it to you but my brain recognizes the smell immediately and all I can say is that Duchaufour did his homework. Then creamy sandalwood mixes with milky fig for a swoony comforting and slightly sweet gourmand. In addition to the sandalwood there is a slender trail of incense rising. This is not strong; picture walking past a single burning incense stick with a faint but lingering smell. My perception of this note could be coming from any of these notes: fir balsam, myrrh, ambre gris, birch, Haitian vetiver, or styrax. Ashoka is absolutely gorgeous for the first hour but unfortunately after that the scent weakens considerably on my skin. If I could maintain that beautiful creamy opening of the fig mixed with the sandalwood/temple vibe I would be bathing in this stuff.

L'Artisan Caligna  was made to represent the clary sage fields surrounding Grasse and is an aromatic perfume. In the L'Artisan copy they speak of a jasmine marmalade note which had me super excited when I read it, but which I unfortunately never experience. The scent opens with a note of young fresh green fig. I smell the branches and leaves of the fig tree and the scent that pops into the air in that moment a fruit is plucked from the branches. This is a little more herbal than some of the fig scents I tried. It is innocent and light, and in my case, too light. It just doesn't have the appeal for me of it's sister scent, Premier Figuier, but if you aren't sure about wearing the fig note in perfume this could be a good introduction to the category.

The view from Villa Kerylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France, Cote-de-Azur.

Jardins de Kerylos by Parfumerie Generale references a villa built in the Greek style that sits on the tip of the Beaulieu-sur-Mer peninsula, surely some of the most hallowed real estate in the world. Pierre Guillaume of Perfumerie Generale is French, and although I see fig in perfume as a more earthy and rustic note, this perfume has just a touch of that French fairy dust that makes you think "perfume" and not "fig jam".  The perfume opens brightly, a shaft of sunlight through the dense leaves of the fig tree.The fig note is a bit more muddled but does provide the customary earthiness and fresh fruit gourmand goodness. If you want your fig perfume to be a touch more sophisticated, Jardins de Kerylos could be one to try. A note of sycamore helps keep it dry and woody, and the perfume accentuates the green and woody aspects of fig. Guillaume describes this as luminous and it is so. Fig can be an earthy note but in this perfume it floats. Also to note, I can smell an impression of water, perhaps from this view of the villa.

Heeley Figuier opens with green fig and a touch of coconut. There is a touch of that aquatic note that makes some people smell pickle juice, but I only get the occasional whiff of that and it's not off-putting. The big opening fades quickly on my skin and then the aquatic/pickle smell is more noticeable. If you are sensitive to that note you may not appreciate this perfume. I think it might be discontinued as I am not finding a readily available link to buy.

Au Pays de la Fleur d'Oranger Figue Fruitee is the first scent that I've tried from the Au Pays line (I refuse to type the long name again) that I didn't fall for. It's not that I dislike it but it leaves me underwhelmed. Everything is very muted. The fig isn't really green and is not that fruity. It is a well mannered scent but rather forgettable. I would describe it as fig perfume at 50%. A leather note makes it dry as old boots.

Lubin Figaro is inspired by the Figaro trilogy of comedy plays written by Beaumarchais in 1778 (not a particularly funny time in France, the French Revolution would follow the next year). Figaro's opening is slightly alcoholic to me, but then a note of vetiver enters, grassy, dry and hay-like. This is a masculine scent and although there is a note of fig hiding amongst the vetiver, it certainly isn't prominent. This scent smells like a ride in a horse-drawn cart down a rustic country lane one hundred years ago, the fields lined with hay and in the distance there is a small fig orchard. This scent is dry and dusty.

DSH Perfumes Figue Interdite is a part of the Les Fruits Defendus, vol. 1 line that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz introduced last summer as light weight colognes for hot summer weather. This perfume is 100%  botanical and you can sense this when you smell, or maybe it's what you don't smell...any trace of chemical or synthetic scent. The scent is fresh and pure and totally natural. It is somewhat green, somewhat juicy, but not overloaded with either, just as you would find a fig tree in nature. At the beginning I smell flashes of an herbal, tobacco-like scent. It's very faint and maybe it is the ambrette seed or the vetiver that I am smelling. Although on the surface it would seem to be a simple perfume, like most of Dawn's creations it has a host of ingredients: balsam fir, costus, orris concrete, Mysore sandalwood, Texas cedarwood, jasmine, linden blossom, mimosa....the list goes on and on but you get the idea. Somehow she magically puts these diverse ingredients together and comes up with...fig, and a beautiful fig it is. Like most botanicals on  my skin, longevity is not astounding but that's the trade off. It is a watercolor wash of fresh fig with a beautiful woody skin scent dry down. Love!

Profumum Roma Ichnusa is green, green, green and in my world, this is a good thing. It's subtle, not a big sillage blaster. It is the green of the fig leaf, the actual fruit of the fig is downplayed here, and the green is like forging through a dense tropical jungle of green leaves. There is a touch of fragrant earth and the fresh aspect of the fig plant. Looking at the listed notes: myrtle, grass, hay, fig leak and fig tree wood, it is no surprise that the perfume feels green. I read that it is a salute to the coastline of Sardinia.

Carthusia Io has been around since 2000 and the perfumer is Laura Bosetti Tonatto. It starts off with a slightly bitter herbal note, not an unpleasant bitter smell but it is bone dry. Beneath this there is a note that reminds me of ocean water with only the slightest tang of salty air. Eucalyptus and mint in the top notes are refreshing and cooling. Anise adds a touch of spice, balanced by calm notes of tea and mint. This feels fresh and bracing, and like one of those scents that would cool you off on a hot day. The fig is dry and green. Very likable.

