Françoise Rapp

Regarding fragrance families, Chypre perfumes undoubtedly hold a special place. With their unparalleled sophistication and elegance, Chypre perfumes have become a symbol of refinement in the world of fragrances.

What are Chypre Perfumes? 

Chypre perfumes are known for their distinct character and unique composition. While they may initially appear discreet in their top and heart notes, their intense base notes truly set them apart. This intriguing blend of subtlety and depth makes Chypre perfumes captivating for those seeking a unique fragrance.

From Cyprus with a Chypre Scent: The Influence of a Mediterranean Island on Perfumery

Have you ever wondered how a small Mediterranean island has left an indelible mark on the world of perfumery, to the point where an entire olfactory family is named after it? To truly understand this, we must journey back to the Middle Ages. By the end of the 14th century, the term “chypre” became associated with perfume. At that time, Cyprus was at the heart of a bustling commercial crossroads where precious raw materials were exchanged between the East and the West. Cypriots imported exquisite ingredients like frankincense, spikenard, and cinnamon from Syria and Phoenicia.

However, Cyprus itself was not devoid of aromatic treasures. Its rich ecosystem boasted a plethora of sought-after essences, including cistus labdanum, marjoram, iris, and oak moss. Cypriot perfumers skillfully harnessed these ingredients to create a unique fragrance called Cyprus water. This captivating scent was exported throughout Europe, and French perfumers adopted its recipe. During that era, Cyprus water was predominantly worn by men, as it possessed an invigorating, dry, and slightly rough aroma on the skin.

Cyprus Water: A Fragrance That Transcends Time

Perfume gradually evolved beyond a mere fragrance and became a means to mask unpleasant odors and protect against illness. In the Renaissance, Cyprus water was a powder for adorning hair and wigs. This era also witnessed the emergence of “Cyprus birdlets” – solid preparations thrown into fires to perfume the atmosphere and dispel miasmas. Whether in scented waters or wig powders, the formulations of these various preparations shared common elements, including civet, musket, amber, oak moss, and iris. This olfactory construction would inspire countless perfumers for centuries to come.

The Birth of Coty’s Chypre Perfume: A Fragrance That Redefined the Olfactory Family

While several perfumes had dabbled in the chypre olfactory family, it was François Coty’s creation, aptly named Chypre, in 1917 that truly gave birth to this fragrance category. Coty’s innovative and enigmatic blend captivated olfactory senses around the world. The immense success of Chypre propelled it to become the frontrunner of this illustrious family. So, what exactly does this iconic fragrance smell like? It harmoniously combines powerful citrus notes, with bergamot taking the lead, alongside delicate floral scents like jasmine and rose. The fragrance is further enhanced by characterful ingredients such as oak moss, cistus labdanum, and patchouli. Thus, a new olfactory accord was born!

Upon its release, Coty’s perfume intrigued women accustomed to softer, floral fragrances or fresh, light colognes. Even today, Coty’s creation remains legendary. However, upon closer examination, we discover that Chypre was not the first Chypre perfume of its generation. Guerlain had already introduced Eau de Chypre in 1850, followed by Chypre Tentation by Roger & Gallet, and a few other creations in the early 1900s. Nonetheless, Coty’s success was unparalleled as he created a perfume that appealed to the general public, breaking away from the exclusivity of fragrances at the time. This marked the beginning of a new era and significantly influenced contemporary perfumers.

The Versatile Accords of Chypre Perfumes: A Diverse Fragrance Family

The chypre fragrance family encompasses many scents that pair exceptionally well with fruity or floral notes. This versatile olfactory family can be broadly classified into two main subfamilies: floral and fruity. Like Coty’s Chypre, floral chypre perfumes offer a harmonious blend of delicate floral scents with the distinctive chypre character. On the other hand, fruity chypre perfumes, exemplified by Guerlain’s Mitsouko (1919) and Femme de Rochas (1944), infuse the chypre accord with fruity notes. However, the chypre family extends beyond these subfamilies, with variations that incorporate new aromatic elements. Some notable examples include oriental, aromatic, leather, and green chypre fragrances.


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