I was never an ‘outdoors man’ even if I have always been something of a nature boy. Yet it was still strange that as a young child I somehow ended up being a cub scout. I don’t remember how or why I would have been enrolled in such an unsuitable organisation, with its toggles and songs and uniforms and ‘manly pursuits’, but I do know that I detested every moment of it except for our time in the woods and the forests when we went camping, and were forced- sorry, encouraged – to make bivouacs out of ferns and bracken and branches and twigs; tents made purely from the forest’s provision that you could hide in, close yourself off and inhale; a smell I will never forget.

It is said that the ‘fougere’ is an imaginary accord, as ferns have no smell, but this is not true. If you crush these filigreed, ornate and primeval plants between your fingers there is in fact a most distinctive, fresh, ancient, milk sap that I have always loved, the very essence of woodland and a window to another world. While I may not appreciate the beauty of mountains and grand vistas and rocks and great valleys, I have always adored the sylvan; the magic of the forest clearing and the trickling, hidden stream.

Amouage’s inquisitive and eccentric, ‘neo-hippie’ perfume from 2016, ‘Bracken’, taps into this alternative, paisley green world of the great outdoors with a very original – if difficult – scent that was created to evoke memories, or at the very least, the stylings and ideals, of the flower power era: meadows of daisies, swaying pampas grasses, and love in the undergrowth – and I must say that I have never experienced anything else quite like it.

I will admit that our first impressions were poor. In fact Duncan recoiled in horror when he sprayed some on (he tried it first for me….”Oh my god…….it’s Toilet Duck!!!!”, and passing his hand over for me to peruse, before scrubbing it off at the sink, I will admit I did burst out laughing as he had nailed it completely in two simple words: suddenly, I had a flashback to the green toilet cleanser of my parent’s house when I was a boy; the urinous, central tang of chamomile and narcissus working with the citrus green, herbal notes of the top accord enough to provoke that remembrance exactly).

Trying the perfume again today, I see a more panoramic view. This is a very full, outspreading, complex, citric, green (fern accord) sharp, fruity (wild berries), floral (lily) and gently mossy composition that although quite odd, is also in another way quite beautifully harmonious. It definitely does have soul and spirit. Like Penelope Tree, the offbeat sixties model pictured here and the ‘alternative Twiggy’, it is the kind of scent that one in a hundred will fall for, but when they do, they will smell fantastic.

The evernew green of my childhood adventures – away from the tedious and moronic bondage of the cub scouts, I would spend my summer holidays playing in the woods all day long with my friends on our bikes, ‘our place’, where we made a secret cabin on an island in the middle of a bog where we could hide out from the adults; it was illegal to be there, we had cut our own hole in the wire fence of the private golf course the woods backed onto, but the heart pounding terror when someone was coming only added to the excitement and the sense of being trapped within a story; great lungfuls of searing fresh air, panting in mud and grasses, bluebells, great ferns….. none of that is really represented here (the closest I have ever come to a true ‘bracken’ like accord is perhaps English Fern by Penhaligons, a gentle, powdery scent from an entirely other era I find soothing and quite dreamy and evocative of the beautiful nature of England). But what is good about Bracken – such a risk-taking name for a perfume I think – is that for once I am smelling something bold and new, not that common these days in perfumery, whether it be niche, or otherwise, on every level from the concept and realization of the fragrance to the execution. An adventure.


Filed under Fougère, Fruit, Green, Narcissus, New Beginnings

24 responses to “BRACKEN by AMOUAGE (2016)

  1. Added note: the dry down on this is very good, a proper, perfumed foundation; dry, slightly powdery, textured. I have been racking my brains what perfumes I could possibly try and compare this to, and the only distant relatives I can think of our Paco Rabanne Sport (one of my favourites from the eighties) and, at a stretch, Estee Lauder Private Collection.

  2. MrsDalloway

    Ha, Toilet Duck is spot on for the opening! I tried it on card in Selfridges and was too horrified to persevere. Good to know it’s worth doing so.

    Love your woodland reminiscences. I was a similarly reluctant Brownie but lived in the country and roamed around. We had a river nearby in fields with big clumps of gorse; I loved the hot coconut smell.

    • So do I, in summer time on dunes. Wonderful.

      I’m not entirely sold on the Bracken, by any means, but I am glad to know that someone gets sheer Toilet Duck as well. On skin it becomes more legible and is really quite interesting. Daring, for sure.

