21 ottobre 2016

Guerlain Chypre 53 (1953)

Chypre 53 cologne (via Aromablog)
The passion for perfumes in the social network era has its advantages: you can easily learn by looking at pictures, reading and discussing with knowledgeable people all over the world. Recently I have been so lucky to get in touch with a lovely woman who's one of the finest Russian vintage perfume collectors and the fellow blogger behind aromablog.ru: Ekaterina Khmelevskaya. She's been so nice to let me smell one of the rarest Guerlain bearing the mystery label Chypre 53.
The name itself is pretty curious. Champs Elysées are close to Rue Cambon, but we're not chez Chanel who put numbers as lucky charm on perfume bottles. Chez Guerlain they always went for nature inspired, romantic or exotic names like Violette de MadameUne fleure qui meurt or Shalimar. So why this name?
Long time before Le Labo, my first guess was 53 could refer to the number of the ingredient, which would mean a pretty stylized composition for the time.

Chypre 53 Extrait (via Perfumeshrine)
According to Perfumeshrine the first formulation of Chypre 53 was issued in 1909 in the quadrilobe extrait bottle to be soon discontinued leaving more successful masterpieces like Après l'Ondée, L'Heure Bleue and Mitsouko. Since 1948 though, some fragrances saw a reissue among which Chypre 53, at first reformulated as an eau de cologne in flacon montre (the watch)and later reintroduced as extrait and even as a Lotion Végétale (a grooming lotion). But how does Chypre 53 smell in the end?

The eau de cologne I got from Russia is from the 1950s I guess but still smells awesome. The opening is a blast of contrasting notes where the floral chill of lavender from Provence is balanced by a warm cinnamic cloud that immediately relates it to Mitsouko. There's also some bergamot shining in the midst but you can guess well it lost is original zesty glory due to aging.
This makes more evident there's a green dissonance cutting through. It's not as grassy and spicy medicinal as the shining Sous le vent, but it's definitely the leather fierceness of quinoleines empowered by the terpenic envol of oakmoss, styrax and labdanum.

by Francesca Gotti
Quinoleines are powerful synthetics discovered at the end of XIX century by Skraup, Dobner and Miller, but they languished on the lab desk till the genius of Marie Thérèse de Laire (spouse of Edgar de Laire) in 1910 proposed it to perfumers under the form of the Mousse de Saxe base. This is how at Molinard it joined the smoky swirls of Habanita, or how at Caron Ernest Daltrof pourred it in the dangerous leather of Tabac Blond.

According to Monsieur Guerlain the official date reported on the formula of Chypre 53 is 1953, therefore the name. Moreover Jean-Jacques Guerlain revealed his father Jacques often complained that his sense of smell deteriorated as he grew older, which could be why he turned up the volume of the more heavy, animalic ingredients like quinoleines.

Who knows if Chypre 53 was first released in 1909 and how did it smell. Perhaps Jacques Guerlain started playing with quinoleines during the same years of Madame De Laire. If so, my guess is whether he ended up with a Cuir Guerlain mossy base later featured in Chypre 53, Sous le Vent and Coque d'Or at least. Surely the echoes of this Cuir Guerlain accord deeply influenced some Jean-Paul Guerlain gems like Parure and Derby.

Alida Valli smoking in the 1950s
The basenotes of Chypre 53 get softer and softer rendering floral ghosts of May roses and carnations, whispering the opaline lily of the valley and ylang greeness. It's the signature vanillia-tonka-ambergris trail of guerlinade though that takes the stage in the end, blurring the squared edges of this art deco jewel: now it exudes a warm, androgynous seduction (butcher than many current masculine juices), waving in the air like slender laquered hands holding a cigarette.
Dear Ekaterina thank you again for giving me the chance to smell such a fascinating chypre which I was so pleased to share with my readers!

Topnotes: clove, cinnamon, lavender, bergamot
Middlenotes: leather, animalic notes, ambergris, vanilla, ylang ylang, orris, rose, spicy notes, vetiver, patchouli, galbanum
Basenotes: musk, jasmine, oakmoss and Tolu balsam

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