Jacques Fath Ellipse : Searching for Winter Freshness and Warm Hay

What fragrance would combine the crispness  of winter air and the sweetness of hay warmed up by the sun? For the past few days I have been wondering about it because of a letter from my reader Dianna. Dianna wanted to help her mother find a new perfume to replace her beloved Jacques Fath Ellipse.  She used to wear it exclusively, and now that Ellipse is impossible to find, Dianna’s mother misses it very much. “She often seeks a perfume that would smell as if she just stepped into a field with dry hay laying everywhere,” said Dianna, explaining that her mother loved whimsical, unusual fragrances. I had a vague memory of Ellipse, but since most of us here love a bit of whimsy in our perfumes, I thought that we might come up with some ideas.

Ellipse was launched in 1972, and it was a fragrance my own mother wore from time to time. But I could not recall much of it, other than it was a chypre, a mossy-earthy fragrance type. Dianna didn’t remember much either. “When I ask my mother about Ellipse, she says she thinks of wintery freshness and then some other clean and airy things in association with this perfume.  I was too little to remember how it smells and cannot answer for myself but I do remember the silver bottle and its lid which looked like the moon, missing a piece,” she wrote in an email.

When I’m stuck, I turn to the person who is unfailingly helpful—Luca Turin. Luca’s knowledge of fragrances runs the gamut from big classics to lesser known gems. So when I asked him about Ellipse, he said that he had a sample and confirmed that it was indeed a chypre. He added that it was “intensely woody-resinous, like Parfum Grès Cabochard with all sweetness removed, perhaps more in the direction of Guerlain Sous le Vent or maybe Vero Kern Onda.” Sous le Vent and Onda are the must-try fragrances for anyone who loves the mossy feeling of classical chypre perfumes, and they’re also plenty whimsical. Onda in particular smells like cool stones, aged wood and soft leather. It’s rich and dark, whereas Sous le Vent has an airy, luminous feeling.

Although Ellipse may not be something many of us will try, the idea of a perfume that had the wintery freshness of a mossy chypre and the sunny sweetness of dry hay seemed so appealing and unusual to me that I became determined to find something similar among contemporary fragrances. For a moment, I considered Hermès Brin de Réglisse, which is a fantasy field in Provence, redolent of warm hay and licorice. But it’s warm and sweet, with a distinctive note of caramel and vanilla. Summers in Provence are scorching hot, after all.

Then my thoughts turned to Annick Goutal Eau du Ciel, which has a beautiful sweet hay note supporting its tender green violet. Eau du Ciel is a walk through a garden after a rainstorm, when wet grasses brush your bare ankles and you can almost taste the bitterness of lilac blossoms on your lips. Or how about L’Artisan L’Eau de L’Artisan, which is a Mediterranean summer fantasy of mint, green jasmine buds and warm hay?

I was going to stop there, but the other day I wore Parfum d’Empire Azemour les Orangers, and I’ve had a minor epiphany—I smelled a mild summer morning perfumed with orange blossoms and sun warmed grasses in this delicate chypre. It starts out on a bergamot and bitter orange leaf which are as refreshing as an ice cube melting on your skin, but the drydown is earthy and mossy. Wait an hour, and Azemour les Orangers reveals a sweet note of hay, which fits perfectly into this delicious fantasy.

What perfume smells like a sun warmed field to you? Do you have other suggestions for interesting green chypres?

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38 Comments

  • Suzanna: Not my category, but I am curious about your suggestion of Azemour les Orangers. PdE has gotten lost in the shuffle of recent releases for me since the stunning Ambre Russe. It looks as if I am off to sample-order!

