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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 base-note derived from oak moss and musk. Chypre perfumes fall into numerous classes according to their modifier notes, which include but are not limited to leather, florals, fruits, and amber.
The term chypre is French for Cyprus, and goes back to François Coty who created in 1917 a perfume of the same name (now preserved at the Osmothèque) from fragrance materials that came predominantly from Mediterranean countries. Coty's ‘Chypre’ became the most typical representative of a whole family of related fragrances, although perfumes of similar style had already been created throughout the 19th century. The chypre concept is characterised by the contrast between the fresh citrus accord and the woody-oakmoss fond; often patchouli is considered an indispensable element as well. Other main fragrance families besides chypres are fougères, orientals, gourmands, and florals. The chypre accord is used in both male and female perfumery. A notable literary reference to chypre is contained in the novel The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (Knopf, 1929), in which the character Joel Cairo is described as carrying a chypre-scented handkerchief as part of his homosexual persona. Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake (Knopf, 1943) also mentions a chypre-scented, monogrammed handkerchief.
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" fond which contrasts the fresh citrus top, and a certain bitterness in the dry-down from the oak moss and patchouli. The accord consists of:
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.
The chypre fragrances generally fit into the Oriental and Woody family of Fragrance wheel classification. They can also be classified into several styles: