Perfume Review: Nobile 1942 Chypre

I should never, ever read the “new and upcoming” fragrance notices at Now Smell This. Ever. Nobile 1942 Chypre is a case in point: I do really enjoy chypres when they are very floral, as this notes list would indicate. Also, the inspiration for the scent is enticing. I don’t know much about Anna Magnani, except that she was an early film star of the smoldering Italian type, and that from the pictures on her biography, she was beautiful. It makes perfect sense to honor an emotional, sensual woman like her with a beautiful floral chypre.

So when the word came that a friend was going to split up a bottle of Chypre 1942, I jumped into the split for 5ml, my head filled with dreams of the beautiful floral chypre I imagined from the new fragrance publicity release, which goes sort of like this (given the limitations of BabelFish and Google Translator, please bear with my interpretation of the original Italian):

Anna Magnani, from Wikimedia Commons

Languid like a lioness returning from the hunt, Anna comes into the house and collapses into her thoughts, enveloped by a cloud of cigarette smoke and wafts of Chypre. Chypre 1942 is dedicated to Anna, a woman full of life and faith in the possibilities of fate, who likes to observe and read the stars, witness the rising of the sun, fixing her deep gaze eastward. Anna’s unconventional lifestyle and naturalness overwhelm those around her, in a storm of instinctive charm and fascination. Her style is unconventional – the way she dresses, perfumes, and adorns herself. The scent’s originality and refinement fittingly crowns her perfect, attractive figure, and gives an air of imperious femininity.”

Believing a fragrance ad is a bad idea. Even if you discount 80% of the claims, you will nearly always be disappointed. 

When I opened the package from M, before I’d even unrolled the bubble wrap, a very sweet and intense smell of baby powder blew out like a mushroom cloud. “I hope it doesn’t smell like that,” I said to Gaze, alarmed. “That’s dreadful.”

He made a face, too. “It smells like… I mean, just that little bit there, it smells like… powdered marshmallows.”

But this is supposed to be a chypre,” I said, bewildered. “Wonder if I got the wrong split? I know M was splitting Muschio from the same house as well, and I just can’t imagine that something called Chypre is supposed to smell like… well, like powdered marshmallows.”

Because I was so confused, I sprayed some on a bit of paper – which I almost never do, preferring to go straight to skin. (I don’t wear paper, after all.) The top notes were almost chokingly powdery, intense and sweet. I went to Fragrantica to check out reviews there of this fragrance, and there was only one, from someone whose name I did not recognize from the split I participated in. It said something to the effect that the reviewer was puzzled by the name Chypre, since the fragrance was really more an oriental vanilla scent than anything else.

I tentatively decided that I was not, after all, insane.

I’ve now worn Chypre 1942 half a dozen times, in 90F weather and in 70F, at night and during the day, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not a bad fragrance. The choking powder cloud became less pronounced each time I sprayed it (gunk in the atomizer sprayer clearing itself out?), and the sweet vanilla character more prominent. It’s not bad at all.

It’s just not a chypre. There is no oakmoss that I can discern in the formula, and the amber used is the vanillic, powdery stuff familiar to me from, say, Bvlgari Black, rather than the rich and sweet amber in Mitsouko or Alahine, or the labdanum in Coty Chypre or vintage Miss Dior.

 

Nobile 1942 Chypre, from Fragrantica

There are some perfumistas who have a rigid definition of the chypre genre: Bergamot, oakmoss, and labdanum must be in the spotlight – and if the fragrance under discussion doesn’t smell like the “Fierce Green” chypres Bandit, Alliage, Mitsouko, or vintage Miss Dior, fuhgeddaboudit. “NOT A CHYPRE!” they thunder on the fragrance forums. “Chypres must have the proper proportions of the three magic ingredients! No fragrance being produced currently can contain the right proportion of oakmoss!  Patchouli does not make this scent a chypre!” And I concur that these touchy people have a point. If Coco Mademoiselle is a chypre, good heavens, almost anything could be called a chypre, our standards having been compromised to a shocking degree.

