Wednesday, October 14, 2009

True Chypre Perfume (Vrai Chypre)

Today I dove into a real find- Vrai Chypre from Frédéric Geille. I've been wishing lately for an old chypre, a new one to add to my collection. One of truest of grails and just the type of plunder to see one through even the roughest of patches in one's pursuit of scented nirvana.... especially the pursuit of a vintage scented nirvana. And Geille A Paris is perfect for me- a really obscure name, circa 1930-40s. There is another Geille perfume, Cœur Caucasien or Cuir Caucasien from 1943, also by Frédéric Geille, pictured on the Museu del perfum site.

Vrai's bottle strikes me as a release rfom an earlier date. The tightly wrapped cord of silk under tarnished metal- silver washed copper perhaps- had essentially rotted and clotted around the sealed bottle. After sawing through the cord, I found the stopper was stuck... and a single chip along the outer edge of the stopper, as if someone previously had attempted to prize it loose with a pliers sometime earlier. But my husband has gotten pretty good at popping stuck stoppers off. So yeah, it yielded without any further damage to the bottle or lid, which is always a nice thing.

I love the name of this perfume as well, it translates to something like "True Chypre". We're always looking for a real chypre, aren't we? Coty did not originate the Chypre but I like to think he codified Chypre into mythological status. A large, sealed bottle of late 1920s Coty Chypre is still the centerpiece of my entire vintage collection, hundreds of bottles later. Magically, it was the second original period Coty Chypre I've came across. my husband actually brought that first bottle home to me. I found it sitting unceremoniously on the coffee table one frosty autumn morning, surrounded by silver coins, pocket knives and fishing lures... glittering like a precious crown jewel . The bottle was open and I took to wearing it just long enough before letting it go on to another collector, to become thoroughly enslaved to that authentic, old school style of chypre. Crepe de chine, vintage Femme and several other "no name" chypres have followed, plus the more accessible classic 'modern' chypres (Ysatis, Paloma Picasso et al.) But there's nothing like the real thing, baby.
I don't want to bore you to tears but especially if you don't already know how older chypres smell, you might like hear about the notes. Vrai is a leathery floral chypre. Chypre is a formula built around earthy patchouli and loamy, smooth oakmoss plus labdanum. Labdanum is a richly fragrant lichen-like substance that was first combed from the hair of goats who picked it up grazing on the Mediterranean rock-rose shrub. The patchouli is refined and sublime without any of the spikey, sinus penetrating fumes. This base is rounded out by the classic harmony of citrus against a floral. The rose begins dusty pale; the bergamot was shy at first but it bloomed thanks to a muggy evening. The leather has a savory/creamy tang similar to goat's milk and under it all is a surprisingly familiar musky finish. I just wish I could share it with a wider audience.
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.