Perfume History and Fragrance Families: Cyphre

As a perfume lover, you have probably heard about it but never quite managed to understand it till now. While floral or citrus fragrance families seem easy to understand, Cyphre is one of those names that you cannot quite grasp. Here are a few things to learn about the cyphre perfume family.

Originating from the French denomination for Cyprus, the Eastern Mediterranean island, cyphre is one of the oldest scent combinations.

The oldest perfume factory in the world was discovered on the island of Cyprus, in Pygros Mavrorachi, dating 2000 BC, well before the Egyptians would make perfume.

Later mentions of the term are found in the Cipria powder, a cosmetic face and hair powder that Cypriot merchants were selling to the Western world aristocrats. The powder was aromatized with several scented blends that, judging by historical accounts were very close to what we consider a cyphre combination today.

In the 17th century, powdered wigs were quite en vogue throughout Europe, and Cipria was probably one of the most widely used cosmetic products.

Among the first modern perfume designers to use Cipria was the legendary Mediterranean perfume merchant (originating in Corsica)- Francois Coty, who in 1917 created a perfume called Cyphre.  Before him, but with less success, though had been launched Guerlain’s Cyphre de Paris and Cyphre d’Orsay. But Coty was the first who introduced modern audiences with the combination of cyphre.

What is it made of?
Coty laid out the basic structure of this accord of three main ingredients: oakmoss (a lichen that grows on Mediterranean trees), bergamot- a citrus fruit also coming from Mediterranean shores and labdanum (a plant growing in Crete).  Later, some perfume designers added some other notes but these three combine to form this exclusive Mediterranean fragrance.

Chypre fragrances nowadays also include notes of wood, green essences and patchouli, adding an intensity and mystery to a heart of a perfume. This should not be confounded with the oriental family, which will be detailed in upcoming LilyDirect blogs.

Cyphre is perhaps the most sophisticated fragrance family, giving birth to luxurious perfumes par excellence. A few examples include the incredibly sophisticated Gucci Rush, the classical Givenchy Amarige or many of the Chanel perfumes.