Bortnikoff Chypre Du Nord

Bortnikoff‘s Chypre du Nord is a modern twist on the traditional chypre formulation and structure. While it contains oakmoss, amber, and citrus, it lacks the floral and patchouli components which are also standard technical parts of the classical style established in the early 1900s by Coty and Guerlain. Instead, Siberian deer musk, nutmeg, birch tar leather, and Mitsouko-style peach abound. Let’s take a deeper look.

Bortnikoff Chypre Du Nord. Photo: Bortnikoff.

Chypre du Nord is a pure parfum or extrait that was created by Dmitry Bortnikoff and released in 2020. The official description of the scent and its notes reads, in large part, as follows:

Bortnikoff Chypre Du Nord. Photo: Bortnikoff.

Chypre du Nord is a classically inspired fragrance embracing the finest traditions of European perfumery and reviving the majesty of a long-established style of fragrance. The chypre scent originated in France in the early 20th Century and in Chypre du Nord perfumer Dmitry Bortnikoff has brought his own unique and inimitable touch to the style.

Opening with bright bergamot and succulent orange notes, the scent transitions to reveal the juicy sweetness of peach and the spiciness of nutmeg in its heart. In the base of the composition the truly unique and precious elements of the perfume make themselves apparent. Real oakmoss has always been one of the quintessential ingredients of the chypre scent and here it makes its unmistakable presence felt. Resinous and sweet benzoin mingles with tonka bean and birch tar to produce a smooth and sensuous aura. Finally, rare and scarce Siberian deer musk imparts its magical quality to round out this enchanting creation.

Whilst the chypre is a traditional and very common style of fragrance, the specially cultivated ingredients used in Bortnikoff scents mean that Chypre du Nord has a depth of complexity and sophistication that is seldom found elsewhere. [The few remaining sentences snipped by me.]

The note list is:

bergamot, orange, peach, nutmeg, oakmoss, benzoin, Siberian deer musk, cedar, birch tar, tonka bean.

Mark Rothko, No. 3/No. 13.

Chypre du Nord opens on my skin with a thick, dark bouquet that is aromatic, pungent, acidic, citrusy, herbal, pungent, spicy, bitter, woody, and inordinately tarry. The notes that hit me are led, first and foremost, by midnight black birch tar infused with fatty deer musk that smells of the powdery, dry, dusty, hairy pods and dry earth. Right on their heels is an aromatic greenness but, to be honest, it doesn’t smell of traditional oakmoss in either absolute or diluted form on my skin. Inexplicably, it smells of savory, culinary herbs instead. I’m thinking specifically of dried coriander and fenugreek leaves or powders.

This opening central trio of black tar, furry and fatty musk, and herbaceous green aromatics is followed by two other things. The bouquet is practically drenched in a thick coating of nutmeg that smells pungent, bitter, woody, sharp, and earthy. It’s then finished off by several good spritzes of citrus that, on my skin, resembles bitter lime and the zest of its skin far more than bergamot. I don’t experience any orange, sweet or otherwise.

I’ve tested Chypre du Nord three times and these aspects appeared consistently each time. I can’t say that I’m greatly enthused by the opening bouquet which lasts on my skin in largely unchanged form for about 90 minutes or 1.5 hours. The simple reason why is the intense punch in the face of the pungent, bitter, acrid, herbal, and tarry elements.

Tar pit bubbles. Source: Los Angeles’ La Brea tar and asphalt pits.

I blame my skin chemistry for taking several of the individual elements and creating what I’m guessing is unintended by-product aromas like, for example, the cooking herb aspect of the oakmoss, the extremely bitter pungency of the nutmeg that is somehow amplified to the point of utter unpleasantness, or the creosote-like quality of the birch tar. (Creosote is derived from the distillation of tar from wood or coal and is used as a wood preservative.) I should add that I occasionally smear oakmoss absolute on my skin, solo, in order to get as much of it as possible but not even undiluted oakmoss smells like coriander, fenugreek, or culinary herbs on me. Something else must be going on here, and it has to be how my skin is transforming the combined interactions of various materials. Further, Fragrantica posters’ experiences with Chypre du Nord appear to be quite different than my own when it comes to the dominant notes, how the oakmoss reads, and the power of the nutmeg.

Tonkin deer musk pouch in a jar. Photo: my own.

I can only describe to you what my personal subjective experiences are like, no-one else’s, and Chypre du Nord develops the exact same way on me all three times that I tested it. I actually like the heart and drydown stages but, man, the opening is rough and tough to my nose. I don’t know what smells more out-of-balance on me: the acrid pungency of the nutmeg or the strangely fatty, costus-like hair and scalp qualities of the deer musk. I’ve smelled and held actual deer musk pods during AbdesSalaam Attar’s perfume course and they never had these attributes; they only had what the deer musk here emits separately in terms of the typical earthy, dry, powder, and fur-like facets.

Chypre du Nord changes in small and gradual degrees. Roughly 25 minutes in, the bouquet gains one more addition: Peaches. To be precise, the fruit smells at this point more of apricots to my nose, probably because it skews more bitter than sweet on my skin in addition to their shared muskiness. That eventually changes. 45 minutes in, Chypre du Nord begins to slowly take on a plush underlying texture that culminates at the 1.75-hour mark when the black birch tar leather turns into creamy suede.

