“Thomas, AKA The Candy Perfume Boy, is explaining everything you need to know about fragrance families. From chypre to fougere, after reading this blog series you’ll be an expert in the different types of olfactive groups.”
Have you ever come across the word ‘chypre’ in a perfume review or article and wondered what it means? If you have, I certainly don’t blame you. We in the perfume industry have a penchant for terms that don’t mean much to those who aren’t in the know. But here at Escentual, we’re all about demystifying the world of fragrance, and we want perfume to be accessible to everyone. We aim to make sure you know everything you need to get the most out of your fragrance – so consider this your Chypre 101!
What does Chypre mean?
Chypre (pronounced sheep-ra) is one of the many olfactory families used to classify fragrances. It originates from the early 20th century and is based on citrus notes, mosses, patchouli and labdanum. Coty created the first chypre in 1917, and it was simply called “Chypre” – the entire genre was born from this scent and is filled with timeless classics that are typically feminine but often boast a somewhat angular and androgynous style. Chypre smells intriguing but elegant. Stoic and aloof are the words that come to mind when I think about this fragrance family.
To help you navigate this legendary genre, I have picked out five fragrances that show just how diverse and intriguing the chypre can be. From the classic, standard-bearers to subversive, modern twists, each and every one showcases the beautiful, untouchable nature of the chypre.
#1 The Classic Chypre
Perfumer Jacques Guerlain had a knack for taking popular themes and improving them – such was the case with Mitsouko (1919). Coty’s Chypre may have been the first Chypre, but Guerlain’s Mitsouko is arguably the most famous. Inspired by and named after the heroine in Claude Farrère’s novel La Bataille and translating as “mystery” from Japanese, Mitsouko is aloof and almost standoffish, with a timeless signature awash with contrast. Maternal with the soft fuzziness of juicy peaches but also cold and stern with patchouli and mosses, Mitsouko is a beguiling composition that remains the flagship fragrance of the chypre family, even 100+ years after its creation.
#2 The Fresh Chypre
One core element of the chypre is citrus, and while many push the focus on to the resins and moss for warmth, the chypre can indeed be a somewhat fresh genre – one that is sometimes sporty too. Clarins’ Eau Dynamisante is an excellent example of one such chypre. The fresh, golden citrus and floral character of petitgrain is energised by ginseng and rosemary, creating a bracing air that feels utterly revitalising. Patchouli and moss in the base bring a green, herbaceous quality that is chypre-esque however, Eau Dynamisante brings the genre to a more affable and refreshing place.
#3 The Modern Chypre
It’s important to note that there are two types of chypre; the classic and the modern. You see, the classics (Mitsouko and her friends) are somewhat outdated now. Yes, they smell beautiful, but they are perhaps a touch too stoic and sharp for modern tastes, so the chypre has had to evolve to stay current. Enter Narciso Rodriguez For Her, arguably the first of the contemporary chypres, where roses and patchouli are elevated and dissipated by a cloud of gauzy white musks. For Her has the sharpness and the bit of a chypre, but it also possesses a softness that evokes the contrasts of Mitsouko, albeit in a less divisive and more current manner.
#4 The Wild Card Chypre
Perhaps one of the most unusual chypres out there is Amouage’s Interlude Woman. Boasting a more exotic plumage, Interlude Woman feels chaotic in its energy. Tart kiwi swirls with heady resins, coffee, moss, amber and leather to create an unpredictable and unusually beautiful fragrance that has an artistic air. I imagine Interlude Woman as being the perfect chypre for an artist – it brings new light to a familiar theme, leaving one to wonder what the meaning behind it is. Not many fragrances do that.
#5 The Statement Chypre
Juliette Has a Gun is a brand that doesn’t do things by convention – they do things their way, and that means everything is served with a healthy dosage of sass. Citizen Queen is their take on the chypre, and it focuses on the Bulgarian rose made all standoffish and icy by silvery aldehydes and a mossy-patchouli chypre base. The impression the fragrance gives is of a supermodel on the catwalk – her stoic gaze says that she is untouchable and her scent confirms this.
Come back on March 25th for the next instalment in the ‘Fragrance Families’ series; we’ll be decoding ‘fougere’!