I first saw a Richard Moss photo a few months ago and I was shocked by the power of his creation. It wasn’t the photo featured here, which might seem like a whimsically photoshopped version of a digital collage. It was much closer to the photos presented in the Guardian article reporting his Deutsche Börse award earlier in 2014. Moss travelled to the east Democratic Republic of Congo and documented the remains of a war raging since 1998 and resulting in more than 5 million dead. He did so using a discontinued military surveillance film registering only an invisible spectrum of inferred red. The result is an unsettling combination of beauty and savagery. The palette of Moss’s photographs captures the essence of Chypre rouge, a savagely beautiful perfume. The photo I chose, Of lilies and remains, was an obvious choice because of its stylised theatricality, a component of all Serge Lutens perfumes.
Wearing Chypre rouge is like putting on the colours of war. Even though El Attarine is officially the immortelle fragrance of the line, Chypre rouge offers a more classical version of this note, probably in the same rationale as Cèdre offers a more approachable tuberose than Tubéreuse criminelle. The initial accord of sticky sweet, coffee laced, pine needle stew is dangerously treading the thin line between magnetism and aversion. This phase will put to the test even hardcore Serge Lutens fans’ tolerance and taste. Underneath this dark, swampy opening one can feel something vaguely floral, but no flower is immediately recognisable. The scary skull and bones phase lasts at least an hour, bringing to mind the scent of bitter, abandoned heroins of Goth tales. There is an element of danger that is immediately felt and all this is cconstructedaround immortelle. Only the brave ones will stay around for what lies in the dry down of Chypre rouge. Through the murk of ghostly darkness a sweet, fragrant purple bud opens slowly to reveal the heart of a honeyed chypre. The transition is slow and painstaking but in the end all the weirdness of the opening dissipates into a beautiful, not-quite-classic chypre. What I find intriguing in this perfume is the shadow of a flower where probably no flower exists. The only floral note listed in more learned sites is jasmine but jasmine itself is not detectable by me. Caraway is listed on the other hand, and I think it is the most floral of all spices and may be this is the element that convokes the shadow flower. The more Chypre rouge stays on he skin, the glossier it becomes, rough edges sanded off, ghostly immortelle vanishing into thin air, pine needles blown away by mountain breeze and sweetness balanced by the cool roundness of the base.
Chypre rouge is the ultimate Halloween fragrance. It tricks you, even scares you, with the demonic opening, grabs your ankle as you try to run away for your life. Pins you down and breathes death in your face. Holds you captive for hours sniffing the weird imaginary forest undergrowth. And then suddenly slips you a moist kiss, a treat of sweet reward.
Notes from Parfumo: Pine needle, Thyme, Beeswax, Honey, Jasmine, Amber, Moss, Musk, Patchouli, Vanilla
Notes from my nose: coffee, mud, pine needles, caraway, honey, fairytale flower