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: http://www.mimifroufrou.com/scentedsalamander/2008/05/chanel_no_5_retrospective_frag.html