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Chypre (pronounced [ʃipʁ] or [ʃipχ]) is the name of a family (or concept) of perfumes that are characterised by an accord composed of citrus top notes, a middle centered on cistus labdanum, and a mossy-animalic set of basenotes derived from oakmoss. Chypre perfumes fall into numerous classes according to their modifier notes, which include but are not limited to leather, florals, fruits, and amber.[1]


Chypre is French for Cyprus

The term chypre is French for the island of Cyprus. Its connection to perfumery originated with the first composition to feature the bergamot-labdanum-oakmoss accord, François Coty's perfume Chypre from 1917 (now preserved at the Osmothèque), whose name was inspired by the fact that its raw materials came predominantly from Mediterranean countries.[2] Although perfumes in a similar style had already been created in the 19th century (such as Eau De Chypre by Guerlain[3] and Shipr cologne, and "chypre powder" had beed known centuries prior to those, feminine Chypre by Coty was so influential that it inspired many descendants, becoming the progenitor of a whole family of related fragrances sharing the same basic accord, which came to be known as "chypres".[4]

Chypre in popular culture[edit]

  • Marya -- the protagonist of Jean Rhys's semi-autobiographic debut novel, Quartet (Chatto and Windus, 1928) -- asks a young woman in the Paris demimonde she frequents whether she wears the Coty fragrance Chypre.
  • In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), the main female character, Lenina Crowne, “dabbed herself with chypre” after drying off from a bath.
  • Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake (Knopf, 1943) also mentions a chypre-scented, monogrammed handkerchief.
  • In Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (Mountolive, first published in 1958), the protagonist, British diplomat David Mountolive, recognizes the "nervous handwriting" of his one-time lover, Leila Hosnani, on an envelope smelling of chypre.
  • In Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, the character Joel Cairo seeks the statue, a dainty but ineffective thug. Cairo goes against Sam Spade, wearing the scent chypre. In the movie version this is changed to gardenia.

Style, concept[edit]

The chypre concept is characterised by the contrast between the fresh citrus accord and the woody-oakmoss base; often patchouli is considered an indispensable element as well.[5] The chypre accord is used in both male and female perfumery.

Modern chypre perfumes have various connotations such as floral, fruity, green, woody-aromatic, leathery, and animalic notes, but can easily be recognized by their "warm" and "mossy-woody" base which contrasts the fresh citrus top, and a certain bitterness in the dry-down from the oak moss and patchouli. The accord consists of:

  1. Citrus: singular or blends of Bergamot, Orange, Lemon or Neroli
  2. Oakmoss: mossy and woody
  3. Patchouli: camphoraceous and woody
  4. Musk: sweet, powdery, and animalic. Usually synthetic in modern times.

The composition is usually enhanced with a floral component through rose and jasmine oil.

Animalic notes such as civet can be added to this accord to provide richness, but are less popular in modern perfumery. The most common modifiers to this basic accord include patchouli, bergamot, vetiver, ambergris, sandalwood and labdanum resin.[6]


The chypre fragrances generally fit into the Oriental and Woody family of fragrance wheel classification. They can also be classified into several styles:

Notable examples of chypre-type perfumes[edit]

  • The "Chypre" by Coty (1917) is so well-known its name still can be confused with other perfumes containing word "chypre".
  • Krasnaya Moskva is a feminine chypre perfume made in USSR in 1925, known for its strong, excessive sillage.
  • One of the most popular chypre perfumes was the original Miss Dior, a floral chypre launched by Christian Dior in 1947. However, formula was later changed, likely due to issues with the ingredient oakmoss.
  • Since the mid-1980s, Karl Lagerfeld cologne, orange in color, called "Lagerfeld" is a modern chypre scent for both men and women.

Pre-1917 chypres[edit]

  • Eau De Chypre is a fragrance made by P. Guerlain in 1840, inspired by poudre de chypre[8]
Russian-made "Shipr" hygienic cologne
  • "Shipr" cologne (Cyrillic spelling: "ШИПР", literally the way to spell French pronounctuation of "Chypre") is a masculine chypre cologne by Brocard and Co. (the factory known in USSR as Novaya Zarya). However, the perfume's release dates to XIX century. Apparently, said cologne is mentioned in 1909 poem "Отъезд Петербуржца" by Sasha Chorny.
    • Due to similar names, Shipr in Russia is often misattributed as direct "successor" or a "copy" (or, as a less bold claim, an "adaptation attempt") of Coty's Chypre.


  1. ^ "Chypre" Microsoft Encarta Dictionary, 2006
  2. ^ Turin, Luca, and Tania Sanchez. The Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 Classics. London: Profile, 2011. Print.
  3. ^ Chypre Accord type of perfumes
  4. ^ Musées de Grasse Archived 2007-08-10 at the Wayback Machine, the International Perfume Museum
  5. ^ H&R Fragrance Guide/Duftatlas/Atlas Olfactif, Quensen & Oudras Verlag, Lamspringe, 2000, p. 14, ISBN 3-922805-69-8
  6. ^ Definition of the chypre family from Musées de Grasse Archived 2007-03-10 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Charvet Cuvee Speciale". basenotes. Retrieved December 14, 2010.
  8. ^ link to the book on Google Books, chapter 18.3.3. Chypre Accord