In 1917 the perfume world was forever changed when François Coty, inspired by the limpid shores of his beloved Cyprus, launched his fragrance Chypre. Overloaded with oakmoss, civet, Tonka bean, and so much more, there had never been anything like it.
“This truly revolutionary composition showed Coty’s erudite genius. Its abstract structure demonstrated a new, pared-down simplicity more akin to fauvism that was popular in art of the period. This gave it a modern feel that was far-removed from many of the weeks, thick, almost ‘sticky’ compositions of the past. Created in the same year Gabrielle Chanel designed her trademark shirt-waster dress, Chypre was exact what women wanted. It fitted the spirit of their newly found emancipation, perfectly. No one material in the composition is omnipotent, there is nothing excessive—this was understated chic luxury at its best. Sadly, this creation is not on the market today.
Chypre’s depth is counter-pointed by a vibrant burst of Bergamot which leads into a surprising central theme of Jasmine, Rose, and Lilac. Rose in the main harmony is, without question, the dominant note, but dressed up in such a way that it is not cloying (through the clever admixture of natural rose oils, bases, and chemicals). The freshness of the Bergamot, ad the dryness of the mosses o which it nestles, make the composition disarming.
The floral heart was a new take on ‘ultra-felinity’, a take that would be just as shocking as Yves Saint Laurent’s introduction of a woman’s ‘smoking suit’ some 50 years later. The base is a self-assured mixture of moss and wood, gum resins, and animal notes. These materials had generally been thought of as masculine but, when worked by Coty, they metamorphosed into what Edmond Roudnitska hailed as Coty’s greatest creation.
Coty managed to put the gentlest whisper of orris, vanillin, and coumarin into this creation which gave it a sense of intimate luxury. Oakmoss was to provide the foundation, onto which he added Patchouliu, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Labdanum, Styrax, Civet, and Musk.”Dove, Roja, “The Essence Of Perfume“. Black Dog Publishing.
The formula I present here is the version Coty made himself (including his final tweaks). The formula is complex and built around a number of bases, but substitutes are given in the form of extra formulas and, in a few cases, links to replacements you can find here on Frater Perfumes. Small monographs on the bases Coty used are provided—unlocking the secrets of some of the most important tools in the noses’ palette from the golden age of perfumery.
Over the years Coty tweaked the fragrance but it remained substantially the same until the later half of the 20th century when costs and “safety” concerns caused many of its materials to be severely restricted. Details are provided on the tweaks made by Coty so that you can choose to replicate the fragrance in its 1917 form, or the perfected version from a few years later which the perfumer preferred himself.
It should be noted that this does not bear any resemblance to the fragrance that was sold after the 1980s under the same name by the same company. It is not possible for a modern perfume house to reproduce this original formula. When you see the overdosed amounts of some materials in the original, you will understand just how much damage directives and overregulation from groups like IFRA and the European Union have done to our great art form.
Fragrance ReviewsFragrance reviews courtesy of Basenotes.com. https://www.basenotes.net/fragrancereviews/fragrance/10210824
The opening is a mix of bergamot and a beautiful rich rose, which in the drydown is enhanced by jasmine and a slightly earthy lilac. A somber and somewhat shadowy floral bouquet, with a soft carnation providing a touch of a warm glow.
In the next phase a rich tapestry of notes is woven together: the core is the oakmoss, which is a soft and rounded mossy impression, lacking any shrillness or harshness, as is the patchouli that is interwoven with the oakmoss. Hints of tonka and styrax add a tad of sweetness, whilst labdanum and a dark musky note provided added depth. Underlying is a woodsy undertone that round it all off.
I get moderate sillage, very good projection and a splendid thirteen hours of longevity on my skin.
This gorgeous creation for spring evenings is noteworthy for historical reasons: the juxtaposition of bergamot, oakmoss, patchouli and musk, in varying combinations and permutations, has initiated and defined the whole genre of chypre for future generations.
Additionally, this magnificent creation is composed of ingredients of the highest quality, is blended most exquisitely, and delivers an exceptional performance. At times it lacks some vividness and luster, probably lost over the many decades since it was created, but otherwise this is one of the greats of the last century.—rbaker
Divine but generic. Wait, let me clarify; this is the scent that defines an entire genre of scents! Strip away the bells and whistles that impart such magic to well-loved chypres like Mitsouko and No.19, what’s left is probably a mere shadow of CHYPRE DE COTY.
Vibrant yet bewitchingly dark green earthy scent, this is, for me at least, love at first sniff. I get it. And it gets me.—diamondflame
WOW! I ponder the date 1917, and I believe one of my late grandparents was born that year…
What amazes me about this fragrance is when it comes to my nose, I close my eyes and a flood of perfumes that sprang from Chypres’ DNA rush through my mind! Unbelievable, the smell of it’s history. Really, one needs to put into perspective that we are experiencing this smell “after the fact/effect”. If not for this gorgeous blend, another masterpiece by the name of Mitsouko wouldn’t exist, not to mention countless others that followed. In this way, as the supply of Chypre dwindles and eventually dies, it lives on via the lineage of its offspring. I respect this frag. Actually, my emotion is more of reverence.
Will I wear this one regularly? Nah. There are plenty more modern scents suitable for my taste. But, this one is the grandparent to many of them. No doubt in my mind, thumbs up!—ubuandibeme