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.

In my video, however, I decided to describe a range of modern chypre perfumes. Some smell more mossy than others, but they’re redefining this family.

Whether it’s the musky brightness of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely or the salty floralcy of Parfum d’Empire Azemour les Orangers, chypre today can take many forms. It can be a so-called pink chypre like Hermès Kelly Calèche or a floral chypre like Cartier La Panthère. If you enjoy this style, I urge you to explore its new varieties further. If anything, they dial back on the sugar that is present in many new launches today.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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45 Comments

  • Tourmaline: Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for your interesting post and video on modern chypre scents. I recall when I was a teenager, receiving a bottle of “Moonwind” by Avon, a scent that Michael Edwards classified as a classic chypre, and being intrigued by it. I can remember wearing it day after day during one particular holiday, and obsessively sniffing my wrist throughout the day. And that was long before I ever discovered beauties such as Mitsouko and Miss Dior

    I was fortunate enough to have purchased many chypre fragrances prior to the EU restrictions. I wish I’d bought a bottle of Vetiver back then. Neither you nor Fragrantica mention any oakmoss in the ingredient list, but I would imagine there might still have been some changes to it as a consequence of the restrictions. Nevertheless, it’s high time I bought a bottle, so this year, the Guerlain scent that I shall buy from my long-time Guerlain rep, Lyn, will be a bottle of Vetiver. You gave it five stars in 2011, so how bad can the 2020 version be?

    By the way, I have a 100ml bottle of Le Baiser by Lalique, which Mr Edwards classifies as a crisp floral, and I like it very much.

    Using Mr Edwards’ classification system, my current list of chypre fragrances is as follows.

    MOSSY WOODS (CHYPRE)

    FRESH

    Citrus Fruity

    1. Yvresse (Yves Saint Laurent 1993)

    Green

    2. Miss Dior (Christian Dior 1947) – a mini bottle

    3. Intimate Original (Revlon 1955)

    4. Occur! (Avon 1962)

    5. Y (Yves Saint Laurent 1964)

    6. Genesis (Avon 1974)

    White Flowers

    7. Lace (Yardley 1984)

    CRISP

    Green

    8. Ma Griffe (Carven 1946)

    9. Chant D’Arômes (La Maison Guerlain 1962)

    10. Lovely (Sarah Jessica Parker 2005)

    CLASSIC

    11. Mitsouko (Guerlain 1919)

    12. Femme (Rochas 1944/89)

    13. Antilope (Weil 1945) – mini bottle

    14. Moonwind (Avon 1971) August 10, 2020 at 8:34am Reply

    • Victoria: As always, your lists of favorites encompass such a wide range. It’s so inspiring.

      The original Intimate by Revlon was a fantastic plush chypre. August 10, 2020 at 9:06am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Thank you, Victoria.

        Intimate was indeed wonderful. I first received it as a powder spray, the likes of which I’ve never seen since. I liked it so much that I bought the perfume, and I wore it for my first two years of university. It brings back good memories! August 10, 2020 at 9:13am Reply

    • Damiana: This is an impressive list that I may just have to save for reference. Thank you for sharing! August 10, 2020 at 10:33am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Thanks, Damiana! August 13, 2020 at 7:50am Reply

    • Damiana: Cristalle EDT is a timeless green chypre fragrance 🙂 August 10, 2020 at 10:35am Reply

  • Matty1649: I agree with your Guerlain choices, I’ve got those. I’ve got vetiver which I think is lovely.
    I remember Occur August 10, 2020 at 9:39am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Matty,

      I look forward to buying a bottle of Vetiver.

      Some years ago, Avon released bottles of some of their classic fragrances from the past, and I bought spare bottles of several, including Occur, which I think was their version of Miss Dior, and Moonwind. August 10, 2020 at 10:08am Reply

      • Matty1649: I’m in the UK. I know Avon re-released Timeless, due to public requesst. I don’t remember them doing that with Occur, but I could have missed it. August 10, 2020 at 10:24am Reply

        • Tourmaline: I’m in Australia, and the re-release was a good 15 years ago. I don’t recall Timeless. August 10, 2020 at 10:27am Reply

      • OperaFan: Sorry I’m late to the party but – OMG – I didn’t know Avon had a rerelease of those great classics! Moonwind was such a hauntingly beautiful fragrance. I was very young back then and could only afford to buy one of those solid chapstick style perfumes. Come to think of it, I had one each of Moonwind, Charisma, and Field Flowers (which I remember when I smell Chant d’Aromes). September 4, 2020 at 8:57pm Reply

        • Tourmaline: Hi OperaFan,

          I have Chant d”Aromes, so I can have some idea of the scent of Field Flowers, which I never smelled. Those chapstick style perfumes were great for carrying in one’s handbag! The rerelease was at least 15 years ago. I agree, Moonwind is indeed a hauntingly beautiful fragrance.

          Nice talking with you; I hope you have a great day.

