In the Search for the Perfect Fig

I love figs. Everybody who lives in my house loves figs including my cat Rusty. When he was six months old once he stole a piece of fig with goat cheese on it and tried to run away. His mouth was hardly big enough to hold his loot, I don’t know why he didn’t just lick cheese off it, but he ran as fast as he could while holding on to that fig. In the end he dropped it but still managed to eat cheese.

Several weeks ago after reading one of the fig perfumes reviews, I realized that even though I love and eat figs in all possible ways – fresh fruits, fig gem, fig yogurt, fig balsamic vinegar or chocolate covered figs – I can’t imagine how figs smell. I know what is considered a fig scent in perfumery – personal and home ambiance fragrances, candles or soaps – but I couldn’t remember a scent of an actual fruit.

I tried to rectify the situation but a fig season was suddenly over, figs disappeared from the farmer’s market and those I found in a store didn’t smell.

Fig on a treeOn my recent trip to Sonoma I found a fig tree that still had some fruits. I took a picture (see on the left), picked the fig, bit it, sniffed it and then ate completely. I couldn’t smell much. Either it was a wrong fig or maybe I’m anosmic to some component of this particular scent but I could vaguely smell some rather vegetal aroma – and that was it. I wouldn’t want to wear that scent realistically recreated as a perfume. Probably I’ll have to settle for eating figs without a smell and smelling their perfume version.

On the way home I stopped by Sonoma Scent Studio and bought a perfect example of such perfume version.

Fig Tree by Sonoma Scent Studio – created in 2011 by Laurie Erickson, notes include green fig, vanilla, cedar, patchouli, tonka and musk.  I loved the scent the first time I smelled it from a sample and knew I would get it for my collection. For real reviews read Another Perfume Blog and EauMG. But I want to recommend trying this perfume even to those who used to have problems with SSS’s base: in my opinion, Fig Tree is very different from other Sonoma Scent Studio’s perfumes. It’s sheer enough to be worn in warmer weather but, at the same time, has enough substance for the colder months. I got a very stylish 5 ml purse spray and it’ll do for now: Fig Tree has a fair tenacity on my skin (3-4 hours). For me Fig Tree is a perfect fig perfume.

I also bought a jar of Fig Tree Shea Body cream. It smells exactly the same as the perfume. I enjoy the texture of the cream but since I do not like to use scented body product too often (it’s too much of a commitment for me) I started using Fig Tree shea butter as my hand cream before I go to bed. I think Sonoma Scent Studio’s body products will make great gifts for somebody to whom you want to give a scented present but not sure about their perfume tastes.

Fig Tree perfume and cream by Sonoma Scent StudioOther perfumes with a prominent fig note:

Ninfeo Mio by Annick Goutal – created in 2009 by Isabelle Doyen, notes include citron, lemon, petitgrain, bitter orange, galbanum, lavender, lentisque, fig, lemon wood and musk. I read many positive reviews before I got to try Ninfeo Mio. I liked that matte green bottle and really hoped to like the perfume. I didn’t. I approached it several times: it smells very nice on a blotter. But Ninfeo Mio is one of those Annick Goutal’s perfumes that I just cannot stand on my skin. I was so upset by that fact that I even gave away my sample. Of course, now, when stores around do not carry it any more, I started having doubts: should I test it again? Will I like it more if I try it now? I will test it again one day (it is a beautiful bottle…)

Birgit from Olfactoria’s Travels had similar but milder reaction but for Robin from NST Ninfeo Mio worked much better.

Un Jardin en Méditerranée by Hermès – created in 2003 by Jean-Claude Ellena, notes include fig woods and leaves, orange blossom, bergamot and white oleander. If one good thing came out of my trying Ninfeo Mio resolutely, it was that I finally came around to liking Un Jardin en Mediterranee. It’s not the most straight-forward connection: I just happened to test these too in parallel. I thought they had something in common and while testing I discovered that this Ellena’s creation develops very nicely on my skin. I might even pick up a small bottle of Un Jardin en Mediterranee eventually.

This is Birgit’s review that inspired me to test Un Jardin en Mediterranee again.

Green FigWild Fig & Cassis by Jo Malone – created in 2002 by Jo Malone, notes include cassis, cherry, grass, hyacinth, cyclamen, jasmine, pine tree, patchouli, cedar, amber and musk. That was the second full bottle from Jo Malone line that I added to my collection. It was the first fig perfume I’d ever smelled so it might influence me but Wild Fig & Cassis is probably my most favorite fig fragrance as of now (followed by Fig Tree). I think it is underappreciated. It’s interesting and complex enough to stand in the same line with other more popular fig perfumes. Wild Fig & Cassis is a green and slightly bitter fragrance. I do not detect any sweetness but YMMV since I’m known for not smelling some sweet notes where others get an overdose.

