Vintages The Fresh Scents of the 1970s, Part 3: Eau de Campagne by Sisley

The Fresh Scents of the 1970s, Part 3: Eau de Campagne by Sisley

08/22/15 08:52:41 (6 comments)

by: Elena Vosnaki

Claude Monet, Poppies, 1873
We tend to think of "back to nature" as a movement that first stood on its legs in the 1990s, when concern for ecology and global warming first came into the collective conscience. Yet back in the 1970s, the increasingly urbanized lifestyle created its own desire for countryside pleasures. After all, Et in Arcadia Ego is an old story and the concept ebbs and flows in a cyclical pattern ever since its introduction in the 19th century.
Alfred Sisley, Grain fields on the hills of Argenteuil, 1873

Eau de Campagne by Sisley came out in the mid-70s, with a name to recall...the countryside. 'Campagne' means countryside in French, of course, though it can also refer to several specific communes in France, distinguished by further naming. It remains enigmatic which region exactly perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena referenced as his inspiration for this fragrance for men and women, but we could safely guess that it would be a place of aromatic density and fresh meadows, dotted with wildflowers. This "story" was less Earth Mother and more luxury, though.

The newly founded skincare company by the name of Sisley (no relation to the Italian fashion brand) was Hubert and Isabelle d'Ornano's personal vision for a brand that would heed to quality botanical ingredients. Hubert d'Ornano is also responsible for Orlane, another brand with fragrances tied to naturalism. 
The art 'de vivre à la Française', the French lifestyle, places a lot of importance on the sacred two weeks of paid vacations in the months of summer. To give you an idea of just how important they're considered, let me tell you that when they were introduced by law in the 1930s, a wonderful Jean Patou perfume was made in their honor: Vacances.

The French, contrary to most Greeks, who invariably equate a summer vacation with seaside living or with residences atop a mountain (an association dictated by our specific terrain), are often opting to spend their vacations away from either mountain or seaside. They choose the vast countryside and a glorious countryside it is, despite it's size. Rivers and streams, green meadows, lowly hills lush in vineyards dotting the valleys of Alsace, and various chateaux in the distance in the Loire region.

Camille Pissarro, The Church and Farm of Eragny, 1895

There would be sparkling white linens freshly washed on a line, a cottage with fantastic Provencal cuisine being prepared by a hearty cook in a picturesque kitchen with pots and pans hanging from the walls, and endless varieties of people, young and old, with just the right freckles, the crumpled linen dresses and pants and a smile and contentment that spoke of the good life, of savoring simple things. These were no posh, gilded images of the Versailles, these were everyday instances of pure joy and true luxury in the sense that Coco Chanel defined: "there are people with lots of money and there are rich people". It makes me think of Pissarro scenes.

Camille Pissarro, Fields, 1877

These are exactly the images which made French fashion & beauty periodical "Elle" such an inspiration for my teenager eyes in later decades and which cemented my theory of life. Casual chic could be glamorous too! In fact, more so, since it implied living life to the fullest. 

