I’ve written way too many words on the damage IFRA restrictions have wreaked on one of the classic perfume styles, chypre. I marvel at the way contemporary perfumers have found ways to keep chypre alive through innovative uses of other ingredients. Even though I adore many of the modern chypres I still return to the original classic chypres I own. It always shows that there was something there when a perfumer could use the proscribed materials that can’t completely be re-created. I accept the current state of affairs. Until I was recently introduced to a perfume which doesn’t give a damn about everything I just wrote; Rogue Perfumery Chypre-Siam.
Rogue Perfumery was begun by chef turned perfumer Manuel Cross. On his website he writes that he spent ten years experimenting with essential oils looking to understand how to create accords and effects. One of the perfumes which fascinated Mr. Cross was Chypre de Coty; the alpha chypre. That perfume set the template which created a sector of perfume throughout the first half of the twentieth century which holds some of the masterpieces of modern perfumery. In the second half of the century the chypre was systematically stripped of all the ingredients which made chypre capital C chypre. The beauty of the name of Mr. Cross’ brand is it describes his way of returning to those ingredients, IFRA be damned, to make the classic chypre live again. Mr. Cross could have just put together the old ingredients and most perfume lovers would have been thrilled. What he has done instead is to give the chypre an Asian veneer which elevates Chypre-Siam from copycat to something more.
Chypre-Siam opens with what I think of as the Thai soup “Tom-Yum Goong” accord. Mr. Cross combines Kaffir lime, lemon grass, and basil into a vibrant green top accord. It has an astringent bite which is appealing every time I wear it. The heart of Chypre-Siam are the florals jasmine and ylang-ylang upon a leather accord. This is where things begin to turn animalic. The leather captures the indoles and fleshiness of the floral ingredients. It then comes together over a classic no nonsense chypre accord. Real velvety shadowy oakmoss covers sandalwood along with civet providing the continuation of the animalic facets from the heart.
Chypre-Siam has 24-hour longevity and above average sillage.
In the case of Chypre-Siam Mr. Cross’ inspiration to give a different spin to an otherwise formal re-telling of a classic elevates the entire process. If you ever wanted to smell what old school chypre smelled like, before the regulators changed things, Chypre-Siam is as close as you will get.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.