The hay note is such a strange and rich one, that sometimes I wonder why it has been in abeyance for so long. Once there was a whole sub genre of perfumes (according to Jean Carles) called Foin (hay) and it sounds as though it may have been unisex and went along with two other families: the fougere and the clover (trefle).
It’s odd to see the hay back again. The first time that I – along with everyone else- noticed -it was Bois Blond, Parfumerie Generale’s release, and I thought it a wonderfully subtle perfume. It lasted too short a time on my skin, and for that reason alone I decided that it was not for me, but I very much enjoyed its exegesis on the life of wheat from field to beer glass. What was there not to like about it? Who doesn’t like bread or beer, we’re talking the staff of life here.
More recently I tried Testa Maura’s Capo di Feno*** the name of a place near a beach on Corsica according to Luckyscent, but to my nose, it is a much more rustic take on the wheatfield and the smell of it. The entrepreneur behind Testa Maura is Xavier Torre, who is, like another successful perfumer before him, a Corsican, and like that other perfumer,* he too is inspired by his birthplace. His perfumes are also all natural.
“Where the mowers mow the cleanest,
Where the hay lies thick and greenest,
There to track the homeward bee,
That’s the way for Billy and me.”**
This was the poem that summed up the fragrance for me. Capo’s strong for starters, and there is a lot of immortelle in it, and a lot of hay, or its doppelganger, and the combination seems almost soapy on skin, soapy and smoky by turns. Capo di Feno is a strange scent, but it does convey, like that bit of poetry, and like the later paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, something of the blond, ceaseless rustling of life in sunlight roasted fields. The sort of fields you find around the Mediterranean. We forget, but a lot of agriculture goes on in Sicily and Corsica, and that is what Capo di Feno recalls. This is a scent one feels one might have smelled a hundred years ago.
If there’s a pitfall it may be wearability, although Capo did better on my skin than it did on paper, distinctly so, and the scent might do well on those with oilier skin than I have, or possibly on a man, but this is one that will prove taste specific. You must love that sun cooked earth smell, the whole cicada soundtrack of high Summer, or else, I fear it won’t appeal to you. This is what the DeCecco Pasta girl smells like, this is what Sicily smells like in August, heck, this must be what Corsica smells like.
And they breed world conquerors there, so better watch out for Mr. Torre.
*Francois Coty, born Spoturno, in Ajaccio
** A Boy’s Song, by James Hogg
*** I actually read the name as Capo di Fieno which would mean Hayhead, and it seems the name is place specific, so my bad, but I somehow wish it had been named Capo di Fieno because it is a poetically daft name for a perfume.