Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Perfumery Material: Cypriol /Nagarmotha

I never cease to be amazed by the rich variety that both the natural world and the labs delving in organic chemistry produce for our olfactory delight. The nuances of some exotic materials feels eerily familiar, yet at the same time foreign, exciting, enigmatic, especially when encountered in a list of perfume notes in a given composition. Such is the case of Nargamotha/cypriol (Cyperus scariosus).

Nagarmotha/Cypriol (also "nut grass" in English) is a plant of the Cyperaceae family, alternatively called Nagar Mustaka, which grows wild in the Madhya Pradesh region of India. It belongs in the papyrus family (Cyperus papyrus is the one used during the apex of Ancient Egypt) and grows in damp places in Bengal, Sundarbans, and Utter Pradesh, but also in Australia.

Highly-prized for its rhizomes, much like iris, cyperus scariosus is often used in compounding perfumes (especially since it acts as a fixative and is quite economical), in the manufacturing of soaps and incense sticks, as an insect repellent and for medicinal purposes. Associated with milkweed, Indian nard, jatamansi and fekhand, it appears in the spells of Vashikarana: It's said that a man applying it to his forehead is assured of a long series of successful love affairs!

Steam distillation of the tubers of cypriol yields 0.075-0.080% of an essential oil, the principal content of which is cyperine. The smell of nagarmotha is woody, earthy and quite lingering; it mostly conjures a hybrid between cedar, vetiver and patchouli, with fleeting touches of cinnamon and frankincense giving a churchy feel.

Tom Ford for Men was claimed to be the first to use cypriol: "that slightly dirty, sensual, sexy smell...It's not the same as natural musk used to be, but it has a bit of something that some people would think slightly dirty...I think it's warm and sensual." And yet Xeryus, a floral woody semi-oriental masculine by Givenchy, developped by Firmenich, launched in 1986! And if I am not too mistaken cypriol is contained in Eau d'Issey pour Homme too in as early as 1994.

Cypriol is featured in rather limited perfumes, but with the propensity to expand into more: There is a product by Innospec also called "cypriol" that gives the natural raw material a run for its money. According to Innospec itself (2008), Cypriol base hals a spicy floral fragrance and it was presented in a linden blossom room spray and peach base during the British Society of Perfumery symposium at Towcester, where it confered the rich, natural aroma of real flowers. "As well as offering good odour of its own, Cypriol [product] has a substantial floralising effect on any fragrance".Additionally, a new terpenoid extracted from the leaves of cyperus sclariosus promises new uses as well.

List of fragrances featuring cypriol/cypriol mimicking synthetics:

Amouage Library Collection Opus VI
Annick Goutal  Musc Nomade
By Kilian Beyond Love
Lancôme Magnifique
L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzongha
L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu 
Parfums de Rosine Rose Kashmirie
Tom Ford Tom Ford For Men

pic via http://indianflowersandherbs.blogspot.com


  1. I think Tom Ford's statements of being the first to do this or that are very common in the world of perfumery where no one can be sure of what is used in a formula. However, with natural materials that have been known as perfumery ingredients for ages these statements become all the more preposterous.

    Anyway, I believe Cypriol is a good bridge between woody and floral elements bringing the supporting green in the base-heart that makes the vision of planted flowers more realistic. It is quite bitter and slightly reminds me of iodine, like oakmoss so discretion is needed when added to a formula. Combined it with hinoki once and got a green effect that made me nauseous so I am a bit afraid of it since.

  2. K,

    you're absolutely hitting the nail on the head with this one: Not only are perfume brands more or less at liberty for saying whatever they please (since so very few can contradict them), they think that they can do that in just about anything.

    Bitter and woody with an added warmth is my impression of cypriol. I love your impression of oakmoss as iodine-like!! (I know of at least one vetiver-oakmoss frag that instantly reminds me of iodine).
    Do you blend it as base note with hinoki and in what ratio is one safe from keeping the green without veering into nausea, you'd say?

  3. I remembered a funny remark in Turin Sanchez book, and I verified: "Timeo Helvetios et nagarmota ferentes", update of Virgil's "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" - Laocoon's "I fear the Greek even when they bring gifts". (The Helvetii in question were Givaudan/Lancome re: Magnifique).


  4. M,

    a proverb well known to me, given an ingenious twist by YOU! Hahaha! thanks for the laugh on this morning!! :D

  5. Brian15:34

    I'm a big fan of woody/earthy scents and nagarmotha is one I'm really fond of. It really reminds me of vetiver, a lot. I don't get the frankincense or cinnamon though.

  6. B,

    it's quite dry, you're right. And earthy. Perhaps a bit smokier than vetiver? I think the incense/cinnamon ref has more to do with certain interpretations in accords, to be honest (given a slight twist this or that way)

  7. I think the natural Cypriol/Nagarmotha oils is really a splendid oil for compounding a perfume with, I use it in several of my fragrances.

    I wonder if it's not a part of Djedi too.

    I wasn't aware of the Cypriol base though. Thanks for this info...

    If you wish, I can provide a link to my perfumes that use Cypriol on my PK Perfumes website.

  8. Oh, I see, Innospec is calling a single molecule, alpha−methyl cinnamyl alcohol to be their "Cypriol". This seems a bit misleading to me, as real Cypriol is a much broader odor than a single molecule.

  9. PK,

    I suppose most perfume consumers don't even know how molecules and essential oils/absolutes are two different things (nor do they care greatly), so this is reserved for our nitpicking, to which you are right. Thanks for mentioning it! It's true that real cypriol (which I have a tiny quantity of) is a complex material.

  10. Thank you Paul.

    To answer your question, it would seem a little far fetched to think that Djedi has it, as it's such an old composition from a time when the innovations were more in the direction of new synths than in exotic ingredients (I think the indie artisanal movement is more bent on using those in later years than commercial perfume has in the past century).

    Having said that I haven't seen the formula for it, so I might be wrong.

    By all means, do post a list of your Cypriol containing perfumes. It would be of interest to readers. (Normally I prefer to have recommendations outside the periphery of direct mentions of own-made products, but I will make an exception.)

  11. From Paul Kiler:

    You may be right about the cypriol and Djedi, a GC-MS analysis doesn't confirm or deny it however.....The one I had done left 40% of the fragrance unidentified. I just hypothesized it might be there because of the ideological Papyrus/Egyptian tie in...I'm still trying to rebuild Djedi though. If you still want to place in a link for my fragrance containing Cyprior, here it for my fragranceEre

  12. Cypriol has very intense ,earthy note ,its composition including rotudene,cyprene ,alpha copane all of them are comes in mid note and they remains for quite long time ,also some long chain sesqueterpenes ,and terpionoids which likfe cyperotudones ,nootketones gives base note ,it is good for blending with some light notes fragrances oils.



  13. Henrik17:15

    Hi, I went on a holiday trip to Egypt. I bought 3 oz of papyrus flower essential oil from a perfume factory. I love this fragrance and now I want to buy some more. Is this Cypriol something similar to papyrus flower? Do someone know where to by papyrus flower essence online in Europe?

    1. Hello!
      I am in the same boat as you! Have you figured out if they are the same? Or where to buy it? I can not find the papyrus oil anywhere online.


  14. This exotic plant gets its name from the fact that the ancient Egyptians used its stems for making papyrus to write on. It grows in clumps and the smooth triangular stems can reach a height of 10ft/3m.
    Cyperus Papyrus Cyperaceae Papyrus (Paper Reed) Plant


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