26 maggio 2009

Vintage Chypres


In these days I decided to compare 3 Chypre scents that Nynive and I found on Ebay. The first is a 1930 release from the firm Ivel, the second is legendary Coty’s Chypre (1917) and the third is Chypre 55 by Regency55, of which I couldn’t find references on any of my books, but the bottle could be the from the 40s. Even if the classification of perfume is fairly tricky, with many perfumes fitting easily in more categories, Chypre may display more fruity, flowery, green/fougère or leather/animalic aspects. But when you smell a captivating contrast between brilliant opening notes of citrus (especially bergamot), and woody/green, rough notes like oakmoss, galbanum or warm and spicy as cistus labdanum or sandalwood, usually you are smelling a Chypre scent. It’s this harmonious integration of two very different sensations, which is the charm of the Chypre family, which in effect is a little hard to handle; the love for Chypre usually arrives later in the perfume path, and sounds as the discovery of the wheel. Why? Because they create a feeling both very natural and very abstract, it’s difficult to make use of a composition of this kind, with these materials, to suggest some idea, or the author’s vision. So usually a Chypre is "simply" a Chypre. I believe it's not easy, it takes great humility, stand back and allow the perfume and its materials speak for themselves.
Now IFRA (the body created and funded by the perfume industry to ensure the safety of raw materials) strongly adverses the use of oakmoss and bergamot and this led to the gradual disappearance of these materials in today’s scents. Their place is now taken by "safer", soulless materials such as rarefied white musks, unsubstantial fruity molecules and anemic vetivers (you know how I appreciate synthetic raw materials, and I shouldn’t even say that, as usual, it’s an issue of quality of what you use and skill in composing, not natural vs artificial). The very structure of Chypre perfumes has been impoverished, and talking of Chypres created today is like talking of "dry water".
That is why I was willing to try and compare the old ones.
Opening the Regent was already complicated: the protective rubber had dissolved and got entirely into the bottle’s neck. To remove it without making it fall into the juice I had to harden it by placing it in the fridge for 5 minutes, and then I worked with toothpicks to extract it. None of the three scents is preserved perfectly, and even if comparing dated scents may be unfair, I did it all the same. After all, it was fun! Of the three, the Regent seems the most recent, and in fact it’s the only one which has kept the original opening, I still could grasp the freshness, while in the other two, all the top notes have gone bad: Coty’s Chypre smells as sour as apple vinegar, while Ivel’s reeks of nail acetone. But 15 minutes of patience show how things change. Regent evolves very little, I smell some aldehydes, a flower, may be a greasy jasmine, and animalic bottom notes. All too soapy. Perhaps the structure was unbalanced and castoreum has eaten out almost all the rest? Instead the other two show an intriguing finesse. The Coty begins to shine an ambery light, as sweet and sparkling as a glass of champagne in which ripe peaches have been drenched. Ointment for the nervous system. And the heart reveals all the power of what is coming after: labdanum, animalic musk and oakmoss suggesting a natural round, full-bodied, indomitable but not aggressive character. On paper it lasted days, hours on the skin. It possesses terrific balance and harmony. Ivel’s instead displays a greener facet: I detect jasmine paired with oakmoss and pungent green galbanum, all sewn by a musky note balancing and evening the whole composition. It’s more powdery and ethereal than Coty’s. Both are very wearable and interesting, despite their ageing and ailments. The closest to Chypre by Coty is Guerlain’s Mitsouko (smell the parfum, otherwise you won’t understand a thing), the Ivel shares something with Guerlain’s Chant d'Aromes (edt).

1 commento:

Anna Maria ha detto...

Man, sei grande!

Sempre più brava!