My Favorite Things-Hay

I once had a colleague who owned a horse farm. Every year about this time he would be waiting for the moment that it was time to go harvest the hay that would feed the horses through the winter. I went to visit during the harvest one year. The smell of the dried sweet grass was beautiful in the midsummer heat. Because of that experience I always think of hay as a summer style of perfume. Most others see it as something to be worn in the fall. Because it is the right time of year I thought I’d share my five favorite hay perfumes.

My first perfume encounter with hay came from Serge Lutens Chergui. Named after a desert wind that blows through Morocco, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake would set the table for most hay perfumes to come. He chose immortelle and tobacco as the companions for the hay to replicate the hot wind. On that stiff breeze is also carried sage, orris, sandalwood, leather, and honey. It is one of the best of the entire Serge Lutens collection.

pg-bois-blond

Parfumerie Generale Bois Blond was inspired by the smell of the hay harvest in summer. Perfumer Pierre Guillaume comes the closest to capturing the smell of that harvest. He cleverly marries a green grass accord which as it develops dries out to the hay with tobacco providing more sweetness. It all rests on a desiccated cedar base. This is usually my yearly reminder perfume of the hay harvest.

Santa Maria Novela Fieno is named after hay but doesn’t contain any hay absolute. Instead the heart is a hay accord which is a bit of an abstraction as hawthorn, jasmine, myrtle, and coumarin combine to form this olfactory illusion. When I wear Fieno I always notice the pieces at first. It is only when I stop focusing that I get this beautifully composed facsimile of hay.

Diptyque Volutes is a perfume which has continued to impress me more every time I wear it. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin uses the same immortelle, hay, and tobacco nucleus as Chergui. The difference is he infuses his with resins and spices namely black pepper and myrrh most prominently. It is a perfectly balanced perfume that is nearly flawless.

I have only had my sample of the last choice for a few months but Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense has imprinted itself on me. Independent perfumer Dannielle Sergent keeps it simple. Hay absolute and frankincense intertwine. Immortelle also makes a late appearance as well as birch leaf and vetiver. It is a gorgeous perfume.

I will not be standing in a field this summer but any of the five perfumes above can transport me there if I breathe deep and close my eyes.

Disclosure: I have purchased bottles of everything except Cognoscenti No. 30 Hay Incense which is courtesy of a sample from Cognoscenti.

Mark Behnke

Diptyque 101- Five to Get You Started

It wasn’t my first niche fragrance but it was the first perfume which burrowed deep into my consciousness and wouldn’t let go. Around the year 2000 I would have a sales associate spray a patch of skin with Diptyque Philosykos. This lead to many many visits to the Diptyque boutique as I slowly explored this exemplary line of perfumes. Over the forty-plus years Diptyque has been making fragrance they have produced one of the best collections available as well as working with some of the best perfumers available. Diptyque has stood for quality within the niche sector for as long as it has existed. If you haven’t tried the line here are five to get you started.

Philosykos by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti is a brilliantly transparent fig perfume. It is one of the greatest perfumes created in the last twenty-five years. Mme Giacobetti captures every part of a fig tree from the leaves to the wood finally landing on the fruit itself. It made me love fig-based perfumes and simultaneously set a ridiculously high bar for every one which has come after.

What Mme Giacobetti did for fig; perfumers Daniel Moliere and Fabrice Pellegrin do for sandalwood in Tam Dao. Tam Dao is an exploration of sandalwood in three acts as you move from top through the heart to the base. At each part of the development there is something which draws your focus to a different perspective. It has the same kind of sheer quality as Philosykos which makes it a versatile fragrance for all occasions.

diptyque leau de tarocco

I have hundreds of citrus perfumes in the vault but there are only a few which have truly risen above the mob. One of them is L’Eau de Tarocco by perfumer Olivier Pescheux. The opening is one of the juiciest citrus accords in my collection. M. Pescheux transforms it from sweet sun into smoldering spicy rose as saffron and cinnamon add to the rose. This ends on a fantastic musk and frankincense base. One of the few citrus perfumes which can be worn in the cold as well as the warmth.