Eau de Campagne was conceived by the aristocratic d'Ornanos with that rustic concept in mind, creating a wonderful paradox. The proximity with nature, the simple pleasures rendering a genuine luxury via the best synergistic ingredients the soil can provide. The secret glamour of quotidian life looked like the perfect fit for perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena
As scent chronicler Annick Le Guerer writes (my own translation from French): "Quotidian smells are his inspiration. They might come from waxed floors, from clean linen, from skin, from the hollow of an elbow, from an old pullover or from grilled bread, from pastel color sticks, from white glue. From rice or florists, from the underground, from the Carambar caramel wrappers or Malabar chewing gum, from the baker's shop".
For Eau de Campagne, the defining element is a novel note: tomato leaf. 
Brilliant in its innovative quota, tomato leaf has a simultaneous astringent, bitter green and leafy sweet character. Scent critic Chandler Burr describes it as "fresh as a tender branch ripped from a tree and rich as strong beef bouillon". Coupled with basil, it gives the rustic impression a lifelike illusion. The two could be critical parts in some rustic stew involving freshly-caught game and tender vegetables. But the balance wasn't easy to get right. Like with Ellena's other innovative "light" interpretation of a known theme into novel arpeggios, L'eau d'Hiver, it took a lot of mods, working, re-shifting, thinking about it, back on the drawing board and all over again.
The green side of Eau de Campagne was a given with Sisley. The visual presentation has always been green colored. Galbanum resin gives its own slicing scimitar contribution and the vegetable-patchouli accord makes its proto-mould appearance here first. This is why it might estrange acolytes of the "gilded", posh perfume in Parisian style; it's not what you think of as a perfume in a perfume bottle, as much as a scent, clutching on your skin and clothes after spending time in the countryside on some relaxing vacation. Although it has an element of "chypre"in its construction (and a wink to Guerlain's Vetiver), it doesn't quite feel like a perfume inspired by nature, yet meant to be dabbed behind your ears. Like with Annick Goutal's Eau du Sud, there's also a soapy element to the whole thing, which one can't quite place; the soapy note is not rosy, nor jasmine, nor musky, and it's not ris-based, but it does give that feeling of calmness and propriety. Which is probably why the scent was used to aromatize a special body oil conceived for men only. It felt right.
Claude Monet, Lemon Trees at Bordighera, 1884
The bright citrus (astringent and happy lemon and a refined, more nuanced bergamot) on top of herbs is what relaxes the composition, giving a sense of familiarity and a touch of the old Mediterranean ritual of "eau de cologne", a gesture of well-being decades before that phrase was on the lips of PR copy about body lotions and potions.
After all these years, Sisley still hasn't been able to surpass their first fragrance, the ultra masterful Eau de Campagne, composed by Jean-Claude Ellena. We're thankful it's still in production.
Camille Pissarro, The artist's garden at Eragny, 1898
If you missed them, the previous parts can be found on these links. 
The Fresh Scents of the 1970s

Elena Vosnaki

Elena Vosnaki is a historian and perfume writer from Greece and a Writer for Fragrantica. She is the founder and editor of Perfume Shrine, one of the most respected independent online publications on perfume containing fragrance reviews, industry interviews, essays on raw materials and perfume history, a winner in Fragrantica Blog Awards and a finalist in numerous blog awards contests.

Her writing was recognized at the Fifi Awards for Editorial Excellence in 2009 and she contributes to publications around the world.


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sadly it had been reformulated.
stock up over 20 bottles before the old once gone.
even crazy to exchange tester with the stock I bought at many counters (tester was old, but the stock was new).
after many years of using and giving out to friends, still have about 6 bottles in my closet.
used to use more than a bottle in a summer when I was live in Manchester.


New version is artificial, unlike the "parsley" dominated old one.

Vegas Pauli
Vegas Pauli

This is my all time favorite. I love how naturally crisp and green it is, and the longevity on me is fantastic, it lasts all day on me. No other fresh green scent comes close it this. Its my staple.


I got mine from an online retailer for cheap, so I'm convinced the juice is not quite right. However, what I do have is nice enough: Greeeeen and fresh, more herbal than citric, and more masculine than feminine. Mine is most certainly fleeting and a skin scent at best, with a lack of noticeable tomato leaf. Overall it is pastoral charm in a bottle, light and unpretentious... Thanks again for this great series of articles!


Eau de Campagne is so good. It has barely been improved on if at all by Ellena's later variations in the same theme. It's probably my favorite of all the green fresh scents, and certainly my favorite fresh scent from the 70s.


Too bad it's so fleeting. Even though I love it, it does not last more than two hours. I've searched high and low, but the unmistakeable tomato leaf/galbanum combo is spellbinding.
I just hope it remains in production for us to enjoy. Even if only for a couple of hours.


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