Perfumer Mark Buxton
Luca Turin has referred to Anthracite pour l’Homme as one of the artful late 80s-early 90s men’s fragrances that that were influential critically, but not commercial successes. The heart of this set was a group of floral fougères: Caron Troisième Homme (1985), Givenchy Xeryus (1986) and Paco Rabanne Ténéré (1988), YSL Jazz (1988). They were a new stab at a long established genre, the gentlemanly fougère. (Another great point of comparison is Kenzo Ça Sent Beau from 1988.)
Anthracite is an harmonious floral fougère with a spiced-fruit sweetness. Lavender has always been a key component in the fougère accord. Combined with coumarin, it creates the grassy, soapy “barbershop” quality of the fougère. In the more traditional aromatic fougères lavender’s cool, herbal/green qualities are the focus, though the fougère has historically flirted with the floral. Geranium is derived from the leaf of the plant but possesses a minty-green/rose floral tone. It was a common element of the late 19th century and early-mid 20th century fougères. While cool and herbal itself, geranium tends to bring out the floral side of lavender. The floral fougères of the late 1980s were innovative in their use of white floral notes (jasmine, carnation, ylang-ylang, muguet) to underpin lavender’s floral side.
A side effect of the integration of floral notes is that the broad-strokes quality of the aromatic fougères is leashed compared to the the stars of the previous decade, Paco Rabanne pour Homme & Azzaro pour Homme. Blend trumps chiarascuro. The newer models were expansive (Xeryus and Ténéré were loud, in fact), but they were also more harmonious and less hairy-chested than Paco and Azzaro. When a fougère is blended to removed the sharp edges of the lavender and coumarin pairing, it runs the risk of seems too restrained. What happens when you modulate the defining attributes of a genre? The coumarin and lavender are still in the mix, so formulaically the obligations of the genre are met, but the traits we’re accustomed to are distorted. Is a muscle car without a V8 engine a muscle car?
Anthracite begs the question: did this era of fougères fail commercially because they didn’t offer the thrill of the big boys or because they didn’t step closer to David Cool Water’s aquatic fruit?
Released in 1991, Anthracite was the last of its cohort, a group that was eventually drowned by Cool Water. Even further away from the simplicity of the basic fougère accord than 3me Homme and Xeryus, the floral and fougère sides cancel each other out and Anthracite seems cross-bred like a mule. Close enough for the parents to have reproduced, but sterile and without direct descendants.