May Melange Marathon: Cristalle

Chanel’s Cristalle came to me later in life; my earliest Chanel “love” (for myself) was No.22, which I still love and wear, then No.19, also still a strong love and in regular rotation on my skin. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover Cristalle; I probably thought my need for a green Chanel was fully met by No.19. Regardless, I first tried Cristalle a few years ago, and yes, it’s love. I wear Cristalle on days when I need a good snap of green but No. 19 feels like overkill. Both were created by perfumer Henri Robert: No. 19 in 1970, and Cristalle in 1974. (I refer to the eau de toilette; Jacques Polge created an eau de parfum version for Chanel twenty years later).

The two share some notes. Cristalle‘s notes are: Top notes — Sicilian Lemon and Bergamot; middle notes — Hyacinth, Brazilian Rosewood, Honeysuckle and Jasmine; base notes — Oakmoss and Vetiver. No.19‘s notes are: Top notes of Galbanum, Hyacinth, Bergamot and Neroli; middle notes of iris, Orris Root, Rose, Lily-of-the-Valley, Narcissus, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang; base notes of Oakmoss, Vetiver, Leather, Cedar, Musk and Sandalwood. No.19 was launched the year before Coco Chanel died; it seems to be the last fragrance that she personally approved.

Although Fragrantica doesn’t list galbanum among Cristalle‘s top notes, to my nose it is clearly there, and other reviewers have listed it too. The opening is very green, and you don’t get that with just lemon and bergamot. It may be that the galbanum top note is more apparent to me because I have a vintage sprayer of Cristalle and the top citrus notes have faded with age, as they do. Many people experience Cristalle as a hyacinth fragrance. While I understand that, and I do pick up some hyacinth, I wouldn’t call it overall a hyacinth-focused fragrance. Rather, that note blends with and extends the greenness of the galbanum, and acts as a bridge between that and the other floral notes in the heart phase.

Cristalle is one of those fragrances, like other Chanels, in which the floral notes are so well-blended that one doesn’t really smell them separately (or at least I don’t). To my nose, the floral phase is like a green honeysuckle/jasmine, but it isn’t clearly “honeysuckle” or “jasmine.” The greenness carries through to the oakmoss and vetiver in the base. Cristalle is perfectly named — in the eau de toilette formulation, it gives an impression of clarity and even sparkle, which I often associate with aldehydes, but Cristalle doesn’t include aldehydes. Luca Turin classifies it as a “citrus chypre” (and gave it five stars) while others like Neil of The Black Narcissus blog call it a “green floral chypre.” Turin does have one of the all-time best summaries of Cristalle, after saying that it evokes an “unusual morning (possibly morning-after)” feeling: “There is a business-like briskness that suggests waking up from a night spent with a gorgeous stranger and finding her fully dressed and made up, ready to leave after nothing more than a peck on the cheek, leaving only a cloud of Cristalle as a contact address. Beautiful, and a little scary.”

And I bet Turin’s Cristalle was wearing stilettos, too. Neil calls Cristalle “very Parisian” — the adjectives he uses in his book Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent are “crisp, pretty”, “diamond-cut and delicate.” It reminds me a bit of 4160 Tuesdays’ Meet Me On The Corner, another citrus chypre, but MMOTC has more warmth. To me, Cristalle EDT evokes a morning at Paris’ Marché aux Fleurs, the open-air flower market on the ancient Ile de la Cité, with all its greenery and fresh flowers in bloom, which I discovered when I spent a summer working in Paris in my 20s. I stayed in a large studio apartment on the Quai Aux Fleurs, with a long narrow balcony overlooking the Seine, and on my first day off, I walked over to the flower market and bought flowers to plant in the empty planters I found outside my apartment windows. In writing this post, I’ve learned that the flower market has been renamed in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, who visited it in 2014 with chic Parisienne Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

I think the word “chic” perfectly captures Cristalle. It’s fresh but not sweet, elegant but not formal, light and bright. I had feared that it might have been discontinued in favor of what Chanel calls its “successor”, 2009’s Cristalle Eau Verte, but one can still buy the original (any reformulation aside) on the Chanel website. I have a large bottle of the vintage eau de toilette in addition to my sprayer, so that’s plenty for me!

