New Style-Chypre Perfumes

Chypre perfumes that rely on an intricate interplay of citrus, florals, moss, woods and musk are among the most intriguing and complex. As I’ve described in Revolutionary Perfume : A Brief History of Chypre, it attained the form we recognize today in 1917 with the creation of Coty Chypre, although the idea of a mossy-citrusy accord is much older. Many iconic fragrances are classified as chypre, from Guerlain Mitsouko to Chanel No 19. However, given the IFRA-mandated restrictions on the use of oak and tree moss in perfumery, the classical chypre is an endangered species. Its dark, warm accord contrasted with the effervescence of citrus can’t be achieved without the inky richness of moss.

For a perfumer, however, the only choice is to experiment with ingredients that can evoke a chypre-like effect. Patchouli, oud, musks, dark woods and woody-ambery aromatics can in part produce the unique sensation of a good chypre perfume–I describe it as the crinkly feel of raw silk. Chanel 31 Rue Cambon, for instance, is an excellent new style chypre, even if it doesn’t include moss.

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Vietnamese Green Oil, DIY Colognes and Other Cool Delights

The second part of my refreshing scents series focuses on non-alcoholic and DIY options. Some people prefer to skip alcohol during hot days, and I’m often asked for inexpensive solutions. Experimenting with scents during summer is fun, but when the temperature rises above 35C, the idea of putting on perfume becomes unappealing.

I instead reach for oils from Vietnam or Thailand, especially Dầu Gió Xanh Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. This popular Vietnamese oil is used for headaches, muscle pains, etc, but I also find it effective on hot days when my head feels heavy. The scent is spicy and incense-like, but it’s unexpectedly refreshing. The oil was created in 1935 by a German chemist, Wilhelm Hauffman, for a Singaporean trading house J Lea & Co. Hauffman was perfecting the extraction of chlorophyll, which gave the oil its color, while the other main ingredients included menthol, methyl salicylate and eucalyptus oil

Green Oil became a household favorite in Vietnam once it was introduced in the 1960s. On the other hand, its Art Deco-styled bottle and vivid hue would be familiar not just to those who grew up in Vietnam and other Asian countries, but also the former Soviet ones. During my childhood in Ukraine, medicated oils and Cao Sao Vàng (Golden Star Balm) were considered as nothing short of panacea.

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What’s a Perfume Pyramid and Why It Can Be Ignored

I have a new video based on this oft-requested topic. What is a perfume pyramid and how much can it be trusted? I wont bury the lead and tell you that any perfume pyramid or a perfume marketing description needs to be taken with a grain of salt. A perfume is a blend of volatile fragrant components that is more than the sum of its parts. Moreover, there is a bit of confusion surrounded the concept of a perfume pyramid, because it conflates a listing of notes with a specific style of fragrance composition that became popular in the 1950s.

In my video, I also give examples of fragrances composed in both the pyramid and linear style. Needless to say, linear fragrances can be just as intricate and complex as perfumes created in the pyramid style.

Cooling Perfumes : Seeking Freshness

This summer has been strange in many ways, and the sudden onset of heat threw everything off-kilter. Normally I’d escape my sweltering apartment–this is Belgium, we don’t have air conditioning–and head to the local mall or library, but that’s not possible. Instead, I’ve dipped into my perfumer’s toolkit, made a few cooling colognes and lined up refreshing fragrances. A jug of fennel and rose sherbet is cooling in the fridge. Cold buckwheat noodles will require only a few minutes in the kitchen later, and for lunch there is watermelon and feta. Thus prepared, I can work in relative comfort.

I will share my DIY options on Monday, but for this week’s video, I’ve selected a few perfumes that are cooling. Cooling, not just cool. Is there a difference? To a perfumer, there is, and it’s an important one. A cool perfume evokes a particular refreshing association through the use of notes like green leafy notes, citrus, green fruit, green florals or aldehydes. A cooling perfume, on the other hand, usually contains menthol. Menthol activates the cold-sensitive receptors in the skin which is why menthol-containing perfumes feel cooling.

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My Favorite Summer Perfumes (at the moment)

I came back from the market the other day with a big bouquet of cornflowers and as I sat admiring their vivid color, I realized that these blue flowers are my quintessential summer blossom. Their scent is delicate, green, slightly musty, but the fascinating aspect of olfaction is how such subtle aromas can evoke strong memories. I smelled cornflowers and I could see the wildflower meadows of Poltava, the region in Central Ukraine where I spent the first 15 summers of my life. I could smell the watermelon, feel the sticky peach juice on my fingers and catch a whiff of my great-grandmother distilling rosewater. Being unable to travel there makes me more nostalgic–and renders the familiar scents more intense. Instead of being melancholy after smelling cornflowers, as one might imagine, I felt rejuvenated and uplifted.


This experience inspired me to focus my new video on my favorite summer perfumes. I reflected on what fragrances I gravitate to in the summer and why. While the exact perfumes might change year to year, the main idea stays the same–I wear fragrances that feel refreshing in warm weather and that evoke the pleasant idleness of a good vacation.

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