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15 Best Mossy Fragrances: Earthy, Woody & Green

A rolling stone may gather no moss, but I’ve gathered a selection of the best mossy fragrances for you. Urgh! Lame, I know. But you get the point, hopefully. 

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Strictly speaking, when I refer to mossy, I’m talking about oakmoss (Evernia prunastri), the species of lichen that mainly grows on the trunk and branches of oak trees in Northern Hemisphere forests.

If you want to know more about lichens (a fascinating algae-fungi amalgam), you can read all about them on Britannica.

Although the ingredient is now quite restricted under International Fragrance Association (IFRA) allergen regulations (and part of the reason why many classics in the genre have been reformulated), mossy fragrances have lost none of their allure. Whether the real thing and/or synthetics such as Veramoss or Evernyl, oakmoss remains a fundamental element of chypres and fougères. 

So what does oakmoss smell like? I would use words like earthy, woody, bitter, green, musky, damp and tobacco-ish to describe it. Used as a base note that lingers in the drydown, it’s often paired with leather, tobacco and vetiver for depth.  

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

Oakmoss

This selection includes the classics and more contemporary releases, the ridiculously cheap and pricier niche varieties.  

Where known, the name of the perfumer is included in brackets after the name of the fragrance. 

Our Shortlist For Best Mossy Fragrances

Guerlain Mitsouko EDP

Guerlain Mitsouko EDP

Coty Chypre kick-started it all in 1917 and while that François Coty creation deserves all the accolades it gets for its pioneering perfumery, I start our best mossy fragrances with the equally ground-breaking Guerlain Mitsouko. Some experts reckon it’s the greatest perfume of all time. It’s that special.  

This 1919 release from the French house was created by Jacques Guerlain, the perfumer behind other greats such as Guerlain L’Heure Bleue (1912), Guerlain Shalimar (1925) and Guerlain Vol de Nuit (1933).

Mitsouko (“mystery” in Japanese) was named for the heroine from the Claude Farrère novel La Bataille, about a married Japanese woman’s secret love for a British officer during the Russo-Japanese war. 

With over 100 years in production, it’s obviously been reformulated over the decades and is now part of the Les Légendaires Collection, along with Jicky, Samsara, L’Instant de Guerlain, Insolence, Champs-Élysées, Chamade, Après L’Ondée and others). Purists will insist it’s a shadow of its former self.

Nevertheless, even in its current formulation, its blend of bergamot, fruity florals (rose centifolia, jasmine), spice (black pepper, cardamom), peach, patchouli and moss (Evernia furfuracea, the lichen which grows on pine trees) is still something to behold. 

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Pinaud ClubMan After Shave Lotion

Pinaud ClubMan After Shave Lotion

A heritage brand always deserves an intro, so here goes. 

In 1810, Édouard Pinard founded the perfume and cosmetics company, Ed. Pinaud, in Paris. While it became famous for its fragrances, its Clubman range of male toiletries became a barbershop staple. The brand was bought by American International Industries in the 1980s. The range now includes everything from bath and body to haircare products.

After shaves have never been my thing. Perhaps because I have experienced really burning ones in the past. I tried Pinaud Clubman After Shave Lotion several times for the sake of research. I love it! 

After all, it’s an aromatic-fougère classic with a most appealing mix of refreshing citrus (lemon, lime, orange) herbal, vanilla, and especially oakmoss notes. As much as I enjoy it on my face, I like it even more splashing it on my body. So this one has migrated from my shaving products to my fragrance collection. 

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Aromatics Elixir Eau de Parfum Spray

Clinique Aromatics Elixir EDP (Bernard Chant)

1971

Fernweh Editions Candles

In the scheme of things, the American beauty brand Clinique (owned by The Estée Lauder Companies) hasn’t released that many perfumes since it made its debut in 1971 with Clinique Aromatics Elixir. Its quality over quantity approach gets the big thumbs-up. 

This classic was created by Bernard Chant, the perfumer behind Grès Cabochard EDP (1959), Aramis EDT (1966), Halston Classic EDT (1975), Estée Lauder Cinnabar EDP (1978), Ralph Lauren Lauren EDT (1978) and Estée Lauder Beautiful EDP (1985).

Clinique Aromatics has all the beauty and complexity of these afore-mentioned scents. 

The herbal aromatics of chamomile and clary sage lead to a softly soothing treatment of florals, including rose, jasmine and ylang-ylang notes. 

Oakmoss takes the lead in the drydown, with woody-earthy support from notes of vetiver and patchouli. 