Philosykos by Diptyque – created in 1996 by Olivia Giacobetti, notes include fig tree leaves, wood and white cedar. I know that this one is almost an iconic fig fragrance; Philosykos gets mentioned every time when fig in perfumes is discussed. I was inclined to like it long before I tried it. Then I bought a sample. It is a nice perfume. But it’s a little too… flat(?) for my taste. And a little sweeter than I’d like it to be. So while appreciating this perfume I don’t think I’ll even use up my sample.

For real (and positive) reviews read NST and Olfactoria’s Travels (Birgit also reviews here two other fig fragrances which I haven’t tried).

Winter FigWomanity and Womanity Taste of Fragrance (Le Goût du Parfum) by Thierry Mugler – created in 2010 and 2011 correspondently, notes include citrus notes, green notes, fig, caviar accord, animal notes, aquatic notes, woodsy notes, oriental notes and sunny notes (whatever it means) – for the original Womanity and some marketing variations on the same notes plus “fig chutney” for Womanity Le Goût du Parfum. I find this perfume (well, both of them since after testing them in parallel several times I do not see much difference between them in 15 minutes of wearing) very interesting and unusual. I read many negative reviews and I tried Womanity again and again in spite of them. It smells… interesting. I think Thierry Mugler again managed to create something different, maybe not as revolutionary as Angel but still original enough. But I do not want to wear it. I thought I wanted to buy a small bottle of either version of Womanity for my collection but then after reading Ari’s review and testing both perfumes again I realized I wouldn’t wear any of them.

What is your favorite fig perfume? If you reviewed any of these or other fig-centric perfumes feel free to give a link to you post.

Images: first two my own; last two by a friend of mine lyukum

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37 thoughts on “In the Search for the Perfect Fig

  1. Undina, to me fig always smells quite milky. Certainly the stems and leaves, at any rate. Break a fig twig and you’ll see what I mean. The fruit is less distinctive, smell-wise, but for me is still distinctly fig, without really being able to explain why. I remember holidaying in southern Croatia a few years ago in late September and the figs were at their best. We ate them straight from the trees, warmed by the sun and to this day those are still the best figs I have ever eaten; no shop-bought ones have ever come close.

    • Since now I know where this tree grows (next to one of my favorite wineries) next time I go there I’ll investigate the scent of a twig. Thank you for the information.

      This late fig from my story was the only one I’ve ever eaten from the tree. Those that we buy in season at a farmers market are usually good but I imagine those from the trees should be even better. Ok… Now I want a fig :)

  2. I love fig scents, but don’t care for the milky note as it gets very sweet on my skin. My two favorites are Miller Harris Fig Amere, a beautiful salty fig with a woodsy drydown, and Speciali Fiorentini’s Fig & Poppy, a fresh green floral with fig accents. Both have excellent staying power and the latter isn’t expensive at all.

  3. Undina, I too don’t notice much smell from fig as a whole fruit, but when it’s sliced and roasted it smells delicious! I haven’t smelled a fig perfume that mimics the warm juiciness of that aroma though.

    Fig Tree wasn’t what I thought I was looking for, but I am completely smitten with it. I spritzer my way through my spray sample in record time, and am working my way through a few more! I was planning to buy the 17mL bottle, but I think I will actually use up 34mL worth! It’s really a lovely scent :)

    Thank you for reviewing it!

    • I’m very curious to “see” which version you’ll end up with. I hope you’ll write a detailed report once you figure out what you like.

      I’ve never tried roasing figs. What do you do with them after roasting? Just eat or use for some recipe?

  4. What is classically referred to as fig note is definitely the scent of leaves. The fruit itself has a light fig note from the skin but the flesh smells closer to resins than fig leaves. The taste is a lot stronger than the smell.

    My favourite fig scents are Philosykos and Wild Fig and Cassis. Nimfeo Mio is the most interesting fig scent I have ever smelled though. It is the only fig dominant perfume that is not completely dominated by the fig note.

    • I didn’t realize that I was supposed to smell anything else but fruits. Usually when I read notes if it says “violet” I know it meand “flower”; otherwise it would be “violet leaves”. So all that time I thought I was supposed to smell fig flesh. Now I’ll know and try it the next time I see a fig tree.

      I will try Nimfeo Mio again one day. I have to learn not to dispose of those samples that are interesting but just don’t work on me!

  5. I call it Ninfeo MEO (cat pee!)
    I have yet to find a fig scent I really like – I should try the Miller Harris one, as I do like her line!

    • I like the name :) Now I’ll always think of it like that.

      It seems like everybody does fig one way or the other so sooner or later you’ll find the one you like. I can definitely recommend trying SSS’s Fig Tree: it is nice and it won’t break the bank if you like it and decide to buy a bottle.

