Why I Love Old School Chypres

Cyprus Lemnos), Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius

Many people recoil at a whiff of an old school chypre. A chypre’s citrus-oakmoss-labdanum-patchouli signature doesn’t pander and can be downright off-putting for the inexperienced. Grand chypres are so old fashioned. They rarely seduce you with mouthwatering berries and Orange Crush-like fruit. They don’t flaunt their sexiness with blatant oriental notes. They waft fusty oak moss. I get it. I understand all the repugnance. And I love old school chypres just the same.

When I say “old school chypre,” I mean a big chypre, a chypre that doesn’t hide its identity under woody musk. Some of the classic old school chypres, besides Rochas Femme and Guerlain Mitsouko (perhaps the benchmarks), are Christian Dior Miss Dior (now called Miss Dior Classic), Acqua di Parma Profumo, Chanel Cristalle, Hermès Calèche, Niki de Saint Phalle, Nina Ricci Fille d’Eve and Balmain Miss Balmain, to name a few…

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Oriza L. Legrand Violettes du Czar & Heliotrope Blanc ~ fragrance reviews

Oriza L. Legrand Violettes du Czar & Heliotrope Blanc

Some people might not understand why you’d want to wear a soliflore. After all, why smell like one flower — a flower you’re probably already familiar with — when you could smell like an original blend of notes? Following that logic, there would be no reason to look at paintings of the ocean once you’ve seen the real thing, even though seascapes vary in styles — think of those by Turner, Homer and Hokusai. If I had to pin a style to the Oriza L. Legrand soliflores Violettes du Czar and Heliotrope Blanc, I’d call them Victorian.

Oriza L. Legrand is a relatively new niche brand with an old history. According to the perfume house’s website, the house was founded in France in 1720 and originally famed for its creams and powders based on rice. Over the years, the brand grew, winning awards and furnishing products for royalty. During World War II, Oriza L. Legrand closed. In 2012, the house was bought and launched again with the mission of reviving the old fragrances…

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Elie Saab Le Parfum Resort Collection ~ fragrance review

Elie Saab Le Parfum Resort Collection, brand images

Who are these people who shop designer resort collections? I imagine a group of jet setters who demand spanking white capris and sorbet-toned nail polish for their stays in Bermuda or Antigua or wherever the resort collection set go. They pack multiple bikinis, and they invest in gym memberships and waxing regimens so they look good in those bikinis. They have friends with magazine-worthy island homes whose casement windows are eternally open to the sun and sky-blue sea. They drink fruity cocktails on the yacht’s deck.

Sniffing Elie Saab Le Parfum Resort Collection Eau de Toilette — whew! let’s just call it “Resort” for short — leads me to think that perfumer Francis Kurkdjian had a similar vision of this (to me, anyway) mythical community. Resort’s notes include orange blossom, jasmine, frangipani, fig, cedar and amber. It’s a well-heeled tropical party in a bottle…

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Byredo Black Saffron & Seven Veils ~ fragrance reviews

Byredo Black Saffron & Seven Veils

Am I the only fragrance lover who sometimes anthropomorphizes perfume? For instance, to me Caron Tabac Blond is a woman of a certain age who used to be edgy and still won’t suffer fools, but now spends a lot of time reading novels she pulls from her leather handbag; Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower is a radiant starlet almost too beautiful to behold — to the point where she can exhaust you after a few hours; and Guerlain Shalimar is one of the few who can pull off devoré velvet without looking like a Stevie Nicks wannabe.

Similarly Byredo Black Saffron and Seven Veils have distinct personalities. Black Saffron is an introvert who wants to be known as an androgynous intellectual but is too shy to attend any of the parties she’s invited to. Instead, she gorges herself at home on raspberries sprinkled with rosewater while she reads Oscar Wilde in her leather club chair and is in bed by nine o’clock…

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Thoughts on Sillage

Twisty smoke

It’s fitting that perfumers are so often said to “compose” fragrances. Not only do musical composers and perfumers both use notes, their creations grapple with themes, transitions, and relationships — the musical composer with instruments and the nose with scent materials. Plus, they both play with volume. In perfume, that volume is called sillage.

In brief, sillage (pronounced see-′yawj) is the reach of your waft. Sillage can be thick and fill a room, delicate but still voluminous, soft and close, or even shrill and close…

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