It´s still in the mid-80s here, which is really interfering with my efforts to prepare a Best of Fall post. So instead, join me on one of my new obsessions — fig.
I´ve always been indifferent to fig, in fragrance and in food. Other than hoovering down the occasional plastic sleeve of Fig Newtons (or my preferred alternative, the figgier organic Fig Newmans) I´ve … well, never given a fig about figs. I´m sure at some point in my past I smelled, say, Diptyque Philosykos and L´Artisan Premier Figuier, thought meh, and moved on.
Several weeks ago, I happened to smell Slatkin Black Fig and Absinthe on Louise, and I was charmed. The following week, picking up my soap supply, I paused over the Pacifica Mediterranean Fig and (across the aisle) the Speziali Fiorentini Fig and Poppy.
Before I really understood what was happening, a minor interest developed into a full-blown case of figmania. I spent hours on MakeupAlley, Amazon and elsewhere looking for (and reading reviews of) fig products – lotions, shampoos, liquid soaps, candles, room sprays. I got online and bought some things (and what is the internet for, if not a tool to waste time and money on some new, weird passion?) including some discontinued fig-scented products people raved about. Hey, which do you find more pathetic – buying discontinued fragrance, or discontinued shower gel? I´m trying not to think about it.
Anyway, consider this a cautionary tale of how your fragrance addiction can spin out of control suddenly, in a direction you hadn´t even considered – or, if you´d prefer, an introduction to the fruits of my labor. Remember, as always, mileage may vary; what I consider “too green” or “sugary” might be very different for you. Lasting power generally isn´t a problem on my skin, so unless it disappears in 10 minutes I tend not to do a lot of evaluation of that aspect. Finally, due to length I´m going to drop this fig nonsense into more than one post. Stay tuned.
Fig seems to be deployed in four major styles – there are those with additional green/earthy notes (fig leaves, twigs, bark, what have you – hints of galbanum and/or LOTV are common). At the other end of the spectrum: figs that are sweet/creamy. Third, there is what I came to think of as “Fig Plus” – where fig is only one player in an ensemble fragrance, and while those can be great, they aren´t the fix I want right now. I was looking for what I think of as Fig Neutral – a figgy fig, ripe and macerated but not too sweet, and not too much earth/green notes.
Here in no particular order, is my Fig Walk of Shame:
Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi — can I say I hate that name? Yes, I know, it´s Italian, but it sounds like “fecal” and I wish it didn´t. Anyway, nicer fragrance than I expected. This is Fig Plus – like fig sitting in the middle of your regular AdP cologne — a little woods, some citrobergamot. I feel like there´s maybe a touch of anise in there? Better lasting power than you´d expect from something that goes on so light and fresh.
Speziali Fiorentini Fig and Poppy (body spray, lotion, soap, etc.) — Fig Plus. The soap doesn´t smell figgy at all, just like nice soap. The body spray has a nice figgy smell, but it´s too floral and it doesn´t hang around long. I love the packaging, though. My favorite from the line is Te Nero, which is black tea with an excellent honeyed drydown.
Bath & Body Works Brown Sugar and Fig – Now that BBW´s doing a lot of home fragrances, you can smell the store at the other end of the mall corridor, a complaint I used to reserve for Yankee Candle. I almost can´t stand to go in there. Anyway – if you held a gun to my head and said, pick one, I´d probably go with Brown Sugar and Fig. It´s a fairly low-key, soft comfort fragrance that smells more of brown sugar than fig, but doesn´t smell of either to the point that you want to die. It´s subtle, and subtle is not a quality BBW is known for. I embrace it. If you´re looking for more fig, the body lotion smells figgier than the body cream, and the Body Mist is figgier than the EDT. I think the body mist would be really nice under a too-green fig you were trying to mellow.
