When I read about the death of chypre in Denyse Beaulieu’s blog, I immediately went into the first of the five stages of grief. Remember those from your Psychology 101 course? Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. I stayed in the denial phase for a few weeks not because I doubted what Denyse was saying but because I was hoping that my nose wasn’t trained enough to be able to tell the difference between a real chypre and one that had been through the IFRA ringer. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Whether it was the reformulated Monsieur de Givenchy or the new Estée Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss, when I compared it to a vintage bottle of Mitsouko, that bitter subnote was missing… like a string quartet without the cello.
Then I went into the anger phase. How could they do this to me? Why now? Being the pragmatic person that I am, this lasted all of a few minutes and I quickly slid into the phase I am in now… bargaining! I’m figuring… maybe the leather accord can replace the chypre accord! When you check out Michael Edwards’ Fragrance Wheel, the leather family (or dry woods as Mr. Edwards calls it) is RIGHT NEXT to the chypre family (or mossy woods). It may not be chypre but at least it’s chypre-adjacent! It’s like when trying to buy in that perfect part of town and realizing you couldn’t afford even a closet but there’s an affordable “trendy” (aka dangerous) part of town right next to it and you figure… hey, this might just work!
It hit me yesterday while I was road-testing Bel Ami from Hermès and for a couple of hours I walked in the opposite direction of my destination because I wanted to be downwind. It is truly a wonderful accord and we all know that the leather family has all been abandoned by the perfume manufacturers. So… why not resurrect it and try to do what they did to chypre 90 years ago… use it as a base and layer floral, green, fruity and aromatic notes. It might just work! And, it would give us men a break from aromatic fougères, citrus colognes and sports scents that smell fresh but little else.
The only thing missing now is a smart perfumer and a house with deep enough pockets to be able to do some decent research and come out with something that has legs. Considering their current offerings, I think Hermès, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Serge Lutens could probably pull it off and so could Chanel by simply using Cuir de Russie as a neutral base and adding layers. As for perfumers, each house has a talented in-house nose and each could easily make it happen.
So… I’ll hold on for awhile hoping that someone sends them this post… but something tells me that the depression phase is not far off.
Image : The First Mourning by William-Adolphe Bouguereau