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Chypre

Contact Author Henri-Michel Hoffmann
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The island of Chypre (Cyprus) is located in the easternmost part of the Mediterranean Sea and lies on the navigation line followed, from the most ancient times to our day, by ships going from the Middle East to Greece and Italy. Thus it is understandable that this island became a focal point for the trade of odorant materials produced in these areas of the world, and that Cyprus became one of the first important perfume centers. Gums such as Iabdanum and ciste, fragrant oils and pomades of rose, jasmine and cassie were blended there with resins imported from Arabia such as incense, myrrh and oppoponax. These rather heavy creations were exported to Athens and Rome.

Toward the end of the 19th century, fragrances presenting some common characteristics and using some of these resins appeared on the market under the generic term of “Chypre.” We do not know whether these introductions were dedicated to men or women. According to some historians, men were offered a fragrance which would be tailored to their activities and cover the smell of tobacco and petroleum or gasoline they were carrying around them. For other historians, women were given these fragrances largely for the same reasons. We will see later that this very important group of fragrances includes almost as many men’s as women’s fragrances.

Very soon every parfumeur wanted his own version of Chypre. The materials most often used were bergamot, orange, rose, jasmine, orange blossom, carnation, sandalwood, labdanum, myrrh, vanilla, musk, civet, castoreum, ambergris and, sometimes, honey notes. (See Formula 1.) There was nothing really different in these bouquets and only by varying the proportions between the constituents was the perfumer able to differentiate one creation from the others. It was not until the last quarter of the 19th century that perfumery went through a basic change with the appearance of the first synthetic products, new tools for the perfumer’s trade.