Vanilla is just so vanilla it is difficult to make it interesting. Perfume Fabrice Pellegrin manages to do that with Eau Duelle. By using two sources of vanilla a light and a dark one. He creates Tao-like duality which M. Pellegrin cleverly uses throughout the entire composition as spices like cardamom and saffron find space next to tea and cypress wood. A fantastically complex vanilla perfume.

Fabrice Pellegrin was also responsible for Volutes. The more I wear Volutes the more I realize I underestimated how good this was in my early testing and wearing. Given the perspective of time I realize M. Pellegrin has created one of the best tobacco scents I own. Immortelle and Orris provide the opening through which the narcotic richness of the tobacco swirls through. Myrrh and styrax provide a base of resinous depth.

The entire DIptyque line is worthy of exploration especially because besides these five there are some advanced style of perfumes which will surprise and delight any perfume lover. Before you get to those start with these five they will introduce you to one of the original niche perfume brands.

Disclosure: Reviews based on bottles of each fragrance I purchased.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things: Tobacco

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I’m not sure what it is about the dead of winter, dead trees, and snowstorms that makes me want to wear a tobacco perfume. Like clockwork I start wanting to wear them from January to February. I have a lot of them in my collection and the five I’ve chosen could easily be joined by another five or more. If you, like me, are craving a tobacco perfume on these midwinter days here are my favorite five.

Aramis Havana was composed in 1994 by a team of perfumers consisting of Nathalie Feisthauer, Edouard Flechier, and Xavier Renard. Havana was the last of a dying breed as in a sea of fresh perfumes it was a hairy-chested powerhouse. It is a powerhouse with a ridiculously complex tobacco-laden heart that should fall apart under its own weight. The perfumers throw in twelve ingredients to capture a night of rum and cigars in the final days of Old Havana. This was discontinued for a time before returning four years ago essentially untouched. It was one of the great perfumes of the 1990’s and it stands the test of time today.

habanita_de_molinard

While many turn to tobacco and rum when they think of Havana, in 1921’s Habanita de Molinard there is a reminder Cuba is a tropical island. This comes courtesy of a floral heart of jasmine, rose, and ylang-ylang. From out of the florals a tobacco accord rises and curls among the bouquet in the heart. When I also want some flowers with my tobacco I reach for Habanita.

If there is a flagship perfume for the Tom Ford Private Blend collection it very well may be 2007’s Tobacco Vanille. Perfumer Olivier Gillotin takes not only the tobacco leaves but also the tobacco flower. All of that is spiced up with ginger, clove, anise, and coriander. The promised vanilla comes along and completes this ultimate comfort scent. On a frigid night Tobacco Vanille acts as a snuggly cashmere sweater in fragrant form.

By Kilian Back to Black is one of the greatest modern perfumes. Perfumer Calice Becker, in 2009, pulled off the ultimate olfactory illusion. She created a tobacco perfume without using any tobacco. As a result this artificially constructed tobacco accord has more depth and nuance than any tobacco perfume I own. As the early notes begin to assemble on your skin until after a few minutes you are enveloped by the smell of narcotic tobacco, it is all a trick. I think this is one of the modern masterpieces of perfumery.

2012’s Diptyque Volutes by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has broken its way into my top tier tobacco rotation by adding in a number of my other favorite perfume notes. M. Pellegrin adds immortelle, myrrh, and hay to add different sweet components to pick apart the sweet facets of tobacco. Throughout piquant notes of pink pepper and black pepper add a roughness to all of the smooth sweet tobacco. If you think you have enough tobacco fragrances try Volutes you might want to find space for one more.

There are my five favorite tobacco perfumes, no Surgeon General warnings necessary.

Disclosure: I purchased all of the perfumes mentioned.

Mark Behnke