Recently I was thinking about why I like chypre fragrances so much. Obviously I love the way they smell, but apart from that, the true chypres all share a common thread; they clearly owe much of their character to natural materials, and in general those materials are of good quality. From the high opening note of bergamot through the floral heart and down into the base of resins and moss, they are grounded in nature. Whether it is the animalic elegance of Miss Dior, the wistfully rosy beauty of Houbigant's , Demi-Jour or the bitter-green oakmoss overdose of Jean-Louis Scherrer, the chypre structure in all its guises owes its integrity to things that can't be made in a laboratory. (Don't even get me started with the so-called “modern chypres” that were born of necessity out of restrictions on naturals.) As much as I appreciate contemporary perfumes made into abstract works of creative art with the use of aroma chemicals, those which are made with nothing but those lack heart and soul, like a computer-generated image of a “perfect woman” whose expression is a vacuous stare and whose face is boring in its eerie symmetry. For the real deal, I reach most often for my collection of vintage chypres, made before the days of nanny states, bureaucratic overreach and multinational detergent companies acquiring perfume houses.
Now we have another entry in the genre that could easily be a throwback vintage scent, but it's an all new fragrance called Bergamoss from Aftelier Perfumes, and it is only available in solid form. Mandy Aftel wanted to make a true chypre fragrance and decided that it would work best as a solid. After testing it, I cannot disagree; it's so good I want to slather it all over myself and live in it 24/7.
Bergamoss is 100% natural, like all Aftelier perfumes, and it has the true chypre building blocks but with some unexpected companions. The exhilarating top notes of bergamot and wild sweet orange are bright and uplifting, like sunlight knifing through a dense forest canopy to reach the ground below. As the perfume warms on skin, it opens up to reveal a dreamy, expansive heart featuring ripe peach and nutmeg, a combination I have not encountered before but of which I heartily approve. This pastoral effect is heightened by the use of a most rare material called flouve, which is an absolute of a sweet grass that has a heartbreakingly beautiful aromatic character and gives the the wearer the feeling of being in a broad, romantic meadow filled with waving midsummer grasses drying into hay and interwoven with scented wildflowers. Of course, the base has plenty of real oakmoss, the cornerstone of all true chypres, along with antique civet and coumarin, the latter of which enhances the impression of the flouve. I have to say that flouve is my new perfume crush – every time I wear this fragrance I smell something different in it, as there seems to be no end to its aromatic revelations. The solid formula adds yet another dimension, with its sensuous, luxuriant feel when applied to the skin.
Bergamoss has it all – it's refreshing, bright, sweet, floral, spicy, green (literally and figuratively so), mossy, earthy, rich, animalic and profound. Classic perfume lovers rejoice; the art of the chypre is not lost, it's just living in the small studios of artisan perfumers who are keeping the flame burning.
Image credit: “Enchanted Forest” from hdwallpapersos.com
Disclosure: My testing sample was given to me by Aftelier Perfumes.