A chypre is a perfume based on oak moss, bergamot and jasmine. It has an almost infinite number of facets that can be exploited by adding other substances such as spices, roots, herbs, and green things. Chypres were in style years ago such that older people now associate them with old ladies. Younger people, fascinated with their complexity and not having been worn down by smelling them for a lifetime, are more open. I see the chypre (French for Cypress, associated with oak moss) as making a comeback. 

One dastardly problem is that IFRA—the international association that regulates such things—has made oak moss taboo because it contains a substance that causes skin reactions. Why this is suddenly a problem when people have been wearing chypre perfumes for decades, I don’t know, but contend with it we must. 

To work around this problem, I’ve ordered versions of oak moss (with the offending ingredient taken out) from Robertet, Ferminich, and Givaudan as well as Orcinyl 3, which has a lovely oak moss-like top note.  By blending these four ingredients and by adding a little celery seed oil, I’ve come up with something that, while not identical to the real thing, is pretty close. I use it as my IFRA-compliant oak moss.

To make the chypre base, I added an accord of jasmine and bergamot until the chypre came into balance. I’ve now come up with a rich, very jasmine-like, chypre that won’t break any rules. 

When I get to a certain point in my experiments, I make 10 test tubes or so of the base (in this case, the chypre) and add other ingredients. Here, I added spices such as nutmeg absolute, fenugreek essential oil, saffron absolute, ginger essential oil, cinnamic alcohol, coriander essential oil, and styrallyl acetate to the chypre base in separate test tubes. I now must wait, at least overnight, to see how the perfumes are developing.