In recent weeks, my journey into vintage perfumes has ignited much interest in chypres.
Francois Coty's influential perfume Chypre de Coty of 1917 was the first to coin the name and, in fact, define the entire olfactory family. The classification encompasses scents that traditionally consisted of a number of base accords - chiefly oakmoss and ambergris; along with other notes such as civet, patchouli, labdanum, and rose. The resulting blends are often described as dark, full-bodied and aromatic... liquid shadows, perhaps. In the 21st century they are immediately recognisable when opening heavy vintage art-deco flacons tied with gold thread... ones that are uncovered in dark bathroom cupboards, or in dusty dresser drawers lined with faded paper. Often, any antique perfume sampled that is characterised as "old-fashioned" or "heavy" is likely to be a chypre, as the 1920's and beyond saw many new chypres enter the market. As a result, chypres fell from favour a little during the 90's when stark androgyny and 'shared scents' were the norm as far as perfumery was concerned.
Fortunately though, new sensibilities particularly in the niche perfume market, have resulted in a resurrection of chypre-style scents in the 00's. Only yesterday I was sent one such fragrance by Swiss perfumer extraordinaire Andy Tauer named Une Rose Chyprée - the first of a series of Tauer Perfumes Mémorables that he intends to release.
Une Rose Chyprée opens with sparkling mandarin that prickles one's saliva glands, mixed masterfully with a bright, enduring floral note of clementine. It is a radiant opening that triggers the senses with energising lemon and bergamot, and minty, citrusy bourbon geranium. This sprightly, invigorating top soon reveals a wonderful depth and resinous darkness beneath. 10 - 15 minutes after application the resplendent headnotes give way to a transient dusky, ambery powderyness that one instantly associates with traditional perfumes from bygone eras. A vermillion-coloured thread of rosa damascena emerges, and I am suddenly cast back to the 1920's, to an age where women wore furs, felt hats and powdered faces. This is a scent Louise Brooks might have worn in one of her many silent films as the quintessential flapper. It is brimming with a ritzy, lavish sense of youth and beauty, but also a melancholic feeling of being sadly lost to time.
As Une Rose Chyprée evolves on the skin, warm earthy hues shift forward and provide the classic chypre foundation of the perfume. Labdanum lends a balsamic floral prettiness to a rich patchouli and aromatic oakmoss base. A measured swathe of vanilla furnishes a semi-transparent sweetness that plays against a hot cinnamon and spicy Bay accord at the heart. So sincere is the perfume's inherent sense of 'yesteryear', one might easily be fooled into thinking they are indeed wearing an opulent elixir fashioned at the beginning of the last century. The beauty however, lies in the very fact this an eau de parfum is very wearable today.
Tauer has done an extraordinary job here capturing a whimsical moment lost to the ages. He has breathed new life into the chypre family by re-interpreting the classics and by using contemporary methods to do so. Une Rose Chyprée is a master stroke accomplishment, and quite possibly represents some of his best work yet.
Une Rose Chyprée is offered in hand bottled and hand packaged 15ml flacons and will be launched internationally on July 1st, 2009. For two lucky readers however, Sorcery of Scent is giving away two carded samples of this perfume prior to its release. Simply leave a comment after this post, and ensure you include a contact email address. Two winners will be picked at random, and notified on Monday May 18th.