With all the restrictions on fragrance materials and perfume house budgets, a lot of us fear for classic chypres. Aftelier Bergamoss is proof that the chypre as François Coty conceived of it lives on.
Mandy Aftel created Bergamoss with top notes including bergamot and wild sweet orange; heart notes of peach, citronellol and nutmeg absolute; and a base of oakmoss, flouve absolute, coumarin and antique civet. For me, Bergamoss tags all the bases of a beautifully made chypre and slides in for a home run with its seamless construction.
Because there’s little I like more than abusing a metaphor, let’s examine Bergamoss’s progress as it scores. Prepare your Cracker Jacks.
At bat: Bergamoss is a retro greenish yellow that would look terrific in velvet on a redhead. Its texture is powder-smooth and just thick enough to firmly hold its shape yet melt on skin. It leaves a moist but not greasy texture, even after several layers.
First base: The “berga” part of Bergamoss comes in loud and clear, but a hint of orange keeps it from smelling like a pot of Earl Grey. The citrus is somehow both potent and silky. Thanks to the moss already peeking through, Bergamoss is immediately recognizable as a classic chypre.
Second base: If you slather on enough Bergamoss, its peach and nutmeg come to the fore, but I wouldn’t call Bergamoss a fruity chypre at all. The peach adds body and pulchritude, but it’s more like peach skin than sticky pulp, and somehow Aftel has extended the fragrance’s citrus tang into its heart. The nutmeg here seems to play the same role a pinch of nutmeg does in an egg dish. It casts an earthy shadow without calling attention to itself. And moss moss moss plus the sweet dried hay of coumarin keep Bergamoss’s wet-dry, warm-cool balance perfectly pitched.
Third base: An hour into wear, Bergamoss’s tanginess persists, and although I’d never call the perfume sweet, it’s now off-dry. I can’t detect the civet at all, and the nutmeg becomes more noticeable. After two hours, the fragrance is fading fast. I have to fasten my wrist to my nose to smell it.
Home: Bergamoss isn’t wildly original or edgy. It's a pure chypre that doesn’t make its identity in the green or floral or fruity notes in its heart. What moves Bergamoss to a different level for me is how seamlessly it’s woven. It’s an old fashioned fragrance that values quality materials and careful craftsmanship over pandering fashion, and I adore that.
An important note: Bergamoss is only offered as a solid. This means it’s a quieter fragrance than many. It also fades by midday. If you equate longevity and sillage with value, you’ll be disappointed. I understand. I’m afraid I’d run through a quarter ounce in a month or two if I had some in my purse. So, budget beware.
Aftelier Bergamoss is $240 for 8 ml of solid perfume in a sterling silver, refillable compact. A sample is $6. For information on where to buy it, see Aftelier under Perfume Houses.
Update: in late 2015 Bergamoss was issued in a limited edition 9 ml Eau de Parfum, $60.