A pretty, very sweet, fruity, unoriginal, and very over-priced little trifle in a lovely shade of purple. That’s Chypre Fatal from Guerlain, an eau de parfum that is part of the Les Elixirs Charnels (The Carnal Elixirs) prestige collection. The line was created by perfumer Christine Nagel in cooperation with Sylvaine Delacourte, and was released in 2008.
On its website, Guerlain describes the perfume as an “aphrodisiac for a femme fatal,” and adds:
Both chic and sexy, Chypre Fatal brings to mind a rebellious woman with extreme elegance, an icon with devastating seduction. It’s a fruity chypre with an intense aura. An imperial rose with hints of woody patchouli is heightened by vanilla and white peach, which sensually soften the accord.
The fragrance dresses up in a bottle with pure lines, adorned with a metallic silver label inspired by the intimate ambience of the boudoir.
The notes are simple:
White peach, spicy rose, patchouli, and vanilla.
Chypre Fatal opens on my skin with delicately sweet, dainty, white peach nectar, followed by a spicy red rose, purple patchouli, and a light, sweet musk. It feels as though the watery delicacy of the pale peach quickly turns to the same shade as Chypre Fatal’s liquid once the patchouli hits it.
This is the modern type of patchouli (or fruit-chouli), with its syrupy, sweet characteristics of jammy, grape-y, fruited molasses, not the black kind of patchouli from the hippie days of the ’70s. It’s potent, and quickly overwhelms the lovely peach note. Within minutes, Chypre Fatal turns into the sweetest of summer roses infused with fruit. As regular readers of the blog know, I’m not a fan of purple patchouli, and I really regret how it squashes my favorite part of the perfume like a bulldozer.
For all Chypre Fatal’s concentrated grape-y blast, the fragrance feels oddly translucent, almost like an Impressionist watercolour painting. It’s initially very strong in smell, but gauzy, wispy, and incredibly sheer in weight. I had applied about 3 big smears of Chypre Fatal, but it feels almost as though the fragrance were evaporating off my skin. So, I applied 3 more — and even with that astronomical quantity, Chypre Fatal still seems to lose body and depth. The peach, in particular, seems to disappear, no matter much I applied, though it occasionally pops up like a ghost later in the opening phase. What’s left in the first hour is primarily a very sweet ruby rose, gleaming with the purple hues of a grape fruit-chouli and just lightly flecked by a subtle, sweet musk. Thirty minutes later, the smallest rumblings of vanilla stir in the base, adding a soft warmth.
At the end of the first hour, Chypre Fatal is a soft, gauzy blur of rose with just whispers of a spicy edge, the vaguest hint of peach swirled in, and a lot of very syrupy sweetness. The soft musk and a thin layer of vanilla finish it off in the base. It remains that way for a few hours, though it turns into a complete skin scent around the 2.5 hour mark. In case you hadn’t noticed, I really am not keen on the purple patchouli, so it’s quite a relief when its extremely sweet fruitiness starts to slowly recede around the middle of the third hour. Finally, and at last, Chypre Fatal seems a bit better balanced and modulated.
The end of the fruit-chouli’s bullying dominance also lets some of the other elements come out to play. First are the green touches in the perfume’s base. Regardless of its actual name, “Chypre” Fatal isn’t actually a chypre fragrance by technical standards as it contains no oakmoss in it. Nonetheless, there are lurking glimmers of something softly plush and green in the base which begin to occasionally pop up at this stage.
The peach also has the chance to come out of the shadows. While it waxes and wanes in prominence, it really is much more noticeable now as compared to the opening phase, and adds a pretty touch to the scent. By the end of the fourth hour, Chypre Fatal is a sweet, peachy-rose scent with a lovely sliver of warm vanilla in the base. An hour later, the perfume is mostly just peach with the tonka Guerlainade note that is the house’s signature. Here, it’s not powdery the way it can often be, but simply a warm, slightly fluffy, very sheer vanilla.
In its final moments, Chypre Fatal is a nebulous, abstract blur of fruited sweetness with just a sliver of vanilla. All in all, the fragrance lasted 10 hours on me with a walloping 6 big smears, but a mere 6.75 hours with a more normal, regular dosage of 2 large smears. In other words, the longevity was not particular great unless you applied a lot, and the sillage was consistently weak after the first forty minutes.
Chypre Fatal is a pretty little thing, but it also seems like a very well-done version of mainstream, department store fragrances. It’s neither complicated nor nuanced, and certainly not very original. It’s like a higher end version of any number of fruity, jammy rose scents with patchouli. Parts of it even remind me of Chanel‘s more recent (and much cheaper) variation of this twist: Coco Noir. The only difference is the translucence of the Guerlain scent, that subtle whisper of peach that isn’t hugely common to a lot of perfumes today, and the fact that Coco Noir is a much more complex scent. If the peach part of Chypre Fatal dominates on your skin, then you may even find it to be extremely similar to Gucci‘s Gucci Rush, a fragrance with a very dominant peach-patchouli-floral accord.
