My struggle with green fragrance per-se has never been a secret. Yes somehow, Fougères never posed any struggle for me. Their intense complexity, the headiness of herbs tamed by mossy undergrowth and, as I said, the “bittersweetness” of green” makes it easy for me. Fougères make me feel confident. Perhaps it is their intense masculinity (by association or design? This is hard to tell, as we are pre-programmed to believe in the masculinity of Fougère simply by the bold packaging and the fact that most of our fathers – particularly the ones who shaved and bothered with aftershave – smelled like this kind or another of Fougère – and Brut comes to mind effortlessly as an example).
I’ve stumbled upon two unusual, modern, bittersweet greens: Yohji and Yerbamate. The first being more of a green oriental rather than Fougère – combining an unusual dosage of galbanum (to the point of choking! And what’s more – its combined with a weird aquatic top note as well that is almost off-putting at first, until one gets used to the inseparable oddness of the entire composition, which is precisely what makes it so wonderful on those days when you’re in the mood for it). The combination of galbanum, a spritz of ozone, caramel, raspberry and an overdose of coumarin and vanilla at the base, which turns powdery after hours of wearing is unusual, odd, strange and at the same time appealing.
The other scent, Yerbamate, is a lot easier to stomach at first. Starting terribly green, nearly to the point of an Absinthe poisoning, I was always surprised I’ve enjoyed it so. I detect a fair amount of lavender as well as Artemisia, and again a very odd green – this time not only from galbanum, but also from the unusual note of tomato leaf. But what begins astringent and bitter like a very dry Martini suddenly changes direction and turns into an uber-sweet concoction. There is non of the berries or caramel here, yet like most of Villoresi’s scents (I find), it ends with a very sweet amber. This time, the amber is cleverly concealed amongst heaps of dried hay and powdery coumarin. If you think of a hay ride (or a more grown up type of hay ride), this would be a surprisingly soft one. And this is to the point of extreme indulgence in powdery ambery feathery fluff bordering on the dessert kind. The sip of bitter yerbamate was rewarded by sweetness that would have made you forget you might heard that name earlier…
To give you a completely different view of this prestigiously sought-after perfume, I will have to share with you a little story which my perfume friend Alden shared with me – simply because it put a big grin on my face in a much needed moment: “I read so many wonderful reviews about Yerbamate. I adore all things greens. So I was on a quest for perfection. It was first on my list of must-smells last Thanksgiving in NYC. I read the company's description over and over until I was virtually spellbound. So, I go up the sixth floor of Yah-whatever the Japanese department store on 5th Avenue and wander over. I spritz. Smells exactly like Canoe. I giggle and leave with a silly smile on my face. Anyway, I just wanted to share.” Thanks for sharing, Alden!
I haven’t had the opportunity to smell Canoe in recent years (the one time it turned out in the drugstore as a candidate for grandpa’s Christmas gift there were no testers, and that was about 6 years ago), but I can say oe thing about Yerbamate: it’s a fougere. And the emphasis here is on the concept of fougere, of juxtaposing fresh green with dry green (literally – as in dried hay); of bitter and sweet; of sharp and soft. Yerbamate may be the name, but I wouldn’t say it particularly stands out. It just adds to the extremeness of bitters at first, and than disappears like a Gaucho into the night.
Top Notes: Citrus, Tarragon, Tea, Maté, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang, Galbanum
Middle Note: New Mown Hay, Tomato Leaves, Lavender, Tea, Maté
Base Notes: Galbanum, Labdanum, Benzoin, Maté, Vetiver, Sweet and Powdery Notes
* Yerbamate bottle image from Barfumeria.com