Guerlain’s Jicky is always eulogised as a symbol of change in perfumery. When Jicky was launched in 1889, it was heralded as one of the first perfumes to use synthetic raw materials and historians call it the first abstract perfume. Although Jicky smells of its composite parts, the overall composition is abstract; it is not trying to replicate the smell of anything that exists in nature. This was revolutionary thinking in 1889. The end of the 19th century was a time of innovation and creativity that nourished all art forms. In the year of Jicky’s birth, the Eifel Tower was inaugurated, Impressionism was in full bloom and the seeds of Modern Art were beginning to sprout. Riding the coat tails of La Belle Epoque, the French perfume industry enjoyed a renewed spirit; it was a time of optimistic effervescence and creative perfume houses made small steps that contributed to Jicky’s remarkable stride forward. In 1882, perfumer Paul Parquet created Fougere Royale, which was the blueprint for Jicky’s structure. Parquet’s structure was so remarkable, it is still used in men’s perfumery today and perfumes that borrow from it are classified under the term fougere. In the seven years that separated Fougere Royale and Jicky, perfumers experimented with Parquet’s innovative fougere structure, which relied on a newly synthesized molecule called coumarin, a molecule that smelled like hay and almonds. Perhaps it was Parquet’s reference to a plant that ironically had no odour, fougere is French for fern, which led perfumers to make this connection; in the late 19th century, a number of perfumes were launched that were based on the scent of freshly mown hay. Brands were not yet revolutionaries like Guerlain and their perfumes were given a title that made direct reference to what its wearer was expected to smell. Italian apothecary Santa Maria Novella created Fieno (1886), Roger & Gallet were selling Extrait Indian Hay (c1892) and Old London had New Mown Hay (c1890). Even Guerlain could not resist the trend and in the late 1890s it launched a perfume called Foin Coupe or New Mown Hay. In the same year Fieno was launched in Italy, Parisian house Oriza L. Legrand launched a perfume called Foin Fraîchement Coupé. Little public record of the perfume existed until recently when entrepreneur Franck Belaiche saw an opportunity to bring the perfume house back to life. Going through the house’s archives, which date back to 1720, he chose to revive a selection of Oriza L. Legrand perfumes that were originally created between 1886 and 1925. In its day the house was highly reputed and had family ties to Marie Antoinette’s perfumer. It also supplied perfumes and toiletries to the French Court of King Louis XV. One of the house’s milestones came in 1887, when it submitted a patent for the world’s first solid perfume, called Essence Oriza Solidifiee. The Oriza name came from the Latin word for rice, Oryza Sativa, which was used to make powders for 18th century cosmetics and toiletries. Like many great perfume houses that flourished during La Belle Epoque and the Roaring Twenties, Oriza L. Legrand did not survive past the 1930s. In its revived state, Oriza L. Legrand now has a boutique in Paris’ 2nd Arrondissement, on rue Saint-Augustin. The house works with perfumers in Grasse to reinterpret historic formulas using new essences and molecules that conform to today’s safety protocols and modern consumer tastes.
Foin Fraîchement Coupé is a serene olfactory shade of pastel green. Its freshness comes from wild mint and clary sage, an effect that has a surprisingly long extension from top to bottom. Behind this glacial wall unfolds a classic fougere structure – a fizzy harmony of bitter citrus notes and aromatic lavender, which wears down to become pale almond musk. The story gets a unique twist with a touch of star anise and a pulpy clover accord that smells of fresh cut grass. As the cool and juicy grass note finds its end, Foin Fraîchement Coupé begins to warm up. Humid and warm, it is similar to the feeling of being inside a barn, where bails of hay are left to dry. Part of Foin Fraîchement Coupé’s antique charm is the almond or marzipan note, which I presume is achieved by grafting heliotropin to the coumarinic hay accord. The result is an expansive, powdery sillage that brings to mind the romance of Apres L’Ondee, one of the great Guerlain Belle Epoque masterpieces. Once Foin Fraîchement Coupé has run its course, the skin is left with a soapy-clean veil, which whispers musk infused with tonka bean and almond.
10 years ago, almost to this month, I smelled Diptyque’s Foin Coupe candle and Santa Maria Novella’s Fieno for the first time and I remember thinking how unusual they were. For me they were childhood smells. I grew up on a farm where the smell of hay and grass was an abundant odour. So why is a smell like Foin Fraîchement Coupé relevant today? I think it is a fragrance about romanticism. It has an ability to move its wearer to a different time, away from the gravity of world current affairs and away from modern city living, where a normal day involves working behind a computer screen devoid of any interaction with nature. Foin Fraîchement Coupé is a clean smell from the old world and if you are a fan of wearing fragrances your grandfather wore, Foin Fraîchement Coupé is something I highly recommend to explore. With the resurgence of barber shops being the go-to place for men’s grooming, this is a product I can see fitting perfectly into this new world of tattooed barbers with meticulously manicured beards. It takes the civility of the past and mixes it with street styled hipster culture of today.
Alternatives: Guerlain Jicky, Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur, Grossmith Phul Nana, Santa Maria Novella Fieno, Penhaligon’s Bayolea
Perfumer: Information not available
Release Date: 1886/2014
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Green