Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.
Today is Friday, May 28, and it’s the start of the Memorial Day weekend here in the US! I don’t have any big plans but wow, it’s such a relief to have so many of us fully vaccinated so we CAN make plans. What a contrast to Memorial Day last year, when the pandemic was really accelerating and little was known about prevention or treatment. This Memorial Day, I will be remembering the many Americans and others who died from COVID-19, as well as those who have died in the military service of our country, the original purpose of our Memorial Day.
On a more cheerful note, today I am testing one of Chanel’s Eaux: Paris-Venise. I like it a lot so far! Have you tried any of the Eaux? I know Undina has, including the newest one, Paris-Edimbourg. (It feels so weird to spell Edinburgh that way). Or, what else are you sampling this weekend?
Today was crazy busy, so I won’t have much to say right now, except that my second daughter got her long-delayed college graduation ceremony (she graduated in May 2020), and we were so happy for her! I wore my longtime favorite, the first Chanel I ever bought for myself, No. 22 in the eau de toilette formulation. I have worn it off and on, to greater or lesser degrees, since my own 20s. It is like a familiar scarf at this point — but an elegant silk one with Parisian flair.
No. 22 is a sumptuous Chanel floral with plenty of aldehydes, white flowers, and iris. Top notes are Aldehydes, Neroli, Lily, Tuberose, Lily-of-the-Valley and Orange Blossom; middle notes are Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, White Rose and Nutmeg; base notes are iris, Vanilla and Vetiver.
I’ll say more about it tomorrow!
Continuation: One of the things that puzzles me about No.22 is how often other commenters talk about an incense note. I don’t smell any incense at all! And I remember when I bought it, the sales associate told me it was based on white roses. I was thankful to see white roses listed among its notes! I don’t, however, think the white roses are dominant, certainly not the way they are in Jo Loves’ White Rose & Lemon Leaves. Nor is incense listed among its notes.
I do smell something sort of woody, sort of spicy, and I think it’s the nutmeg listed as part of the heart phase of No.22. It’s an unusual note to combine with all the white flowers in No.22. Aldehydes dominate the opening notes, an overdose for which No. 22. is famous. It was created by Ernest Beaux at the same time as the legendary No.5, and was one of the finalists presented to Coco Chanel for her house’s first fragrance. She chose No.5 instead, which launched in 1921; No.22 launched the next year (1922). The aldehydes and iris have led my daughter to declare that it smells like baby powder. Sure, honey, the world’s most elegant and expensive baby powder!
I know some of the regulars here share my love for No.22, such as Kathleen and Portia. Anyone else? Care to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments?
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.
Today is Mother’s Day in the US, and I’m thinking of my own late mother and the perfume I associate most with her, Chanel No.5. No.5 is 100 years old this year, having been launched by the house of Chanel in 1921, which hardly seems possible! Here is the wonderful video Chanel released this year to celebrate No.5‘s centennial:
The version I have is the eau de toilette; in fact, it is the last bottle of No.5 that my mother owned. I brought it home with me, with its few ml of fragrance left, after her funeral and clearing out her home. Wearing a few drops now on the back of my hand, I can still smell how beautiful it is, and think peacefully of my mom.
I wrote about her and No.5 five years ago, in “My Mother’s Last Perfume“. She died in May of 2017; if she were still alive, she would be turning 90 this year — only ten years younger than No.5! We held her memorial service in July of 2017, so that all members of the family could be there, and a memory I find very consoling is that I took charge of working with the florist for the church service. I used to help my mother arrange flowers as part of the church’s “Flower Guild”, a volunteer role that she took very seriously, albeit with some humor. She loved to recount how long it took her to win the approval of the older women in the Flower Guild when she first wanted to join, in spite of her being a member of the church’s vestry! They only let her cut off the ends of stems and hand them the flowers for months.
Because of those companionable times we spent together arranging flowers, I knew her strong likes and dislikes — I don’t think my mom had any likes or dislikes that were anything but strong. I remember telling the florist that we could not have gladioli under any circumstances, because my mom hated them with a passion and she would return from the grave to haunt us all if we had them at her memorial. I was so pleased with our final selections: the roses and lilies she loved; Bells of Ireland, to recall her Anglo-Irish roots and her beloved aunts and grandmother, with whom she spent school holidays; eucalyptus as a reference to her birthplace of New Zealand; and other fragrant flowers, some of which are notes in No.5.
Because I started buying her No.5 in the 1970s, as a child, the version I recall most has the original notes (though I think by then the civet was synthetic): top notes of Aldehydes, Ylang-Ylang, Neroli, Amalfi Lemon and Bergamot; middle notes of Iris, Jasmine, Rose, Orris Root and Lily-of-the-Valley; base notes of Civet, Sandalwood, Musk, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Amber, Vanilla and Patchouli. I’m not sure of the date of the eau de toilette of hers I now have, but it’s probably from the early 2000s. And after an initial “off” opening, it is just lovely.