Diptyque Figuier Room Spray – Okay, now we´re talkin´. Less green and woody than their fragrance Philosykos, the Figuier Room Spray (which, yes, I cheerfully applied to my person, and nothing dropped off, although it´s meant for rooms and laundry) raises the interesting question of fig vs. coconut. I´m looking for a “creamy” fig, and if you read enough reviews of fig scents you´ll read x number of complaints regarding “coconut,” which is (so far as I know) not a note that is officially listed in whatever fragrance they´re discussing. I wonder – just as there´s a cat pee/boxwood dynamic with honey, so is there a coconut note in fig? I´m not a perfumer, but I can see it – fig´s creamy sweetness, if that´s where you´re going with your scent, does have an element of something coconutty. Figuier Room Spray is close to my ideal – figgy, a little green, creamy (with that coconut undertone.) For the record, I´m not a fan of coconut in my frags, so don´t let it be a deal-killer for you, either.
L´Artisan Premier Figuier. Can´t smell it. No, seriously. Can Not Smell It. Bill can´t smell it on me either. I tried a different bottle and a different day – nothing. Faint hit of greens, leaves, then nothing. Weird.
L´Artisan´s Premier Figuier Extreme – this one I can smell. Category: Creamy/Fig Plus. It´s supposed to be figgier, more floral and creamier than the regular, and while all that is true, I can´t make up my mind whether I like it. Sometimes it smells lovely, if a bit too “floral;” other times there´s a soapy note that bothers me. Also (and this is odd) it either smells good up close or at a distance, depending; but not both at once.
Bendel Wild Fig Eau de Toilette – they still have six bottles at Bendel in NYC, but they´re discontinuing the fig scent (I think they used to have ancillary products like candles and bath gel). I was worried I´d fall in love with a d/c´d scent and was prepared to stock up … but no. This has gotten some great reviews on MUA, and I think maybe I´m anosmic to some part of it. I get twigs and leaves and a little bit of fig, but it´s pretty tentative no matter how much I put on. So I´m happy to let this one go.
Memoire Liquide Bois de Figuier and Figuer at Bendel. The Bois was a total bust – macerated leaves and spices, and it´s interesting, but no. The Figuier (these are fragrance oils) went on pretty rough – bitter and not very figgy. After 20 minutes on my skin, though, it really bloomed. A delicious fig, woody but still very figgy without random fruitiness. I think you can get a bottle for $40ish. I can see buying this, maybe even blended into their body lotion or shower gel.
Hautes de Provence Fig Shower Gel (Feuille de Figuier) This is supposed to be L´Occitane´s commercial line, I am assuming for hotels. It´s okay. It´s got light, green fig on a woody, gender-neutral base. If I used this in a hotel I´d be fine with it. But I wouldn´t steal the extra bottle to take with me, because it also introduced me to the other less attractive (to me, anyway) direction fig can go: soapy.
L´Occitane Fig Shower Cream with Shea Milk – This was part of their shea butter line, and it smells delicious, an excellent, rich fig that manages to be creamy and woody but not overly sweet. If I could buy it at L´Occitane I´d run over there right now. But it´s been discontinued (why why why?) and as lovely as it is, I´m not going to stalk it on eBay.
That’s enough for this go-round. Stay tuned for Figmania! Part Deux, in which I discuss:
Slatkin Wild Fig and Absinthe
CB I Hate Perfume Revelation
Pacifica Mediterranean Fig
Wen Fig Oil
Satellite A La Figue!
Bendel Fig Scentport scents from Bath and Body Works
Parfumerie Generale Jardins de Kerylos
Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee
and whatever I might dig up. Have I overlooked anything? (probably) Also, I tried (and totally failed) to get ahold of the famed Mathias Figue. Anyone have 1ml they’d like to part with, so I can see what I missed?
Also — who’s tried the fig candles? How about the Burn Fig? L’Artisan? Pacifica? Recommendations?
UPDATE: here’s a link to the follow-up post, Figmania II, in which the insanity continues…
fig botanical drawing: herbdatanz.com