Chypre Through the Ages - A Timeline, Sorta...
This is an article in progress, as I attempt to create a timeline for the Chypre fragrance family. Please add comments if you have information (dates, noses) for some of these perfumes or are aware of other perfumes that I missed here...
Chypre perfumes originated in the island of Cyprus, and were based on labdanum as the most significant and characteristic ingredient. The island is where the remnants of the most ancient perfume factory was found, where local plants such as labdanum, bay laurel, anise, coriander, sage, pine, parsley, almond, bergamot and others were infused into olive oil and distilled to produce perfumes that were supplied to the royalty, nobles and the wealthy in the ancient world (Egypt, Persia and Rome) until 1850, where it was ruined in an earthquake.
The first Chypre "perfumes" in Europe were Oyselets de Chypre - fragrant pastilles molded in the shape of little birds used as potpourri or fumagating pastilles. The first formulations were made of labdanum resin, styrax and calamus (sweet flag) ground and made into a paste with gum tragacanth and than could be sculpted or moulded. They became popular in Europe after the crusaders arrived in the island of Cyprus (in the 12th century).
At the end of the 14th Century Eau de Chypre, the Chypre scent (based primarily on labdanum, and only later on oakmoss was added) became quite popular in Europe. At this point oakmoss was added - some formulas were simple, containing white moss and animal materials such as musk, ambergris and civet; some were more sophisticated and called for oakmoss, orange blossom, benzoin, styrax, civet, almond, cardamom, rose, clovewood, sandalwood and camphor.
Coty's Chypre was not the first of its kind than, not even the first one that appeared in the 20th century as we can see from the numerous perfumes titled "Chypre" at that time:
1909 Chypre de Paris (Guerlain)
1911 Chypre (Forvil)
1912 Chypre (d'Orsay)
1917 Chypre (Coty)
1919 Mitsouko (Guerlain) - Jaqcues Guerlain
1920's Chypre (Sauzé Freres)
1922 Nuit de Noel (Caron) - Ernest Daltroff
1925 Chypre (Chanel)
1925 Le Chypre (Lanvin)
1925 Crêpe de Chine (Millot)
1933 Vol de Nuit (Guerlain) Jacques Guerlain
During World War II, this legendary perfume was created
1944 Femme (Rocahs) - original formulation by Edmond Roudnitska
Europe post WWII was swiped by a surge of optimism and renewal with Christian Dior's "New Look" that had its iconic fragrance parallel with the sensual yet fresh green notes in Miss Dior (Originally created by master perfumer and author Jean Carle, only to be later reformulated more times than can be counted... The green notes must have been subcontiously craved because of a need for renewal after the traumas of the war.
1946 Ma Griffe (Carven) - Jean Carles
1947 Miss Dior (Dior) - original formulation by Jean Carles
1947 Vent Vert (Balmain) - original formulation by Germaine Cellier
1953 Jolie Madame (Balmain) Germaine Cellier
1962 Chant d'Aromes (Guerlain) Jean-Paul Guerlain
The 1970's were characterized by perfumes for the career oriented woman - angular, clean, bitter and dry, with soapy tendencies. Green florals and Chypres were among them, including these classics:
1969 Chamade (Guerlain) Jean-Paul Guerlain
1971 No. 19 (Chanel)
1973 Private Collection (Estee Lauder)
1971 Aromatics Elixir (Clinique)
1972 1000 (Patou) Jean Kerleo
1979 Jean-Louis Scherrer
1980 Ivoire (Balmain) - Germaine Cellier
1980's Chypre (Body Shop) - Please comment if you have info about this scent
The 1980's and 1990's marked the beginning of significant reformulations of some of the classic chypres, most likely because of an attempt to make them more appealing to larger audiences and "update" them.
1989 Rocahs (Femme) reformulation by Olivier Cresp
1989 Madame Rochas (Rochas) reformulation by Jean-Louis Sieuzac & Jacques Fraysse
1990 Vent Vert (Balmain) reformulation by Calice Becker
In the new millenium there is a renewed interest in Chypre especially among the niche perfumery houses, with perfumes such as:
2006 Chypre Rouge (Serge Lutens)
2007 Une Histoire de Chypre (Aedes de Venustas)
2008 Les Elixirs Charnels - Chypre Fatal (Guerlain)
2009 Un Rose Chyprée (Tauer)
2009 Priate Collection Jasmine White Moss (Estee Lauder)
Dark Chypre / Chypre Noir (Ava Luxe)
Chypre Fruite (Montale)
Chypre Vanille (Montale)
Aromatic Chypre (Pecksniff's)
Chypre Green (Pecksniff's)
Chypre (Dupetit Natural Products)
06 / Chypre (Patyka)
The early millennium also marked the growing threat on the core natural ingredients that are required for composing the classical Chypres; and the influence of regulatory bodies in Europe and the tightening restrictions of IFRA (the perfume industry's self-regulatory body), resulting in the rise of a new genre of faux chypres that I call "pink chypres". These oakmoss-less fragrances rely on synthetic musks and dry woodsy notes (synthetic or low-cost naturals such as vetiver, cedarwood and patchouli) to create an unsweet effect as a counter-balance to the many heavily gourmand and stickily sweet fruity florals of that decade. These scents were to appeal to a similar consumer group that would have picked classical Chypres if it weren't for the strict regulations. The fact that these new so-called Chypres are relying on synthetic and cheap naturals that are considered "safe" for now in regulatory terms only serves as a proof that this genre is the child of both political and economical circumstances and is the industry's way of directing consumers to buy what they want to make, while constantly butchering classic formulas of yesteryear (often to the point of no recognition). Oakmoss levels being reduced to 0.1% in IFRA's (latest but not last...) 43rd amendment, and the atranol removed to meet regulatory requirements in all oakmoss extracts produced for the fragrance industry today have changed the character of Chypres all around.
Here are some examples of oakmoss-less Chypres:
2000 Agent Provocateur
2001 Coco Mademoiselle
2003 Narciso Rodriguez For Her - Francis Kurkdjian & Christine Nagel
2005 Lovely (Sarah Jessica Parker /Coty) - Laurent Le Guernec & Clement Gavarry
2005 Pure Turquoise (Ralph Lauren) - Annie Buzantian
2005 Miss Dior Cherie
2005 Chinatown (Bond No. 9) Aurélien Guichard
2007 31 Rue Cambon (Chanel) - Jacques Polge - an oakmossless Chypre with an accord of iris and pepper that supposed to substitute for its dry and woodsy character.
2008 Deseo (Jennifer Lopez/Coty) - Ellen Molner & James Krivda
In summary, strangely enough, Chypre is going a full circle - from being based on labdanum as the primary ingredient, to oakmoss being a must in the formulas, and now when this is becoming less and less possible (if wanting to comply with IFRA) - it is being omitted altogether from the modern incarnation of this fragrance family.