In Chypre Fatal’s Fragrantica entry, seven people think the perfume is a lot like The Body Shop‘s Midnight Bakula. I know nothing about the fragrance, and I doubt it could have the same high-quality ingredients or a lack of synthetics. Still, it’s certainly something worth noting! Midnight Bakula’s Fragrantica listing shows that it, too, is a “chypre floral” whose notes are patchouli, rose and nectarine (in that order). I don’t know if the fragrance is discontinued as one Fragrantica commentator states, but I found it on Amazon for $23 (plus $5.49 shipping) for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. It is currently available for an even cheaper price on eBay for $15.99! Now, I repeat, I don’t know the scent, and I doubt it would smell quite as high-end as the Guerlain. That is not my point, however.
My point is the Guerlain’s Chypre Fatal seems extremely over-priced, to put it mildly, for what it is. This very simple, uncomplicated, overly sweet, 4-note perfume dominated by very inexpensive purple patchouli costs $260. Even apart from the issue of a supposed Body Shop dupe, Chypre Fatal is simply not interesting or different enough for $260! Presumably, one spends money on Guerlain’s higher-end, prestige lines to get something different from the masses of department store fragrances out there with their generic, somewhat predictable profile. The fact that many of those actually have more notes, and more complexity, than Chypre Fatal isn’t exactly a plus.
It’s not just my opinion, either. Commentators on various perfume sites feel largely the same way. A number offer other perfume comparisons, ranging from commercial fragrances to mid-range niche ones. Since I try to avoid that revoltingly sweet, cloying, purple, grape-y fruit-chouli wherever and whenever possible, I’m not familiar with all of them, but those that I have tried are substantially more nuanced or richer than Chypre Fatal.
Let’s start with Basenotes, where the Chypre Fatal entry has four reviews with two being neutral, one positive, and one negative. We’ll split the difference and go with the “neutral” assessments which read as follows:
- I think that maybe was a mistake when they created this fragrance. I imagine that someone heard Chypre Banal instead of Chypre Fatal, and then they produced it. Chypre Fatal is your standard modern chypre fragrance, and it does achieve every single point that other more affordable chypres does, like shiseido zen and guccy by gucci. It starts fruity, then it`s dominated by a sweet, almost camphorated, patchouli, supported by a luminous musky base similar to the one found in narciso rodriguez. [...] If it`s a more exclusive fruity chypre that you want, i suggest you trying Mon Parfum by M. Micallef, that for now you can find for a better price at ebay and it`s more lovely and less facelless than Chypre Fatal.
- I”m a fan of Guerlain’s exclusives, but I do have high standards for them and am more harsh in my reviews. This is a good perfume, in the $100-$140 range, but at the price point sold I have to wonder what they were thinking. [¶] This is a basic patchouli/rose chypre, which I’m comparing to Sublime Balkiss, Lady Vengeance and Kurkdjian‘s Lumiere pour femme. This is most expensive of the four, and in my opinion, hte least interesting. What I”m wanting is some ‘OOH!!!’, like Kurkdjian’s spicy rose, Balkiss’ blueberry note or Lady Vengeance’ edge. [¶] But peach and vanilla are just too safe. I”m wondering who the intended audience is for this line, because I don’t think it’s those who want something unique and trend-setting. [Emphasis to names with bold font added by me for ease of reading.]
On Makeupalley, the 5 entries are somewhat more positive, but also include two comments like Chypre Fatal is a lot like department store fragrances. For example: “As the fragrance settles down to its basenotes, it acquires a non-descript “perfumey” smell that is just kind of average, department-storeish, etc… Ho hum.”
Fragrantica commentators are largely torn, with even the fans finding the price hard to swallow or preferring other department store perfumes. Some examples, with the comparative names highlighted by me:
- Opens with a delectable, floralized, sweet peach but quickly dries down on my skin to a semi-sour fruity rose patchouli. I’d take Gucci Rush over this any day if I want peach and patchouli. There’s nothing new or interesting or different to help this stand out in a crowd of fruitchoulis. Not worth the price in my opinion.
- I got a sample and was looking for some proper chypre. All i got was something between Shalimar parfum Initial and Euphoria, jimmy Choo and so on. Sweet, chemical, cloying. It`s not chypre and definitely not fatal Can`t believe it`s Guerlain!
- This goes on like cough syrup, that’s what i detect, the red cough syrup LOL. However , once it dries, it reminds me of a more sophisticated Gucci Rush which I do love .
- Nice Guerlain scent but still does not reach that grade of a really special perfume. This one is sickly sweet and headache inducing, though pleasant at first. Not worth the price.
- Chypre Fail. It reminds me of Tom Ford‘s White Patchouli, so I suppose that’s how they arrive at calling it a chypre. However it isn’t a real patchouli, perhaps there is some attenuated aromachemical that mimics a facet of patchouli. [¶] The drydown – seriously Guerlain? Yves Rocher has many better perfumes than this. [...][¶] It is an insult to the consumer to put such a cheap juice in an overpriced “exclusive” bottle. It fails as a sales tactic since the only plausible consumer of a pricey exclusive is a perfumista, who will most likely detect the fraud.
I think some of those commentators may be harsher than I am. I do think that Chypre Fatal improves once that tidal wave of ghastly, cloying, purple patchouli lets some of the other notes come out, but it’s all highly relative. And it certainly doesn’t change the perfume’s largely unoriginal, simplistic profile. As one of the Basenotes’ commentators said, “Chypre Banal,” not Chypre Fatal. And that’s a problem at this price. For $60, I’d recommend it, but for $260? There are far better perfumes out there.