Categotry Archives: Chypres

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Rogue Perfumery Part I: Champs Lunaires and Chypre-Siam

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Categories: Chypres, Perfume review, Rogue Perfumery, Tags: , ,

I can’t remember when I first heard of Rogue Perfumery. It may have been on a perfume blog (which one?) within the last few years, or it may have been mentioned by another perfumista in a Facebook group discussion. I’m still not sure. One of my favorite sites for perfume research, Fragrantica, lists Rogue under Perfume Houses; my other favorite, Now Smell This, doesn’t reference it at all.

Briefly, Rogue Perfumery is the brainchild of Manuel Cross, a chef who became intrigued with creating fragrances a little over ten years ago. (Read more at the link above.) Rogue Perfumery, befitting its name, is defiantly and unrepentantly noncompliant with IFRA regulations.

In any case, a member of a perfumista Facebook group wore a Rogue Perfumery scent a few weeks ago and mentioned it as his scent of the day. I was intrigued, did some research, and immediately ordered samples.

Rogue’s website has a small menu in the top right corner: Shop, Collection, About, and Contact. “Shop” takes you to Rogue’s Etsy shop, where you can buy perfumes chock-full of intoxicating and IFRA-restricted ingredients such as oakmoss, nitromusks, and eugenol at $75 for 30ml, $110 for 60ml, and $150 for 100ml. You can get a boxed set of 8 samples (including a preview due to release in late summer of 2019) for $33, or a set of 3 samples of your choice for $15.50, which is what I bought.

I chose three samples (Chypre-Siam, Champs Lunaires, and after deliberation, Mousse Illuminee in spite of its “masculine” designation) and received a bonus fourth sample of Derviche. The samples are sturdy 2ml vials, each individually bagged with a gorgeous Art Deco-style illustration to identify the scent.

Tuberose by Moonlight, from Anya’s Garden Natural Perfumes’ blog

CHAMPS LUNAIRES
I started with Champs Lunaires, because tuberose, is why. I’ve long been a lover of BWFs, and in my opinion it is difficult to go wrong with white florals. This one is described as “moonlit fields of white flowers,” and how could I pass that up? Notes include tuberose, white rose, pomelo, sandalwood, coconut milk, and musk. Mr. Cross’s Etsy listing description says this:

The tuberose base I created for Champs Lunaires was based on three models: the realism of PK Perfume’s TNT, the amped methyl salicylate notes of Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Crimenelle, and the lusty creamy fruit notes of Piguet’s Fracas.

Ironic that Tube Criminy was part of the inspiration for Champs Lunaires, because this deep into my BWF exploration, TC is still the only scent in the genre that I really cannot bear. I had the misfortune to have cleaned out the refrigerator the week I tried it, and that forgotten package of uncooked chicken at the back had an odor that (oh Lord help me!) I will smell in my nightmares forever. When TC echoed it, I nearly tossed my cookies, and did not even care about the lovely clear tuberose that followed the opening. I liked the wintergreen part; could not manage the decay.

You may be relieved to note that Champs Lunaires reminds me not in the least of the opening of Tubereuse Criminelle, which is both a relief and a disappointment. I liked that wintergreen thing, and I get very little of it in Champs Lunaires. It doesn’t remind me strongly of Fracas, either, which is probably good. Champs Lunaires is creamy and soft, but lacks the fatty-soapy orange blossom overdose that Fracas beats me over the head with every. single. time. I wear it. I never smelled PK Perfumes’ TNT (Tama ‘n Tuberose), though I counted Tama a friend and still miss her.

Champs Lunaires is simply lovely. It has a fresh, cut-stem greenness in the opening, and then it blossoms out to a full, rounded, creamy, gentle tuberose scent that is not so much a Big White Floral as it is a friendly one. It stays pretty a long time, about six hours, before fading away.

Side note: I’ve noticed recently that BWFs — maybe because they tend to “sink in” to my skin and get cozy — are the easiest no-brainer scents I wear. As in, I can put on something like Black Orchid Voile de Fleur and just roll all day and stop really thinking about the way I smell, or anything else for that matter. I mean, I literally go brain-fuzzy with comfort, like I’ve worn fuzzy slippers to work. I feel like there’s a lesson here, or a maybe a warning.

In any case, Champs Lunaires is gorgeous. If I wasn’t already stocked up with BWFs, I might buy it.

