Members of the Chypre Family

The Chypre family is versatile, inclusive, tolerant and embraces many different nuances and variations on the chypre theme. It is, perhaps, the very loose and laid-back attitude of Chypre that is working against them now in the prolonged and painful process of extinction, as the Chypre family adopts bastard chypre-wannabes that do not contain even a drop of oakmoss!
More about that in the future article “The Dawn of Pink Chypres”. This is a sad story… But before we start weeping, let’s see what are the different sub-categories of the large and beautiful Chypre Family!

Heavy with a peach-like fruitiness. Often combine notes of peach, plum and apricot – which highly complement the dark earthy notes and the sparkling citrus notes of Chypre. This division of the family includes trendsetting classics such as Femme and Mitsouko, and also more modern scents such as Y (YSL) and my very own Autumn perfume, which is in fact an Homage to Femme, using natural essences only.

The most innovative and of all the Chypre family, Chypre Animalic Florals sometime have a leathery, dry effect that may suggest masculinity. Dzing! (l’Artisan Parfumeur) is one extreme example, also bordering on the leather; Agent Provocateur reeks with indole, musk and aldehydic florals; and there is also the classic Miss Dior, originally underlined with sizzling-hot civet base (review of different versions and concentrations of Miss Dior will be posted here very soon), and similar to it is also Ma Griffe. My personal addition to this sub-category is one of my most avant-guarde creations – Schizm, which pairs intense tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine and pepper over a base of oakmoss, cedar and wild mushrooms (which lend the animalic quality).

Originally, these were gardenia infused Chypre. Chypre Florals now contain many other florals as well – such as rose, jasmine, tuberose. Patchouli is added to the base, for emphasizing the floral notes. Here you will find Soft classics such as Le Dix (Belanciaga), the bold American Knowing (Estee Lauder), aldehydic princesses such as Parure (Guerlain) and fragile florals such as Chant d’Aromes (also by Guerlain).

Though extremely long lasting, these Chypre feel fresh and radiant and usually have pronounced citrus notes. The sparkling hedionic jasmine and citrus infused Eau Sauvage, Diorella and Le Parfum de Therese (all by genius perfumer Edmond Roudniska) are the beacon after which everybody else followed – including, for instance, Annick Goutal’s most successful and delicate Eau d’Hadrien, Chanel’s brilliant and sparkling Cristalle, and my very own ArbitRary. This category, for the most part, tends to be unisex oriented.

These are often the lightest chypre – usually with a leafy-green, at times herbaceous and coniferous notes. Galbanum is one of the most popular additions to green Chypres. These are often border-line with green florals.
These are usually extremely elegant and clean-cut composition, including No. 19 (Chanel), a masterpiece of galbanum, citrus, jasmine, rose, orris, woods, oakmoss and a hint of leather; Ivoire (Balmain), a refined dry composition of roses, greens, moss, and a hint of leather sweetened with raspberry; Private Collection (Estee Lauder) juxtaposing galbanum, orange blossom, rose, jasmine and oakmoss; Chamade (Guerlain), which is also an unusual cross between green chypre and aldehydic floral, with notes of galbanum, hyacinth, ylang ylang, oakmoss and vanilla; Ayalitta, which is an earthy-green Chyprey; and my recent Spring release newest version of Grin, in which the green of galbanum announces the presence of green dewy florals such as freesia, boronia and rose, underlined with oakmoss, vetiver and precious woods.

Prominent base notes of sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver add a dry, clean edge to those Chypre compositions – usually (but not always) these are very masculine. Somehow I went almost completely blank trying to find examples for Chypre woody perfumes besides Mitsouko, even though it's not particularly masculine strictly speaking; Agent Provocateur, an unusal Chypre as it is not truly mossy but achieved the diffusive mossy effect by using massive amounts of vetiver and aldehydes; and my own Democracy, which is masculine and somewhat ambery-animalic, and Megumi, which rather feminine and floral. If you have any suggestions, please post your comments...

