Three Fierce Green Chypres: Sisley Eau du Soir, Parfumerie Generale Corps et Ames, and Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle perfume

When people talk about big, knock-‘em-out scents, they often mean white florals like Robert Piguet Fracas or Annick Goutal Passion or heady 1980s orientals like Yves Saint Laurent Opium and Chanel Coco. I’d like to add another category of perfume to this list: the fierce green chypre. I’m not talking about a moody green chypre like Jacomo Silences or a modulated green chypre like Estée Lauder Private Collection. I mean a no-apologies, cuts-like-a-knife, love-it-or-loathe-it green chypre. At the top of the list of fierce green chypres are Sisley Eau du Soir, Parfumerie Générale Corps et Ames, and Niki de Saint Phalle.

A fierce green chypre isn’t easy to wear. It’s a diva, and it will be bigger than you are if you give it an inch. Before you spray on a fierce green chypre, you’d better be ready to be fabulous. Make sure you have the energy for snappy comebacks, unleashed hilarity, or wanton passion — whatever the occasion calls for.

Of the three I’ve listed, Eau du Soir is the lady of the group. Eau du Soir, released by Sisley in 1990, includes notes of mandarin, grapefruit, seringa, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, iris, patchouli, pepper, juniper, clove, oakmoss, cistus, musk, and amber. On first spritz, all I smell is piercing, white grapefruit, dry as top-shelf gin. After five minutes or so, mint sweetens Eau du Soir and softens its edges slightly. Heavily peppered, herbal flowers join the mix, and as the grapefruit fades the earthiness of oakmoss grounds the scent. Under the buzzing green and citrus is a nicely balanced, unusual perfume that would be well suited to a woman who drives a white Mercedes convertible and vacations in Capri. She does not, however, have a small dog, and she’s bored by the conversation down at the country club. When you meet by the pool, you’re not sure if she likes you or not.

Corps et Ames by Parfumerie Générale, which came out in 2006, is the starlet green chypre. Corps et Ames' notes include Bourbon geranium, immortelle flowers, Melati wood, leather, and sandalwood. On first whiff, Corps et Ames smells like something pulled off the back shelf of a Weimar-era perfume shop. But when the dry herbal top burns down a little, the scent takes a modern turn as a whiff of immortelle rounds out the weediness of the geranium and sharpness of what smells to me like bergamot, grapefruit, and summer herbs. I can’t distinctly smell the leather. The scent becomes more beautiful and calm as it unwinds. Corps et Ames is both of the moment and a throwback to old glamour, much like Angelina Jolie. I might need a bottle of this.

Niki de St Phalle, released in 1982, is the bohemian green chypre. She can be beautiful and irritating at the same time. Niki’s notes include peach, mugwort, bergamot, marigold, mint, jasmine, rose, clove, iris, ylang ylang, cedar, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, and musk. Niki de Saint Phalle comes on with a thick, green wallop that feels almost tannic, like you’ve been drinking black tea that has steeped too long. That mineral, tannic smell reminds me of the heart of Estée Lauder Azurée. Some people say that Niki de Saint Phalle smells like pine, but to me its green is more herbal than coniferous. I don’t smell rose, jasmine, or iris at all. Niki hangs on to her fierceness when other fierce green chypres have relaxed into their sandalwood and oakmoss, although a honey-like note enters as Niki dries down, giving it a youthful feel when Corps et Ames is still stark and Eau du Soir has rolled over to tradition. My favorite sales associate at my favorite perfume shop says that Niki de Saint Phalle smells best on pigmented skin, which tends to capture and moderate its power, but I’m pasty and I love it. Another interesting fact: sales of Niki de Saint Phalle funded the Italian tarot sculpture garden, open to the public and created by the real Niki de Saint Phalle, an artist known primarily for her sculpture.

Scentiments lists a 50 ml bottle of Sisley Eau du Soir Eau de Parfum for $86.99 and a 59 ml tester of Niki de Saint Phalle Eau de Toilette for $21.95.

Corps et Ames Eau de Parfum is $90 for 50 ml; for buying information, see the listing for Parfumerie Générale under Perfume Houses.