Jungle in the Philippines

CHYPRE-SIAM
The impetus for my sample order was Chypre-Siam, the fragrance my friend was excited about. The Etsy listing details its origin as a variation on Coty Chypre using slightly different accents, as if it had been born in Thailand instead of in France. Manuel Cross says that he was picking kaffir lime leaves for a curry dish not long after testing the seminal Coty fragrance, and caught a whiff of jasmine nearby:

I thought how novel it would be to recreate, not the original Chypre, but rather the experience of the original using Southeast Asian materials (namely kaffir lime, holy basil and lemongrass…)

My first sniff of vintage Coty Chypre (a well-preserved parfum from the late 1960s), following my surprise love of DSH Perfumes’ take on it in oil format (don’t bother looking for it on the website now, it’s been out of production for years), bowled me absolutely head over heels. I would never have thought it was my kind of thing, and maybe it’s still not, but it is stunning. Elemental, a perfumery Titan. It doesn’t give a fig what anybody thinks. So, a new take on Chypre? I had to smell it.

Also, that bottle is amazing. LOOK AT IT. Look at the angular, uneven Art Deco lettering in gold on green, look at the shape of the label, look at the cap decorated with gold baubles and green ribbon! So reminiscent of the Coty packaging, so gorgeous on its own.

It’s a far cry from Mall Juice, and a new variation on the original is right up the alley of a perfume outfit that calls itself “Rogue.” The Etsy page uses this description: Opening notes are kaffir lime and basil. Jasmine and ylang sweep across the forest floor and rest upon a warm base of oakmoss, sandalwood, spices, benzoin and civet. I’m fairly certain those aren’t the only notes, but the list is a fair representation of the smell.

The opening of Chypre-Siam is a tad difficult for me. Kaffir lime I am really not familiar with in real life, as Thai restaurants are uncommon here in rural Appalachia, and I only remember running across the note in one fragrance, Anya’s Garden Kaffir Cologne, which I did not like at all. I can see that someone might find the opening exciting and exotic, but it seems really brash to me.

After the opening, Chypre-Siam settles down to a truly lovely moss-edged floral glowing with jasmine. It’s very green and expansive, and I do find myself thinking of tropical jungles which hide not only exotic blooms among their luxuriant greenery, but also dangerous fauna . . .

(The jungle might just be on my mind at the moment because that’s where Gaze right now, spending a month in the Philippines as part of an exchange program between US ROTC cadets and the Philippine Military Academy. He’s already got some harrowing stories, and I am super-grateful he didn’t tell me about them until after they were over. Whew. This “mother-of-young-men” gig ain’t a walk in the park, I tell ya.)

I don’t get much in the way of civet; there’s just a tad there to soften some edges. The moss is real and plush, the sandalwood aromatic and deep. The labdanum is warm and golden without having that mildewed-tarpaulin effect that it sometimes has. The whole thing? Beautiful. Lasts several hours, even on me. Sillage, dabbed from the vial, stays fairly close to the skin, but would probably bloom better if sprayed. Chypre-Siam only comes in EDT strength, but it feels more powerful and richer than that.

I will confess that I tried Chypre-Siam on one hand and put some of my cherished vintage Coty Chypre on the other, for comparison. This was probably unfair of me, but I tried very hard to be impartial when considering.

The citrus notes of the Coty are faint with age, so in the first twenty minutes, Chypre-Siam with its aggressive opening stage blasts the Coty out of the water. Then for the next several hours, the two are remarkably similar. I do get a bit more rose and less ylang-ylang from the Coty, and the lonnnnng maceration time (according to the Coty’s packaging, at least 50 years) has buffed its surface satin-smooth. Chypre-Siam is, however, fully as excellent in quality, and it is a joy to wear. The Coty, hand-sanded as it were by that long time in the bottle, slides almost imperceptibly into its long lovely drydown. Chypre-Siam’s gear changes are more noticeable, but since I particularly dig the turn from the middle, very-floral, phase to the basenotes, when my nose is catching the blend of jasmine and moss and sandalwood with hints of leather, those changes are wonderful. If the melody of the Coty was entrancing the first time around, Rogue’s cover version, while putting its own spin on the classic, is every bit as good.

Hence, I say to you all, if you feel like you missed the boat on Coty Chypre, worry no more about it. Haunt not the eBay auctions; wager not a week’s pay on the vintage. Instead, hie yourselves Rogue’s Etsy page, and buy this. No, it’s not Coty’s Chypre rebottled — and I’m not going to say it’s better, having already loved the Coty — but it is amazing and wonderful and a worthy successor. Six thumbs up.

For another blog review of Chypre-Siam, check out The Alembicated Genie’s swoon here.