The aldehydes have survived the passage of time, as have the ylang-ylang and much of the neroli. Lemon and bergamot are no longer detectable. The notes of jasmine and rose are most prominent to my nose in the heart phase, with a gorgeous powdery softness provided by the iris and orris root. I can detect the lily-of-the-valley faintly, but just barely. The drydown is also lovely: it just keeps getting warmer, softer, and sexier, with those beautiful base notes. As many have noted, No. 5 is so well-blended, it is almost abstract. While it is possible to detect single notes, the overall impression is not of a particular flower, which is what perfumer Ernest Beaux and Mme. Chanel intended. No.5 is simply itself, and it is unmistakable to this day.
I don’t often wear No.5, as beautiful as it is, because I do associate it so much with my mom; but I use and love No.5 Eau Premiere as well as No.5 L’Eau. Blogger Neil Chapman of The Black Narcissus described the trio so well in his book “Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent” (which I highly, highly recommend!):
Chanel’s enduring, glamorous icon is a scintillation of aldehydes, rose de mai, ylang ylang, orris, jasmine and vanilla (among many other ingredients) — a caress of timeless, confident femininity…. Successful recent reiterations of the No.5 brand that aim to appeal to the younger consumer include Eau Premiere (2007) — which I like for its streamlined primness and muted, statuesque lightness that works convincingly as a chilled, contemporary flanker of the original — and No.5 L’Eau in 2016, which smells as peachy and rosy as the dawn.
I can’t think of another perfume that has had the famous Any Warhol portrait treatment, can you? Do you like No.5, in any of its current versions or flankers? And happy Mother’s Day to all who are celebrating it today!
Last summer (2018), Chanel launched “Les Eaux de Chanel”, three eaux de toilette named after three destinations to which Chanel herself traveled from Paris. The destinations are Biarritz, Venise, and Deauville. Created by Olivier Polge, Chanel’s in-house perfumer, each of these fragrances opens with a strong medley of citrus notes. They are intended to be very fresh and lively, and so they are.
Paris-Biarritz is a tribute to the seaside resort in the southwest Basque region of France, which became fashionable during the time of Empress Eugenie and Napoleon III, who built a grand summer home there. Chanel opened her first true “salon de couture” here, in 1915, during World War I when many wealthy people sought refuge and distance from the war. The international clientele of Biarritz allowed her to earn enough that she became financially independent, and the town is thus integral to the history of her fashion house. Perfumer Olivier Polge describes the intent behind Les Eaux:
“This is a new sort of collection of perfumes, we call them Les Eaux because they’re fresh, fluid, sparkling. My source of inspiration came from Eau de cologne, those combinations of fresh citrus oils,” says Polge. Each scent was inspired and named after a destination vitally important to Coco Chanel’s life: Venice, Biarritz, and the beach town Deauville where she opened her very first boutique in 1913. “The three cities are really important in the history of Chanel. They became a part of our identity and source of inspiration,” he says.
The story of Coco Chanel in Biarritz is best told by Chanel itself, in this short film:
Like its siblings, Paris-Biarritz opens with a burst of citruses, in this case orange, lemon, bergamot, grapefruit, and tangerine. The combination is very appealing; there is sweetness from the orange and tangerine, tartness from the lemon and grapefruit, and some greenness from the bergamot. It takes a while for any heart notes to show up, and the first one I perceive is the neroli, which seems fitting since it is the source of orange blossom absolute. The bergamot lingers the longest of all those citrus top notes, which leads nicely into the greener heart of the fragrance. The words used by Chanel to describe this fragrance include “exceptionally fresh”, “dynamic”, “vivacious”, and I would agree.
As the citruses settle down, the neroli shows up, then lily of the valley and unspecified green notes. This heart phase is floral, but lightly so. Given that both lily of the valley and neroli give off citrusy and green aromas, and bergamot is a very “green” citrus to my nose, the greenness of the middle stage works well and quite smoothly. I think the neroli takes precedence over the lily of the valley, however. The citrus notes last longer than I might have expected, which I appreciate. This is a truly unisex fragrance, very reminiscent of summer colognes but longer lasting.
That doesn’t mean it has great longevity, though, because it doesn’t. Not bad for a citrus-focused fragrance, but after just a few hours, it is gone. The base notes are, to my nose, skin scents, and I can’t even say that I smell any patchouli, just a lingering light note of white musk. Some will enjoy reapplying it often to enjoy the beautiful citrus top notes. If you are seeking a a true lily of the valley fragrance, this isn’t it, but it is very appealing.
Have you tried any of “Les Eaux de Chanel”? Did you like any?
I’ve realized I have two completely opposite ways that I thunk samples. One, I happily thunk a sample because I liked it so much that a full bottle has entered my house, either for me or a loved one. That is how I thunked Vitriol d’Oeillet, because I had bought a full bottle for my husband. It smells super on him, and I can get another sniff any time. I also thunked a sample of Tiffany & Co. Intense, because I knew I would be getting a full bottle for Christmas.
Two, I’ll cheerfully thunk a sample when I know I probably won’t hanker for it in the future, but I don’t hate it so much that I can’t finish the sample. Gabrielle, the new pillar fragrance from Chanel, falls into that category for me. It is a pretty fragrance, and I’ll even say it is better than most of the fruity-florals aimed at younger women, but to me it suffers by comparison with the much more interesting Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. So today is the day I will thunk my sample of Gabrielle, with some affection but no regret.
