Lady Gaga’s black-hued perfume Fame, and Calvin Klein’s woody-spicy Encounter…
Sensuous chypre perfumes return to vogue.
Guerlain Mitsouko, Miss Dior, Chanel Coco: Many of the last century’s most celebrated chypre perfumes are legendary.
As a family of scents, chypres are, in fact, making a comeback, led in part by new releases from Chloe, Elie Saab and Chanel. Theirs is a welcome arrival, a cycling past today’s many florals and sweet gourmands to something with nuance and a few surprises. Their debuts also emerge at the perfect time to help on your Mother’s Day shopping quest.
But what’s a chypre?
Glad you asked.
It’s one of my favourite types of fragrance. Its signature mix: wood and oak moss base notes, a resinous heart and citrusy top notes. Often there are floral essences woven in there too. Especially in the current world of perfume. It’s feminine but with a hint of earthy, animalic sensuality.
For the record, “Chypre“ is a class or family of fragrances named for Francois Coty’s eponymously named perfume launched in 1917. That imitable creation was a combination of jasmine, vanillin and coumarin, and an overdose of woods, including patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, bergamot and oak moss.
We would pay a pretty penny for a bottle of that exquisite juice now.
So we must give credit where credit is due as any modern-day chypres owe their existence, at least in part, to the charm of Coty’s olfactory icon.
This season’s new chypre offerings, however, may not be as rich and resinous as those which debuted a century ago, but they are elegant, likeable and infinitely wearable. No doubt their juicy fruit and edible spice notes will appeal to today’s gourmand-fragrance lovers too. After all, millennials and Gen Zs have grown up or are growing up with myriad smells-delicious-enough-to-eat perfumes.
So, if you’re looking for a last-minute Mother’s Day gift, birthday gift, or even a fragrance for an upcoming summer wedding, look no further.
Here, a trio of perfumes with lushness, femininity and modernity that would all make great gifts.
Chloé Nomade is the latest in the much-loved Chloé franchise. And this free-spirited spritz channels a certain bohemian je ne sais quoi with its mix of oak moss, freesia and a delectable plum liqueur note. It’s sexy and rich but still sheer. There a hint of masculine cologne in there too—thanks to that oak moss, likely—so it feels as equally adaptable to black tie as it does to jeans and sandals.
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Intense chooses to focus on patchouli for its woody-resinous element, which plays beautifully alongside Tonka bean, Madagascar vanilla and fresh notes of Sicilian orange and Calabrian bergamot. Warm and flirty with a hint of Coco Chanel’s irreverent spirit.
Then there’s Elie Saab Le Parfum in White. It’s a more formal chypre than the Chloé and Chanel perfumes, with a decidedly more pronounced floralcy. Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, in fact, calls it a “modern floral chypre”. His mix: luminous orange blossom, jasmine, white musk, patchouli and a drop of red berry juice.
If you’re looking to explore other chypres on your shopping journey, check out the following that retain their rightful spot on the 20th century’s perfumery timeline: Mitsouko by Guerlain (1917), Y by Yves Saint Laurent (1964), Aromatics Elixir by Clinique (1972), Calèche by Hermès (1961), Eau Sauvage by Dior (1966) and Diorella by Dior (1972).
Chloe Nomade Eau de Parfum, $122 (50 mL), www.choe.com
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle EDP Intense, $129 (50 ml)/$183 (100 ml), www.chanel.com
Elie Saab Le Parfum in White, $142 (90 mL), www.eliesaab.com