  3. nevetzedek

    i also tried this recently! lots of stuff at once. newbie here, couldn’t figure out what was going on. may be too advanced for me. seems happy and fun and complex.

  4. Have you tried Bracken Man, and is there any difference between the two? I tried Bracken Woman recently and I liked it very much! Like you, I immediately thought, this is REALLY different, doesn’t smell like anything else out there. It reminded me of a pick-your-own raspberries field in the UK we visited several years ago, when the weather was so sunny and gorgeous, and we were so reluctant to leave, that we picked GALLONS of raspberries. I’m going to keep playing with Bracken.

  5. MrsDalloway

    It was Bracken Man I tried and disliked. To be fair, I couldn’t swear to exact Toilet Duck at this distance but it was a chemical green foghorn for sure.

    • Ah. You see I have (possibly invalid) prejudices against virtually perfume with ‘man’ in the title as I am just rabid, rabidly opposed to anything macho (and ‘woody’, ugh). I imagine it was probably better though in a way that the women’s, which is tres curious and probably more adventurous but possibly less wearable. Bracken Woman has the kind of initial impression (exTREMELY urinous) that makes people throw their head back in alarm.

  6. I remember boy scouts all too well myself. This fragrance sounds so special, from the name to the juice.

  7. Robin

    Glad you shared this one again. I got lost in your world of words again, in the woods, in the fragrance (once the hurdle of Toilet Duck had been cleared).

    I can’t remember if you’ve written about Amouage Myths. I think it might come closer to your woodland ideal. Without the Toilet Duck. I’ve actually just ordered Amouage Myths Woman, having tried a decant over time and feeling the need to have a bit of extra forest around me. And I ordered First edt at the same time (wheeeee! sold on the idea by one Neil Chapman a little while ago) and Encre Noire for Ric, whose skin will transform it into the original Sycomore edt. That is the plan!

    P.S. I wrote in the Sylvia thread (I think) when things were winding down there and thought I’d really hit on something. Would love to know if you think I did. Just shamelessly fishing.

  8. Tara C

    Tagging on to Robin’s comment, I agree you should try Myths woman if you haven’t yet, it is quite interesting and earthy as well. I own both Myths and Bracken, which are not at all my usual thing, but I found them appealing and intriguing. The drydown on both of them is better than the opening.

    • Robin

      Great to have another vote for Myths Woman, Tara. I agree with you on those drydowns. The narcissus is done very well w. Myths. I haven’t tried the men’s version of either. For me, Amouage’s feminine scents are more wearable, generally, for men and women, although some men’s versions are attractive and I find I can wear them. Lyric Man comes to mind. I have a feeling you like the house overall if comparatively challenging releases such as Myths and Bracken appeal to you. I think they’re willing to take chances and I admire them for it.

      • Tara C

        I do love most of the feminine Amouage line. The only men’s scents I like from the line are Jubilation XXV and Interlude. The library series unfortunately doesn’t work for me.

    • Myths. It sounds interesting. I am definitely feeling green and foresty right now!

  9. Robin

    Got a chance to try Bracken Woman and I’ve got a bottle on the way. LOVE. If you ever want to know what this the southern coast of British Columbia smells like in the summer, outside my beach shack on the forest side, this is it. I think — I’ve seen bad reviews — this needs to be worn very, very sparingly. Otherwise, it’s total Toilet Duck for sure. But just a little, and then smoothed out on the skin so there’s lots of surface area for the half-spritz to cling to, and vavoom. It’s my forest, but taken to a mystical, slightly surreal level, stylized and gorgeous. I thought Ric would hate it but he really likes it. Bonus.

    Another reason I’m fond of it is that is reminds me of Herbal Essence shampoo from the early seventies. All of us used to use it, hippie girls all, with our long hair, flared jeans, beaded chokers and Clarks. It was nuclear. So green, so herbal and fruity, so strong you could smell it when a girl was thirty feet away down the hall at school. I’m sure that Amouage found the industrial strength aromachemical of the original Herbal Essence and added some fancy things to it and put it in a bottle. And it works. I might dilute a bit of it in a spray bottle and spray my hair with it and feel like I’m sixteen again!

    So a big thanks to you, Neil, to have written your review and got my little wheels turning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s