90 minutes or 1.5 hours in, Chypre du Nord changes for the better. The notes are now significantly better balanced and more harmonious. The nutmeg is no longer acrid; the deer musk loses its fatty, greasy qualities and is now a balanced, enjoyable, soft note; the birch tar now smells and feels like suede coated in creamy vanilla; the lime-like citrus acidity and the green cooking herbaceousness have both disappeared; the woody notes expand voluminously, taking over from the tarry leather as a driving, critical part of the core bouquet; and the peach goes beyond simple fruitiness to now also evoke warm, musky skin. I’m reminded of apocryphal legend of Jacques Guerlain using peach and leathery castoreum in Mitsouko to help recreate the musky warmth and feel of his mistress’ skin after they had sex.

Painting by LevvArts on Amazon. (Direct link embedded within.) [Image cropped by me.]

The cumulative effect of these changes at the 90-minute mark is a dry-sweet, softly musky, spicy, peach-slathered woody scent that is laced with lesser amounts of vanilla, amorphous greenness, spiciness, and thin wisps of smokiness and earthiness — all lying atop a suede-like plushness.

Chypre du Nord grows more and more peachy as time passes, eventually (but temporarily) shifting the balance of notes at the end of the 4th hour. Instead of the woods being the dominant note and the peach being its main accompaniment, the roles or notes reverse. At the same time, the vanilla grows stronger, the amber benzoin joins the peach, vanilla, and woods on center stage, and the deer musk becomes a mild, somewhat muted aura lapping at the peach’s edges. In total, the bouquet a little over the 3.75-hour mark is a musky, vanillic, spicy, amber-woody peach scent imbued with slivers of earthiness and lying atop plush suede.

Photo by Sarah Ann Loreth via Deviant Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Chypre du Nord’s long drydown typically begins midway during the 6th hour or about 5.5 hours into its development. The scent grows heavily ambered, the peach retreats and becomes a tertiary note, and the deer musk fades away in any clear, concrete fashion, leaving behind only a tactile, suggestive aura of musky warm skin. The main bouquet is now a woody-amber one, albeit one imbued with that musk aura as well as a delicate layer of amorphous, sweet fruitiness and a hint of vanilla. It’s a lovely scent that has an addictive quality in terms of its texture which evokes soft, fresh-from-a-hot-bath, velvety-soft, warm skin that just happens to be covered in woody and peach-licked ambered goldenness. At the start of the 8th hour, Chypre du Nord is a skin scent of lightly fruited, softly musky ambered goldenness with a sliver of vanilla. In its final hours, all that’s left is warm, clean, gold-flecked muskiness.

Chypre du Nord has good longevity on me and initially strong sillage that decreases to a moderate-low level after 90 minutes. With 2-3 wide smears equal to 2 sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opened on me with about 5 inches of scent trail that expanded to about 8 inches after 30 minutes then dropped to about 4 inches after 90 minutes. At the end of the 3rd hour, Chypre du Nord hovers about 2 inches above my skin, maybe a bit less. As noted above, it typically turns into a skin scent around the 8th hour, though its easy to detect without great effort when I bring my nose to my arm until the 10th hour. After that point, Chypre du Nord typically seems to disappear except in very small areas that continue to waft a “better than my skin”-like aura for quite a number of hours. It’s the musk which has essentially melted into my skin to feel like a natural part of it. This intangible, quasi-textural, unscented suggestion lingered between 5 and 8 additional hours on me, the time varying depending on the tests or which arm I used. (The skin on my right arm voraciously eats through everything like a termite.)

I liked Chypre du Nord from its heart stage onwards. I kept being reminded of Mitsouko without its jasmine component. The drydown was pretty sexy and inviting in addition to feeling snuggly or cuddly. That said, I personally would not wear Chypre du Nord, primarily because of how my skin chemistry derails the opening but also because I can’t help feeling that it’s a little over-priced, even though there is no denying the quality of the raw materials or the cost of Siberian deer musk. It’s just a subjective feeling. Maybe I’m unfairly being subconsciously influenced by that challenging opening on my skin.

You can read other opinions about Chypre du Nord at Fragrantica.

Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.

Cost & Availability: Chypre du Nord is a pure parfum that comes in a 50 ml bottle for $350. Also available is a 9 ml decant for $90. Both sizes are available at Bortnikoff and Luckyscent, though the latter is, at the time of this review, out of the decant and the full bottle. Orders placed now will be filled within 14 days. Maxaroma offers an 8 ml decant for $70, increased from $50, as well as the full bottle size. To find a retailer near you and from Australia to Greece, Algeria, and beyond, you can use Bortnikoff’s Store FinderSamples: Bortnikoff does not sell samples but Luckyscent does. A 0.7 ml vial costs $10 and is in stock.

3 thoughts on “Bortnikoff Chypre Du Nord

  1. Thanks Kafkaesque for the detailed review as always. Sometimes I wonder if ‘some’ of the artisans are highly dependent on the quality of their ingredients and maybe not paid as much attention to blending, projection and other aspects of perfumery?

    I tried Santa Sangre and the other day and mostly liked it except it wouldn’t project at all >_<. And I wished the top and mid section lasted way longer. I hadn't experimented with larger applications but I am sure I want too bearing the high price.

  2. Well this is probably a hard pass. The dry down with the apricot-peach sounds heavenly. But there is no way I could get through the notes you describe initially which discretely I find repugnant (greasy?), and collectively would make me quite ill. Creosote with which I’m very familiar, and the combination of greasy animal fat+ the creosote, and “acidic” and pungent herbal and tarry aspects with nutmeg equals “Blech.” Sometimes it’s too challenging to go the distance even with the reward of peaches and musk….

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