Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chypres by the (Half-) Dozen


Some perfumes are haiku (and often not very good ones); some are chapters (longish in style––they make you crazily anxious for plot twist that, alas, seldom comes); and a choice few are what I’d call prose poems. These late winter days, this last is the category piques that my interest the most––and, within it, the great chypres: Coty’s eponymous creation, Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Sous le Vent, Carven’s Ma Griffe, Aqua di Parma’s Profumo (both iterations), and Amouage Jubilation 25.

Looking at them in front of me on the table is like regarding a group of siblings, their ages spanning nearly an entire century. A few brunettes, a redhead, one jet black, a blonde––but, boy, they’ve all got that nose. I won’t use a word like aristocratic, but Mitsouko, Profumo and Jubilation 25 strike me as the real achievers of this family. They take a vital lesson from their father: follow your heart but keep your feet on the ground.

The nucleus of each is a triad of florals that veer toward the complex: rose, ylang ylang and jasmine. (If you added some carbon rings, you’d have the architecture of Chanel No 5.) And while this floral heart is important to the overall caress of the perfume, it’s those feet that make the real difference. Fine patchouli, frankincense, labdanum, oakmoss and vetiver. The flowers still sing but the rhythm is quickened, and there’s just this wondrous sonorous depth when everything comes together that reminds me of one of the segments of Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

There’s nothing old-fashioned about them, except maybe the connotation of a studied blue-stocking elegance. More of us should get to know them and their makers better, and should encourage and support their survival in a world of cotton-candy-air and soulless haiku.

Image: Mitsouko advertisement, c. 1976.

9 Comments:

Blogger chayaruchama said...

I'm NOT trying to 'make points'-
But you've just nailed two HG's.
I could, quite frankly-
Live in these two alone, and not feel the least deprived.

March 5, 2009 at 4:37 AM  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

OK.
I screwed up- how about, 3?
[Mitsouko, Jub. 25, Profumo ]

March 5, 2009 at 4:38 AM  
Anonymous Musette said...

Mitsouko, love of my life!

Jub25, will have to revisit. I think I was expecting something else, so I didn't really give it full attention for what it is.

glad to see you back!

March 5, 2009 at 5:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coincidentally I have a trio of chypres on today torturing myself with the question which one would I choose if I could only have one? Mitsouko and Jub 25 are two and the other is a cheaty chypre - 31 rue Cambon. Thanks for the nudge. donanicola oh and ps it really is torture since I can't fix for one minute to the next.

March 5, 2009 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Chaya- That's the half-half-dozen then. Those three will never leave my side, either. SO happy that AdP did not ruin Profumo.

March 5, 2009 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Musette- Merci. Yes, by all means, revisit Jubilation 25. It's by the young Lucas Sieuzac.

March 5, 2009 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Donanicola- 31 Rue Cambon doesn't use oakmoss. That's its M.O. The new formulation of Mitsouko (by Edouard Fléchier, I believe) makes due with less than the original. Contra LT, I think it is questionable whether 31 Rue Cambon can really be considered a chypre. I like it but, like others, I want it stronger than EDT.

March 5, 2009 at 7:46 AM  
Anonymous Fiordiligi said...

Forgive me, please, I've only just managed to read your article.

Beautifully written as always and oh, Mitsouko and Coty Chypre are indeed perfection. And I adore Sous le Vent too. The originals are still the best....

March 6, 2009 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Fior- Merci pour vôtre compliments. I don't know if originals are always the best, but I sure wish more perfumers would know the vast library of perfume greats ... not out of an intellectual pursuit, but to show an understanding of what works, what doesn't and what could be improved upon.

March 6, 2009 at 3:07 PM  

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