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67 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    i had a tiny bottle of niki de saint phalle as a kid- a hand-me-down from my mother. i remember really liking it, and especially really liking the colorful snake design (i was 7). i'm interested in smelling it again to see if i still like it (i think i will, as me and chypres tend to agree). i kick myself now for not buying an even teenier bottle than the one i had on my french visit; these bottles had little zodiac symbols painted on them (instead of the snakes) and didn't cost that much. but they didn't have a lion, and we were in a rush as i had to catch a train. next time! :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great article, as usual, Angela! Eau du Soir has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Never have had a chance to try the other two, but I really want to now! Another favorite green “power chypre”,ha ha, is Balmain Vent Vert – not so much the reformulated version, (still nice but a little weaker) but the original, which I had the privelege of owning a small decant of a few years ago. Serious galbanum overdose – loved it!

  3. Anonymous says:

    “…you'd better be ready to be fabulous.”
    Now see? That's why I'm mostly an oriental girl (bring on the Coco!). One *can* have glamor and ease at the same time, and I never liked that gal in the white Mercedes (yawn) anyway. I know her though, all too well.
    So much fun, that storytelling!

  4. Anonymous says:

    N, the Perfume House has the zodiac bottles, too. I love the parfum bottles with the snake on top. The next time we visit, I'll make sure you get a nose-full of fierce green chypre!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I love Vent Vert, too–I have a few mls of the vintage parfum that I save for special occasions. Vent Vert is sharp and wickely loaded with galbunum, but once it gives itself over to its floral heart it moves from fierce to wonderful (in a non-fierce way) on me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    A, “glamour and ease” is perfection and truth be told I wear other chypres more than the fierce green chypres. But every once in a while I feel like I can do it, I can be fabulous, glamorous, and at ease (rare moment), and then nothing does it like a take-no-prisoners green chypre!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good grief – so Corps et Ames is a chypre! I am rubbish at spotting chypres – I wore Mitsouko, Diva and Coriandre for years thinking they were spicy florals. I thought Corps et Ames was a kind of faded floral amber! If only they would make chypres a striking colour, so I'd know… My chypre-loving days were in my teens and twenties; nowadays I feel I'm too small for them. I needed youth and lusciousness to match the bold promise they make. But I'd love to sniff Niki de Saint thingy; sounds like one of a kind.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great post as always, Angela! I love me some Niki de Saint Phalle. I remember smelling it *back in the day*, and loving it; I was already wearing Cristalle, Norell etc. I never bought any Niki then. But just a few weeks ago I received a bottle in a swap, snakes and all. I must confess, being fabulous doesn't really feel like *me* these days, but Niki is a bracing confidence booster and I enjoy wearing it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    what about another chypre from the house of balmain: balmain de balmain, it's too a nice little but loud chypre i believe, requires a certain amount of, let's call it courage to wear it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Have you ever tried Paloma Picasso's perfume (I think it's just called Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum or something like that)? That is a serious chypre.

    Also Estee Lauder Knowing. There's another powerful one!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Balmain de Balmain seems to me more fresh and sparkly than fierce. I think of it as a good one for a hot day. You're right, though, that it isn't your run-of-the-mill pretty scent. My skin eats it pretty well, so it isn't all that loud on me.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Lots of chypres don't smell very chypre-ish to me, either. It's usually the oakmoss that gives it away if it's obviously a chypre, and I can't always smell oakmoss. For instance, I did a review of the new Armani Prive jasmine, and if the marketing blurb didn't mention that it was chypre there's no way I would have guessed it.

    Niki is definitely a one of a kind!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Great, another Niki wearer! We should form a special club and get our own handshake.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I sure have tried Paloma Mon Parfum, and I really like it. It's so Paloma-ish, so recognizeable, though, that I'm careful when I wear it. It's such a grand, rosy, gritty beautiful scent. I wouldn't call it a “green” chypre, though, although it's certainly fierce.

    EL Knowing I don't know all that well. I'll have to check it out.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Huh, I got to smell balmain de balmain at the Perfume House and thought it smelled wonderful, but I didn't get to try any on. It didn't seem fierce to me at all, just bright and green.

    On the other hand, I do wear Corps et Ames frequently, and feel that it's the absolute most ME scent I own, expect possibly for Bandit. They just seem to suit me. I don't get that diva thing at all – but maybe I'm expressing a hidden part of my personality :)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh, that beautiful snaky bottle. It's a gorgeous scent. It beats me to a frazzle. Can't pull it off.

  17. Anonymous says:

    You must be fabulousness itself to feel at home with Bandit and Corps et Ame! I love both, too, but need to choose to wear them rather than fall back on them as a default. Do gentler scents shrink on you?

