Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree: Fragrance review

To say I am rather competent to judge a realistic fig or fig tree scent is an understatement, and that's not out of an overinflated ego. To reprise a popular olive oil commerical "I'm Greek, I should know!" Legion are the times I sought solace under the fig tree's thick shadows in the schorching summery heat; one of them under the very ruins of the Knossos palace in Crete. I can eat the fruit by the pound, such is the gluttony those taut little sacks inspire in me. And I have seen with my very archeologist's eyes how our ancestors consumed these nutritious gems by the pound too: the tiny seeds are still visible within the fossilised excrement fished out from the excavated sewage system at Akrotiri, on Santorini island. Oh yes, I know about figs and the tree that produces them all too well.

It comes as no surprise that I was taken by Sonoma Scent Studio's Fig Tree perfume. A fragrance that you should put on "Anytime you need a smile" as perfumer Laurie Erickson advises and on this freezing cold day of January there is no more proper time to remind myself of the paradise that our local nature is nurturing under this very cold, hard ground. The nascent roots sprouting little stems as we speak, the foliage in the trees now washed by the rain and shimmering under the "sun with teeth", awaiting to become fuzzy and dusty again with the gusts of July, the fruits waiting to appear again and again in their uninterrupted cycle of life.

Fig perfumes usually strive for one of two directions: there's the creamy-lactonic woody progeny started by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti with her Philosykos (Diptyque) and Premier Figuier (L'Artisan) where the nuances can veer over to apricots (a result of the peach lactone used); or the bitter, greener compositions such as Un Jardin en Mediterranée by Hermès and Jean Claude Ellena, based on stemone, a leafy oxime ~technically methyl-5 3-heptanone oxime~which generally imparts a powerfully fresh vibrancy to green florals (narcissus, lily of the valley), citruses (mandarin and grapefruit) and aids to built fig leaves and blackcurrant leaves notes.
Sonoma Scent Studio's Fig Tree is of the latter persuation; not that the natural milky-smelling coconut facet of the fig tree does not surface in the fragrance, a glimpse of the "milk" which the fruit oozes if you pinch it when semi-mature, but the emphasis by the perfumer has been deliberately given to the leaves, the unripe green sacks and the bark, through what seems like a synergy of cedar and patchouli.
Fig Tree is powerfully green in the beginning, with that unmistakeable fuzzy dustiness of the fig leaf; as if a very thin layer of earth is at all times resting on it, now matter how much you wash them. This raw effect ensures the realistic interpretation. But the unisex scent develops over time, seguing to a warm, delectable heart when the creamy notes appear (never too sweet, just on the brink of coconut milk), and then expressing a sustained woody-amber note, humming rather than hissing the lullaby of an eternal summer...

Notes for SSS Fig Tree: green fig, lactones, cedar, vanilla, tonka bean, musk.

Available at the Sonoma Scent Studio fragrance e-shop.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Sonoma Scent Studio fragrances

In the interests of disclosure, I was sent a sample directly by the perfumer.
photo of fig tree via greekresort blog


  1. Rappleyea16:08

    Oh, E., I feel so vindicated! This is the one and only fig that I have ever liked enough to wear, and I love hearing its praise from a fig expert! I am such an SSS fan girl, and I think Laurie's scents just get better and better. The new Nostalgie is gorgeous as well.
    Wonderful review as always.

  2. Morticia19:13

    E, I so agree with Rappleyea and
    I have to say that Dyptique's Fig candle is my favorite scent in their line.

  3. mmmm, figs...can't wait to try this scent! if they ever make a perfume that truly smells the way figs smell/taste/are, i'm doomed...

  4. The scent of the figtree is indeed the promise of eternal summer for me as well. In it's natural habitat It is usually underlined by a vivid odour of decomposition and accentuated by an ozonic-sultry aspect. The retained moisture under its root system might be accountable for both. The overall impression is dry and moist simultaneously. It is the smell of childhood (at least for me), innocent vacations, floaters and flippers, subconscious sexual exploration, the sense of wonder that accompanies discovery of the world. Frozen still, both in space and time, in front of the fig tree under the scorching sun as if in a Dahli dream, summer eternal.

    It's a pity I haven't seen it done realistically with only natural materials so far as I am sure that the natural essences have some aromatherapeutic properties that affect one in a way more profound than meer ascosiation.

  5. D,

    thank you! I feel that Laurie is going from strength to strength.
    I'd wear both Nostalgie and Fig Tree most pleasurably!

  6. L,

    glad to hear from you!
    I am partial to fig scents and Diptyque does a good one indeed (fav alongside Foin Coupe, Bois Cire, Chene, Opoponax and Gardenia...off the top of my head)

  7. NFS,

    it's great, but not exactly like the fruit. More like the whole tree in full glory. (hence the name)

  8. K,

    how beautifully you describe the feeling. It is all that. :-)

    It's a pity indeed that natural perfumers haven't tackled it yet. I know it's difficult from a technical point, as several of the essences needed do not produce a stable/realistic enough effect.

  9. After your review I went and tested JCE's creation. What a disappointment that was. Perhaps it is my skin but it turned so sour on my arm and the sweet base was very loud and dissonant let alone chemical. I think to make it more long lasting than the other jardins he compromised subtlety. The biggest turn off however was its overall texture which frankly feels dated. Philosykos remains the best fig sent I've tried so far. Hope I get a chance to try SSS's creation soon.

  10. K,

    I think his Mediterranee is highly original, but oddly enough, having said that, not my favourite in the Jardins (I prefer Nil for personal wearing). He created a "moment" though (he talked about it a lot, how it was a hostess offering them a plate of figs in a garden under the arches; if you see the Hermes illustration, it's what they display) rather than a "fig" scent alone.
    I love Philosykos and love the Greek name too! ;-)

  11. well, lets agree we disagree on that matter. However I meant to ask you something else too. In this jardin I also detect a very distinct coffee bean note. I think it is the same used in Gentian Blanche although it is much more incorporated in the design of the second. It strikes me as odd that I have never read about that in any reviews so I wanted to ask you if you can detect it. Perhaps this question is pointless but I'm itching to know

  12. K,

    cool :-)

    I don't have Mediterranee on hand to go sniff right now, but will search for the coffee bean note in Gentiane Blanche. Interesting! I will report back if it does strike me so.


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