The fougère has been a yardstick of masculine perfumery since Houbigant released Fougère Royale in 1882. It is a slow moving genre that has sauntered from decade to decade with periodic touchups. The principle accord of lavender and coumarin can support a wide range of alterations. With a few compositional tweeks fougères have ranged from mossy or aromatic to oriental and aquatic hybrids.
The genre was created by the French, idolized by the British and democratized by Americans. Though Canoe was composed in the 1930s (actual release dates vary) in France, it came to epitomize a populist American style of a fragrance. Until the mossy fougères of the 1960s and aromatic fougères of the 1970s, oily-powdery musky lavenders were the masculine paradigm. The accord was ubiquitous, scenting a range of men's grooming products, becoming the scent of the masculine 'safe zone': the barbershop. (Paradoxically, a heliotrope-inflected version of this accord scented the baby powder of the era as well. Was the American man infantilized or were babies inculcated into the culture of masculinity?) Canoe's vanillic musk bears only a passing resemblance to the fougères of the present. On the other hand, it has much in common with sweet, powdery musks like Helmut Lang edp/edc, le Labo Labdanum 18, Kiehls Musk no 1 and even S-Perfumes S-ex.
Compared to previous fougères Canoe dialed down aromatics and woods and emphasized musky vanillic tones, making it as much an oriental as a fougère. A tart geranium accent steers the perfume away from custard, just as Jicky's dusting of culinary herbs does. Canoe ventures so far from 'pastry' vanilla that it lands in the infamous 'plastic doll head' territory. To the modern nose, geranium gives Canoe a dated feel, but it also cuts the softness and prevents a marshmallow effect. By drydown geranium loses its sticky, green sharpness. What remains is a lingering tartness and a slight rosy hue.
Jean Carles composed Canoe as well as its 1955 sibling Dana Ambush, a fougère marketed to women. The two were the sold as masculine and feminine bookends, though they are enough alike that the gender assignments seem arbitrary. Perhaps Carles took inspiration from Guerlain Jicky, which was launched as a masculine fragrance but became unisex by popular acclamation.
Since Paul Parquet's Houbigant Fougère Royale, each generation has had a version of the genre. There is an unbroken line off fougères nearly 150 long and no other perfume style has the old boy's historical momentum. Penhaligon's and Yardley preceded Canoe, which paved the way for Brut, British Sterling and Grey Flannel. Canoe is still produced, but lacks the roundness of earlier formulations. Fortunately, Canoe has been in production for so many years that large quantities are available on the cheap at ebay. The durable vintage musks and high alcohol content (eau de cologne concentration) preserve older bottles very well.
If you had asked 20-25 years ago 'what do I think of the cologne called Canoe'.I'd say all I smell is vanilla and powder...nothing else among the notes therefore teetering between a neutral and thumbs down.Not offensive to wear just plain versus other cheap scents.That's coming from that dark blue/old label bottle pictured and the grey label and top version.I'm in K-Mart last year during the holidays and my wife spots a giftset of Canoe with each a 2oz. cologne and aftershave.So we bought it and figured I could stash it at work to apply at work for when I got off and the fam meets at a restaurant.To be honest I think Dana currently has got the scent right this time...
Splashing it on I get a strong and clean lemon and an herbal zip.That vanilla and powder surfaces but a little lavender in the powder colors it.That lemon note dies off some and the sage note is long gone after about 15 minutes.But that lemon is keeping that powder restrained and clean.I'd think I lucked out and maybe this was a fluke...nope.The 8oz. bottle I bought smells exactly the same.Still a sweet cologne but more in control and expansive by notes that should have been blossoming out back then.
For as many reviews as I've read and my attempts to dissect various notes in various fragrances only to become completely confused, I find myself surprisingly in virtually complete agreement with zoghbi here. I got this one many, many, many years ago - I think for Christmas - and I just couldn't get over the cotton candy impression I got from it. The barbershop/Clubman, etc., comparisons just don't make the least bit of sense to me. It's a pleasant fragrance, all right, just not one that I would want to wear. It strikes me as rather feminine, actually, sweet but not floral, and so I'll give it a neutral in that regard. Whatever floats your boat - or canoe, as it were.
I give this a neutral rating because I guess there's nothing wrong with it really. It's just that I don't particularly care for it. It is very musky, and powdery. I find if you use Pinault Clubman aftershave or Aqua Velva Musk aftershave this compliments those very well as a cologne. If you love musk and that really powdery scent this would be the one for you. It's very affordable.
Two notes. Very Linear.
Baby powder and cotton candy.
Of all the fine fragrances that have been discontinued, this one is still alive?
A classic men's fougere from 1936.
First I get a blast of anise (must be the lavender/clary sage combo). Then a blast of green, just green. Finally lemon takes over. Five minutes in it has evolved into a classically balanced fougere of the old-style. It is soft and classy without being powdery, very subtle, very European.
Top notes: Lavender, Lemon, Clary Sage
Middle notes: Geranium, Patchouli, Carnation, Cedarwood
Base notes: Vanilla, Tonka (Coumarin), Musk, Oak Moss, Heliotrope
Barbara Herman notes that 20 years after Canoe, the Dana perfumer, Jean Carles, took the same formula, replaced the cedar wood with sandalwood, eliminated the patchouli, oak moss and musk, and added bergamot and rose to create a female version, called Ambush.
I'll try this next. Canoe is meanwhile a true classic men's fougere.