Chypre at the Osmothèque
9 years ago
In amongst the many great classics held at the Osmothèque, Chypre by Coty is one of the most renown.
François Coty was not only a great technician but a perfume visionary. Probably the most celebrated of his creations is Chypre, the perfume that started a new genre.
We all know the formula is based on bergamot, labdanum and oak moss, and is reputed to be in the style of the perfume which first came from the island of Cyprus many years before.
Without going into the details of its formula, which can be found on Yesterdays Perfume and elsewhere, I can tell you what I remember of the Osmothèque reconstruction and what remains on the touche after a few weeks.
My impressions were of a substantial, somewhat resinous profile, with a surprisingly hard overtone and a cold, even slightly metallic air to the debut.
Firmly supporting this head was a cool resiny-woody and green, dark brown colour-value core.
Without any one note being evident, the character was dominantly resiny and mossy, the presence of moss making itself known in lending a bitterness and a slight coarseness to the texture, adding interest to what may otherwise have felt glassy - like a polished piece of amber fossil.
Coty supplemented the heart accord in what is now classic fashion, with Jasmin and rose. Rounding out the hard and bitter unforgiving side of his materials with a delicate floral bouquet.
At a guess I would say he may have used Virginia cedar for its dry aroma and texture.
He probably used both natural florals and those isolates which were available in 1917, along with coumarin to bolster the floral sweet aspects, and to offset the heavy resins with some powdery effects.
Vanillin which was widely available by then, and I have no doubt Coty would have put some in there, but not so much as to push the profile in an overtly oriental direction, and again for powdery effect.
It is evident that the trajectory of the profile moves towards labdanum and oak moss - not an enticing prospect with all those heavy bitter resinous notes.
From the drydown on the touche, which is now several weeks old, there seems to be the presence of heliotropin, sandalwood and vanilla, which leave a tang of bittersweet powderyness built around orris root. This gives a sense of both top quality naturals and judiciously dosed synthetics.
Coty evidently mastered the prospect of the grim dry down afforded by heavy doses of labdanum and moss with the brilliant and novel use of synthetic isolates as well as sweet wood.
I regret that I can't give you a fuller picture of its evolution, there were over a dozen samples given out and it was a lot to take them all on board at the time.
However, I take my lead from Luca Turin on this, and I'm afraid to say I found it formidable and brilliant but not so loveable. I'm sure that given the chance to wear it a few times, I would be able to qualify my judgement and maybe find hidden corners in its heart where I could find myself.
Others have since built on the brilliant and ground breaking innovation of Cotys' Chypre, but like the Model T Ford which was a phenomenon in its day, the original idea has been developed and improved in many directions.