The newer younger flashier chypres, those not based on oakmoss, have been springing up on perfume counters for a while now, and most have me wondering if anyone has yet stumbled on the master plan for this new kind of perfume construction?
For a while it looked as if maybe the new chypre would be built of wood and musk as in Narciso for Her, and there were plenty of reconstructions of that scent, but it seems to have given rise to whole other perfume suburb, the floral woody musk, a town that has rapidly acquired population, even among Guerlains.
But for chypres, the consensus still seems to be that you require wood, some dryness, some shading in the perfume so that the chiaro-scuro of the genre makes its lighted windows glow against its shadowy depths. You need timber for this construction, and that has meant a flurry of patchouli perfumes, this being one of the presumably less expensive kinds, starting with things like Miss Dior Cherie (now Miss Dior!), or else oud (which ironically is one of the most expensive if you use the natural form) and that has probably been the reason for so many oud fragrances. They are taking the place of the gutted chypre mansions in Western perfumery.
Patchouli, it seems to me is a bit too dark for this job. Today I’m wearing Chypre Fatal, the patchouli, vanilla, rose and peach deconstruction of presumably Mitsouko, in the Elixir Charnel series from Guerlain. CF has lift, and sweetness, subsequently a distinctly camphoraceous quality, that is common to certain patchoulis or possibly to certain fractionated patchoulis. But what happens here is that the camphor takes up exclusive residence in Chypre Fatal so that all references to Mitsouko are crowded out, until the very final hours when the peachy and vanillic gold of the drydown dominate its decor.
I think this Guerlain should be reworked and released as a masculine. Chypre Fatal might be more successful on males. Comments on Fragrantica tended to be favorable if they came from men. This is probably not coincidence, as it may be that the patchouli here heats and combines with the peach note better on thicker, oilier, men’s skin and comes back to the nose as rounded and sensual rather than harsh, which is my reading off my thinner, dryer epidermis. Either that, or else the patchouli framing here might be swapped out for a lighter wood note, and even cedar might hold up this structure. As things stand, the best part of Chypre Fatal on me is the ending, which I like, but that may not be enough to charm most female buyers into making this chypre house a home.
Compared to the other chypre design I’m inhabiting, Parfums de Nicolai’s Rose Oud, Chypre Fatal is a trifle ornate. The Rose Oud, is a low roofed, but cozy residence with few pretensions, and a total lack of drafts. Inside, oud and rose do indeed cohabit and do so remarkably amicably. However you may find your visit a tad dull. You’ve met this sort of couple before and can guess most of the conversation before it gets out of anyone’s mouth.
If you’re looking for a real mansion of a rose chypre sort, you can’t do better than Portrait of a Lady, with its echoing halls of rosiness and woodiness. As mansions go it is rather grand, but you can always find means to fill it. By comparison, these two other constructions are less arresting.
The takeaway from this house tour is, maybe no one has devised the bijou chypre residence yet, but they’re working on it.
(My samples are courtesy Guerlain at Bergdorf Goodman’s and my own purchase at Luckyscent.)