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.