Chypre Rouge is the latest fragrance release from Serge Lutens, and happily for those of us in the United States, it is in the export line so you won’t have to jump through hoops to get your hands on it. It was created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, and the notes include thyme, pine needles, pecans, fruit gums, honey, beeswax, jasmine, patchouli, amber, vanilla, moss and musks.
Like so many other Serge Lutens compositions, Chypre Rouge starts with something like stewed spiced fruit, here underscored with pine needles, toasted nuts, and something that smells like a sweet dessert wine. It is both sweet and heavy, and while the notes list only thyme, the curry spices that so frequently appear in the Serge Lutens line are very much present in Chypre Rouge; if, as advertised, it “was inspired by Serge Lutens’s memories of fall in his native Vendée region of western France” (via osmoz), the memories would seem to be filtered through his more recent experiences in Marrakech.
As it calms, the sweetness slowly dissipates to a more acceptable level, and the dusky amber-moss base shines through. After a good hour or so, it finally approaches wearable status for me: a soft blend of moss and woods with a whisper of patchouli to lend some earthiness, the whole tinged red to match its name and the color of the juice. There is just a touch of honeyed sweetness, and the spices are now likewise hushed. After two hours, it starts to take on the lovely (or not, depending on your perspective) pencil and scorched cedar accord of Santal Blanc.
I took an almost immediate dislike to Chypre Rouge; since then, I’ve come to like it much better, but short of a major about-face, it isn’t likely to be my next fragrance purchase (although I should point out that I’ve been known to do a complete about-face: witness Miel de Bois, surely one of the most widely disliked of all Serge Lutens fragrances). Chypre Rouge is an interesting fragrance, to be sure, and probably likely to make a better impression in cooler fall weather. The lasting power is excellent, so if you can wait through the rough opening, you will be amply rewarded, but I am still in the almost-but-not-quite captivated stage. Possibly I will make it through another year without needing a new Serge Lutens fragrance, as the upcoming Mandarin Mandarine is rumored to be very like Fleurs d’Oranger.
For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.
Update: in 2010, Chypre Rouge was moved into the Serge Lutens exclusive range.