  18. Anonymous says:

    That's exactly what I mean about its fierceness! I have to be geared up for it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I'm so happy that you wrote about one of my favorites: Eau du Soir. Unfortunately, I do have a small dog that I adore and I'm far from being hoity-toity (although I wouldn't mind rolling around in my very own Land Rover, with my dog, sigh), hahaha! Younger, I NEVER would have thought that I would one day really get to appreciate chyprés, but I guess a little maturity has its good points after all. BTW, I really enjoyed little samples of Niki De Saint-Phalle and Paloma Picasso, so I guess they do fall into that category. Great post, as always, Angela! xo

  20. Anonymous says:

    Funny, I just read VanillaGirl's comment and she's saying the exact opposite of what I just said about youth/maturity and the courage to wear chyprés… just goes to show that everyone has their own unique take on perfume. I'm repeating myself and being a bit of a suck-up, but what the heck, I LOVE YOU GUYS!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Well, I have a dog and drive an old pickup, and I like Eau du Soir–so much for my handy little generalization!

  22. Anonymous says:

    I can see V. G.'s point, that the exuberance of youth matches the presence of a chypre. On the other hand, there's something sophisticated about a chypre that works well with the more “seasoned” woman. I suppose there are enough chypres to go around.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Angela, I adore your reviews, thank you for writing them! I love green chypres but I agree that they require presence to wear well, be it youth or experience. Eau de Soir is one of my favs though I don't possess it – it would possess me. I like the sound of the Niki St Phalle and have a feeling a fellow perfumista was talking to me about it recently and after I'd hunted down and bought what I consider to be a green chypre, Deneuve. I can wear Deneuve though, after the galbanum hit, it calms down.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I've always been curious about Deneuve! Maybe I'll get lucky someday and find a bottle at a yard sale (keep dreaming).

    If Eau du Soir takes you over, Corps et Ame and Niki probably would, too. Still, just like a sweater that's cut a little lower than you're used to, sometimes it's nice to have on hand.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I don't know the other two scents, and I'm by no means a chypre connoiseur, but it's great to read some more love for the divine (and little talked-about) Corps et Ames! I find it very haunting and nostalgia-inducing. It sounds so cozy-woodsy from the notes, but I smell something green and celery-like in it (which I like!).

    Thanks for the review. :)

  26. Anonymous says:

    I'm not particularly fabulous, I just have a bad attitude :) Really, for me these scents just seem comfortable and green with a little kick underneath. The ones I need to be in the mood for are the big florals that are supposed to suit my skin type (pale) but often seem a bit too frou-frou for my style.

    I'm wearing Corps et Ames today, and it's steadfast but not at all strong on me, with a lovely warmth. Maybe I'm just weird?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Or maybe you're just lucky! I have a serious jones for a bottle of Corps et Ame now.

  28. Anonymous says:

    You definitely should try the others, then. Niki is a bargain online, and I've seen Eau du Soir at department stores where you can sniff a tester.

  29. Anonymous says:

    balmain de balmain is definitely worth trying, it's hugely elegant and pretty green. my skin agrees with it perfectly, hope you will like it

  30. Anonymous says:

    I do like it–I have a bottle of it! It sounds like it's really nice on you.

  31. Anonymous says:

    YES! Count me in as a Niki fan. I remember smelling it as a kid and all I could think was just wow! The pefume bottle evoked such a mysterious and foreboding feeling, a magic elixir housed in its cobalt vessel. I totally forgot about the fragrance until I was at the Zurich train station years back and saw her larger than life sculptures on display there. Took a while to remember why these colorful mammoth figures tugged at my brain, and the scent memory came back of Niki…wow!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Niki is one of those scents that is hard to forget. I love it. I'm glad you found it again!

  33. Anonymous says:

    I've just bought Niki (after reading this article, thank you for it!) and I love it. It's so interesting and rich smelling. I love mostly its opening, then it turns warm and a little sweet on me, but still very pleasant. Overall, it's a warm and “hugging” (I don't know if there's a word like it, sorry if it sounds not right in English) fragrance on me, and I think I'll use it a lot.

    I like Eau du Soir too, but not own. One of my favorites is Chanel 19, so, it seems, chypres like me too :)

  34. Anonymous says:

    I'm so glad you like it! Green chypres are one of my favorite perfume categories.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Much cheaper, but still fabulous, substitute for quite expensive Sisley Eau du Soir is old Jean Louis Scherrer . These two are lot alike. Scherrer is really amazing green chypre.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I must try that one–thank you for the suggestion!

