Fans of classic chypre perfumes have been hunting high and low to get their fix. The old ones no longer smell like themselves and whatever it is they call a "modern chypre" rarely comes close to the satisfying sensation we used to get when wearing the real thing. Between restrictions on raw material and the simple fact that anything that smells so oakmossy and perfumy is sadly out of style, they no longer make them that way.
Except for those who do. I already reviewed Chypre d'Orient, the little-known gem from Molinard. Today I'm bringing you another one of those new-perfume-that-smells-like-vintage, Classic Chypre by Esteban Paris. Compred to Molinard's Chypre, Esteban made things a bit safer with a lighter hand and a lighter concentration. Classic Chypre sneaks up on you rather than hit you on the head with its big pointy brassiere. The opening is an elegant mild green, a touch of bergamot, a hint of leafy herbs, perhaps something fruit with a dash of citrus juice dripped over it. A very spicy floral heart follows without committing to a specific note. It's abstract the way older perfumes meant to be: smoothly blended, opaque and a bit naughty, all the while keeping their expensive-looking gloves on.
I do smell the rose, somewhat powdery with no tartness in sight. I also feel the phantom presence of a red carnation, but that might be clove. This is where Esteban's Classic Chypre really starts soaring and you can just lean back and enjoy the ride back in time. A solid foundation of patchouli and oakmoss holds everything together. It has that deep and dark color of the forest floor or thick velvet curtains at an old mansion's library. This fragrance is absolutely delicious in a chypre kind of way, but not because it has vanilla listed in the notes. As a matter of fact I can't smell vanilla here to save my life and the only hint of sweetness comes from a somewhat mellowed-down patchouli.
If I have any reservations about Esteban's Classic Chypre is that it's an eau de toilette, thus a bit too airy and light. I wish it were at least an eau de parfum if not an extract. I keep imagining how luxurious it could be to dab a couple of drops where it matters instead of the heavy spraying I have to do whenever I choose Classic Chypre as my scent of the day.
Notes: bergamot, basil, jasmine, rose, spices, patchouli, vetiver, oarkmoss, vanilla.
Classic Chypre ($95, 50ml EDT) is available from estebanparis.com. Samples can be found on The Perfumed Court.
Image: a 1957 photo that appeared in Playboy via The Nifty Fifties.