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Flapper Perfume

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Categories: aldehydic floral, Chanel, Chypres, Coty, fashion, Floral leather, Guerlain, history, Lanvin, leather, Mini reviews, Oriental, Vintage, Tags: , , ,

The 1920s was an influential decade for perfume, though striking changes in fashion began in the years immediately after World War I. The dust was settling in Europe after the war which had laid waste not only to infrastructure but also political alliances and the young male population, and everybody was tired of wartime bleakness and deprivation. There was a feeling that the old ways were gone and done with, and young women in particular were ready for a change. Gone were old-fashioned morals as well as those complicated hats, hairdos, and long dresses over rigid wasp-waist corsets.

The modern young lady was wearing tube dresses with little underpinning and tank-style bodices and short skirts, as well as dramatic makeup. She was drinking, not tiny ladylike glasses of sherry but potent cocktails in jazz clubs. She was cutting her hair and smoking! in public, yet! She could vote (as of 1918 in the UK for women over 30, and as of 1920 in the US). She could drive. She could — gasp! — possess her own checkbook.

And she wasn’t wearing her mother’s perfume, either.

She wasn’t wearing a soliflore  — lavender toilet water, or a simple floral like Coty’s Jasmin de Corse. She wasn’t wearing a simple floral bouquet like Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, or a soft floral oriental like Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. No, she was wearing a decadent, sensual oriental, a sharp and bold chypre, a sparkling aldehydic floral, or a gender-bending leather or tobacco scent. New directions in scent abounded, and aren’t we glad?

Here are some fragrances that graced many flappers’ wrists and décolletages, and which are still in production today (albeit in changed form). Try one, or a handful, of these, and smell history.

Guerlain Mitsouko (1919, fruity chypre) This more elegant take on the chypre is such a classic among perfumistas that it is hard to imagine it being daring, but it is. It has the bold chypre tripod structure of bergamot-oakmoss-labdanum, rounded with peach undecalactone, and it smells not only formidable but also kind of . . . ripe. I’m guessing that those flappers who danced the night through smelled a bit like this on their way home at dawn.

Millot Crêpe de Chine (1925, aldehydic chypre) Crepe de Chine was a mashup of the bold three-part chypre structure and the modern-at-the-time aldehydic floral. It is bold, but in a well-groomed, exquisite-tailoring kind of way. Where Chypre was a little, well, tribal, Crepe de Chine is much more civilized. This is for the flapper who only drinks her cocktails out of proper glasses, rather than resorting to a hip flask.

Guerlain Shalimar (1921, oriental, came into wide release in 1925) It was once said that there were three things a respectable woman did not do: smoke in public, dance the tango, or wear Shalimar. With its almost chiaroscuro contrasts of bright bergamot-lemon top and dark smoky, leathery, vanilla-balsamic base, it is striking… and sexy. Louise Brooks wore Shalimar; ’nuff said.

Corday Toujours Moi (1920, spicy oriental) This one is a kitchen-sinky oriental similar to Tabu (1932) with some green notes, and it is extremely bold. It wafts. It is a Liberated Woman scent very far from, say, the very-Victorian Berdoues Violette. It goes perfectly with its name, “Always Me,” and the attitude “Look, I have my own checkbook! and these great T-strap shoes!”

Caron Tabac Blond (1919, tobacco/leather) There is no tobacco listed in the notes, by the way, but the effect is at least somewhat tobacco-like. This scent seems to me to be an androgynous, “let’s steal all the things that smell like a gentlemen’s club,” appropriation of notes that had been regarded as traditionally masculine, softened by traditionally-feminine florals.

Molinard Habanita (1921, leather oriental) This scent began its life as an additive for cigarettes — you were supposed to dip the glass rod into the oil and stroke it along the length of your cigarette, so that while you smoked, the fragrance filled the air. Leaving aside the reason this was A Thing (you didn’t want Mumsy dear to know you were smoking? I mean, presumably she also knew about the hip flask and the lace step-ins, so you weren’t fooling anybody), Habanita probably smelled good with the tobacco smoke. Here’s Robin’s description at Now Smell This, because it’s pretty perfect: “If you can imagine dousing yourself in baby powder, donning an old leather jacket and then smoking a cigar in a closed room with a single rose in a vase 10 feet away, you’ll get the general idea.”

Chanel No. 5 (1925, aldehydic floral) Perfumer Ernest Beaux’ attempt to recreate an Arctic snow field and Coco Chanel’s affinity for the smell of starched linen combined with No. 5’s enormous overdose of aldehydes, the aromachemical that is in smell form big Hollywood klieg lights. (Maybe.) And Chanel’s famous dictum that a woman should not smell of flowers, but like a woman, played into its abstract presentation, too. (Maybe. There are a number of contradictory stories about its genesis.) No. 5 feels like a smooth marble sculpture to me. In its day it was utterly modern, and to its credit, its florals are still lovely.

