Moustache (Rochas)

Lavender. Coumarin. Oakmoss. Musk. They're the basic elements of a fougère, all easily recognizable in a composition. We take them for granted nowadays, but a century ago they were a novel construct. Sixty years ago, however, not so much - fougères had hit their stride, and geniuses like Edmond Roudnitska and his wife Thérèse were hard at work creating incredible variations on the theme. Moustache is one example, and the version pictured above (which precedes the more recent re-release) is fascinating to pick apart.

It's a beautiful fragrance, one masquerading as a citrus chypre, with the most elegantly fizzy bergamot-lime accord sweeping its herbal and mossy aspects through the nose on a golden breeze. There's something redolent of overripe stone fruit lurking in that opening, due I suspect to the use of aldehydes (C14? C18?) and a subtle interplay with softly aromatic lavender. The grade of lavender used is similar to the one in Caron Pour un Homme, with a doughy tint that trends closer to warmth than minty coolness, but when blended with natural citrus oils, discreet lemon verbena, and old-fashioned aldehydes, one could miss it. Try not to though, because it's right there with the lime as being the most vibrant rendition of its kind.

Ten minutes on skin brings a pretty basil / jasmine / geranium heart accord, very cool, a little peppery, completely terrestrial. Gradually the musky mossiness of the base asserts itself, with coumarin sweetness holding these two stages together. It's a very soft, hay-like coumarin note, the sort of thing you encounter in more recent aromatics like Kouros and Drakkar Noir, but while those fragrances buttress it with powerful notes, Moustache aims to soothe, letting all the elements cascade together in a comfortable manner. The far drydown is a ghost of lime, still brisk and woody, coupled with hay and oakmoss. Amazing.

Is this the perfect fougère? Perhaps it is Edmond's perfection of the form, with the rare chance to smell some of his wife's elusive talent in there. I think of Moustache the way I think of Pino Silvestre, as a fern that advertises a specific natural element first, and puts its classical form second. But Pino had no pine in it, and the blatant essay on lime in Moustache is built on the best rendition of lime in twentieth century perfumery. If you love citrus fragrances, especially citrus chypres like Eau Sauvage, and haven't tried Moustache, now is the time, before the older version becomes an endangered species. Right now it can still be had from mall stores for under forty dollars. This is one of the greatest citrus-forward fougères ever made, so don't wait.