However, my own definition is a lot looser. Coco Mademoiselle is a woody floral with patchouli, and it is not a chypre. Idylle is not a chypre, either. Its moss is too slight and its amber nonexistent. But in my opinion, if a particular fragrance’s major characteristic is that tangy-bitter, almost dangerous smell common to Miss Dior and Coty Chypre, even if there is something else involved (citrus or florals) as well, it’s a chypre. I don’t even mind if there is proportionately less moss and amber than there used to be in a classic chypre. As long as I immediately perceive that bitter quality, the fragrance is going to be designated a chypre in my mind. Thus to me, L’Arte di Gucci is a rose chypre nonpareil, a big complicated rose fragrance sitting on top of a moss-patchouli-amber-leather-musk structure, bitter and dark green. Likewise, Mary Greenwell Plum is a modern floral chypre in my opinion: it may open with a tangy, fruity citrus, and it may continue with a soft white floral, but underneath it all, coloring the entire experience, is a quiet chypre backbone augmented with a bit of patchouli (and therefore “modern”).

Given that my standards for calling something a chypre are lower than many people would accept, you can believe me when I tell you that this Nobile 1942 fragrance is most definitely Not a Chypre. And I should have known when I saw the list of notes:

Top: bergamot, mandarin, orange blossom

Heart: tuberose, jasmine, damask rose, benzoin

Bottom: vanilla, amber, tonka bean, Mysore sandalwood, patchouli

Chypre 1942, released in 2011, was created by Marie Duchene.

So where’s the oakmoss? Missing in action. The rest of the fragrance sounds nice, to be honest – and I think my eyes saw “Chypre” and just skimmed past the absence of oakmoss. It could have been an omission; notes lists are so often incomplete or misleading. I suppose it’s really my fault for not noticing that this thing could not possibly be a chypre.

Well, then, what is it? I’d call it a vanillic-floral oriental. It does open up with a short prelude of citrus notes, backed by that flat vanilla-amber, and it does a brief impression of Shalimar Light (which I love, by the way). In just a few moments, though, it slides into a sweet rich floral, in which a slightly-powdery rose seems prominent to me. It’s perfectly pretty, as a matter of fact, and my bet is that The CEO will probably like it. After a couple of hours, Chypre 1942 heads straight for the familiar oriental route of amber-vanilla-tonka, with very little sandalwood noticeable. It does last for about five or six hours on me, with modest sillage shrinking down to skin-scent levels as it goes through its development.

As I said, it’s not at all a bad fragrance. I’ll enjoy wearing my small amount in cool weather. It is pretty, it seems to contain a fair amount of natural materials, and its drydown is coherent. That’s a decent combination of assets.

But it’s definitely not a chypre.

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17 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Nobile 1942 Chypre”

  1. In these oakmoss-free times, the fragrances that smell the most like chypres to me usually contain galbanum. The bitterness inherent to galbanum seems to make up somewhat for the lack of bitterness in the base.

    1. Galbanum is bitter, isn’t it? I love it, although I don’t generally care much for green chypres – they may have *too* much bitterness for me.

      I didn’t go into the option of low-atranol oakmoss, but that is available and I do see some of the indie perfumers using it. Did you try DSH Vert pour Madame?

      1. No, but I want to! It’s harder to keep up with DSH’s releases than Laurie’s. 🙂

        Like you I feel more comfortable in chypres with a rose or other significant floral component, though I appreciate green chypres for what they are.

      2. Dawn is very prolific. It’s amazing how good her stuff is, given that she seems to put something new out every few months.

        I confess that I don’t really admire green chypres. They, um, skeer me.

  2. Hello dear =) Imagine what I smelled like when I was done spritzing Chypre 1942, Muschio, Some Jardin du Poete, Atelier Grand Neoril and all the Laboratorio Olfattivos =P I think you’re right though it simply doesn’t have enough of the dirt to be considered chypre~ You’re reminded me though that I should wear it to bed tonight to test it out…..

    1. Thanks, Monica! I do like Chypre 1942, it just wasn’t what I expected. How is the Muschio?

      I’m sure that you were a wafting cloud of weird after decanting alllllll those. Funny, I do actually really like that mishmash of stuff that comes from spraying several different things – it just smells perfumey, and I like that.

  3. Hi Mals, thanks, that’s a great discussion of the characteristics of chypres. I often wonder about what it is that unites perfumes that seem to me to be very diverse. I can’t see that Montale’s Chypre Fruite has much in common with, say, Miss Dior. And what about Private Collection, Diorella and Chanel No 19? Their differences seem to me to be more pronounced than their commonalities, for me.

