Composed by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti exactly 20 years ago in 1994, Premier Figuier still remains one of the very best out there, conjuring a vivid image of late August days spent in the Greek countryside when cicadas are loudly singing at the scorching hour of noon and people hot and weary from a sea dip are sitting beneath the shade of the fig tree to enjoy their Spartan meal of fresh fruit and cool, still water. The coconut curls note is rounding the foliage with just the right sweetness and provides an euphoric touch.
Giacobetti in an unstoppable strain of fig-producing mode, went on to create an Eau de Parfum version to the best-selling Premier Figuier, baptized Premier Figuier Extreme (2004), highlighting the rounder elements and extending its stay. She also created Philosykos for Diptyque, two years after her seminal "first fig tree" for L'Artisan. Philosykos, the friend of figs.
The re-creation of the smell of fig trees in perfumery is possible thanks to two crucial ingredients: stemone and octalactone gamma. Stemone (Givaudan tradename) imparts a green, fresh tonality like mint that combined with octalactone gamma (prune-like) evokes the earthy, sticky green of fig leaves (a smell of dry earth, scorched by the sun of a hot place with a hint of bitterness) and the milky sap of the young fruit plus the acid green of galbanum. The always handy Hedione (a fresh jasmine note, Firmenich tradename) and Iso-E Super (a dynamic and shape-shifting woody synthetic, IFF tradename) are often utilized to bring “lift” to the genre. The coconut note is an important part, not because it imparts a tropical feel (figs grow in the temperate zone) but because the young fruit sap contains a sensitizing "milk," a lactonic note. Coconut is also lactonic, i.e. milky in nature, hence the inclusion more realistically brings to mind the fig tree burdened with its succulent-to-be load. The milky note isn't a random thing, nor has it escaped attention through the ages. The classical Greek writer Athenaeus of Naucratis writes in Deipnosophistae how rural populations were making cheese out of milk by curdling it using the twigs and leaves of the fig tree. It is even described in Homer's Iliad!
It's not decided whether Giacobetti was intimate with this bit of classical knowledge when she added a milky, butyric note into the green woody skeleton. All I know is that in Premier Figuier it was crucial that the tempering of bitterness (naturally occurring in the fig leaf itself, smelled best when crushed between the fingers) with the sweetish milky note is done just right! The effect is not too dissimilar to an apricot (another lactonic note in fragrance) run under fresh water and opened in two halves in a cool yard. While wearing Premier Figuier I am often reminded of this little fact as I receive compliments on the "apricot scent" on me… :-)