Lanvin My Sin/Mon Peché (1924, aldehydic floral) Like No. 5, My Sin is an aldehydic floral, but it is dark and carnal in a way that No. 5 has never been and will never be. It’s a complicated perfume: along with the aldehydes and florals are some deep woods and an animalic base just shy of “Are there mating buffaloes somewhere on the premises?” I suspect that it got worn more often by women grabbing a little vicarious sinful pleasure than by women who were actually sinning while wearing it, but there you are. Brilliant marketing. And that cat! Love it.

Chanel Cuir de Russie (1924, leather) Again with the gender-bending for 1920s gals. Leather was previously known as a masculine note, and this leather-for-ladies boasts the enormous and expensive Chanel powdery iris as well as florals and aldehydes. Fans speak of its “good purse” leather, or its “expensive car” leather, both things that flappers seemed to enjoy.

Weil Zibeline (1928, aldehydic floral chypre-oriental) “Zibeline” means “sable” in French, and this fragrance was intended for scenting furs. As you might guess, Zibeline is heavy and rich, and yet dry and aromatic. It smells very much not of this century, but it is a luxurious scent in the best sort of way. One imagines fancy cars and diamonds and satin gowns, and that ne plus ultra sable, for a fancy party.

By 1929, with the stock market crash around the corner, the general prosperity which had allowed so many young women to taste freedom and decadence was about to disappear, and the day of the flapper was drawing toward a sudden twilight.

What the flappers left behind were some glorious abstract perfumes. Like much of the Art Deco of the period, the fragrances are bold yet graceful, natural yet influenced by humans. Chanel No. 5’s beautiful florals are buttressed on either side by the highly-artificial aldehydes and the pillowy strength of (nitro) musks. Shalimar’s combination of lively bergamot and smoky-sexy vanillin makes it round and memorable, unlike anything smelled in nature — but if you smell it on a person, even now, fifty-‘leven reformulations after its release, it has affinity for skin and does not scream I AM SYNTHETIC! the way many modern fragrances do.

There were, of course, several other classic fragrances released during the 1920s which are still favorites today, but I have not included everything here. Caron’s Nuit de Noel (1924), Bellodgia (1925), and Narcisse Noir (1925), for example, were hugely popular and remain extant, but they are not what I think of as bold and daring “flapper perfumes.” Nor are Chanel’s lovely woody Bois des Îles (1925) and satin-smooth Lanvin Arpège (1926). Coty L’Aimant (1927) is likewise a bit too prim, Emeraude (1920) too soft.  Jean Patou’s Chaldée (1927), as a perfume recreation of French suntan oil (we can blame Coco Chanel for popularizing the tan), seems to go with the flapper propensity for displaying bare skin, but it was not as widely worn as the others. Bourjois Evening in Paris (1928) is a gentle floral composition. Patou Joy, released in 1929, in my mind belongs to the Depression era.

Mia on the left, Carey on the right.

Do you have a favorite flapper perfume? Do you love Art Deco and low waistlines? Does Daisy Buchanan make your heart sing? (And did you prefer Mia Farrow or Carey Mulligan?) Do share!

If you’d like to read more about how the social phenomenon of the flapper arose, check out this post at We Heart Vintage.

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Perfume Review: Coty Chypre in vintage parfum. I mean, the furniture was moving.

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Categories: Chypres, Coty, Perfume review, Vintage, Tags: , ,

It’s entirely possible that more has been written about this one perfume than any other. Chypre, first released by Coty in 1917, was one of the first widely-produced commercial versions of an accord – the classic bergamot-oakmoss-labdanum – that, according to some people, had long been in use in the Mediterranean. Some of the things perfume writers have said about it: Chypre defined a genre. Chypre was brutal and Fauvist and outlined in broad strokes the formula that would undergird dozens of better, more sophisticated perfumes. Chypre was “big-boned and bad-tempered” [Luca Turin] and uncomfortable, bony and angular. Chypre was not as striking or as classic as the great fragrances that would follow in its footsteps. Chypre opened up great swaths of territory to be explored. Chypre laid down the structure for jewels of the genre such as Mitsouko, Miss Dior, Jolie Madame, Cristalle, Femme, Aromatics Elixir, Bandit, Diorella, Givenchy III, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Estee Lauder Knowing, Amouage Jubilation 25, Acqua di Parma Profumo… It’s difficult to read any serious perfume writer’s work and not come across a discussion of Coty Chypre, which is only surprising when you consider that very, very few people who are interested in perfume have ever smelled it.

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