  37. Anonymous says:

    Just don't be puzzled, it is often listed as floral aldehyd. I think I can recognize Floral Aldehyd. This is brutally green herbal scent.

    EdT is just great, no need for EdP.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone tell me:

    How Niki compares to Mitsouko. I just tried M, and loved it's opening notes best and wished they lasted longer rather than submitted to to the lovely (but to my nose rather bland) guerlinade base.

    Are the opening notes of Mitsouko more long lived in the EDP? I must say I love it a lot, it changes constantly, never boring.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Niki is really different than Mitsouko in my mind. Niki is sharp and herbal, while Mitsouko is peachy and musty (in the best possible way). I find Mitsouko EdT and EdP different from each other, too. The EdP is richer and has more body, while the modern EdT is more sharp–to put it in a nutshell.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the input Angela. I think the best idea would be to try all three concentrations, don't you? Life is too short to deny oneself!!!!

  41. Anonymous says:

    You think exactly like I do!

  42. Anonymous says:

    Oh definitely my favorite too ! but some can be fierce.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I toltally agree with the Scherrer perfume as a good green chypre. But havent worn it for years…. gotta look for it again.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I've really got to try that one.

  45. lamant says:

    The following is the truth.

    My lover wears Eau du Soir…she is definitely the woman in the white mercedes (except it is a black Alfa Romeo). When I first met her I inhaled all of her and was consumed with thinking of her; and it is true, I was left wondering if she liked me, if I would ever get close to her…she is French by the way, smart as a whip, strong and sexy, she is the boss just as I am, she drives too fast and will cut you down verbally if you are not her equal. She wears jeans with expensive holes. Or tight black skirts with boots. Or smooth white sweaters hugging every curve. Her figure will leave you gasping. I tried to find any way to get near her – all the time realizing it was going to be her decision and she would let me know if it would go further….Eighteen months later we were on a dance floor in Hong Kong late at night – she leaned into me and kissed me passionately. She revealed she always wanted me and finally allowed herself to show it…Two days later (why you ask! that’s a story for another time) we began a deep, romantic and passionate involvement which has spanned across the globe for nearly three years, meeting wherever we can, Whistler, Newport, Paris, Cardiff….

    Now I have a small bottle of Eau du Soir in my top drawer. It is the essence of her. I am smitten.

    • Angela says:

      Fabulous! This should be made into a movie right away! Now I’m craving a bottle of Eau de Soir and a little jetset romance of my own.

  46. I’ve not snampled NIKI but must say, the first time I walked into a spritz of Eau de Soir, it was the moment I came home. I’ve always loved Cypers and tended towards their intense mystery even as a young girl. Eau de Soir is the top color in the rainbow and has never left me feeling anything other than confident, pretty and very very sexy. I do drive a white Jaguar, love to ride my horse, and my 6 Rottweilers and 2 cattle dogs would hardly qualify as foo foo. Eau de Soir is perfect whether I’m in my pointy toe western boots and jeans, or I’m all doll’d up All I can say is that when I roll over on the pillow in my sleep and get a lingering whiff of this lovely fragrance, I am comforted. MMH

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like you’ve definitely found your holy grail fragrance. Congratulations!

  47. OVincze says:

    I really like Eau de Soir, I received a sample vial, wore it for three days and fell in love, I am all for unusual fumes, it is ladylike and big but strange like me, sort of a bit eccentric. I might pick up a bottle if I get a chance.

    • Angela says:

      “Eccentric” is a good way to describe it. I do love a good green chypre, especially when the weather warms. You might like Givenchy III, too.

  48. OVincze says:

    Sorry, to clarify I did not mean to say I am bit but I am feminine yet eccentric if you know what I mean:)))

    • Angela says:

      No worries! I get it.

  49. OVincze says:

    Ok, it is not going well today not bit but big.:))) I should have said bold instead anyhow.

    • Angela says:

      “Bold” is another good descriptor!

  50. sweetgrass says:

    This review is making me wish I had bought the tiny bottle of Niki de Saint Phalle that I saw in an antique shop today. I did get a 2ml bottle of Eau du Soir at this shop, which I just tried and so far really like. I passed the NdSP up for Givenchy Organza. Maybe I’ll have to go back.

