Of deconstructed chypres and prismatic florals

If you’ve read even only a few of my posts, you know that perfume classification is a pet subject of mine.  I guess it’s the librarian in me which loves the challenge of creating a finite, controlled vocabulary which can describe everything in the perfume universe.  I love Michael Edwards’ taxonomy but I’d like to think that I might come up with my own one day.

Marketing is something completely different, as is blogging.  And so when I see new expressions to describe perfumes, they always grab my attention.  Here’s to uncontrolled vocabularies which pique the curiosity and feed the soul!

Let’s look at a couple of great examples.  Luca Turin describes Joy Parfum as a symphonic floral.  Right!  I get it.  A symphony of flowers.  And when Denyse Beaulieu described Estée Lauder’s Jasmine White Moss as a holographic chypre… YES!!!  Lauder’s fragrance is a holograph of a chypre… a sort of olfactory “trompe l’oeil”!  I guess that would be a “trompe nez”?  (But then again, isn’t ALL of perfume an expression of trompe nez.)

In contrast, I once read that 31 rue Cambon was a chypre-less chypre!  Ouch!  Not very satisfying.  Or how about Estée Lauder’s prismatic floral?  That would be Beyond Paradise. Symphonic floral, I get.  Prismatic floral?  Not so much.  But kudos to the Lauder marketing people for trying.

And very recently, I read on a little card next to Mugler’s Chyprissime, “deconstructed chypre”.  I’m not sure I get this one either.  What is a deconstructed chypre?

So let’s end this post with a trompe l’oeil of a trompe l’oeil. You see… people who attended the Alexander McQueen fall/winter fashion show of 2006 thought that they had just seen a moving hologram of Kate Moss. Well, the technology didn’t exist at the time (and still doesn’t) and so what they saw was a decidedly downmarket, low-tech trompe l’oeil trick of Victorian haunted houses called Pepper’s Ghost.

Although it’s not a hologram as we define a hologram today, it’s still very striking and impressive.  (Thanks to Denyse of Grain de Musc who first brought this one to my attention).


Mugler : Les Exceptions – Chyprissime

Mars and Venus of Cyprus Surprised by Vulcan (1827) by Alexandre Charles Guillemot

Mars and Venus of Cyprus Surprised by Vulcan (1827) by Alexandre Charles Guillemot

Created by : Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Hérault

Date : 2014

Genre : Fresh woods

Concentration : eau de parfum

Do you remember the advice teachers gave you when answering a quiz?  Do the easy questions first!  So… let’s get Chyprissime’s genre out of the way right off the bat.  This is not a chypre… not by a long shot.  It’s from the woods genre.  It’s not even chypre-ish!

You know… before I had my own bottle of Chypre by Coty, I had trouble with the chypre genre because the chypre family is so varied, it’s difficult for beginners to pick out.  I used to go by elimination.  When it wasn’t citrus or floral or leather or amber or fougère or wood… then it was a chypre.  But this one pretty well shouted woods to me the minute I sprayed it on my skin and it never waivered.

I’m not going to say much about this one because I didn’t find it very interesting.  Yes, it’s somewhat smoky.  Yes, it borrows a powdery facet (slight mind you) from the chypre genre and, yes there is a menthol or eucalyptus note in there to keep it fresher than fresh… but all-in-all, it’s a somewhat boring, two-dimensional masculine woods scent… nothing to write home about.  There are literally dozens of woods that are more interesting and so I’ll name just a few… Guerlain’s Vetiver, Chanel’s Sycomore, Creed’s Royal Oud and L’Artisan’s Parfumeur’s Premier Figuier.

I’m slightly to blame for this mediocre review because my hopes were probably too high. Buoyed by my review of Supra Floral which gives Chamade a run for its money, I was expecting an old-school, broad-shouldered feminine chypre.  Maybe even a leather chypre! Alas, no!

So… we move on.  Have a nice week everyone.


Mugler : Les Exceptions – Supra Floral

The Death of Hyacinth (1769) by Nicolas-René Jollain (click to enlarge)

The Death of Hyacinth (1769) by Nicolas-René Jollain (click to enlarge)

Created by : Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Hérault

Date : 2014

Genre : Hyacinth soliflore

Concentration : eau de parfum

Over the years I have read and heard many references made between Thierry Mugler and Guerlain fragrances… not least of which is Luca Turin referring to Angel as the Shalimar of the Nineties.  And a very smart perfume enthusiast I know immediately recognized a nod to the famous Guerlinade in the first version of Angel… so I wasn’t completely surprised when I first sniffed Supra Floral and Chamade came to mind even before the sales associate said it was Mugler’s take on hyacinth.

Admittedly, I was ripe and ready for Supra Floral because I had been looking for a green floral for the past several weeks.  I always look for green scents in the spring and in late March and early April I threw myself into an orgy of green chypres and green fruity scents such as Premier Figuier. In addition, I must have tested half a dozen green florals including Estée Lauder’s Private Collection, Fidji, Bel Respiro and Romance by Ralph Lauren… even pulling out my Chanel No. 19 on occasion to keep me grounded.  I once said that white florals were the Holy Grail of  perfumes because they are so difficult to do beautifully.  I now think that green florals are even trickier.  Too much of one or two ingredients and the perfume comes off smelling like window cleaner!

So what does Supra Floral smell like?  I decided to use Chamade as my yardstick because most people have easy access to Chamade and the Les Exceptions collection is still only available in Canada and Italy as I write this post.

Both Supra Floral and Chamade highlight hyacinth but Chamade lists hyacinth only in the topnotes (according to Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends : French Feminine Fragrances) while the promotional material for Supra Floral refers to the fragrance as a hyacinth soliflore with amber and incense.  So they definitely both share some DNA but they are not meant to be direct competitors.

On my skin, both Supra Floral and Chamade came out of the starting gate similarly because of the hyacinth note with Supra Floral being greener and more stark and Chamade boasting a powder note.  Supra Floral made me think of an early-morning stroll through a field of spring blossoms on an ultra-dry day… when sights and smells are surreal.  It awakened my senses all day long when I wore it.  Chamade reminds of later in the season… an early August late-afternoon stroll in the same field but on a VERY HUMID day with not only hyacinths but also other field flowers having grown in… maybe a few rose bushes here and there and jasmine in a neighbouring field.  Where Supra Floral is highly concentrated and saturated, Chamade is diffuse. Both Supra Floral and Chamade are wonderful… and both are complimentary.  If I had to choose one on any given day, I wouldn’t.  I would start my day with Chamade and then layer Supra Floral overtop for evening drama… and bump up the volume, so to speak.

As for classification, I would be very surprised if the Société française des parfumeurs puts Supra Floral in their “ambré” category even if Mugler says it has amber in it.  Apart from a discreet vanilla note at the end of the day, I think this is a hyacinth soliflore through and through… well worth testing.

To read about the Greek myth behind the genesis of the hyacinth flower, click here.






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