PERFUMES BY JEAN-PAUL GUERLAIN




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THE BALSAMIC CHYPRE


Balsamic resins have been valued since antiquity in perfume, ointment and incense. When combined with oakmoss, these materials smell extraordinarily pleasant and natural, like dusty oak barrels and sweet cinnamon. On a basic level, it explains the fame of the chypre accord, which mixes labdanum resin and oakmoss with the elegantly bitter citrus freshness of bergamot. Like any of the esteemed French perfumers, Jacques Guerlain experimented freely with the chypre accord as new perfume materials became available. His most famous chypre is the fruity Mitsouko from 1919, and he later issued Vol de Nuit (1933), using for the first time the fiercely green galbanum resin, and Sous le Vent (1934) with Provençal herbs and soft balsams.

The refinement of the latter two would prompt other perfume houses to launch rival versions of what was termed the green chypre, like Miss Dior and Balmain's Vent Vert. Some perfumers even talk about a "Vol de Nuit-type accord" and "Sous le Vent-type accord". Maybe Jacques Guerlain thought it was time for a response when he created Chypre 53. Compared to Sous le Vent, Chypre 53 is composed in a less freshly green, more warmly spicy and balsamic manner, with cinnamon, cardamom, patchouli, vetiver, ambergris, vanilla, and styrax balsam.

Although Jean-Paul Guerlain revisited it more than twenty years later with Parure, this type of fragrance fell out of fashion half a century ago. There's something about the old oakmoss chypres that oozes well-off French lady from before the youth rebellion, however they still appeal to those in love with rarefied niche scents. For a modern variant, try Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Derby or Arsène Lupin Dandy.
(December 2015)


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