Floating Like a Vapor On the Soft Summer Air: La Haie Fleurie du Hameau
Review by Donna
When I think of a white flower fragrance, I usually imagine something radiant and bright, happy and open, and of course sensual and romantic. The perfume named Joy is called that for a good reason, and Fracas is a rollicking and overflowing celebration of cheerful excess. Even the chilly perfection of my beloved Un Lys is more elegant than somber, shining with a cold light yet shining brightly nonetheless. Among such perfumes, A La Nuit is the epitome of this quality – it gives off an exuberant white heat as dazzling as any desert sun. For this reason, I was somewhat unprepared for what I found in another white floral scent, L’Artisan La Haie Fleurie du Hameau.
This exquisite fragrance was created in 1982 by the master perfumer Jean Claude Ellena, and is available as an Eau de Toilette at L’ Artisan boutiques, as well as their web site and a few other online sites, but since it has limited distribution it may not be very familiar to many. All I knew before I tried it that it was supposedly an ode to jasmine, and I will try anything at all that is about jasmine. Even the “cheap” perfumes with lots of jasmine usually appeal to me. (Sand ’N Sable, I am talking to you.) Jasmine almost guarantees that I will at least like a fragrance if not love it outright.
When I first dabbed this on, it was deceptively simple, just a lovely floral blend with an obvious tilt toward jasmine, ladylike and refined, and exactly what I am usually drawn to. Soon the indolic quality of the jasmine emerged, though it was not overwhelming, just a nice backbeat to the other floral notes. I wondered when it would soar into the sunny brightness I have come to expect from this style of perfume – but it never did so. The reason for this soon became apparent, for not only does this have jasmine, it also has generous doses of honeysuckle and narcissus, both of which can have a melancholy aspect, as well as the pleasing surprise of wisteria, queen of all the pea family blossoms, adding a nostalgic haze of sweetness that it is not in the least sugary for all its intensity. This is an ingenious theme; a fragrance with a focus on the romantic twining vines of jasmine, honeysuckle and wisteria, the evening stars of early summer when the evenings are long and the twilights are magical. It could almost be said to be mainly a honeysuckle perfume, so pervasive is that note in this fragrance. The whole gave me an impression of flowers blooming on a rainy night, a wet and somewhat lonely feeling. “La Haie” is French for hedge or hedgerow, and I can imagine traveling in the countryside in the summertime and breathing deeply of the scented air as night falls. Then the rain starts, and it gets a little chilly as damp clothes cling to the skin in the aftermath of the rain shower. It is a relief to see the lights of home appear in the distance.
White flowers are traditional for weddings of course, and they have bedecked many a bridal bower, church pew and garden arbor. Perfumes based on white flowers such as orange blossom are very popular with brides as well, and nothing says gaiety and optimism like a heady floral fragrance on a happy wedding day. However, if I were a bride, I would not choose this one to wear as I walked down the aisle. This is a white floral to be sure, so beautiful as to be heartbreaking, and that is the point; this is a fragrance for the one who waits in bewilderment as the groom fails to show up at the church. It is tinged with a sadness that other white floral scents do not have, a sense of loss that underlies its sweetness. It is a perfume of love letters saved until they are yellow and brittle, of waiting for someone who never comes home, an essence of regret and longing. The bride who wears this perfume has a faded gown that she keeps in vain, having been saved for years in the faint hope of ever being worn outside the bedchamber where she puts it on and looks in her clouded mirror, seeing the hopeful girl she once was superimposed on the reflection of her true appearance as she herself fades away with the years of waiting. The wind has blown the shutters open, allowing the scent of the night blooming vines that climb the walls of the old house to enter. The somber rain sluicing down her windows only intensifies her sadness.
I would like to own this fragrance, but I am almost afraid to have it, and only so it could be worn for the pure enjoyment of its beauty, and not necessarily for wearing out and about in the world. It brings out emotions I did not expect, and it is just a little disturbing because of it, yet that makes it more interesting than many of the bright and cheerful white florals I have known. It has a dark quality that I find to be almost unique among perfumes of this class. When it finally dries down to an earthy oakmoss after many hours, the honeysuckle wistfulness still lingers. It is a scent of great and tender beauty, but I would need to be in a certain mood to wear it. It is not for those times when one already feels vulnerable and emotionally raw, for it is certain to amplify that state of mind. (One aside: if this was made in a Parfum or even an EDP I would be even more inclined to possess it, though I almost don’t want to imagine how much lovelier it could be that way.)
This old song came to mind for some reason when I experienced this fragrance. I have always loved it, but it is undeniably sad:
“I long for Jeanie with the daydawn smile,
Radiant in gladness, warm with winning guile;
I hear her melodies, like joys gone by,
Sighing round my heart o'er the fond hopes that die:
Sighing like the night wind and sobbing like the rain,
Wailing for the lost one that comes not again:
Oh! I long for Jeanie, and my heart bows low,
Never more to find her where the bright waters flow.”
-Stephen Foster, “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair”, 1854 (excerpt)
From Basenotes, the main notes of this fragrance are as follows: Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Wisteria, Tuberose, Narcissus, Hyacinth, White Lily, Oakmoss and Vanilla.
Image credit: “Ghost” from art site www.gothik.ws (Google cached)