    • Angela says:

      If you’re a fan of green chypres, it would be a nice one to try, as long as it’s not too expensive.

  51. sweetgrass says:

    I went back and got the Niki de Saint Phalle over the weekend, and count me as another pasty person who loves it. I’ve been wearing it the last couple of days. I haven’t tried Corps et Ames, but I think I like this better than Eau du Soir (though I reallly like Eau du Soir too). I really like the bitter green note I get just along the bottom in the early stages. I thought it was galbanum at first until I read the list of notes.. now I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure what concentration I got, but the drydown of NdSP lasts a long time on me. I put it on before I went to work this morning, and it’s only completely faded away within the last couple of hours.

    • Angela says:

      Corps et Ames is out in a new formulation, too, that’s a little silkier and maybe less fierce than the old version.

      I’m glad Niki is working out for you! She’s an odd girl, but those she flatters she flatters well.

      • sweetgrass says:

        I’d like to try Corps et Ames if/when I come across it.

        I think Niki may be a full-bottle purchase after this little bottle runs out, so I was pretty happy to find that she’s not that expensive in EDT (which is what I have, it turns out.. amazing what actually looking at the bottom of the bottle will tell you..lol).

        Would be interesting to find an EDP or extrait to compare but I’m sure that would require more willingness to splurge, as I read somewhere else that only the EDT is still in production.

        • Angela says:

          I’m glad to hear the EdT is still in production. I thought (or maybe feared?) it was discontinued. I bet the parfum is wonderful, but I haven’t tried it. The bottle is sure gorgeous.

  52. sweetgrass says:

    I have finally rounded out the set. I just got a sample of Corps et Ames from LuckyScent. When I came back to this review, it was kind of a shock to see that this has only been around since 2006. It feels much, much older. It actually smells very similar to my little bottle of Jean Patou Eau de 1000, but maybe a little rosier in the opening (maybe the geranium) and the iris just a touch more muted/musty where Eau de 1000 goes a bit soapy on me. I was wearing Corps et Ames today, and it made me imagine walking through an abandoned Gilded Age mansion, decaying but yet still glamorous, and finding fabulous treasures in the attic. I imagine finding a beautifully preserved dress that could have been worn by some 1920s starlet. So it’s probably not something I would wear every day, but I loved the imagery it evoked for me. I think if I were the kind of person who wore fancy vintage dresses and was generally more fabulous than I am, this would be right up my alley.

  53. sweetgrass says:

    I was excited to find a shop here in Houston today that sells Niki. I hadn’t actually seen full bottles in a shop before. And what was even cooler was that this place (Etoile in the Galleria) had pretty much every form – they even had EDP and Extrait! Extrait is pretty shockingly expensive, though.. they were asking something like $295 for the larger bottle. I think a smaller bottle was $180. EDP was a little spendy at $105 but overall not *that* horrible considering it was for a 4oz bottle with an atomizer top. I know I can get the EDT for relatively cheap on Amazon, but it’s tempting to save my pennies and try one of the other concentrations.

    • Angela says:

      Four ounces is a good sized bottle! I wonder if you can find it less expensive on line? The parfum bottles are so gorgeous–I admit I’ve had pangs for one.

  54. platinum14 says:

    Thanks Angela for another (older) great review! (Why have-I never read it before??)
    Chypres are a great passion of mine and NdSP has been a favorite since it came out. I was just starting college and NdSP, Diva, and Ivoire joined my Antaeus and Krizia Uomo as my going to class favorite! At a time when the other guys only wore Polo… Lol

    • Angela says:

      Oh, you smelled much better than any of the Polo-wearing guys!

  55. kate says:

    I’ve been so bored with all the new fragrances of late esp Chanel’s latest – Coco Noir which was such a HUGE disappointment! So I’ve been looking for something to brighten up the winter days ahead and decided to go back to Eau de Soir. I loved it from the first time that I smelt it and have had 2 bottles and 2 lots of body cream – which is heavenly and so long lasting. I found a bottle -unboxed – on eBay and sent off for it. A bit of a gamble as it was £97.00 for 100 ml. But it was from a seller with 100% selling record and I fancied a gamble. Got it the next day and I’m so so pleased with it!! This perfume reminds me of lots of good times and is energetic and glorious. I love it!

    • Angela says:

      That sounds wonderful! Especially for gloomy weather.

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