Given its name, I thought Tigress was going to be an all-out, knock-me-over the head sexy (and maybe tacky?) scent. Just look at this faux-tiger fur cap and tell me I didn't have reason to assume this, or the 70s ad here featuring Lola "The Black Tigress" Falana, with the tagline, "Are you wild enough to wear it?" I mean, yes, I am...but Tigress was more of a languid, purring kitty cat than a wild animal.
According to Fragrantica, Tigress is an oriental fougère* with aldehyde, citrus, floral and spice notes, as well as oak moss, vanilla and amber.
Tigress starts off with a sharp blast of bergamot and a strong amber component undergirding the florals. I’m bad at guessing middle/heart notes, but I think it’s safe to say that rose, and maybe hyacinth, jasmine and carnation are among them. (Maybe orris?) It has a momentary soapiness/powderiness that makes it a lot more ladylike than you would think a perfume called “Tigress” would be.
That soapy/powdery Lady is quickly thawed out by a cinnamon note that gets this spicy fragrance cooking again. Although you can smell the vanilla and amber in the dry down, Tigress isn't cloying or overpowering. In fact, one of the things I like best about it is how it develops this amber/vanilla/cinnamon/spicy aspect into something fairly dry and mossy with incensey and even chalky facets.
As it dries down, a civet note lurches forward, only to retreat back into the shadows. (Lordy, I love civet.) I say this so much about so many fragrances that don't list civet in their offical notes, that I’m beginning to wonder if I should summon Oliver Sacks to perform some neurological tests on me to determine if “phantom civet apprehension” has not become a side effect of my obsessive sniffing.
In any case, with all this going on (aldehydic mossy incensey Oriental fougère, etc. etc.), Tigress should be a cacophonous mess. Instead, the notes are married together so well, and it feels like a coherent riff on Tabu, the ür-amber Oriental. After trying four Fabergés — Flambeau, Woodhue, Aphrodisia and now Tigress — I think the latter, especially in its dry down — is the one that holds up as "modern" more than the others. Perhaps it's modern in a niche sense, however, rather than in a commercial one.
Last but not least — a commentary on the advertising for Tigress over the years. I’ve included an ad from the 30s or 40s that says that Tigress is “the perfect perfume for furs.” Later, in the 60s, there’s a blonde woman with stripes covering her and the surrounding wall that reads “Wild! Is the word for the uninhibited jungle beat of Tigress Parfum Extraordinaire…made in France by Fabergé.” And then there's the tie-in for Cats, the musical, which I will refrain from snarking on.
But it’s the ad with singer Lola Falana that really interests me — and sort of depresses me. First off, it’s the first vintage ad in all of my searches that features a black woman. Before we all start golf-clapping that at least there’s one, let’s note that she’s depicted in a racially stereotypical way — as an “animal,” as “wild” sexually, etc. I mean, I realize that she was dubbed “The Black Tigress” for a while, but wouldn’t it be nice to see an ad with a woman of color just being a beautiful, elegant woman?
Anyway, stay tuned for Octavian Coifan of 1000Fragrances to give us definitive notes for these Fabergé fragrances. I definitely smell Tabu ("the perfume for prostitutes") quoted in Tigress, and he mentioned that he thinks Jean Carles, Tabu's composer, was behind these Fabergés. If any of these sound interesting to you, I would grab vintage versions off eBay, where they're relatively cheap. Some Fabergés are discontinued, but I hear Tigress is still in production and is supposed to be awful. Also, avoid The Vermont Country Store's reproductions.
*Fougère is a fragrance category meaning "fern-like," but whose smell isn't akin to ferns. It has herbaceous notes on a base of mossy notes, and usually comprises bergamot, lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss. (Coumarin is the primary chemical in the tonka bean and has been described as smelling like vanilla and/or newly-mown hay.)
** (The Lola Falana Tigress ad is from the fabulously named blog, Temple of Schlock.)