I’m glad that Chanel is keeping Cristalle going, as well as No.19, and offering younger customers the options of Cristalle Eau Verte and No.19 Poudree. I’ve tried and enjoyed both, but my heart belongs to the original eaux de toilette.

Have you tried any of the Cristalles?

Featured image by Pascal Poggi on Flickr.

16 thoughts on “May Melange Marathon: Cristalle

  1. I think I had a tiny sample of Cristalle from a Perfumed Court Chanel sample pack. Back then, I wasn’t very into green perfumes so it didn’t make an impression. Interestingly, Cristalle is currently out of stock on the Chanel US website- I hope that doesn’t bode ill for it. I really need to get my nose on it again, now that I realize I enjoy green!

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Welp! It’s now February 2022 and although Cristalle EdT is still listed on the website, it’s been “out of stock” for many, many weeks now. I emailed, asking when it will be available again and they have not replied. If they discontinue this perfect gem of a frag, I will flip out. I have only one-half of a working bottle and one BuB, which won’t last me the rest of my life. Note that reformulation did not ruin Cristalle; it still smells identical to my first bottle, 30+ years ago…


      • I can’t believe they’d do so either! Maybe they’re testing its current popularity and a continue or discontinue decision hangs in the balance? Maybe they’re holding back on having the original available in order to get people to order the Verde version or one of those silly, sub-par Chance spawns? (They’re sure pouring a ton of advertising dollars into that weak frippery!) All I know is, no more decant gifts of my Cristalle supply until I see it available again; and then I’m buying 3 bottles!

        (I enjoy your blog, Ms. Herbacious! 😙👍🏻💐)

        Liked by 1 person

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  5. It’s now 23 August 2022. Cristalle EdT is STILL listed on the U.S. website as “out of stock,” as it’s been since last fall. Seems to be still available online in Europe. Meanwhilezzz, I got me hands on no less than four other bottles of the EdT: 118 oz from Japan, sealed, from the mid-or-late 1970s (the box says “80°” instead of the percent%sign, which, according to Raiders of the Lost Scent, indicates original or very vintage juice; bottle & box have all the other vintage markers, too). It’s so superb, I cannot find words adequate to describe it…so perfect, it makes me swoon. It’s a splash, so I very carefully decanted some & get more out of spraying versus dabbing. According to the seller, it came from a family hobby of collecting perfumes from all over the world; all were kept in a fragrance vault at constant temperature. For its age, it’s not very dark & the top notes are still perfectly intact. Two other bottles, one from 1986 and the other from ’92-’95, are much darker and the top notes are quite diminished (and one was in a sealed box). But the oakmoss and floral heart are still lovely (and intense) on both. I snagged one more full 3.4 oz bottle of the modern formulation on donation-auction the other day that’s excellent. Plus, score-of-scores – – an unopened 8 oz. Cristalle bath powder, just like I lavishly used up in the late ’80s. So, I may be set for the additional 30 years I plan to live. A friend just got back from France and I wish I’d known she was going, because I would’ve asked her to buy a bottle there for me. I’ve still never smelled the EdP! Almost afraid to try it, lol…

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    • Yay! I have backups of vintage Cristalle EDT too, thank goodness. I have been relieved to read from you and others that it’s still available in Europe, as I have contacts there who might be able to bring some back if I’m desperate. Congratulations on your finds!


      • Thank you. I am relieved that I now have a lot more, especially since I turned one of my nieces on to it & she’s madly in love, so I kind-of owe her a bottle. Maybe call-in those favors from friends in Europe soon? If they’re not producing Cristalle EdT any longer, the European supply has an expiration date. I’ve seen the price of bottles on eBay go up substantially just in the last couple months. Anyway, enjoy your time off.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you. I am relieved that I now have a lot more, especially since I turned one of my nieces on to it & she’s madly in love, so I kind-of owe her a bottle. Maybe call-in those favors from friends in Europe soon? If they’re not producing Cristalle EdT any longer, the European supply has an expiration date. I’ve seen the price of bottles on eBay go up substantially just in the last couple months. Anyway, enjoy your time off.

    Liked by 1 person

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