Serge Lutens Chypre rouge: tricked and treated

Richard-Mosse-2014-Deutsche-Börse-Photography-Prize-Feature

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

Chypre rouge notes

Notes from my nose: coffee, mud, pine needles, caraway, honey, fairytale flower

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

4 comments

  1. Love the review and how it ties in with the season 🙂 Have wanted to experience this for years…and think I might have tried it once, but sadly I do not remember it. I have to go and try just a spritz and see what happens, I do adore immortelle.

  2. Christos, even though my own associations at smelling Chypre Rouge are quite different from yours (it’s been many years since I used up my spray sample, but it was one of the few immortelle perfumes I loved instantly, and for me it was an addicting gourmand that made me think of it as autumn in a bottle – all falling leaves and pine trees and maple syrup treats), I very much loved your poignant review. I can tell that Chypre Rouge is one of those perfumes that entered your psyche in a profound way.

    I should have bought a bottle of this years ago. It’s discontinued now, yes?

    • No it isn’t Sure. Actually I don’t think that SL has ever discontinued a single scent. What they do of course is rotate perfumes in and out of the export line. What they recently did is introduce the little black travel spray with a limited selection of scents. This is interesting because for instance Iris silver mist is available in the little black travel spray although it has never been part of the export line. In short you have to visit the site to see what is available in the use.

      xxx

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