Claire Vukcevic is a part-time blogger on the blog Fragrancedaily.com and member of Basenotes (ClaireV). She spends money she doesn’t have on perfumes and then writes novel-length reviews of them. But she can’t help it.
Chypre Palatin by Parfums MDCI - Palatial Chypre
I am a big Henry James fan. Or at least I used to be until one day at school, my fifth form English Lit teacher pulled a copy of The Golden Bowl out of my school bag and gasped, “You’re reading this? Oh dear me, no – this is far too difficult for you. It will put you off James for life.” But I had already read The Golden Bowl. In fact, I had waltzed through it, not realizing that it was supposed to be difficult. But do you know what? From that day forward, I have struggled with Henry James. Once someone points out that something is difficult or complex, it becomes so. Like someone flipping that switch in your brain between unthinking enjoyment and sudden, painful self-awareness.
I love Chypre Palatin with my unthinking part of my brain. I know, on a purely intellectual level, that it is a Henry James type of scent – grand, complex, full of moving parts clicking into place. The notes list on Basenotes alone contains twenty separate notes, about two thirds of which I can’t pick up at all. It doesn’t matter. I slip into Chypre Palatin with a shiver of unadulterated pleasure every time, just as easily as my unthinking brain once slid into Henry James.
Chypres are not usually so easy for me – there is something about them that require me to switch the analysis part of my brain on. Something about the bristling bergamot beginning and the bitter backbone of mosses has always called to mind that scene in Titantic where Rose sees a mother is tapping her six-year old daughter on the spine to get her to straighten up. I admire the formality of chypres, and their immensely ordered, complex structure, but I find it difficult to breathe easily within their confines.
But Chypre Palatin, I am beginning to understand, is one of those strange hybrids between
chypre and oriental that manage to combine the grandeur of the former with the comfortable, sweet, oozing sensuality of the latter. A soft landing for the bitter Chypre DNA, so to speak. Chypre Palatin belongs, therefore, to a special group of perfumes that includes Puredistance M, Jubilation 25, Une Rose Chypree, and even Guerlain’s masterpiece, Vol de Nuit. What these perfumes have in common is a chypre-like dressing of moss and bergamot, and maybe some other green, bitter, or herbal accents (usually up top), but combined with a base that feels utterly oriental, so that the fragrance starts its journey in an upright position and ends it in a supine position on a soft divan covered with furs and minks in a Sultan’s harem. These chypre-oriental hybrids are massively built, bristling with ambition, and big enough feet to stand in (and tower over) several genres at once – chypre, oriental, leather, animalics, and so on. They are not so much unisex as they are omni-sex.
Chypre Palatin, for example, has a brief bergamot beginning, like a blush of first light over
the horizon at dawn, and a heart of authentic oakmoss that goes on forever, but these accents are married to a lush vanilla and a warmly animalic castoreum in the base, ensuring that the whole thing feels comfortably sensual. It is very masculine in feel, like Puredistance M, but the vanilla and castoreum in the base make it so cozy and sensual that I really can’t imagine its testosterone-fueled heart would put any woman off. It feels grand, dusty, old-school, reassuringly masculine, and solid.
Chypre Palatin strikes me as a modern-day Vol de Nuit, in a way. Not in terms of smell, but for the fact that they are both grand, baroque-scaled perfumes recalling a more romantic past than the time in which they were created. Also, despite all of that ambitious scale and reach, they both feel perfectly intimate and suitable for quiet, homebound pleasures. Chypre Palatin might be the Golden Bowl of its genre, but I enjoy it in that simple, instinctive way I used to enjoy Henry James before the thinking part of my brain was switched on. Just don’t listen to anyone who tells you it is a difficult or complex thing.