          With kind regards,
          Tourmaline September 4, 2020 at 9:02pm Reply

  • Damiana: This is such a fascinating topic especially for someone like me who’s loved classic chypre fragrances from a very young age. Thank you! A couple of modern chypre creations that are worth mentioning to me are Zoologist Nighingale and Maison d’Etto’s Karat EG. August 10, 2020 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: I need to try Nightingale. August 11, 2020 at 10:10am Reply

      • Dami C: I hope you do soon! It’s my favorite from Zoologist 🙂 August 11, 2020 at 11:23am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hi Damiana, I also really like Nightingale. It’s the only FB Zoologist that I have. All their perfumes are so beautifully designed and packaged. It’s part of the pleasure of wearing these perfumes. Moth, Civet and Bat are also very interesting ones. August 14, 2020 at 4:12pm Reply

      • Damiana: Same here! I only have full bottles of Nightingale (two!), but I’ve been contemplating purchasing Dragonfly as well. I also really like Camel. Have you tried both versions of Bat? I’m only familiar with the original version and while I recognize it is an intriguing fragrance, I don’t especially enjoy it on my skin. Thank you for your response 🙂 August 14, 2020 at 7:24pm Reply

        • Silvermoon: With regards to Bat, I have only smelled the first version. Didn’t realise it has changed. Also, I should clarify that I found it interesting (in an intellectual sense), but not something I would want to wear. My 24 year old daughter really liked it (but she is a mega bat 🦇 fan and is studying veterinary medicine). I will let her know there is a new version (do you know what changes they made).

          I have not tried dragonfly, and yes Camel is nice. August 15, 2020 at 5:04am Reply

          • Damiana: I feel just like you about Bat! I’ve read that the new formulation has sweeter fruit accents and conveys less of a “damp cave” sensation than the older version. The perfumer who designed the original Bat actually re-released it under her own brand, Olympic Orchids, with the name Night Flyer. Your daughter might be happy to know that 😉 August 15, 2020 at 2:12pm Reply

            • Silvermoon: Thanks a ton, Damiana. I have already let my daughter know – I read your message out to her. She was glad to hear it’s still available under another label. August 15, 2020 at 2:49pm Reply

  • Rhinda: Thank you for that post Victoria. The original Intimate is still a strong, wonderful memory of my beautiful Mother dressing for an event. The crowning touch, a spray of Intimate.
    Thanks to Tourmaline for the informative list.
    Perfume=Self Love August 10, 2020 at 10:39am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Rhinda,

      You’re welcome!

      That memory of your Mother must be so precious.

      I agree that wearing perfume expresses a level of care for oneself, and also a joie de vivre! August 10, 2020 at 10:53am Reply

  • Marcia: Did I miss noting Chanel No. 19 or Deneuve in Tourmaline’s very comprehensive list?

    A lifelong Chypre admirer, an aunt who frequently went to the Caribbean gave me my first bottle of Antelope when I may have been far too young. Wow!

    I recall when the industry slept through the ban on oak moss, the rationale was potential allergies. No one banned peanuts.

    I August 10, 2020 at 12:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Skin allergies were the issue. To be honest, I can accept the moss restrictions (it’s not banned, just restricted in dosage), but there are many more other restrictions and bans that make less sense. August 10, 2020 at 1:40pm Reply

  • Karen A: Wonderful informative video Victoria, thanks! Chypres and I sometimes don’t work out but when it does, oh my my! 31 Rue Cannon is truly one of my favorite fragrances. August 10, 2020 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: Chypre can be difficult, that’s for sure. August 11, 2020 at 10:10am Reply

  • Joyce: Great article and video, thank you Victori! Also, you must have an amazing necklace collection😉
    A favourite chypre (or rather, rose chypre), is Agent Provocateur’s first perfume (the pink bottle). That one is definitely not for the office!

    I have been thinking about sampling La Panthère as well. And of course, thanks Tourmaline for that extensive list – you must have an impressive collection! August 10, 2020 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Joyce,

      I have more perfume than I could possibly use during the remainder of my life. This often prevents me from trying new fragrances, for fear of finding yet another fragrance (or three) that I think I can’t live without. As a consequence, I tend to get stuck in my vintage perfume bubble. But I should break out and try new fragrances, so that I know what people are talking about when they mention them.

      I don’t think I’ve tried anything by Agent Provocateur – yet! August 10, 2020 at 7:19pm Reply

      • Joyce: Hi Tourmaline, you are far too modest. Agent Provocateur is nothing compared to vintage Rochas Femme 🙂 I have the present day formulation and it’s quite a femme fatale, so can only imagine how alluring the original must be! August 11, 2020 at 5:25am Reply

        • Tourmaline: It’s pretty good!