The brand claims it’s more than a fragrance and with its uplifting properties, I have to agree. FYI: the more recent flankers – Aromatics in White EDP (2014), Aromatics in Black EDP (2015) and Aromatics Black Cherry EDP (2016) – don’t feature oakmoss. 

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Chanel N19 Eau de Parfum

Chanel No 19 EDP (Henri Robert)

Launched in 1970 and created by Chanel No 5 creator Ernest Beaux’s successor, Chanel No 19 refers to the birth date of Coco Chanel, who was born on August 19, 1883.

It was also the last Chanel fragrance to be created while the grande dame was still alive (she died in 1971). Historical significance aside, I love this classic for its unusual floral-woody-green character.

Fernweh Editions Candles

It begins with citrus-fresh notes of bergamot and neroli. But they are secondary to the large dose of galbanum, which gives this scent its outstanding bitter green profile

Iris pallida softens the initial impact with powderiness, while notes of ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose bring floral intensity to the mix. 

The woody base notes of oakmoss and vetiver keep it resolutely sharp.

More than 50 years after its initial launch, this EDP remains a complex and compelling beauty. It’s probably the least crowd-pleasing Chanel fragrance. For more oakmoss à la Chanel, I also recommend the classics Cristalle EDT (1974) and Antaeus EDT (1981).

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Antonio Puig Quorum EDT

Antonio Puig Quorum EDT (Carlos Benaim, Max Gavarry & Rosendo Mateu)

Here’s all the proof you need that you can smell fantastic without spending a fortune. I’m talking less than $15. 

Did you know the Spanish family-owned company that was founded by Antonio Puig in 1914 now includes brands such as L’Artisan Parfumeur, Penhaligon’s, Byredo, Paco Rabanne, Carolina Herrera and Jean Paul Gaultier?

Originally launched in 1981, Quorum packs an old-school power punch in an irresistibly earthy, rough-and-ready style with dominant notes of moss (I checked the ingredients list and this one features Evernia furfuracea, the lichen which grows on pine trees), leather, tobacco and pine.

It’s not often you will find quality at this price, so hunt it down now.

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Cartier Pasha de Cartier EDT

Cartier Pasha de Cartier EDT (Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud)

This 1992 take on the fougère, with its gentlemanly barbershop vibe, is a standout in the genre. 

Aromatic lavender features aplenty in the intro. Notes of mint, caraway, anise and mandarin orange create a fresh spicy mood with green nuances.

There’s more spiciness in the form of coriander, while Brazilian rosewood brings depth. 

Continuing the fougère theme, the drydown sees earthy notes of oakmoss and patchouli balanced by creamy sandalwood.  

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Penhaligon's Quercus EDC

Penhaligon’s Quercus EDC (Christian Provenzano)

Taking its name from the English oak (Quercus robur), this 1996 release from the British niche brand is refined stuff from top to bottom.

The super-fresh opening sees the pairing of citrus notes of lemon and mandarin orange with the herbal aromatics of basil. 

The soapiness of lily-of-the-valley and soft sweetness of jasmine, with a twist of cool spiciness from cardamom, keeps the freshness going. 

After all that airiness, it’s the turn of oakmoss and patchouli with their earthy-woody thing, plus a smidgen of creamy sandalwood, to conclude the scent.

As an eau de cologne, don’t go expecting monster performance from it. But if you’re looking for something classic and timeless, this is it.

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Ylang 49 Eau de Parfum

Le Labo Ylang 49 EDP (Frank Voelkl)

Any doubts that the acquisition of Le Labo by The Estée Lauder Companies in 2014 would dilute the quality and creativity of the NYC-based niche fragrance brand were put to rest when Le Labo Ylang 49 was launched in 2015.

Created by Frank Voelkl (who also produced the ever-popular Santal 33), it’s a luscious, dense and take-no-prisoners composition.

In the opening, ylang-ylang and Tahitian gardenia bring on the floral richness in no uncertain terms. It’s sweet and wonderfully intoxicating. Please don’t stop!

And it doesn’t, thanks to the next stage of the scent’s evolution, featuring dark and earthy notes of patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver.

After all that intensity, sandalwood and benzoin leave a warm and creamy smoothness.

Fantastic!

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Nishane Hacivat EDP

Nishane Hacivat Extrait de Parfum (Jorge Lee)

Thanks to the huge popularity of Creed Aventus, any fragrance with a pineapple note is inevitably compared to that best-seller. 

So let’s state categorically: Aventus doesn’t own pineapple and this 2017 release from the Turkish niche brand’s Shadow Play Collection should be judged on its own merits. 

