In musing over the reasons why chypres are no longer in fashion, I’ve come up with an argument predicated on taste-buds. If the oriental is all about the sweet and the resinous, maybe the chypre is all about the salt and the woodiness. It’s that same division in taste you notice between people who can’t pass an ice cream parlor and those who can’t pass a deli.
I belong in the latter group myself. One of my great loves is a good deli, and the best thing in life is a really good pickle and really good potato chips. The British adoration of crisps in a wide panoply of flavors is completely comprehensible to me. Barbeque, Salt’ n’Vinegar, Chicken Vindaloo… bring it!
And that gets me back to the domain of the chypre. Oakmoss is just a bit salty or else plays well with salty notes, if salt is your major temptation then the chypre can be just a bit gourmandy. I have always loved the genre best of all, but find that these days it does not wear as well on me as it used to. Nowadays I do better with…florals, and even orientals, and the chypres have to have a large dollop of floral notes in them or else fruit.
Do I sulk? Do I complain? Reader, I do.
But I recognize once again the effect of time and chemistry and evaporation rates on skin. And of course, there’s absolutely no reason why other people can’t take to the wonderful world of chypres with gusto. Say what you like, but one of the great pleasures of perfumes is smelling what flowers, and parks, and passers-by are wearing.
The trend of newer perfumes inspired by vintage ones I find encouraging. I’m hoping this means a new generation of chypre inspired fragrances, a modernized version of Femme* say…or maybe a newer version of Lanvin’s old Rumeur the original perfume with the ginger note in it. I’d be very happy with that sort of development, and I was pleased that no fewer than two new Guerlain releases were chypres, namely Shalimar Parfum Initial, and Idylle. Both are successes, apparently Idylle especially in Russia (see this interview with Thierry Wasser).
This makes me hopeful that the next generation of chypres may take the family in a lively new direction. Oakmoss, while wonderful for those of us who like that sort of thing, is not liked by those of us who don’t like that sort of thing – including Guts who, though very much a salt person himself, has a wholly inexplicable dislike of it in perfume – and so the use of lighter bases might revive the whole genre.
But if chypres do revive, I hope the one thing they don’t lose is that salt note, that is indispensable to my nose.
Now where did I leave those Cheetos? *I realize there is a new formulation Of Rochas Femme by the way, but it contains cumin, a bugaboo of mine.