Thursday, 8 March 2012

Chanel No 5

I guess that there and no other perfume that has so many myths surrounding it, like Chanel No 5. Launched in 1921 it is still going strong, an eternal classic that everyone knows about. Funnily enough I have never met anyone who actually wears it. Perhaps it’s such an iconic perfume that people feel a bit afraid of it.

Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli
Heart notes: Jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, orris, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Vetiver, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, amber, civet, musk

My first acquaintance with No 5 was when I was quite young. My mother has never used perfume, but she had a couple of bottles of perfumes nevertheless on a shelf in the bathroom. I used to enjoy playing with them, but now I can’t recall what perfumes they were, except a small bottle of real ambergris extract, that smelled heavenly, and a bottle of Chanel No 5. I remember reading that Marilyn Monroe used it and I got quite eager to be able to actually smell the very same perfume. It was a sad disappointment. I found the perfume harsh and almost chemical smelling and I couldn’t for my life understand why anyone would want to wear it. I never felt inclined to smell in again, but when my interest for vintage perfume grew, I started to feel a bit curious. Could such a famous perfume smell so vile? So I looked around and bought a sample of Chanel No 5 EdT and a small bottle of the perfume.

Did it still smell vile for me? Not at all. I guess my nose has evolved, but I also made a cardinal error when I sniffed my mother’s bottle: I didn’t try it on. When you smell a perfume in the bottle you get a very strong gust of alcohol with it and that can warp a perfume quite a bit. Not until you smell it on your skin can you really smell what it should smell like.

Developed by Ernest Beaux for Coco Chanel – you can almost pick and chose the various stories to how it was created and how it got its name, what you can say with certainty is that it is a rose and jasmine perfume that is heavily does with aldehydes. Aldehydes are organic substances that are manipulated and can be used as an aroma booster in perfumes. There are different smelling aldehydes and the one Beaux used was said to smell like a “crisp winter’s morning”. The result is a perfume that doesn’t really smell like a floral, or anything else, really. It smells like itself.

When reading reviews over this perfume I’m struck how very differently people think it smell. Crisp, powdery, roses, florals, fresh and old lady, the scent seem to gather a lot of adjectives that seem to be at odds with each other. Chanel No 5 can be found as EdT, EdP and perfume and it seems that the differences between them are just not about the concentration, but that they really smell very different. After trying the EdT and the perfume I can understand that.

The EdT feels very crisp and businesslike. I clearly recognize the scent from my mother’s bottle, the notes that I found so harsh and chemical are clearly still there, but has somehow transformed into clean crispness- I suspect that this is the aldehydes. The crispness keeps, even if the scent gets a bit rounded after awhile. It’s very wearable and elegant and I like it a lot.

The perfume is quite a different story. The crispness is there at first, but much fainter, though on the other hand it never really goes away. There isn’t a hint of powderiness in the EdT, but it’s quite prominent in the perfume. I can sense orris and vanilla, which I don’t get at all in the perfume. And I like this one too. A lot. I wouldn’t mind a bottle of either. Both my EdT and perfume are modern, so I’m a bit curious on how the vintage version of the perfume smells like. Well, one of these days I may splurge on a sample. The EdP is a rather modern invention; it was launched in 1986, so I don’t feel that curious to smell it.

The main difference is that I would wear the EdT for a day on the town, but when it comes to the perfume I would do like Marilyn Monroe- I would go to bed with it.

(Picture sources:!/2011/12/chanel-beauty-and-fragrance-pioneer.html


Popbabe7 said...

My mum used to wear it at some point, for me it is THE perfume which embodies feminity.

I wish I was a little bit more wealthy to treat myself to a bottle of Chanel no 5.

Anonymous said...

I have an older bottle of the EdP, which is a different beast from the EdT, at least - very heady, a much louder fragrance. I have only tried the parfum once and don't really remember it, but I think it's quite different from that as well. I like it, anyway. I don't have Nº 5 days very often, and it works the best in cold winter weather or in dire circumstances for me - it's really the fragrance for when you need something that helps you feel calm and collected; I have worn it to funerals - but I really appreciate it for what it is.

