Last Chypre Standing

Because I am a not very reformed chypre addict, the question of which chypre to save has flashed across my mind.  Actually it has sat heavily down in my head and refused to get out of my Brain’s favorite TV chair.  Pretty soon I will have to get this thought to pick up its beer and potato chips, and move on.

With the likely demise of oakmoss imminent, I have to ask which chypres do I want to save from a burning building? It’s a pretty hard thing to decide.

Chypres have always been there, the perfume family that I could count on to encompass me, in all my aspects: at my most grubby and my most enterprising, at my sloppiest, and when I was dressed up.  They were sexy, they were tough, sometimes they were playful, sometimes sharp tongued termagents, but they have always been…available.

Now people smell oakmoss and don’t see the charm of it, they smell bitterness, and darkness, and being unwilling to admit that those two components make up a part of human existence, don’t want them in perfume.  They want a nice fruity floral or else a  fuzzy number like Narciso Rodriguez, and the backbone of oakmoss has jellified. But oakmoss is like discipline, something that you apply to yourself, the mud and straw out of which character is constructed.  No one is born disciplined, and chypres always reminded you of that fact.  Fruity florals-not so much.

What to save?

1)      Fruity Chypres Femme- because it is Mitsouko without the pretensions of good behavior.  Femme has only got one thing on her mind.

2)      Animalic Chypres Jolie Madame- because it is the perfect marriage of violet and leather.  No one would do this any more, try to find vintage.

3)      Woody Chypres – I’m going to say Terre d’Hermes here.  If oakmoss is truly ruled out, then Terre will be reformulated and it really is one of the best woody chypres done in the last thirty years or so. Never mind what Luca Turin had to say about it, just smell the stuff.

4)      Floral Chypres -   You could go looking for lots of vintage floral chypres, Chant d’Aromes for instance, or even Detaille’s 1905, if you want a straight up classic rendition, Bottega Veneto is one of the best recent ones, but it is essentially a modernization of the Jolie madame concept (Violets ‘n’ leather sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…) and I’ve already mentioned that.

5)      Citrus Chypres- M. de Balmain is my choice here.  You can go other directions.  There is also Eau de Patou, but good luck finding it, and once upon a time there was Eau de Hadrian but it does not smell the same and I’d advise you just not to go there.

You may find my list too full of things that are currently popular, but let me point out that if the changes do go through they will either disappear or be altered so their own composers wouldn’t know them.  None of them is bad or hard to wear, or ugly, and there are not too many perfumes of which as much can be said.

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10 thoughts on “Last Chypre Standing

  1. This whole anti-oakmoss movement affects me much less than it does many other people, as I’m still approaching (real) chypres warily. However, to put it into perspective, I imagine how I’d feel were rose scents, or my cozy big white florals, to be banned, and my heart just sinks. I’ve probably mentioned this before a zillion times, but the only chypres I really love are the floral ones. Jolie Madame definitely makes my list (vintage parfum, please, because the gardenia tends to come out in it), and L’Arte di Gucci. Deneuve. Soivohle Centennial.

    And, of course, the one and only Coty Chypre. But not the 1980s one, the really old one. Which at this stage is not as citrusy as it once was – and the old stuff smells very floral to me.

    • Wish I’d smelled the old Chypre. You were lucky there. As is the case with the vast majority of sniff-dom, I’ve only tried the re-do and it smelled like Sous le Vent to me, with maybe a bit less green and no lavender. Humpf! I mean I could just go and buy Aromatics Elixir at that rate-well actually no, I can’t, because it smells like old dog wee to me-but you know what I mean.
      As to saving Chypres from burning buildings, I guess I’d go back in for a few more: Houbigant’s Apercu, old Lancome O, Rochas’ Mystere, also Cialenga. But of recent things, I like DSH’s Pandora. It really pops if you wear it with gardenia body cream.

  2. Ha! Love the illustration, because it gives a visual to what some chypres do to me (attack and hack away at my nose hairs with tiny swords). I don’t love the category as a whole, but there are some that work on my skin, and leave my nose hairs intact. I agree, Femme MUST be saved, along with Mitsouko. Love Bandit too; they say it’s a chypre, but I don’t see it – after a sharp opening hit, it gets all tuberose-y on me. Then there’s the honeyed Diva, and the animalic La Nuit by Paco Rabanne.

    • Original Femme was such a sexy thing, and I agree with you about Bandit. In fact this DSH Pandora I have been wearing reminds me of Bandit a bit. It’s somewhere in between Bandit and Cabochard I think, but less tough than Cabochard, smoother.
      La Nuit I have never been able to sample. It’s supposed to be very interesting and very animalic, which is fine by me. I could do with a little bit of animalic today because I am wearing Creed’s new Fleurs de Gardenia (samples provided by the peerless SA at Neiman’s) and it is a wimpy little whisper of a perfume, barely even cologne.

    • It’s too late…the original formula, with it’s great projection, longevity and structural depth, is gone…this one has been reformulated and, though it smells good, it doesn’t smell line TdH.

      • You know I have noticed lately some reformulations of Hermes perfumes. This worries me as some of the Ellena things are really kind of delicate and if you mess with one part of his perfumes you soon lose the whole point of the original.
        So, I feel your pain on Terre, believe me.

  3. Not a chypres type, but I don’t think you are alone in the idea of what do I get before it all goes away. I read some 80 odd ingredients were to go away or be limited. Why in the world can’t labels be used. Not a question. I was actually thinking of getting some #5 in parfum strength. I don’t even like #5, but just to have it for someday.

    • Undina was thinking of doing the same thing. Although there’s a difference of opinion there, Mals (of a Muse in Wooden Shoes) thinks that the No5′s will be around on Ebay for a long time. Maybe so, but there’s nothing wrong with a having an emergency stash.

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