What is a Chypre Perfume?

Posted on February 17 2021

What is a Chypre Perfume?

Chypre is probably one of the most beautiful and sophisticated perfume families. Full of character, these complex fragrances play upon a contrast of cool and warm materials, creating an elegant and enigmatic effect.

The name Chypre means “Cyprus” in French and takes its name from the fragrance “Chypre de Coty” launched by the famous perfumer, Francois Coty in 1917.

Built around a woody, mossy accord, the classical chypre structure starts with a powerful blast of fresh citrussy notes (often bergamot) followed by a floral heart of rose, ylang-ylang or jasmine. The base combines deep woody notes (often patchouli), smooth labdanum (an incense-like resin extracted from cistus) and earthy oak moss.  

The result is a unique layering of olfactory sensations where bright shimmering top notes contrast sharply with the musky and balsamic warmth of darker base notes. The effect is magical and it’s no wonder perfume lovers are often partial to the Chypre style of scents.

The proportions of the key components mentioned above can greatly vary in Chypre fragrances. Some of the ingredients may not be present at all and other notes may be added to create a new facet to the scent. For instance, by adding green notes (such as galbanum) you get a green chypre. By overdosing citrus oils, you get a refreshing scent reminiscent of eau de cologne. Chypre scents can also be more oriental when you add sultry ambery and animalic notes.

Although Coty established chypre as a fragrance family and defined its modern structure, the word originally refers to perfumed concoctions that go back to the Antiquity when the island of Cyprus was at the heart of the perfume trade. Resins and spices from Egypt and Asia were mixed with local aromatic plants and ingredients such as labdanum to produce perfume. The tradition continued across the centuries and the chypre accord was often mentioned in 18th Century French perfume manuals. Bergamot, oak moss and patchouli weren’t used yet in the 18th Century version of chypre, these ingredients were introduced by Coty in his version that was to become the reference for modern chypre.

Mitsouko by Guerlain, Aromatics Elixir by Clinique, No. 19 by Chanel and Eau Sauvage by Dior are some other famous examples of Chypre fragrances.

Over the years, the family has evolved tremendously and while classical chypres are often dark and rich, nouveaux chypres such as For Her by Narciso Rodriguez are much sheerer and transparent, replacing labdanum and oak moss with “cleaned-up” patchouli notes.

The chypres in our range of fragrances include Earl Grey which combines sparkling bergamot top notes and a warm woody heart of patchouli. Bleu de Chine takes the same base and adds soothing notes of aromatic lavender. Caspian offers a different take on chypre with fresh ozonic notes replacing the citrus, on a warm heart of oak moss and vetiver. Precious One is warmer, blending green mossy notes with smoky vetiver and musk for a cashmere-like effect…



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