Vintage Coty L'Aimant is similar, but something of a softer, warmer and dirtier take on the same theme. It was a great success with a friend who likes aspects of Nº 5, but finds the aldehydes and that slight starchiness it has too much.

Kristina said...

Chanel nr 5 and I don't get along. At all.

Anonymous said...

Det kanske är dags att bilda sig en ny uppfattning av Chanel no 5. Det var mycket länge sedan jag luktade på den, men jag minns att jag tyckte att den saknade personlighet.

Min mor använde sällan parfym, men när hon gjorde det var det Chanel no 5 som gällde. Det var far min som, på sina resor inom arbetet, såg till att hennes Chanel aldrig riktigt tog slut. Kan förstås vara där jag har fått uppfattningen att den saknar personlighet. Mor hade en parfym, en ögonskugga, ett läppstift... Chanel var del av en "gå-bort-uniform".

Tasha said...

I admit, while I wish I could love it, I find the smell awful!

Knitting-twitter said...

its my Sunday perfume since years..always a special treat... ciao ciao Christa

monika said...

Sist jag testade den tänkte jag att "jag kanske kan ha den när jag blir äldre". Det är fyra år sedan, så det kanske är dags att pröva igen? Den kändes för damig, för "mogen". Jag kände inte att jag skulle kunna bära upp den, med de där lite fräna aldehydnoterna. Jag fastnade för Chanel no19, så den hade jag när jag gifte mig och vid speciella tillfällen sedan dess. Speciellt ihop med Elnett hårspray kommer känslan från bröllopsdagen tillbaka :-D

Bunny Moreno said...

I think people are intimitated by it bc of all the others who have worn it before and dont forget that iconic image of Marilyn Monroe with the bottle. I have been wanting to get a little bottle one day heheh xox

Lillgull said...

Jag hade ju chanel no 5 på mig när vi sågs i Söndags på syträffen! Hade eau de toiletten på mig litet lite men ändå. På mig tycker jag pudrigheten utvecklas när jag har den på, sedan kommer det jag älskar-rosentvål. Det är definitift en DAM-doft och jag är numera glad att jag har åldern inne, vem vill inte vara en lady? :)
Edt har jag för att det finns en sådan praktisk handväskvänlig dispenser med endast 20 ml som har utbytbara ampuller man byter ut, jättepraktiskt att alltid kunna ha den med! Och man sparar kostnad på att inte behöva byta ut hela dispensern utan bara köpa de där ampullerna. Fattar inte varför inte fler parfymer tillverkas med tanken att ta med... Speciellt edt som bleknar efter några timmar, det är som med rött läppstift-man måste fylla på.

Isis said...

Popbabe: I found a small perfume bottle at Etsy and didn't pay much for it. Perhaps that can happen again. :)

pimpinett: There is also the Eau Première that is said to be more heavy on the citrus, so all the concentrations seems to be individuals. I agree that it is a cold weather perfume. I haven't tried Coty L'Aimant but it sounds interesting.

Kristina: You are right, I can't really "see" you in No 5. We need to meet soon, though, so you can get your Fracas!

Isis said...

Emma: Det kan nog vara en anledning, tror jag. :) Doftminne kan ju verkligen vara starka.

Tasha: i can understand that, as I used to think it was too. :)

Knitting-twitter: I think there are worse treats to be has. :)

Isis said...

monika: Jag tycker parfymen känns mycket mer damig är EdT versionen. No 19 har jag aldrig testat. :)

Bunny Moreno: Yes, I think so too. I think it's a very nice a rather wearable scent, so you should get a bottle one day. :)

Lillgull: Tyckte det var lite oartigt att sniffa närmare första gången man sågs. ;)Det låter väldigt praktiskt- det ska jag komm aihåg när mitt prov är slut.

Lithia Black said...

Since Marilyn Monroe is one of my big icons I so wanted to wear Chanel NO5.
But my body chemistry does not work well with flowers, citrus and powdery ragrances. I smell like an old lady :(
I don't remember if it was the Edt or the perfume I tried but I remembered the disappointment...
I think I'm stuck with the spicy notes or if I want a "light" perfume tea notes...

Isis said...

Lithia: You can test my EdT next time you visit and see. :)

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