Don't let me forget Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee. This iconic scent by Jean Claude Ellena seems like it's been around forever (it was 2003) but because you see it everywhere I think it can be underrated. This is my favorite of all the Jardin series by Hermes. Jean Claude Ellena said about it, "An expression in perfume of a Mediterranean memory, a mosaic of olfactory, visual, and tactile sensations." From its watercolor wash of citrus note openings to the wood notes of cypress and cedar, it is the fig leaf that has the most distinctive presence. The notes sound simple but this is Jean Claude Ellena we're talking about, one of The Masters, and it is perfection. For some reason I had never taken this on beach vacations but this year I took it to Australia and wore it for my walks along the beach. Mama, Mia! I smell the salt of the water as if the crystals are drying on my skin and in my hair! I only get that salty aspect with the addition of some good old ocean breeze.

Now for something a little more gourmand, Les Senteurs Gourmandes Figue Sauvage  by Laurence Dumont, France. This is a flowery fruity fig with gourmand aspects. If you like fruity florals this is safe territory and you will recognize the dark sweet fruits mixed with ylang ylang and other floral notes as similar to that deep sweet richness found in other perfumes of this type.

Two fresh and light fig scents that I've written about before are Roger & Gallet Fleur De Figuier and Feuille De Figuier. I bought these when I was in France last year and they are pretty inexpensive but refreshing and lovely scents that I've enjoyed wearing. Fleur De Figuier is slightly sweet and Feuille De Figuier is the more green fig leaf. Both are fun, "don't think about it, just spray", type scents. You can read a detailed review here.

Here's one you can treasure hunt for, Miller Harris Figue Amere. It is discontinued but it used to be readily available at places like I see that is it not, now, but it is still on Amazon. This is a different fig scent; for one thing there appears to be no fig in the ingredients. It manages to juggle fresh and realistic nature smells but at the same time have an Oriental perfume formality. Notes include angelica, balsam fir, violet leaf, narcissus, rose, amber; no mention of even a fig leaf, though. It is like a Picasso, the painting is a woman who doesn't look quite like the woman but you get the idea. Same here. It is not exactly fig but it captures the green bitterness of the leaves and twigs and there is a fruity sweetness underneath it all that resembles fig. More than the other scents I've listed here, this is a fig in high heels and a black dress, or for a man, in a tux and tie. This is one of the few scents in my life that I finished the whole bottle. Why I didn't buy another when it was so available....well, we all have those stories.

Let's look at some really green figs by Rouge Bunny Rouge. They do a couple of interesting scents using fig leaf. Let's first look at Lilt, an unusual scent of green fig leaves mixed with peach. Violet, which to me feels more like violet leaf, softens and sweetens. Later in the scent vetiver and musk make it slightly smokey and moodier. The scent is meant to represent sunlight and shade in a garden which has been pelted with rain. There is a light transparency at the beginning of the fragrance which later morphs into a darker calm. It feels like peach fuzz amidst a green tangle of foliage.

Incantation also uses fig leaf but its opening notes give a totally different experience. Rather than soft sweetness, it is very green and fresh. In fact it is so green that the random thought popped into my head that this is the perfect scent to wear on St. Patrick's Day! It achieves this with top notes of citrus accord, blackcurrant, fig leaf, and green tea. The blackcurrant is pretty tame here, more green than juicy berry. A hint of the spice notes of cardamom and coriander pop in an rose and orange blossom add a tiny bit of floral softness. I still smell the green aspects more than anything. Base notes of vetiver, cedarwood, beeswax, and musk round out the scent. Of the two scents I prefer the green vibrancy and fun of Incantation over Lilt, which starts out great on my skin but ends up a bit muddled and indistinct. Incantation feels darker and a little more mysterious.

 Giovanni Stanchi 1645

You may wonder if any of the perfumes I tried actually reminded me of my beloved Fig Gin? The closest would be Byredo Pulp. On the Byredo website it is described as "a shapeless mass of ripe fruits; unruly and sweet juices that channel flavor bombing". Yep, it's all that. Pulp opens with a stringent note that I took for grapefruit but must be the bergamot. I don't think the opening of a perfume has ever given me such surprise since I smelled Bat by Zoologist Perfumes. Pulp is such a great name because it does smell like the fleshy part of the fruit has been ripped from the rind, maybe a couple of days ago and is in that stage between succulent juiciness and rot. Akin to how jasmine can dance a fine line of being breathtakingly delicate or a fecal shock, this fruit teeters on the edge of succulence and malodorous mess. But it constantly makes me bring my wrist to my nose for another sniff, just like when I'm wearing Bat. Although the fruit here comes across to me as more plum than fig, fig is one of the elements in the melange we have here.

Find recipe at

How could I finish a post on fig scents without mentioning Mugler Womanity? I wrote a whole post about it here in great and glorious detail. When I mentioned that the crunchy density of the fig in Womanity reminded me of the figgy pudding we used to eat in Scotland, some readers commented that they wear Womanity in summer as a beach scent for the caviar salty aspect of the scent. I can see that, and now it has become a year round scent for me. It's a mind bender; some love it, others hate it, but it definitely goes where no fig perfume has gone before.

What are your favorite fig perfumes. Have I missed them here? If so, please let me know.

Top photo from All samples my own.