chypres: 3 posts

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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Love Letter to Chypre

Cool, inky, powdery, nutty, dark… It’s hard to explain what’s so compelling about the smell of moss, but Patricia attempts it here and shares her love for all things mossy and chypre.

It was many years before I learned that my favorite perfumes, for the most part, fell into a group called “chypres.” I had no idea that they had anything in common, except that I loved the combination of cool and elegant with dark and almost feral notes, the sacred and profane all rolled into one. Chypre, I found out later, referred to a distinctive accord based around several different elements, but as Victoria mentions in her article on the history of chypre, the important chypre ingredient is oakmoss.

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The oakmoss is exactly why chypres are not without controversy. Due to restrictions by the  IFRA (International Fragance Association) on the use of oakmoss because of its status as an allergen, the formulas of beloved old favorites have been radically altered. Enter synthetic oakmoss and the resultant buzz in the perfume community about dramatic change of beloved chypres like Guerlain Mitsouko, Chanel No 19 and Parfum Grès Cabochard.

But my story begins much earlier when a mother gifted a bottle of Miss Dior to a young teen who wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Was it pretty? It was. Was it sharp and nose-wrinkling? It was that, too. Miss Dior had already been around for a couple of decades when she found a place on my dresser top and had already enchanted many with her love-me-love-me-not quality. The green and peppery opening in Miss Dior progresses from gardenia and jasmine to a creamy drydown of sandalwood and dark leather. In the end, the teen decided that it was true love, and my fascination with all things mossy was born.

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Charenton Macerations Christopher Street : Perfume Review

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The first thing I noticed about Charenton Macerations Christopher Street was that it was a proper, old-school chypre (a perfume based on an intricate combination of citrusy, floral and mossy notes).  At  long last, I should add. It was composed by Ralf Schwieger, author of Lipstick Rose for Frédéric Malle and lately several fragrances for Atelier Cologne and Etat Libre d’Orange.

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Charenton Macerations is a new indie brand created by fragrance consultant Douglas Bender, and Christopher Street is the debut perfume from this indie outfit. The notes of Christopher Street are supposed to give an olfactory picture of this New York neighborhood, and to that end one might want to read the brief as given on the Charenton Macerations Web site. Early on, Bender wished to “…combine classical floral elements with more subversive tones of metals, smoke, watered down alcohol, wet woods, clove, burnt coffee, and dark tea” that would represent, well, a lot of things having to do with the history of Christopher Street and its casts of characters.

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