Chypre Rouge, a Serge Lutens 2006 perfume from his export line*, makes absolutely no sense when you test it from a blotter. It's a big chaotic mess until it meets the skin, and even then it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Chypre Rouge is not for the faint of heart and probably not a good introductory fragrance to the the world according to Lutens. However, once you become friends with it, Chypre Rouge becomes a friendly and familiar if you're a fan of Uncle Serge and his style.
Chypre Rouge starts as a kaleidoscopic blend of immortelle and cherry compote. I get the Rouge thing right away, it's the chypre part that's a lot more elusive. The list of notes below seems awfully abbreviated. It doesn't let on how thick and spicy the fragrance smells. Thyme? ok, but also coriander, garam masala and something that makes some people say curry and I'm not going to argue. The noise of the spice rack mixed with the cherry compote can be a bit too much and on a bad day reminds me of the day my mom was making crème pâtissière and used powdered garlic instead of powdered sugar. Twice. On a good day, though, there's an incredible harmony between the thick maple-like immortelle, the stewed fruit and the hefty dose of spice. It's a little heady, very bodacious, and very very red.
After a while Chypre Rouge becomes less a fantasy about the Orient and more a story of wood and honey. More than five years later, I'm still searching for the moss; instead, I'm getting pine needles on the patchoulified forest floor. The red shadow over the forest becomes darker as the hours go by. By the time the day is gone the dry-down is velvety, lightly sweetened and pretty much a musk-incense blend that smells quite sexy up close. There's no doubt that Chypre Rouge is a very wild ride and far from easy on some stomachs. If I remember correctly, even my scent twin dislikes it. The husband, on the other hand was the one who urged me several times to get it, though I'm not sure he's willing to wear Chypre Rouge on his own skin.
Notes: thyme, pine needles, honey, beeswax, jasmine, patchouli, vanilla, moss, amber, musk
*Chypre Rouge was originally released as a Serge Lutens export perfume. At some point in 2010 it was announced it was going to be withdrawn from the regular line and added to the Paris exclusive range. While the Palais Royal has confirmed as late as last September that Chypre Rouge is, indeed, headed to the bell jars, it is not the case yet and the fragrance is widely available from all the usual suspects ($140, 1.7oz) and appears as an export on sergelutens.com. The export perfume that was surprisingly and suddenly taken off the regular line to become a Paris exclusive is Rousse, as was first reported on Perfume Shrine.
Art: Red Forest by Elizabeth W.Seaver
Coiffe a la Facod de Tatlin Tour by Serge Lutens, 1989
Chypre Rouge promotional image by Serge Lutens, 2006