I think you have to be a certain - not to say more mature - age to appreciate chypre fragrances. I cannot explain otherwise that a large number of consumers reliably claim to be too young for one or the other fragrance of this genre. Occasionally they are also given attributes such as granny or old-fashioned fragrance, which always enrages me a little, but probably only because I myself am beginning to belong to this generation.
And since I love chypre fragrances, I don't like to be told that it's only because I've been in the business for more than half a century...
On the contrary: I already liked chypre fragrances when I was in my twenties. Eau Sauvage' and 'Armani pour Homme' (today: 'Eau pour Homme') were fragrances that I often wore. I especially liked (and still like) the bitter facets of these fragrances.
But many young people love sweet things above all - the sweeter, the better. Bitter is often mistrusted and usually associated with poisonous things.
So it may be a privilege of getting older to become more tolerant of bitterness little by little, but perhaps it is not so much a question of age as one of age.
Chypre fragrances had their big time in the 50s, 60s and 70s. They were already considered old-fashioned in the 80s, and even more so in the 90s, until IFRA put a stop to this genre at the beginning of the new millennium.
Another decade passed before the first perfumers tried new Chypres. Creativity was now really in demand, since a classical design of the incriminated oakmoss was not to be thought of Jacques Polge tried a combination of iris, patchouli and labdanum ('31 Rue Cambon'), Ralf Schwieger for his part tried rose, immortelle and some resins ('Afternoon of a Faun'), Bertrand Duchaufour used an oak moss that was largely free of the allergen atranol ('Chypre Palatin'), while others immediately switched to a substitute like Evernyl or Veramoss (IFF), or Orcinyl 3 (Givaudan).
James Heeley launched his 'Chypre 21' in 2015, a fragrance which, in its name alone, claims to renew the aging genre.
Did he succeed? I mean, yes However, the term 'chypre' is often called into question for this fragrance.
So is it a chypre scent? Yep, I'd say - it depends on your point of view.
No, if one applies rather orthodox standards, according to which the use of oakmoss is mandatory in any case.
Yes, if you are willing to deviate just a little bit from this orthodoxy. Because the step with which Heeley moves away from the classic chypre framework is not too big.
The bitter-tangy citrus peel of the bergamot is there, the rose is there (also an almost integral part of the classic Chypres), patchouli is there, and even a very little bit of oakmoss. So far, so good, but for a veritable chypre fragrance this is still quite little, especially since Heeley also refrains from using labdanum - also a typical ingredient of many chypre funds.
Some time ago I had read in an interview with James Heeley (unfortunately I can't find it anymore) that he tried to balance the lack of oak moss with the similarly complex scent of the algae. The idea probably came to him while he was working on his fragrance 'Sel Marin' a few years earlier, in the centre of which an entire carpet of algae spreads out. This is not the case with 'Chypre 21', but the slightly salty, tangy algae aroma is clearly recognizable. Oak moss, too, has this greenish-bitter, slightly salty facet, along with a few more that distinguish it from the algae's spectrum of scents. Nevertheless there is a certain intersection, and I think James Heeley has worked it out very nicely.
But the use of algae is not the only modern element that makes 'Chypre 21' a truly contemporary fragrance - saffron also plays a significant role here. As complex in aroma as algae and oakmoss, it enhances the bitter aftertaste so characteristic of chypre fragrances.
Already in the top notes Heeley tries to build up this reverberation using bergamot and a hint of rosemary, carries it away in the heart with saffron, and reinforces it in the base with oakmoss and algae.
I don't know if there are also synthetic mosses involved, but I don't have the impression. Rather, I suspect that Heeley wanted to show that the famous chypre effect can be achieved without excessive use of synthetics.
He has definitely succeeded - how I find the whole fragrance successful at all!
Heeley himself calls his fragrance 'an ode to Parisian chic'. He also links him to personalities such as Jackie Onassis, Grace Kelly and the Duke, as well as the Duchess of Windsor, aka Wallis Simpson, together with royal husband, the former short-term king Edward VIII.
Heavy guns, but be that as it may: if you don't bark loudly, you won't be heard - especially today.
But interesting: all of them are not French, but Americans and an Englishman. However, with a strong leaning towards France, especially Paris. And James Heeley himself? He is also an Englishman, with Paris as his adopted country So the oakmoss substitute algae he has chosen fits well here too, as they all had to cross the sea to Paris. And who, if not the algae, is olfactory for the sea?
A little speculative, I know
Two years after 'Chypre 21', another Parisian perfume house - Ex Nihilo - has dedicated another veritable chypre fragrance to the chic of the French capital: 'French Affair'. Also he evokes the good old, chypre time, but this time rather the 70s and less the 50s, as in the case of 'Chypre 21'.
Like this, 'French Affair' also manages the balancing act between tradition and modernity.
In addition, both are constructed quite similarly: Bergamot in the head, a rose accord in the heart, patchouli and oakmoss in the base, modern accentuated by lychee and angelica here, by rosemary, saffron and algae there.
The reference points of 'Cypre 21' are the original 'Miss Dior' and 'Eau Sauvage', while 'French Affair' quotes 'Aromatics Elixir' and 'Armais 900'.
Both fragrances, and I particularly like this, do not leave it at the quotation, but emphasize above all their modern outfit. As if James Heeley and Quentin Bisch (and not to forget Bertrand Duchaufour!) wanted to call out to us: look what 'Chypre' can still do today - a lot!
Chypre 21' is absolutely unisex, has a wonderful not too loud, but not too quiet presence and enormous stamina.
A great scent!