Whenever I spritz a fig perfume onto my naked wrists, I think about ancient private parts. How all those people in classical sculptures were covered with big, green fig leaves. How did they stay on? Genesis says Adam and Eve “sewed” the leaves together, which seems tricky considering: thread. But sure, OK. I consider all of these matters and then head out the door, wafting in a cloud of sweet-yet-earthy fig fragrance.
SOME PEOPLE AT ITG HATE FIG THO. Cough, Emily Ferber, my very kind and attentive editor, can’t stand fig scented soaps, perfumes, candles, etc. I, on the other hand, consider it my personal fruit. And about twice a year I spend like $12 on a small box of them at Eataly. The rest of the year I consume them with my nose. After years of commitment and the tragic loss of my favorite winter scent, Jo Malone’s Fig and Cassis (bring! it! back!), I’ve compiled a list of fig perfumes based on certain moods, so you can find the best fig perfume for you. Unless your name is Emily.
Bright, Green, Springy: For People Who Actually Own Picnic Baskets
D.S. and Durga’s Debaser is one of the most refreshing, modern fig perfumes I’ve come across in my fig journey. It’s green up top, with woodsy fig leaf in the middle, and it lingers a little savory on (my) skin. An intriguing balance of green things-woods-fruit-incense, never too sweet or heavy in any one direction. You can’t stop sniffing yourself. It’s deeply sexy, yet springy clean.
Vilhelm Parfumerie’s Basilico & Fellini is what unnamed other expensive fig perfumes wished they pulled off: a rich, deep fig that isn’t one-note, but super green with basil, vaguely sweet from dragonfruit, and overall very opulent. I had trouble categorizing this one because the longer it’s on the skin, the more this peppery violet/floral comes out. Don’t you love when a perfume keeps you guessing?! I want to wear white embroidered dresses and drink negronis in this and watch Fellini flicks on someone’s roof projector. The scent matches the price tag.
Olfactive Studio’s Panorama is a unique perfume I can never resist. I keep buying it by the sample but need to commit to a whole bottle already. The fig leaf is subtle here, mixed with wasabi (!!), recently watered lawn, and some vanilla musk. Bamboo gives it this near-woodsy quality without the frontier cabin thing. It’s a green and spicy summer scent that I guarantee you won’t run into a friend wearing on the street.
Woodsy, Earthy, Near-Savory: For People Who Are Excited for Clog Season
Imaginary Authors’ Yesterday’s Haze is a warm, caramelized fig on full-fat vanilla ice cream, served in a decrepit wooden barn. Sweet, woodsy, and cozy. This was more of a cold summer’s night/fall/winter fig for me. There’s a heavy smoky tree bark note that transports me to these field trips we took in elementary school to old timey houses where ladies in itchy wool dresses and aprons taught us how to churn butter and make candles. Wonderful.
Phlur’s Hanami also comes in candle form, which is common for a lot of fig fragrances (see: Nest’s Indigo, Diptyque’s Philosykos, and Malin + Goetz’s Moroccan Fig). The fig here hides behind a pile of firewood on your porch. It’s a light sandalwood though, not heavy yoga studio sandalwood. I feel like a boutique hotel when I wear it, and hope this attracts celebrities and money to me.
Sweet, Ripe Fruit: For People Who Always Order Diner Waffles
Nest Fragrance's Indigo is sa-weet. And potent. I picture a fig galette, all brown sugar and butter, when I wear it. (Cardamon gives it that baking spice vibe.) There’s sharp acidity and some cedar-paneled sauna notes that keeps it from giving you cavities, and I dig the rollerball for weekend getaways to other peoples’ rentals.
Fresh Fig Apricot isn’t as complex as Indigo, but it shares this brown sugar fig jam sweetness. I first tried this scent in bar soap form, which is earthier than the perfume version. We’re heavy on the apricot here, and near overripe fig. You want to spread this perfume on a warm English muffin—and I mean the bread, not some euphemism for butt.
Diptyque’s Philosykos has sat on my dresser for over two years. I find the fig just too upfront and sweet, dominating over any backbone notes that could have toned it down. It’s a strong one, which is good for long hauls.
Floral, Fresh, Femme: For People Who Fall in Love at the Laundromat
By Rosie Jane’s James has a lot of first names, but this clean, simple perfume gives you a hit of air-drying laundry, a greener fig, and big blooming gardenia, which makes it floral and summery, not as weighed down or woodsy as others. A lovely (and affordable!) daytime scent for sweetiepies. At the end of the day, it’s the gardenia that lingers.
Berdoues’ 1902 Figue Blanche is like Fig Lite, so listen up, fig virgins. It has a soapy clean Johnson’s Baby Shampoo note that I adore, and peach-fig cotton candy center. Honestly, for the price ($30!), it’s a steal. The concentration is lower (this is eau de cologne, not parfum), so yes, it doesn’t stay on as long, but it doesn’t come on strong and stink up the elevator. It also, I’m guessing, matches your spring wardrobe perfectly: spray it in that inch of skin between your crop top and high-waisted wide pant.
Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi has been a summer standby of mine for years, though I’ve finally gotten a little tired of it as I move to greener fig scents. There’s a strong, saltwater note that reminds of of how our cars (and bodies) would get coated with salt when we went to Galveston beach. The fig is sugary and sharp, with a generous squeeze of lemon on top. Strong florals come from jasmine, but this was a hard-to-categorize one: it’s pretty heavy in the woodsy florals, yet summery and bright with fruit and citrus. Try it!
Jo Malone discontinued Wild Fig and Cassis, a soil-rich earthly delight, a deep woodsy fig that calls for strong convictions and silk pajamas, and I’m very bitter about it (Ed note: the candle is still available). However, it’s forced me to open my hairy nostrils to new scents, different varieties of fig and fig leaf, so I guess, after all, I’ve grown as a human.
Photographed by the author.