          I know I’ve said this before, but there were several years, a long time ago now, when I couldn’t tell the difference between Femme and Mitsouko. I would have one in the crook of each arm and would sniff back and forth, but could make no distinction between them. I like to think that my sense of smell improved, but I think this is unlikely! Probably something changed in one of the fragrances. These days, Femme strikes me as somehow deeper and more woody. August 11, 2020 at 5:39am Reply

          • Fazal: I don’t blame you. I have femme vintage in many concentrations and recently acquired parfum de toilette bottle. When I sprayed it, it reminded me of mitsouko more than any other perfume, maybe because that peachy note is so noticeable in both perfumes. August 11, 2020 at 12:58pm Reply

            • Tourmaline: Hi Fazal,

              Yes, it could well be the peach. August 12, 2020 at 4:31am Reply

              • Joyce: Hi Fazal and Tourmaline, you’re both lucky to smell the peach in Mitsouko! I only get a very powerful note of blue cheese 🧀 but maybe one day my skin chemistry will adjust! August 14, 2020 at 1:32am Reply

                • Victoria: It’s not your skin, it’s just knowing what to smell for. If you haven’t seen my video on how to isolate the peach note in Mitsouko, do take a look:
                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJNxiyJO13Q&feature=youtu.be August 14, 2020 at 1:58am Reply

                  • Joyce: Hi Victoria, the good thing about working from home is that I can test this right away 😸

                    Not the peach season in Australia, but I do have L’Heure Bleue. At first they smell very similar but then I can detect a crisp, fruity and dare I say peach note in Mitsouku? Interestingly, in comparison, LH is suddenly creamier and fruitier while Mitsouko is brighter.

                    Thank you, Victoria! I think I will wear LH in one wrist and M the other tomorrow to acquaint myself more!

                    PS. Beautiful necklace! August 14, 2020 at 3:25am Reply

                    • Tourmaline: Hi Joyce,

                      It sounds as though you’re well on your way to smelling the peach in Mitsouko.

                      Towards the end of the year, when we get the stone fruit in season, you’ll probably have even more luck!

                      All the best with it. August 14, 2020 at 4:20am

  • Laoise: Thank you, Victoria! I enjoy reading your articles! Hermes Kelly Calèche is lovely, and I find it easy to wear. But why is it called “pink”? I’ve loved Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir for years but wear it infrequently because it is so strong on me. August 10, 2020 at 7:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s just a moniker to the whole group of new chypre perfumes with fruity or bright floral notes. August 11, 2020 at 10:08am Reply

  • Peter: Aloha Victoria,

    Mahalo for revealing another facet of Chypre. It’s my favorite fragrance family. Of the modern versions that you mentioned, I love both Chanel 31 Rue Cambon and Cartier La Panthere (purchased after reading the BdJ review). Echoing Damiana’s Zoologist Nightingale recommendation is another “animal”, their Civet. A modern chypre with a retro allure.

    Tourmaline has such an envious collection of vintage chypre perfumes. Unfortunately I am only able to acquire contemporary fragrances. I’m especially eager to sample your suggested SJP Lovely and Hermes Kelly Caleche.

    P.S. Tourmaline inspired me to list my modest perfume collection using the Michael Edwards’ classifications. August 10, 2020 at 8:44pm Reply

    • Tourmaline: Go Peter!

      There is just one group that he doesn’t like – the ozonic/oceanic classification. He despises anything with calone!

      I am always surprised when I remember that Lovely is classified as a chypre. It always strikes me as so light and fresh – probably because it manages to be sheer in spite of all the ingredients. I think of it as a fragrance that will never offend, one that can be worn anywhere.

      I really should try all the others you’ve mentioned. August 10, 2020 at 9:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, the very two perfumes that were on my list. They’re excellent, aren’t they? August 11, 2020 at 10:09am Reply

  • Fazal: Oh gawd, I hate the sugary perfumes of present days… on the other hand, love Rue Cambon edt (have not tried edp version) and it is my favorite in the Chanel exclusif line. Among the new chypre-kind fragrances, I have been most impressed by Chloe Nomade edp though sadly I have not smelled other versions of Nomade yet (edt and absolu).

    Overall, I enjoy chypre perfumes, particularly, the chypre florals of 80s and 90s. Chypre floral might be my favorite category of all time and this is also one reason that arguably my favorite perfumer of all time is Francoise Caron. It was amazing to learn that many chypre floral perfumes I fell in love with were done by her. It only helped that she also created original Helmut Lang Cuiron, probably my signature fragrance. August 10, 2020 at 10:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: Cuiron was a genius perfume. I liked it very much. August 11, 2020 at 10:08am Reply

  • Joy Erickson: The reason I love 37 Rue Cambon is that it reminds me of fragrances from my youth that I can no longer find. Chypre has always been a favorite for me. My mother wore many chypre perfumes that were prevalent in the 50’s and 60’s.
    Thank you so much for a great article and a list of fragrances to try. August 11, 2020 at 11:49am Reply

  • Ari: Hi, Victoria!

    I’m curious to see what you think of Chloe Nomade. I find myself liking it quite a lot. October 21, 2020 at 8:23pm Reply

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