Ever stumbled upon the word ‘chypre’ in a perfume description and thought, what on earth? We admit it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as other fragrance families like ‘floral’ or ‘fruity’, but once you know exactly what it means and the types of scents it refers to, that label might just happen to be the key to unlocking new must-try scents at a speedy first glance. Here’s everything you need to know about chypre fragrances…
What is a chypre fragrance?
Let’s rewind to the basics. The word chypre, pronounced sheep-rah (yes, we were saying it wrong as well!), is taken from the French word meaning Cyprus. The island was once at the heart of the perfume trade, and the term ‘chypre’ appeared in fragrance manuals as far back as the 18th century. But it wasn’t until famous perfumer François Coty established chypre as a fragrance family that it took on the role it maintains today.
Renowned in perfume circles as one of a small handful of fragrance families (you may be familiar with others like floral, amber and Fougere), chypre is a term used to categorise a specific type of scent profile.
A ‘classic’ chypre scent typically starts with a fresh hit of citrus notes, followed by florals and an earthy, woody base to round it off. It playfully contrasts light and airy with deep and musky, to dramatic effect.
What does chypre smell like?
If you’ve ever been for a walk in a woodland area during autumn, where the leaves have fallen off the trees and they crunch beneath your feet – that warm, earthy aroma of nature is an excellent representation of a classic chypre scent. Think oakmoss and wood tied together with hints of bergamot.
With that said, the chypre fragrance family is no one-trick pony. Instead, when the chypre structure is introduced to different facets, it can completely transform the nature of the scent. Which brings us to…
Types of chypre fragrances
The word ‘chypre’ may look so familiar because it’s quite far-reaching in the fragrance world thanks to its many variations and sub-categories in the broader fragrance family. It can take many forms, whether it’s thrown together with green notes or leather, fruit, or florals.
A squeeze of lemon zest here, or tangy orange there, drags chypre into the energetic and vibrant territory. By mixing in citrus notes, typically at the top for an instant zing, makes for a more intoxicating play of contrasts when the familiar earthy base notes kick in.
Our favourite: L’Eau by Chloe
Like sipping ice-cool lemonade on a sunshine-drenched day, L’Eau by Chloe will refresh your senses with every spritz. From the zing of citrus at the top to the rosewater heart and oakmoss base, it’s elegantly fresh and modern – a new daytime scent, anyone?
Juicy, playful, fruity notes, such as apple and apricot, can often stand alone as intoxicating. But, when thrown together with a chypre’s mossy and woody undercurrents, our fruit bowl favourites get a more grown-up and sophisticated makeover.
Our favourite: Legend by Mont Blanc
For a scent that adds mystery and intrigue, Legend by Mont Blanc is sure to keep them guessing. Fresh notes of pineapple leaf and apple meet woody-floral oakmoss, cedar and pomarose, resulting in a clean-meets-woody profile, perfect for the dapper gent.
Just as the air can be tinged with lavender and oak, jasmine and moss, when you walk through the great outdoors, this floral rendition of the fragrance family is as harmonious as nature intended. Pretty petals – like jasmine and rose – add sweetness and romanticism to the earthier tones.
Our favourite: Voce Viva Intensa by Valentino
Described as ‘an ode to Valentino’s multi-faceted femininity’, Voce Viva Intensa is for unapologetic statement-makers. The florals come through bold and powerful (with jasmine absolute stealing the show!) while the crystal moss accord and bourbon vanilla dial up the drama.
Fruity floral chypre
Blending deliciously sweet fruit notes with blooming florals makes this best-of-both-worlds category an instant winner. By dressing up the mossy and oak notes in lighter layers, the result is a multi-faceted, endlessly intriguing scent.
Our favourite: La Panthere by Cartier
As majestic as its muse, the mighty panther, the bold La Panthere by Cartier will get you noticed for all the right reasons. A fusion of fruity notes at the top blend to a floral gardenia heart and mossy-wood base – a scent sure to turn heads in the wild (or office, bar… same thing).
As the name suggests, a hit of green notes elevates the nature-inspired tones (like leaves and moss), lending the scent a lighter and airier feel. Like a refreshing breeze in a bottle, this type of chypre is known to have mood-enhancing powers.
Our favourite: Mitsouko by Guerlain
You can’t have a ‘best chypre fragrance’ list without mentioning the OG – Mitsouko by Guerlain. This timeless scent is like the mascot for the fragrance family, hitting all the typical hallmarks from bergamot to oakmoss, with the refreshing addition of peach.
If edgy and alluring is your thing, then a moody leather chypre will tap into your aesthetic effortlessly. Not literally a ‘leather’ note, but rather intoxicating notes like musk, tobacco, civet, and honey can turn this chypre into a smoking hot spritz.
Our favourite: Antaeus by Chanel
A ‘powerful’ scent inspired by the myth of a hero (who’s ‘both virile and vulnerable’), Antaeus by Chanel is a legend in its own right. A striking blend of lavender, leather accord, sage, and Indonesian patchouli, it’s for the bold and daring.
Want to swot up on your fragrance lingo?
Check out our expert advice.