(image Jacques de Bascher)
Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.
International Fragrance Association (IFRA) restrictions on materials have made the chypre the bellwether in the reformulation debate. Limiting the quantity of oakmoss that may be used and the type of bergamot allowed, the IFRA have knocked out two legs of the chypre tripod. The limitations have pushed perfumers to reconsider composition and materials-producers to search for novel chemicals and botanicals.
The question remains: is it possible to make a true chypre perfume today? And if so, how? I don’t know the engineering of perfume composition enough to say what’s under the hood of the current lineup of chypre perfumes, but there seem to be a few strategies. Chanel go the route of re-creating the geometry of the composition so as to suggest the chypre. Thierry Wasser has apparently fiddled with the forces of the nature and reconfigured the chemical structure of oakmoss (Mitsouko) and reanimated the chypre. Vero Kern, god knows how, simply makes a chypre with Onda.
The wonder of the chypre is that you smell bergamot, oakmoss and amber at the same time that the totality of the perfume rises above the materials. Chypre Palatin has some of the characteristic elements of the chypre. It has great sillage in the headnotes, a raspy heart and a warm, leathery drydown. Like a chypre its evolution is gradual but substantive. Overall, though, it’s simply smells like the sum of its parts.
Chypre Palatin lacks this synergy and therefore lacks soul. In a go-big-or-go-home attempt to deceive, Parfums MDCI would have us believe that Chypre Palatin is not simply a chypre, but a ‘palatial’ one and they charge accordingly. ($250/75 ml) Despite Parfums MDCI’s goal of high art in perfume, a big-name perfumer and an emphasis on the finest materials, Chypre Palatin swings and misses. It is a chypre in the way a tofu steak is meat and carob-chip cookies are satisfying. It doesn’t appear like an attempt to reinvent the chypre so much as a ploy to fool the buyer.