< Back to Newsletters

Chypre Basic Accord Newsletter

Chypre Perfume Creation
During the past few months the idea has been germinating in my mine for presenting a simple formula for creating a classic perfume which may prove useful to those of you who receive the newsletter. Many of you are, no doubt, much more advanced than I in this pleasant sphere of activity but for those of you who are just beginning to venture forth into the never ending delight of natural perfume creation this series of newsletters might prove helpful.

Each family of perfumes (oriental, chypre, fougere, etc) has its own unique core aromatic characteristics which help set it apart from others. Within that central theme there is ample room for creative work. On the tree of the Chypre family one finds a number of main branches, i.e. Chypre-Floral, Chypre-Fresh, Chypre-Leather etc so even though one is working out of a particular aromatic theme base which in Chypre generally centers around bergamot, labdanum and oakmoss(some perfumers include patchouli, vetiver, amber, angelica and orris root in the core essences) one can develop their own "signature" perfume which will be unique and special. In this newsletter we will explore the first accord of a Chypre perfume . In the next newsletter we will explore the second accord of Chypre with some ideas for the accord of the Chypre perfume. In the last in the series we will explore some options for the third accord which is where one can put their own unique signature on the composition.

One of the great delights in pursing any part of disciplines involved with natural aromatic essences is that one consciously or subconsciously becomes linked up with a world that has been important to human beings since the dawn of history. The more one takes delight in working with these special botanical treasures, the more one receives help, both seen and unseen, in their endeavors. People in all times and places have been intrigued and inspired by the world of aromatic plants and their sublime fragrances and their knowledge and wisdom appears in various forms to help those of us who are living in the current era. Often the plants themselves have special stories behind them which also adds to the joy of perfume creation. The more one goes into this subject, the greater the delight becomes.

The Chypre (pronounced SHEEP-ruh) family of perfumes takes its name from Cyprus, which is Chypre in French. The island itself is now thought to have been the home of one of the first major perfumeries in the Western world dating back to 2000 BC.

Discovered on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in 2003, the perfumes date back more than 4,000 years, said excavation leader Maria Rosaria Belgiorno of the National Research Council in Rome.

Remnants of the perfumes were found inside an ancient 3,230-square-foot (300-square-meter) factory that was part of a larger industrial complex at Pyrgos.

The buildings were destroyed during an earthquake in 1850 B.C., but perfume bottles, mixing jugs, and stills were preserved under the collapsed walls.

-- from National Geographic, "Oldest Perfumes Found on 'Aphrodite's Island' "

It is likely that even after the destruction of this factory that much of the knowledge of perfumery was retained amongst the people dwelling there as the island was a haven of naturally occurring aromatic plants. Cistus(from which labdanum comes), Pistacia lentiscus (from which Mastic is derived), Laurus nobilis, mint, oregano, sage, thyme, lavender and many other fragrant species were found growing there in their natural state.

Prior to the Crusades, their was considerable trade between Cyprus, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Persian countries and as aromatics in the form of unguents, incense, etc were considered highly desirable items of commerce, it is likely that Cyprus had special creations that were valued by its neighbors.

There was at the time of the Roman Empire a perfume that bore the name of Chypre which was composed of labdanum, Turkish storax and calamus. The production of this perfume continued in Italy through the Middle Ages with a variety of natural aromatics used.

Soon after Richard the 1st(Richard the Lion Hearted) took the title of the King of Cyprus in 1191, a Eau de Chypre perfume appeared in France which was said to consist of of extracts various gums, resins and spices in a rosewater base. In 17th and 18th century France a new form of Chypre appeared in the form of a incense know as 'oyselets de chypre. The various gums, resins, herbs and spices were ground into a powder and mixed with gum tragacanth and fashioned into the form of birds which were then burned as we burn incense today. Oakmoss at this time was added to the basic formula which are key ingredients in the modern forms of Chypre.

During the ensuing years up till 1917 when Francois Coty introduced his famous Chypre perfume, many perfumers worked the themes of labdanum, bergamot and oakmoss into their compositions but it was not until his classic creation came on the market that the word "Chypre" became associated with a family of perfumes that displayed, at their heart, a rich , warm, earthy, mossy, resinous, green bouquet. Coty also drew upon various synthetic chemicals to "enhance" the central Chypre theme.

Following the introduction of his perfume many famous fragrance houses introduced their own unique variations of Chypre.

With the passage of time more and more synthetic ingredients were substituted for naturals which has been the standard pattern in the commerical perfume field. Many modern chypres contain very little if any of the core accord of labdanum, bergamot, and oakmoss or any of the other natural absolutes and essential oils which originally were part of a fine chypre composition.

The following natural Chypre accord built around Bergamot, Labdanum and Oakmoss should serve as a good beginning formula for those who wish to create a lovely perfume. Before blending the three basic ingredients be sure to do a thorough olfactory investigation of each on a perfumers blotter or a cotton que-tip. That study should take place over several hours so that one is aware of the aromatic life span of each. It is important to in some way create a place within oneself where olfactory impressions are retained both for individual essences and combined ones. Some sort of diary may help. These earlier newsletters may prove useful towards that end:

Fragrant Harvest Newsletter, Sept, 24, 2002, "Olfactory Perception"
       some suggestions are included for patiently studying essences

Fragrant Harvest Newsletter March 2006, "Aromatic Absolutes"
       this newsletter contains suggestions for an olfactory diary

Then after blending these precious ingredients together, be sure to study the aromatic evolution of the composition over the next 30 days while it begins to mature. Understanding how even a few simple ingredients age together is a critical part of every perfumers training. One will be delighted to see how the composition changes over a four week period.

One should in no way feel as if this formula is the only one that can be used. It is simply a starting point for further exploration but I think it may prove a satisfying to those new to the realm of perfume creation. It is critical to remember that the quality of the individual ingredients one chooses will effect the total olfactory qualities of the end product.

Chypre Perfume -- Basic Accord

3 ounces bergamot essential oil

1.5 ounces oakmoss absolute

1 ounce lime essence essential oil

3/4 ounce labdanum "amber note" absolute

In the next newsletter we will build the second Chypre accord which consists of sandalwood, angelica root, ambrette seed and patchouli.