How do you think about thunking? Any thunks this week?
Gabrielle Delacour; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Today I tried my sample of the new fragrance from Chanel, Gabrielle. It is meant to evoke a youthful Chanel, the woman whose given name was Gabrielle before she became known as Coco Chanel and then, as befits a legend, just Chanel. However, this scent is SO youthful that I can’t imagine the real Coco Chanel ever having been as innocent as this after the age of, say, ten. Fragrantica commenter andrewatic put it perfectly:
This doesn’t automatically mean that the fragrance is bad, by any means. It should just be called something else, such as: “butterfly frolicking on tuberose flower in paradise” for instance, with an under title: “made for sweet, cute 15 yo girls, dressed in pretty immaculate-white, flower-decorated, frilly dresses” and then I would get it!
Actually, though, where my mind immediately went was to the “lovely ladies of Beauxbatons”, the French wizarding girls’ school whose students’ chic blue uniforms and fluttering entrance — accompanied by, yes, butterflies — swept the hearts of Hogwarts’ male students, led by Fleur Delacour and her little sister: Gabrielle.
Entrance of Beauxbatons students at Hogwarts; photo Warner Bros.
Fragrantica lists its notes as:
Top notes: mandarin, grapefruit, black currant
Heart: tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom
Base: sandalwood, musk.
For me, the fragrance Gabrielle is too sweet and fruity. Even the floral notes are very sweet across the board: orange blossom most prominent to my nose, followed by tuberose, jasmine and ylang-ylang. Even the grapefruit and blackcurrant notes, which are often tangy enough to counter too much sweetness, smell sugary to me. It’s not offensive, it’s not overpowering, it is just very girlish. And not very Chanel-ish. While some commenters don’t like the bottle, I do. I think the faceted front is a creative play on the classic Chanel bottle shape, and I like the color. It feels good in the hand, too. The fragrance itself is not as memorable, though it isn’t bad. Dior has done better, in my opinion, with its fruity floral Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet.
I do understand, I think, what the Chanel perfumers and executives are trying to do. They must maintain contact and an image with a new generation of young women, who will be future customers and who have been flocking to sweet, fruity floral scents. They must also woo the growing number of fragrance customers in Asia, where I understand the taste tends more toward the light, sweet and inoffensive. And I am not that demographic on any level: not young, not Asian. I think the company’s quest to appeal to a younger customer is much better fulfilled by the new Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. I thought that was a delightful, youthful take on the classic No. 5, without giving up any of the spirit of Chanel. I could see Fleur Delacour wearing L’Eau very well, with her undoubted chic in addition to her undoubted skill and spirit well-matched to the fizz, lightness and underlying classical structure of L’Eau.
Fleur Delacour; photo Warner Bros.
The drydown of Gabrielle is quite pleasant, with sandalwood and musk, but again, it doesn’t stand out as special. I can still smell it on my skin five hours after application, so longevity is good for a fragrance like this. I can see many girls loving this, and that is, after all, the whole point. But I would steer my own daughters toward L’Eau.
Gabrielle Delacour; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This weekend I will be attending a major gala event, a centennial gathering that will include a former President, Senators, and a range of attendees from middle-aged millionaires to current students. I’ve narrowed down the outfit to two options: a navy lace top over a floor-length navy, bias-cut, skirt covered with tiny navy sequins, or a floor-length sapphire blue gown with a “portrait” off-the-shoulder neckline. I’ve figured out that I should do my hair in a simple up-do. But which of my many fragrances should I wear from my collection???
This is an opportunity to wear something much more formal than I usually do. I have the Modern set of Amouage Miniatures for Women:
Amouage Modern Miniatures for Women
It includes: Lyric, Epic, Honour, Memoir, Interlude and Fate. I also have Amouage Gold for Women. I’m leaning toward an Amouage fragrance as they tend toward the formal and last so long. Also, if I use one of the miniatures, I can take it along with me in my evening purse.
On the other hand, I have dozens of lovely samples, any one of which would be enough to last me for one evening, including some Chanels and Guerlains. I have a few sprays left of vintage Chanel No. 22 eau de toilette, from my “salad days.” And I live close enough to a Neiman Marcus that I could, in fact, walk in and drench myself from a Roja Dove tester or one of their many other fragrance delights (I love NM and their nice fragrance sales associates. If I ever bring myself to buy the Guerlain Muguet 2016 in the silver-encased bottle, it will be there).
Maybe tonight is an opportunity to wear the gorgeous Taif Rose attar my husband brought me from Dubai! I could even layer it with one of the others …
I also have a new, unopened bottle of Orquidea Negra from The Perfumery Barcelona, which we visited in January. If you ever get a chance to go, do! The owner is delightful and spent quite some time chatting with us and showing us different fragrances. Orquidea Negra is a creation of perfumer Daniel Josier, but the boutique carries other niche brands too; most are unusual and hard to find.
Dear Reader: What would you advise? Scent me, please!