    Never heard of this Fath scent, so how wonderful to learn of discontinued gems through the memories of others. May 18, 2012 at 7:54am Reply

    • Victoria: If you like mossy, cool notes, Azemour is a must try. It’s easily my favorite from Parfums d’Empire collection. It smells classical, but with a twist of green, crisp notes. May 18, 2012 at 11:48am Reply

  • Dianna: Dear Victoria,
    thank you very much for posting this review. It has a number of options for us to try. I am so excited because coincidentally I am currently awaiting for a sample of Onda in the mail for myself and would love to sample Sous le Vent – for a start 🙂
    Just from reading the descriptions, I have a feeling that Hermes won’t work for my mother as she steers clear from any sweet fragrances but the last three (Annick, L’Artisan, and Parfum d’Empire) sound like definite candidates. Thank you again very much for exploring Ellipse, it brings somewhat a relief to my mind.
    I am not an expert in perfumes and do not decipher notes as easily as many of your readers but I appreciate olfactory sensations, particularly their power to build mental associations and take us to places. Your blog is a bottomless well of perfume-based stories! May 18, 2012 at 8:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Dianna, thank you for such a fun project! I hope that both you and your mother find something interesting out of these choices and the suggestions by others. Another idea is The Different Company Osmanthus, which is bright, effervescent, but has a warm sweet hay drydown.

      I would love to know what your mother ends up liking. May 18, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

  • Claudia: The Los Angeles Times Style magazine ran an article regarding Italian fragrances last month. It mentioned Santa Maria Novella’s “Hay”. I’ve never smelled it, but perhaps Dianna’s mother would like it. Happy weekend to all! May 18, 2012 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: That SMN perfume sounds so good! I haven’t smelled it either, but I would like to. There’s really nothing like a perfume of fresh hay warmed up by the sun. May 18, 2012 at 11:53am Reply

  • jtd: My ‘go to ‘ hay fragrance lately has been Parfums de Nicolai’s Vie de Chateau Intense. Not much to tie it to winter, though. May 18, 2012 at 9:51am Reply

    • Elisa: Another hayful PdN is Le Temps d’un Fete. May 18, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

      • Victoria: Mmm, the combination of sweet hay and crisp green notes in Le Temps d’une Fete is so exhilarating. See, all of you have such great ideas! 🙂 May 18, 2012 at 11:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, that sounds great! How does the Intense version differ from the regular one? May 18, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

      • jtd: I’ve only tried the intense. It’s like a grassy, green chypre but has a huge potent coumarin note that gives it the feel of a dry, dark fougere. May 18, 2012 at 8:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thanks! I need to try the Intense version, it sounds even more interesting than the original one. May 19, 2012 at 10:21am Reply

  • Mary: Bois Blond by Parfumerie generale May 18, 2012 at 10:36am Reply

    • deeHowe: Yes, Bois Blonde!

      It’s summer sunshine in a bottle, and my absolute favorite hay-note in perfume-land. 🙂 May 18, 2012 at 11:34am Reply

      • Victoria: You’re a temptress, D! Who can resist that description! May 18, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

        • deeHowe: 😉 May 18, 2012 at 12:32pm Reply

          • Kristy: Your avatar caught my eye too! Another Siamese cat mama here. 😀 May 18, 2012 at 2:52pm Reply

      • Mary: Hi DeeHowe, is that a Siamese cat in the picture? we have a 7 year old seal point bij the name of Floris. He is adorable. May 18, 2012 at 12:36pm Reply

        • Kristy: I have a Siamese baby too! Her name is Walnut. She’s my second Siamese cat and I just adore this breed. May 18, 2012 at 2:35pm Reply

          • Mary: Hi Kristy, if you have a Siamese you don’t “need”a dog, haha. And he also likes perfume!! May 19, 2012 at 4:54am Reply

            • Victoria: You mean that he likes to sniff the bottles or that he gets closer to you when you wear perfume? My mom’s cat went crazy when he sniffed my wrist after I dabbed Schiaparelli Shocking on it. I assume that it must have been the civet. He was acting sweet and lovey-dovey, which is very rare for him. He’s an independent and aloof cat most of the time. May 19, 2012 at 1:03pm Reply

              • Mary: He gets closer when I waer perfume. I must write down which one he prefers the most, haha May 20, 2012 at 2:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: I myself want to try that! Love hay notes, and this perfume got such great reviews on blogs. May 18, 2012 at 11:56am Reply

  • Mike Perez: I think Sous le Vent is a great idea – hurry up, bottles are scarce to find.

