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Corps et Ames – A Modern Chypre via an LBD – February 18, 2013 New Fragrance Listing

Photo - feminspire.com - LBD

Gwen’s post about the Pierre Guillaume scent Myrrhiad reminded me that I have an EdP from Guillaume’s Parfumerie Générale  line waiting its turn to be added to the perfumeniche Decant Store.

It’s time has come, not just because of this serendipitous nudge from my perfume partner, but also because I hear that voice again, that small voice in the back of my head that becomes quietly audible when the seasons start to change. Right now its going “Chypre, chypre, chypre”, the kind of scents I crave after months of spicy, ambery Orentals.

So let’s start right here, with the word “chypre”. It’s not what the birdies say, it’s from the French word for “Cypress” (Chypre pronounced as sheep-ruh), and it’s the traditional fragrance family which is built around the three-note structure of oakmoss, bergamot and labdanum (rockrose), combined with floral and/or fruity notes, and characterized as strong, spicy, rich, or powdery. Some of the greatest classic perfumes, the Big Divas, are Chypres – Mitsouko, Vent Vert, Rochas Femme, Diorella, Aromatics Elixir, Jolie Madame, Cialenga by Balenciaga.

“The beauty of the chypre is that it's a strict fragrance structure, but on this basic scaffolding the perfumer can add accent pieces that make the perfume lean into this or that direction. Like a basic "little black dress", you can accessorize with heels or with boots, with pearls or with chunky gold chains, with a fur stole or a colorful velvet shawl and create dazzlingly different looks.” …from perfumeshrine.blogspot, which, BTW, has an amazingly excellent 7-part series on Chypresstart here

Chypre-style frags are few and far between in current perfumery, especially since the use of oakmoss is now all but forbidden by IFRA and the EU, but also because the style is sometimes perceived as too old or too much by our 21st C sensibilities. Modern perfumes called chypres make the big marketing promise but I don’t think they deliver the real goods. With the exception of Moss Gown from Providence Perfumes, a natural perfume house, and Chypre Palatin from Parfums MDCI, I can’t remember the last time my socks slid down from sniffing a new launch of a green, floral, or woody chypre.

Corps et Ames (Bodies and Souls) was launched in 2006, and I gave this chypre a sniff a couple of years later. I don’t think I was wearing socks at the time, but I do remember a few OMG’s and some eye-rolling, and also vowing to myself that someday I would own it. I own it now.

If chypres are “little black dresses” to be accessorized by perfumers, then this “little black dress” by Pierre Guilluame has been accessorized with green – leather, that is.  With listed notes of Bourbon geranium, immortelle flowers, Melati wood (jasmine sambac), leather, and sandalwood, Corps et Ames comes out of the bottle already making a statement. Leafy, minty, herbal, pungent and shockingly green, fresh and sparkling, there’s not a doubt in my mind that this PG Scent is going to fulfill its green chypre promise.

In a minute or so, the sharp dry geranium starts to sweeten with its spicy rose facets, and hints of sweet creamy jasmine from the Melati wood and the gorgeous immortelle flower drift in– that burnt hay/caramel, slightly curried note that is so unique. Soon joined by a soft sexy leather note, with a dirty-sweaty edge from oakmoss, the rosy heart develops into a rich, inviting accord that has an exotic heat – the forbidding female reveals her inner vixen. There’re no whips, but there is definitely a come-hither look, and a glimpse of deep cleavage in this little black dress.

Creamy sandalwood seeps into the heart, infusing the leather and oakmoss with resinous wooded perfection, and creating a lovely calm incense accord that takes us through the long shadowed dry-down. At this point, all the notes relax, weaving in and out with a refined but persistent sillage that plays on the light and dark elements, the body and soul notes that make this scent so truly beautiful.

Despite the dress metaphor, Corps et Ames also happens to be a chypre that can easily be worn by men, too. For women, it’s a fragrance that “gets your Diva on”  - confident, rich, elegantly chic. For men, it’s pure sophistication – bracing, dark, rich. It’s pre-war Berlin, it’s post-war Paris, it’s New York now, it straddles the classic and modern perfume worlds with ease, and I think could make a chypre-lover out of a chypre fence-sitter, if handed the task.

Pierre Guillaume is obviously an extremely talented perfumer. He trained as a chemist, then chose perfumery.

Photo - Olfactorialist - Pierre Guillaume

On his website he says that he likes to build scents that are “different, sumptuous, luxurious, and playful…I keep finding this freshness contrasted against dryness, greens coming up through a resinous incense, a tailored strictness against the looseness of warmed up skin. ”. His own words perfectly describe his green chypre, Corps et Ames.

Corps et Ames is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.