Chypre is one of the most esteemed fragrance families and many of the most fascinating perfumes belong to the Chypre family. The term is somewhat of a mystery to the layman and the everyday perfume consumers, and even perfume sales people will often be puzzled by it (and now neither its meaning nor how to pronounce it).
Contrary to the common knowledge, the legendary Francois Coty did not invent the concept of Chypre perfumes. What he did do was modernize these composition with the use of contrasting citrus top notes as well as several synthetics; and also, he has created a solid foundation of popular demand for this magical perfume family with his witty marketing, that has lasted for many years to come.
So when did Chypre perfumes really originate? In the island of Cyprus, of course, and many cenruries earlier. We know about chypre scents being made on the island as early as the 12th century. They made primarily of labdanum resin and mixed with other local aromatics from herbs and flowers. Later on, pastilles or little Oyselets de Chypre (Chypre Birds) were formed from a paste of labdanum, styrax and calamus, mixed with tragacanth. The perfumes in those old days were burned as incense and the birds decorated and scented rooms. It wasn’t until the 14th century that oakmoss was added to these pastilles. A book from 1777 provides perfume formulas for two chypre compositions that included oamoss as well as civet, ambergris, musk and various resins and plant aromatics, including rose and orange blossom.Image credit: Goat2, originally uploaded by Mareea
P.s. In case you wonder what the goats are all about - not only are they from Cyprus, but also, it was originally from the goats' hair that labdanum resin was combed and that is how it was traditionally collected.