Niche Fragrance Magazine

Chypre but not tart

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Today Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumes released her latest creation, Dryad. She says that she’s been working on the formula for several years, including the when she shoved it in a drawer in frustration and left it there for a year or five.

I’ve known this green chypre was coming for about a year, as I follow Liz on Facebook and Instagram. Given my love for this genre and her other fragrances, particularly the voluptuous oriental Salome, I leapt at the chance to try it.

I am an unapologetic fan of what I call ‘proper’ chypres – ones that rely on oakmoss not patchouli married with bergamot to give them a brisk smack to start and a warm, skin-melding base. While fruits such as peaches (Mitsouko) or plums (Femme de Rochas) give a stained-glass warmth to some classic chypres, my preference is for the green or leathery variety. But these ladies are not what they once were; Cabochard with her purse-lipped leather smack is grumpier and more of a caricature now, my precious Miss Balmain with her ‘good leather handbag for church’ aura has been discontinued, and my Miss Dior (l’Originale) is now a shadow of her former eyebrow-arching, pearl-clutching self. While I can still enjoy my vintage bottles, before they give up the ghost and go off, there have been no genuine mossy green chypres to replace them. Until now.

I was in my mother’s garden this weekend, standing under the greengage tree to get out of the unexpected summer heat and this perfume sprang to mind. That shade and coolness that comes as such a relief is echoed in the cool, green, topnotes of this fragrance. When I first tried Dryad this spring, I was reminded of the topnotes of Andy Tauer’s Une Rose Chypree, but this weekend, in the hot weather it reminded me more of my Miss Balmain and Miss Dior – it’s fresher than the Tauer, and less rich. I had wondered how Dryad would work in summer heat and was delighted to find that it brings out the best in the perfume, reflecting the cool shade of a woodland walk.

The heart opens into a powder that is unsweet, and slightly floral. Referring back to the classic chypres, I would liken this heart to expensive talcum powder, that element of the toilette that our grandmothers enjoyed and which has fallen out of favour nowadays, but we should rediscover it. This warm, clean heart smoothly slides into a base that smells like sun-warmed skin and reminds me very much of Salome, but is somehow more girlish.

I am a modern woman yearning for a replacement for the glorious green chypres of the middle of the 20th century, and Liz Moores has created it. I can understand why it took Liz so long to get this formula right, it’s an exquisite balance, as the classic chypres of old were, but with a liberated, modern feel. It’s not a photocopy, it’s a reinterpretation. Just as we no longer wear pearls every day or tease and lacquer our hair into stiff formal coiffures, we don’t wear purse-lipped mid-century chypres. There’s a reason Miss Dior Originale has been replaced by Miss Dior nouveau, and it’s because young women these days want to wear their hair loose and run around in t-shirts and sheepskin boots. That wildness and freedom runs all the way through Dryad. She is the chypre I’ve been waiting for.

A decade ago in a little secondhand bookshop, I bought a biography of an obscure biophysicist written by a New York Times journalist and my life changed. Yes, I blame it all on Luca Turin and Chandler Burr; thanks to them I fell in love with L'Heure Bleue and haven't looked back since.

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