Friday, 16 May 2014

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Series 3) - Day V: Chypre de Paris

Francois Coty is credited with creating the world's first chypre in 1917 - a scent that altered the course of perfumery forever. Characterised by a citrus top note (usually bergamot), a resinous cistus/labdanum heart and musky, mossy base, perfumes of the 'chypre' category used materials predominantly of Mediterranean style and origin. Curiously, whilst Coty's creation incited something of a chypre movement in perfume circles, the perfume term 'Chypre' had been in use long before Francois' famous formula hit the shelves... case in point: Guerlain, whom at the time had already produced four - Eau de Chypre (1850), Chypre (1887), Cyprisine (1894) and Chypre de Paris (1909). Thanks to the efforts of Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser and his assistant Frederic Sacone who have faithfully restored the latter in 2014 using original ingredients, I am able to describe it for you.

Chypre de Paris (1909), is a Jacques Guerlain creation authored just 10 years prior to Mitsouko - the perfume that is considered Guerlain's quintessential chypre and indeed, one of the world's finest. It is a curious perfume which - whilst not at all a chypre by definition - manages to almost get there in the end. Perhaps one of its most fascinating features is it's unexpected flight of leather and spice... it feels warm and a little bitter, and is imbued with classic notes of bergamot and lavender, although these notes tend to play second fiddle. This slightly acrid sting in the opening remains present from beginning to end - almost acting as a place-holder for a classic chypre component of oakmoss, which is completely absent from this composition. A very Guerlain-esque arrangement of florals (jasmin, iris, ylang-ylang and rose) collude against a more  burly accord comprised of civet, opoponax, patchouli and nutmeg. The sum of these two contrasting facets feels seamless - a fine balance of muted prettiness and woody, earthy brawn. A departure from "regular" chypres, the trail feels somewhat sweeter... vanilla and musks dominate.

If a classic chypre is measured by a distinct contrast between fresh cirtus topnotes and a woody, mossy base, then Chypre de Paris does not conform. There is insufficient bergamot and zero oakmoss present. However, there is a general sense that it was heading in the right direction, even if the very perfume that defined the category hadn't been conceived yet. When measured against the glorious evergreen citrus peachiness of Mitsouko with its parched mossy / musky base, it is easy to understand why Chypre de Paris might have been retired in favour of Guerlain's enduring perfume pillar and 'Grand Dame'. Nevertheless, this perfume is a fascinating interpretation on a theme that later, took the world by storm.

This concludes Series 3 of "5 rare Guerlains in 5 Days".
If there is any interest in a fourth series, kindly leave a comment.


Anonymous said...

I found each of these to be so informative and wanting more, so yes to a fourth series.

Asali said...

You write so beautifully, I hope you will do another "5 in 5".
Now I'll go and read the ones I missed from this time around.