In about 1990, newly arrived in London (I moved back North again years later), a friend took me into the Penhaligons shop and offered to buy me any fragrance I liked. I didn't try any of them (duh...) but went for this one as I've always been attracted to green, mossy, herby scents (I wore Grey Flannel at the time and still do now). All I can say is that I found this really unpleasant, harsh and bitter. I later read a review once where someone described it as the poisonous, Victorian, rank potion that Dr Jekyll took before he turned into Mr Hyde, and that sums up how I remember it. The memory has lasted 25 years, and not in a good way.
I'm an amateur, so I feel a bit uncomfortable about writing negative reviews, but my opinion on this stands. for me, it was awful. Sorry....
English Fern introduces itself with a burst of spices and lavender, sweetened by fruit notes that I cannot identify. The lavender soon begins to recede, leaving room for a very distinct licorice/anise note and some barbershop soap to blend with the remaining brisk spices. English Fern settles into a conventional spicy “absinthe” tinted fougère, not far removed from the grand old Crown Fougère, but less complex and less nuanced. The scent remains linear for most of its duration, before fading into a sweet vanillic woody drydown. This is a very pleasant, conservative fougère – the kind of scent that one can wear to the office or to dinner with no fear of offending anybody. In this respect it strikes me as distinctly “English,” which is to say that it is proper, refined, and elegantly traditional. It may not be exciting, but it’s a solid representative of its type, and highly versatile to boot.
Starts off with a really sharp fern scent; just a lot of green. Then it moves down into a very soapy plastic smell, while retaining it's greenness. Once it all settles down, it smells like Pinaud Clubman talc powder. Very dry and old fashioned. A good barbershop scent that takes me about half an hour to tolerate. Even then, it's only a 4 out of 5. I'm not sure what it is that keeps it from being perfect instead of only above average, but it is not a bad office scent and would make for a relatively safe blind buy.
The rich man's Brut by Faberge
Sharp and natural smelling ferns and limes and lemons (read: citrus). Not my favorite by this house, but a good warm weather choice. Total barbershop, to be sure. Similar to Brut, I have decided.
English Fern, to my sensibilities, opens with a wonderful blast of green accords, with the lavender and geranium muted by the vanilla to produce an interesting ozonic effect, with the barest hint of patchouli providing indications of loam. If you've ever repotted a plant or spent time wandering a commercial greenhouse, that's what the opening is to my nose.
And then. . .
An hour or so into the scent, lavender, geranium, vanilla, and coumarin all flee the scene, leaving patchouli stomping around on the skin and in the nasal passages to remind one of refugees from Woodstock, or experimenting college kids who thought wearing a solid fluid ounce of the stuff would hide their herbal head-trips. Ninety minutes in - as much as I wanted to like it for the opening - English Fern became a scrubber for me.
Pros: Lovely greenhouse opening
Cons: Must love patch
A bright green, sharp and soapy, minty lavender, with excellent sillage and longevity. It reminds me a bit of those solid green blocks of 'Fairy' household soap, which used to be used for handwashing laundry. A no-nonsense scent for the debonair gent.