By the term “green” we refer to notes of snapped leaves and freshly-cut grasses, which exude a piquant quality. In this classification, we find some of the classic pungent essences, such as galbanum, which is actually a resin from a tall type of grass with a bracing, piercingly bitter green odor profile. This is the decidedly spring-like top note of vintage Vent Vert by Balmain where it was first put to use in a starring role.
The fig leaf is a unique note rendered through synthetics which gives the modern “fig” fragrances their bitter-green-allied-to-coconut-sweet scent. Another peculiar leaf note that has a special character is tomato leaf, featured in Eau de Campagne by Sisley, Folavril by A.Goutal, and Liberte Acidulee by Les Belles de Nina Ricci.
Violet leaf is a modern green “leaves” note which is very popular. It gives an aqueous feel reminiscent of freshly-cut cucumber to many compositions, especially masculine ones. A subcategory apart is tea leaves notes which infuse blends with their unique aromatic profile, according to which variety the perfumer picks (green, red, white, black, Oolong, etc).
Herbs are referred to as “aromatic notes” by perfumers. These include herbs that we know from cooking, such as rosemary, thyme, mint, tarragon, marjoram, fennel, basil (which is considered a spicy note thanks to its eugenol content), sage, anise. Others, such as artemisia, calamus, angelica, and spikenard (jatamansi) have an intensely herbaceous quality that is so distinctive as to immediately characterize the compositions in which they enter.
Fern is the amplification of the fragrance term fougère (fern in French), which is not exactly derived from nature (ferns have a minimal scent themselves) but from a historical “accord” between lavender-oakmoss-coumarin which was devised to produce the mysterious note of a green, damp forest. The archetype of this type of fragrance is Fougère Royale by Houbigant, created by Paul Parquet in 1882. The effect was an interplay between sweet and bitter with a woody, damp, and cool character, establishing fougères as the quintessential masculine fragrances.
Ferny fragrances recreate the earthy, damp, and dark scents of a forest and largely rely on fantasy notes, even though extraction with volatile solvents of the Aspidium fern is possible, though hardly satisfactory in quantity. The subcategory of aromatic fougères, adding spices and herbal notes to the classic structure, is perhaps the most populated masculine colognes category thanks to its pliability.