    Also, while you’re at it, try 31 Rue Cambon by Chanel May 18, 2012 at 11:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Good point, Mike! I’m not sure what Guerlain is going to do with it, I really hope that they will keep Sous le Vent in the collection.

      A great suggestion for 31 Rue Cambon, which is such a beautiful, elegant chypre. And it feels modern too. May 18, 2012 at 12:04pm Reply

  • Amer: It seems I too would love ellipse as warm hay and frost ambience are too favorite scents of mine. I can’t say I ever pictured them together but I would love to have a chance to sniff it. I even like the bottle. The moon sculpture is ingenious and I love the poetic dimension it adds to the name! Azemour is a favorite of mine too. Don’t even have a sample but I smelled it on someone else and it brought to my mind the sent of wet skin drying in the summer breeze after a swim. I think it must have been the oakmoss drydown with some marine note and petit-grain May 18, 2012 at 5:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: Amer, that’s a great description of Azemour–wet skin drying in the summer breeze. It has that salty-sweet note, which is so appealing. May 19, 2012 at 10:10am Reply

      • Amer: yep! I actually find it quite sexy in a clever associative way. Sensual and yet tempered and discreet May 19, 2012 at 3:36pm Reply

  • Blacknall Allen: I have had my memory jogged by this post. So I looked through one of my old perfume books, and sure enough, I found Jacques Fath’s “Ellipse” listed as a leathery chypre, maybe this was like “Miss Balmain” then. or the old Cardin perfume “Paradoxe”? May 18, 2012 at 5:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I wish I had some on hand! It sounds more and more interesting. May 19, 2012 at 10:12am Reply

  • annemariec: I can’f find my sample of Azemour but I do know it gave me a most curious experience – I can hardly smell it! I can smell the notes but only faintly, like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Chanel’s Cuir de Russie is the only other fragrance where this has happened to me. Anyway, as I remember Azemour, it had an intensely mossy note, quite dirty, almost dirty ashtray for a short while.

    The idea of wintery freshness is intriguing. It suggests a lack of overt floral notes so Le Temps d’Une Fete may not fit the bill, beautiful tho’ it is. Too spring-like. Luca’s remark ‘all sweetness removed’ may be a clue Dianna’s mother’s taste.

    The Goutal and L’Artisan you mention sound lovely. They go on my to-try list! Wonderful post, thanks. May 18, 2012 at 6:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Anne-Marie! That’s a helpful analysis. I avoided any white florals or any pronounced florals in my suggestions (even though there are great blends that have a nice hay note supporting the jasmine, linden, etc)–they tend to be sweet. May 19, 2012 at 10:20am Reply

  • Ursula: When I think of “hay” … the warm streak inside the EDP of CARON – Montaigne comes to my mind. Montaigne is a classic. The scent opens vigorously but settles rather linear with that warm haystack feeling and has great longevity.

    Another one reminiscent to your mother’s favorite, but somehow modern, could be JEAN PATOU – Sublime. Here, too, is that herbal freshness which dries down softly. May 19, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Ursula, you’ve also reminded me that Caron Pour Un Homme has a delicious sweet hay note (it comes from lavender, but it smells of warm, sweet hay to me.) But I think that it might be too classically masculine for Dianna’s mom. May 19, 2012 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Morton: Hallo Victoria,

    First time comment but a regular reader. Sous le Vent is a personal favourite (I am stockpiling) so nice to see it mentioned as a prospect but my first thought was actually L’Heure Fougueuse for the original question. I don’t know Ellipse but L’HF definitely evokes (slightly moist) hay drying under the sun – it’s a wonderful piece of work 🙂

    Cheers,
    Morton May 20, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Morton! That’s such a great suggestions, and once you mentioned L’Heure Fougueuse, it clicked for me–that’s a perfect warm hay scent with a cool, crisp accent. I might wear it today myself. May 20, 2012 at 9:53am Reply

  • Julie: Serge Lutens Chergui always smells like a field of new-mown hay to me, to the point that my brain tells my nose it should sneeze, but my nose says it doesn’t need to. May 20, 2012 at 12:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also like the sweet tobacco note in Chergui. A beautiful perfume! May 20, 2012 at 10:16pm Reply

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