I knew absolutely nothing about Kypre, a 1935 Lancome perfume, when I scored a sealed(!) old bottle of the extrait de parfum in an online auction. The name, of course, was hinting big time that this is a chypre, but that was about that, other than the very little info I gathered here and there. The authoring nose of Kypre was Lancome founder Armand Petitjean (1884-1969) who released it the year he started the company along with four other fragrances. So it was a thrilling moment when the package arrived and I could crack it open and start playing.
My bottle is probably from the 1950s or so (based on its style and the little insert in the box listing Lancome's address as 29 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré). I was thrilled to discover the juice was very much alive, rich and sweet smelling. There's no question this is, indeed, a chypre, as I could smell enough of the structure right away. I don't know what else was in its top notes, but I was surprised to find out enough bergamot has survived and smelled like the remains of yesterday's Earl Grey tea- strong and a little bitter. The rest of the scent is a lot softer. There's a floral element that is probably a jasmine, non-indolic but a little heady even after all these years. Then comes the beautiful dry-down, a buttery leather, opulent and warm, and the oakmoss which is all velvet.
I never smelled the original Lancome Cuir, the more famous leather perfume Petitjean had created (originally named Revolte and released in 1936), only the reissue (which I love love love). The latter is a floral-leather, a bit crisp and somewhat related to Chanel Cuir de Russie (at least in its extrait version from the early 2000s. Who can keep track with all the changes and reformulations happening around us?), so I'll have to assume the style was somewhat similar. Kypre, while definitely leathery, smells like it belongs to the school of Mitsouko, though the dry-down is very pulled-together and a lot less dramatic. The part that makes me think of Mitsouko every time I wear Kypre is a certain boozy fruitiness when the heart morphs into the base of the perfume. Maybe fruitiness is the wrong word. It feels like the softest pair of exquisite boots in a dark cognac color.
The late dry-down is a muted soapy oakmoss that would easily appeal to a modern man just as much as to a woman. That is, if said man is the kind who trolls the net searching for long forgotten perfumes.
Vintage 1941 Kypre by Lancome perfume ads from hprints.com
Photo of Armand Petitjean from somewhere on the web (unfortunately I lost the link)
Photos of my bottle by me with the help of Lizzy.