    • Last year I bought some fig-scented candle and was disappointed by the smell. Then I tried a candle from Diptyque (not Philosykos but some other scent) and was amazed how good that candle was. That was how I learned that good candles cost much not just for their brands ;)

  6. Parfumerie Generale Jardin de Kerylos is my very favorite fig perfume. And I’m with you on Philosykos being a bit flat and a bit sweet (actually, to my nose, which is admittedly a little “off” on some notes, it’s very sweet), so it’s possible that we might have some fig tastes in common.

    I have kinda sorta halfheartedly reviewed them both on the blog.

  7. Oooh, so figs are safe for cats to eat?? I like fig scents, but don’t much care for figs themselves! Ninfeo Mio is stunning and vivid, but like you I like it better on paper than on skin.

    • Ari, I’m not sure if figs are safe for cats: when I try google fruit safe for cats I get controversial results. Since my cat likes many fruits he gets them from time to time but I plan to run it again by his vet on the next visit.

  8. I haven’t explored fig scents to a large degree so it’s hard to name a favorite, but Anthousa Fig & Vetiver is rather nice for summertime wear. Probably at some point I’ll try Laurie’s Fig Tree, though I’m more curious at the moment about her new aldehyde perfume, Nostalgie. Did you try that one when you were there, Undina?

    • I was one of the testers for this new perfume but as it progressed it became obvious that it didn’t work for me. So I didn’t try the latest mod. Once it’s done I’ll see if the final version is better on my skin than those versions that I tested.

  9. I kind of wrote off fig perfumes after I didn’t get on with Philosykos (after being similarly convinced I’d love it). It’s a bad tendancy of mine to write off notes like that so I’ll try not to do that from now on. I know dee really likes Fig Tree but I can’t say I got on with Nimfeo Mio. The Jo Malone sounds the most appealing to me. Thanks for this round up!

    P.S. I’ve learnt that the fig scent comes from the leaves and not the fruit too, now!

    • I have a couple of notes like that myself. I’m trying to be more open-minded now but it’s still hard.

      I can’t wait now to go back and re-smell the tree itself!

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  11. Like Chicken Freak, Jardin de Kerylos is probably my overall favourite, and I also like both Premier Figuier and the Extreme version from L’Artisan. The new Hermes Santal Massoia has a lovely milky figgy aspect to pick up on Michael’s point, and I am now very keen to try this new SSS Fig Tree thanks to your review!

    And I agree that the Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis scent is underrated…

    • I will try L’Artisan’s perfumes eventually, I wasn’t avoiding them on purpose – just haven’t come around testing them yet. L’Artisan is a relatively new and unfamiliar brand for me so every time I find it at a store I’m overwhelmed by the number of perfumes.

      I also planned to try Santal Massoia when I have a chance – and now I feel like I have an extra reason to do that.

  12. Joining ChickenFreak and Vanessa in naming Jardin de Kerylos as my favorite fig scent with Ninfeo Mio a close second.

    I love fig; it’s one of my favorite notes. Some other fig scents that I like that I haven’t seen mentioned here: Pacifica’s Mediterranean Fig (straightforward fig), Miller Harris Figue Amere, Ava Luxe Fig Leaf (very green) and Bois de Figue (the whole fig tree), and Parfum de Nicolai Fig Tea.

    • If earlier I just wanted to try Jardin de Kerylos now I feel like I have to do that :). I wrote down other names, I might look at those when I decide to re-visit the note.

      I tried Pacifica’s Fig. It wasn’t bad but it didn’t stay on my skin even a half an hour – which was strange because their Lilac was very tenacious. Of course, for the price I can bathe in it but as a rule I try to avoid perfumes with less than 2 hours on my skin.

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  14. I absolutely love Laurie’s (Sonoma Scent Studio) Fig Tree. It is unlike any fragrance I wore previously, and I find it to be quite a soothing fragrance. It layers exceptionally well with my beloved Jour Ensoleille, another of Laurie’s fragrances. When I wear either one or layer them together, I always receive a compliment. The Fig shea butter is a wonderful skin softener after a shower. The rich cream soaks into your skin and the wonderful fragrance lasts for hours.

    I think I have tried all of Laurie’s fragrances, and they all work very well with my chemistry. One of my other favorites is Laurie’s Champagne de Bois and is an excellent choice for this time of the year.

    • It’s interesting, I’ll try to layer those – I have a sample of Jour Ensoleillé. I liked it on its own but I can see how it might work well in combination.

      I also tried almost all Laurie’s perfumes and there is not a single one I dislike but some of them I do not want to wear as a real perfume during the day but like them as scents and use as my sleep scents.

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  18. I have to mention my favorite then: Acqua di Parma – Fico di Amalfi! That’s what Philosykos should have been in my humble opinion. I guess I like Philosykos but I agree that it is very…flat.

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