Autumn is the perfect time to wear a chypre perfume. Something in a chypre's mossy, musty base echoes leaf mold and feels right at home on days with cold mornings and sunny afternoons. Among chypres, fruity chypres are especially nice. The fruit adds sweetness and color — so nice on a rainy day — without going all pumpkin spice.
Here are five fruity chypres to sample:
Guerlain Mitsouko: I’ll kick off the list with the queen of fruity chypres. Mitsouko’s peach is barely ripe and colored by the light of a stained-glass window. It reminds me of an old church with umbrellas drying on its stone floor and a bowl of the last of the season’s fruit on the altar. It’s austere and moody and beautiful.
Rochas Femme (the post-1989 version): I read somewhere that perfumers tend to fall into two camps: those who prefer Mitsouko, and those who go for Femme. If this rule applies to perfume enthusiasts, count me as a Femme fan. Femme’s peach has more pulchritude than Mitsouko’s, and the perfume’s all-around character is more come-hither. If Mitsouko is Lauren Bacall, Femme is Sophia Loren.
Pierre Bourdon La Fin d’un Eté: The name says it all. La Fin d’un Eté smells like late afternoon in the orchard with plums and watermelon rotting around you. (Rotting in the best way, of course.) Don’t worry, the fruit is more like a band of purple in a plaid wool skirt than like Jolly Rancher candies. I’m spritzing through my bottle double-time.
Parfum d’Empire Azemour les Orangers: Orange and orange blossom and heaps of moss — Azemour les Orangers is the perfect “fusty fresh” for when you want to be scented but not smell too much like perfume. It casts a clean, earthy-mossy halo.
Houbigant Aperçu: Aperçu is resolutely old-fashioned, but old-fashioned in the same way a coupe of Dom Perignon is. It’s a dry, light peach chypre with a musty floral heart that has too much character to try to be pretty. I’d wear it with a 1940s floral print dress to an autumn wedding — or at home reading a Diane Johnson comedy of manners with a pot of jasmine tea.
A few more: Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse (earthy, fullsome melon), Bill Blass Nude (dry, elegant pear), MDCI Parfums La Belle Hélène (juicy elegant pear), Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse (juicy gamine nectarine).