    However, an idea I am exploring is that although I don’t like fruity fragrances, I seem to like fruity chypres. Chypre Fruite does not leap out at me as a chypre, but were it not for that structure, the whole thing would collapse into a jammy mess. There is a solid structure there holding it all together, and I like structure, not just in perfume but in other aesthetic products. Maybe this is why I like chypres, even if I cannot always explain in each case why.

    Bois de Jasmin has a great post on chypres, if anyone is interested:
    http://boisdejasmin.typepad.com/_/2008/04/musings-on-chyp.html

    1. Hi, AM! I am now gnashing my teeth that I am not familiar with the Montale. Or with Diorella, actually, though I know and like Eau Sauvage which is frequently said to be similar. PC I can’t wear because of the Lauder base, though it was pretty for some time (so was Knowing, which I’d definitely call a rose chypre). Does No. 19 seem like a chypre to you? I always have trouble categorizing it, probably because it has that nice bitter mossy edge, but I don’t *think* there’s any amber/labdanum in it, and it always seems more green-floral-vetiver-iris to me than chypre. Hmm.

      I don’t mind a well-done fruity floral, where the fruit isn’t too sweet and brings out the fruity aspects of the flowers. And I like a woody-fruity like Mauboussin or Dolce Vita. But all the fruity chypres (So Pretty, Mitsouko, Yvresse, Parure, Badgley Mischka) I’ve tried have just nauseated me: too much going on, maybe, or too schizophrenic. Hmm, again. I do understand about the need for structure! I like knowing what to expect.

      Thanks for the link to Victoria’s post – she’s always so good at breaking things down structurally, as well as writing like an angel…

      1. No, No 19 has never struck as chypre-like but I have seen it referred to as such, which is one of the reasons that I often puzzle over what chypre really means. Love Diorella to bits. I like the Montale very much, and am nursing along a 1 ml sample until next month’s perfume budget can be spent. It is quite fruity, but there is a dark under tow of something else as well. I did not know Badgley M. is a chyore. I’l certainly give it a go. So Pretty? Hmmm … I’m always put off by names like that. Still, in the interests of research … Parure I’ve never tried, but read a terrific review somewhere a while back. Yvresse I like but don’t love.

  4. Thanks for this, Mals, as a chypre lover I really enjoyed your post. How unfair of this brand to take advantage of those of us who see the word “chypre” and press the buy button. Like anniemarie says, the category is so broad it’s unlikely anyone will like all types of chypre (I find the same with leathers). I can’t handle those mean greens for example – though I love Mitsy – but when it’s right, it’s sooooooooo right! How do like the non-oakmoss chypre 31Rue Cambon? I just love it but not everybody does.

    1. Hi, T! I know, it really burns my shorts (and I didn’t even buy a full bottle). It is true, the category contains so many different angles on the chypre structure, it’s doubtful that all of them will suit everyone. The green ones, and the leather ones too, intimidate me, and the fruity ones make me feel as though I’ve eaten three too many desserts (urgh). But the floral ones – those I love.

      I like 31RC very much. Though I admit that I don’t actually think of it as very chypre, but more as a floral amber.

  5. Thanks for the post and opening the discussion on chypres. This is a category that confuses me, because there do seem to be three different definitions, as you say. I hope that eventually full chypre appreciation catches up with me, because I love the idea of chypres in the tradition of Bandit and vintage Miss Dior, but I can’t wear them. In the meanwhile, I take heart that I really like Diorella and maybe that means I’m on my way.

    1. I admit I’m not the authority on chypres! And like AnneMarie says, it’s so rare for someone to like every single chypre, of whatever variety – who knows if I’ll ever come around to Mitsouko or Bandit?

      (I did rather like that tiny sample of vintage Miss Dior parfum. But I didn’t love it the way I love floral chypres.)

      I really should try Diorella. I do like Eau Sauvage, but it has citrus notes and no overt fruit the way Diorella is supposed to, and the fruit in conjunction with the chypre seems to be my sticking poin.

  6. wonderfull review. I thought you were dutch reading your blog name.

    greetings from the Netherlands,

    Esperanza

    1. Thanks, Esperanza.

      Blog name is actually based on the small couplet by Walter Savage Landor (see the sidebar near the top of the page) and not my nationality, but we’ll welcome any contributions from wooden-shoes-wearing people… 🙂

  7. Great review ! I just ordered à bottle as it said chypre but NOw I am prepared when it arrivés to smell more à new shalimar than à chamade.

    Wondefull !

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