The Sweet Breath of Horses

Horse and Hay

Horse and Hay

My sister as a teenager spent some time working in stables, and says that what she misses most from that period is the smell.  Actually I’m pretty sure she meant something specific, not for instance the smell of mucking out- which is never the best odor in stables-and in fact she was thinking of the scent of the horses.  Horses while they were being groomed.  She liked the brushes, and the whiff of a healthy horse, and their sweet breath, and also she loved to clean tack.  Murphy’s Oil Soap was what they often used, and she enjoyed the smell of that too.  Murphy’s made her downright nostalgic.

Now I never spent too much time working with horses.  The majority of my horse time as a child was spent with ponies of the Shetland variety, and I don’t remember the smells as being all that wonderful, but they were different, and definitely much better than cows (does anyone like cow manure?  Thought not.).  Stables have another advantage.  They are near hay lofts, and the fragrance of hay is almost always a good one.

Murphy's OilTaken together you have: leather, horses, brass, metal, hay, clean wood and a lingering scent of clover or even a bit of tobacco, and the aforementioned Murphy’s Oil Soap.  It’s a wonderful combination, perhaps a bit too specific, as in Christopher Brosius specific recalling one place or memory, to be an actual perfume. interpreted too literally other people might think you have been avoiding showering for some time, but what a wonderful evocative memory it is.

Perhaps a modernization of some of the old green chypres might work here, things like the original Chanel No 19 with its warm leather coda, or else de Nicolai’s Vie de Chateau, or even a rounded more rural version of  Estee Lauder’s Alliage, heading the wearer towards the stables rather than the tennis courts.  Maybe you could emphasize the scent of clover and hay with a touch of metal here and there in the composition and possibly a little bit of carrot (horses do love those or apples of course) and in the end leather and a bit of wood.  You would have to include a touch of Murphy’s Oil Soap there too. Hmm.

Possibly I was too hasty.  maybe such a perfume might actually work if it were subtly done and contained a fair number of naturals to give the fragrance that comforting three dimensional quality that a good perfume has. Some animalic scents that conjure up animal presences are popular, Dzing, for instance, and Muscs Koublai Khan, which always reminded me of handbags and not barbarian chieftains anyway. (Given a choice of being downwind of Koublai khan or a stable, I think I’d go for the stables every time.)

Can a successful perfume be made of a the smell of a good stable?  Does anyone else have happy memories of this sort of morning, working with horses? Could a wearable fragrance be made of it?  I wonder if it might not be something a lot of us would enjoy…

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8 thoughts on “The Sweet Breath of Horses

  1. I’d wear Eau de Stable in a heartbeat, but then I love a good barn smell (even the horse manure).

    Jour Ensoleillé by Sonoma Scent Studio smells exactly like a clean horse in the sun – it reminds me of hand grazing a horse that’s just been through the wash bay, drying off in the hot sun and cropping grass. Laurie Erickson mentions working in a stable as part of the inspiration for the perfume. The orange blossom in JE is clean-skanky, not dirty-sweaty-bad-breath skanky.

    Eau de Stable would need a whiff of mint, too; I love it when you give a horse a peppermint and they snort big gusts of peppermint-and-hay breath on you, trying to shake you down for more treats. :-)

    • The description of horse huffing peppermint and hay is just great!

      Jour Ensoleille I have not whiffed in quite some time and bet I didn’t get the stable reference while sniffing. I do get the Vie de Chateau horse/stable reference, and there’s tobacco in there too, which reminds me of the grooms I used to smell as a girl.

      Wish someone would take another crack at the Eau de Stable idea- avec peppermint!

  2. I grew up riding subways, not horses, but I still find these scent descriptions (sweet hay, leather, soap, herbs, et. al.) very appealing. Have you seen that Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studios has just released Equestrian? I am planning to try that one. It seems that Erickson has worked closely with horses in the past, so it is interesting that her Jour Ensoleillé has already been mentioned in this context. (I like that one too.). Meanwhile, I just picked up a bottle of the almost forgotten Faberge Cavale. Tested it only once so far, but I think it might fit in with this thematic category. An appropriate name, and it is a 70’s grassy, slightly leathery chypre.

    • No I had not seen Equestrian though, now I must go over and look at Sonoma Scent Studio again. Laurie Eriskson’s interesting and I do like this little sub-genre of animalic perfumes. There’s Parfum d’Empire’s Equistrius too though that smelled iris-y to me and not too much like horses…
      Cavale I do not know. Someone on Basenotes wrote that it was similar to O de Lancome, which is no bad thing :-)

  3. Great post as always. I grew up a city kid with weekend riding classes and mucking out stables, also picking up horse apples from the paddocks so there were less places for the flies to breed. I liked all the smells there and really loved the mucking out more than the riding, it was fun, mindless, drudgery and a bunch of us kids used to all do it.
    Have you tried any of the oud Caravan series by La Via Del Profumi? Number 3 has a very hearty stable/barnyard feel to it, also with a tack room and some mighty resins.
    Portia xx

    • Can we trade memories of mucking out?

      I have really not run into much of La Via del Profumo and the one I smelled was coffeeeee! But Caravan No 3 sounds up my sister’s alley for sure. Who could resist barnyard and tack room at one time?

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