With all the heat waves I've survived in the past couple of years, my Philosykos
is beginning to dwindle down. So, I have decided to seek out a new fig fragrance. I love Philosykos, a green fig fragrance that is very refreshing in hot weather. Like wading in a cool pebbled stream, and enjoying the shade of fig trees and towering oleander bushes. It lasts very briefly, and so I thought why not get a stronger fig scent?Premier Figuier
was created in 1994, and was not only the first fig fragrance, but also one of the first by Olivia Giacobetti (the year prior to that she debuted her career with Petit Guerlain and Eau de l'Artisan). I have a sample of this first fig, and always liked it but not enough to purchase a bottle: it's milky, coconut and powdery and lasts even less than Philosykos (which is also by Giacobetti, and very light, which is excellent quality for summertime, but also limits it to this season for me). The latter has an Eau de Parfum version that is wonderful and longer lasting, but simply not available around this part of the world; and so when I stumbled upon Premier Figuier Extrême in the website of the nearest perfume boutique, I decided to purchase it unsniffed (the actual location near me didn't have it, so that's why I didn't smell it first). When it arrived, I immediately had a buyer's regret, because I should have known better than to purchase something with a similar name to something I like and expect it to end up well. I decided to pick up the scent, not open it, and go to the boutique that is a little more far away and sniff them side by side.
But, of course, I couldn't not open
a bottle of new perfume sitting on my desk. So I undressed the box from its cellophane wrap, released the bottle from its carton embrace and spritzed just teeny tiny bit on one wrist. Well, this is neither smelling like Premier Figuier; not like fig of any shape for that matter. Instead, I got this exotic whiff of the spice market, a swirl of incense and maybe some crushed fig leaves very far in the backdrop. To replace Philosykos clearly it can't. Nevertheless, I was intrigued.
Premier Figuier Extrême begins with a trail of delicate incense smoke, intertwined with spicy-floral undercurrent. It is dry and warm, yet also soft and sweet-balsamic (I am smelling Peru balsam to be more specific). There is a surprising smokiness to it that brings to mind Dzing!
or perhaps Tea for Two
(also by Giacobetti, who must have some kind of a signature I am yet to decipher), and much less of the powderiness of the original with its coconut note which I found distracting and a bit too soapy and watery-aldehydic. While the two are marketed as different concentrations of the same theme (Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum), and share almost all of the notes (minus the asafoetida note in the original), such as almond milk, coconut, sandalwood, fig leaf, dried fruit and fig wood - I find them to be almost as different as night and day: PF is watery, thin and luminous, with abstracts hints to the milky latex that streams out of the young tree. It is not even quite a tree yet, but a sapling that grows by the water stream, with the cool watery air coming off the wet pebbles.
PFE is rather expansive, surprisingly full-bodied and with a sultry, sulphuric air to it, and I am wondering if this is part of the allusion to the fig fruit. This makes me wonder if the asafoetida note is not wrongly listed and actually belongs to the Extrême. It is mentioned this way on Fragrantica
It is not so much like ripe figs (and definitely not purple!) as stated in some of the copy writing, but more of a conceptual perfume, an interpretation of an interpretation. I imagine the perfumer revisiting her creation almost a decade later to tweak and upgrade the formulation to make it longer lasting - and gets carried away creating a completely new (and improved!) interpretation of the fig theme. This time the fruit is ripe, rich, full and the tree it grows from has matured to have thick, huggable trunk and more sturdy branches. It has become a home to several song birds and gives enough shade to rest under and cool off, even though it's not even close to any body of water. On the contrary: Maybe someone is burning a fire near it, and roasting some summer fruit on its flames.
There is the aspect of contrasting textures, also, which is what I find most intriguing about this scent. There is the feeling of being surrounded by fine incense smoke, and at the same time a bracing touch of bumpy fresh fig leaf. A delicate, powdery, almost honeyed sweet floral haze and also the pulling apart of fruit to reveal its minuscule slimy tentacles inside. The polished dusty feel of a silvery fig tree trunk, and at the same time the oozing white milky watery sap.
All in all, I'm pleased to say this has turned into an intriguing blind purchase which I'm happy to embrace into my collection and wear in this strange late spring, which keeps jumping from one extreme to the next: thunderstorms and humid cold rainy days, followed by hot dry desert winds, and replaced again by muggy humid days and more showers sprinkled in between. It's light-textured yet rich with nuances and I'm happy to discover different things within it in both cooler and warmer days.
Top notes: Fig Tree Leaves, Gorse Bush Flowers, Smoky & Sulfur Notes
Heart notes: Almond Milk, Figs, Sandalwood
Base notes: Coconut Milk, Dried Fruit Notes, Stone Pine, Incense
A word about comparative sniffing: When trying something blind for the first time and without any preconceived ideas, you have the advantage of being able to form an impression that is free of opinions, marketing intentions and other biases. If I was to be told "this is a fig fragrance", on the other hand, I would be looking for the fig and finding it thanks to the power of suggestion. It is a bit tricky to compare similar fragrances side by side. It may be an excellent exercise for a professional perfumer or a perfumery student trying to refine their olfactory discerning abilities. But for a layperson just trying to find a scene they enjoy, this can be utterly confusing and totally ruin the fun. Instead of smelling it for what it is, you smell it in comparison to something else that it is "supposed" to be similar to. And by doing so, what happens is that you find less of what you were expecting to find, and if that was what you're after - and don't find it - this is a sure method to feel disappointed.