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.
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.