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, there’s juicy pineapple galore in the opening. Citrus notes of bergamot and grapefruit ensure it’s not too icky-sticky sweet. 

Fresh jasmine continues the fruity tropical vibe of the intro, with patchouli and its biotech equivalent Clearwood bringing clean depth. 

The bitter oakmoss in the drydown makes a pleasing contrast to the sugary aspect. 

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Dior Gris Dior EDP

Dior Gris Dior EDP (François Demachy)

Gray (“gris” in French) is one of the main colors of the French luxury house but this 2017 release (previously known as Gris Montaigne) from the upmarket La Collection Privée Christian Dior is anything but dull. 

In fact, there’s something rather celebratory about it. After all, its launch in 2017 coincided with the 70th anniversary of the couturier’s debut collection in Paris in 1947. 

The freshness of bergamot and jasmine gives way to the powderiness of rose. 

It gets warmer in the drydown, where an oakmoss-patchouli combo brings on the earthy greenery.  

As with other fragrances from the private range, it manages to strike a deft balance between elegance and character. 

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Chloe Nomade

Chloé Nomade EDP (Quentin Bisch)

While IFRA regulations concerning the use of oakmoss had some all-or-nothing commentators predicting the death of the chypre, clever perfumers (such as Quentin Bisch) are an inventive bunch and work their way around such things to produce a thoroughly modern interpretation. 

This 2018 release from the French fashion brand is fabulously fresh with the fruity sweetness of Mirabelle plum standing out among the citrus opening. 

The fresh sweetness continues, but with powdery touches, as a freesia note makes an appearance, with back-up from notes of peach and rose.  

It sounds like it’s getting too sweet, but that’s where the earthy woodiness of oakmoss and patchouli balances it all, with creaminess from sandalwood.   

Chloé Nomade EDT (2019) and Chloé Nomade Absolu de Parfum (2020), both created by Quentin Bisch, are also worth checking out for their mossy vibe.

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Acqua Di Parma Quercia EDP

Acqua Di Parma Quercia EDP

Acqua di Parma does some of the best citrus openings in the biz. That’s been a given since its founding in 1916 with Colonia. So Quercia might be a surprise to those who associate the brand only with sunny Italian skies.

Sure, this 2019 EDP begins in typically bright mode, with notes of lemon, bergamot and petitgrain. It starts to change with the appearance of the spice of pink pepper and cardamom notes.

And then takes on a darker character that’s true to its inspiration of walking through an oak-tree forest (“quercia” = oak tree in Italian).

Notes of oakmoss, cedar and patchouli create a suitably damp, earthy and woody feel in the drydown. 

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Cartier La Panthere

Cartier la Panthère Parfum (Mathilde Laurent)

We love the 2014 original for its complexity, but the 2020 parfum version from the French luxury brand is something special too. Although not as intricate as its predecessor, it’s richer and more focused. 

Notes of apricot and osmanthus produce milky fruitiness at the outset.  

Gardenia is known for its intensity and the most is made of the white floral’s sensuality.  

Its earthiness is complemented by the moss and patchouli drydown.

Awkward and clumsy me feels like the epitome of feline gracefulness when I wear this beauty.  

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Le Jardin Retrouvé Mousse Arashiyama EDP

Le Jardin Retrouvé Mousse Arashiyama EDP (Maxence Moutte)

The French niche brand’s 2021 release invites you to lose yourself in the beauty of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan. With an olfactory welcome this evocative, it’s an irresistible proposal. 

The opening is all about the woody, almost citrus-y nuances of lentisque (also known as mastic).

In the background and gradually becoming more prominent, notes of fig leaf and fig accentuate the freshness. 

Maintaining the forest walk illusion, an oakmoss note (“mousse” = French for moss) creates a damp, earthy ambience, with support from patchouli. 

I don’t wear fragrances for compliments, but just so you know, this EDP gets me several whenever I wear it. 


Hermes H24 EDP

Hermès H24 EDP (Christine Nagel)

The French luxury brand went quite conceptual in 2021 – nature meets tech – with H24, their first male fragrance since the modern classic Terre d’Hermès. 

In-house perfumer Christine Nagel succeeded admirably in her aim of creating a scent that didn’t conform to the usual woody clichés of masculine scents with a composition of clary sage, narcissus and sclarene (a molecule with a warm and sensual metallic effect).

As with its predecessor, the 2022 follow-up Hermès H24 EDP is not crowd-pleasing stuff. While it shares the herbal aromatics of the original, it’s defined by oakmoss galore. It gives the scent a finely tuned earthiness and green depth.

It’s everything a flanker should be. And is absolutely unisex. 

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Writer

Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.