Dry, smoky compositions those are dark and masculine. These include the Cuir de Russie pungent-dry leather compositions (Chanel, Piver, Creed, etc.), Jolie Madame (Balmain) which interestingly uses sweet violets as well as generous amounts of moss; Bandit (Piguet), Miss Balmain (Balmain), Yatagan (Caron), Bel Ami, and Caron’s legendary Tabac Blond.

With an outdoorsy scent – these are sporty and refreshing, and usually masculine in nature. Pino Silvestre and Rainforest are the best examples I can come up with at the moment (if you know of other suggestions, please comment!).

What do Chypres Smell Like?

Chypre compositions are based on the juxtaposition of earthy notes of oakmoss and other supporting notes with the fresh notes of bergamot, citrus or other highly aldehydic notes. The contrast creates a surprisingly smooth result, where extreme blurring of the notes occurs, and all the notes are blended into each other while none stands out in particular. This is one of the most unique things about Chypre, and along with their versatility and endless possibilities for originality they are often perfumer’s favourite group to work with.

Chypre perfumes are often described as mossy, earthy, warm, spicy and nature-smelling. The scent of a basic chypre base accord is reminiscent of the forest floor in autumn, of crushed leaves and foliage. This is perhaps one of the reasons Chypres are traditionally considered “Fall Fragrances”.

Image credit: Tree Lichen, Originally uploaded by DSutherland

The Magic of Chypre

The magic of Chypre lies in their amazing versatility and the unique aura they impart. Chypre perfume radiate a certain warmth and sensuality that is both intriguing and appealing.

From a creative point of view, Chypres offer endless possibilities for creation of original and unusual fragrant statements. There are 8 different sub-categories for Chypre, and they are all quite different from one another: Chypre Fruity, Animalic, Floral, Fresh, Green, Woody, Leathery and Coniferous. The extreme versatility of the chypre accord (usually consisting of oakmoss, labdanum, patchouli and vetiver to certain degrees) works well with almost any note imaginable, so it’s always possible to create something fresh and new with Chypres.

The Chypre basenotes are also very tenacious and improve the diffusive quality and their excellent fixative qualities provide a lasting staying power.

Chypre is an accord that resonates with dynamic harmony: although the notes blend into each other, there is always interesting evolution and movement between the different elements of Chypre. This prevent boredom and offers a balanced scent that is easy to wear in almost any situation, mood or weather. I have worn Chypres during the dog days of summer with just as much pleasure as in coldest and darkest winters and crisp autumn days. Chypre scents are seductive just as much as they are proper and elegant.

The Mood of Chypre

In the colour rosette test, Chypres are assigned to Group F. According to this theory in Psychology of Fragrance developed by Dr. Joachim Mensing and Christa Beck, consumers choose their fragrances based on 8 basic mood trends: Introvert vs. Extrovert, and Emotionally Stable vs. Emotionally Unstable (and all the other 4 combinations inbetween). Group F is that of the Extrovert and Emotionally Stable.

“These perfume users view themselves as being harmonious, well-balanced individuals, who rarely have unhappy or depressive moods. All in all, they are satisfied with themselves and with their lives. They are realistic in their thinking and put less stock in their luck and more in their own deeds. When problems arise, these women do not attempt to avoid them, but solve them in a practical, uncomplicated manner, and display self-confidence in doing so. These perfume users are keenly interested in the people around them, with emphasis centering on their private lives. They radiate human warmth and strength to their environment and appear to others as almost never being in a depressed mood. The users in this group enjoy providing others and are not infrequently very active in their community. In their desired lifestyle, these women do not have any interest in keeping up with fashion, in all of its varied manifestations. They love to look well cared for, and their clothing must always be suited to the occasion. In all matters, especially in the case of clothing, they display a pronounced sense of quality. Basically, there are not many very young women in this group of perfume users.” (Julia Muller, The Haarman & Reimer Book of Perfume)

These are generalizations, of course. However, I can’t help but feel the connection between the scent of Chypre and the effect it has on the mind. In my experience, Chypre bring a feeling of confidence, calm, sensuality, and a general feeling of well being and balance. Chypres are like a little black dress that never goes out of fashion and always fits the occasion (hopefully the size still fits too). Chypre means chic.
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