I feel like I should be writing some sort of complicated review comparing all the concentrations and version of No. 5, but really, I love the extrait. That was the first version I tried and the version I ended up buying.
I think it's essentially an example of a perfect perfume. The topnotes (sparkly lemon champagne and powder), the mid notes (soapy flowers deepened with clove and spices), and the base (super-creamy, rich musks and sandalwood over a full chypre base) are all great. And the way the different themes interact with each other as the day goes on are always gorgeous and carry an engineered precision that is almost impossibly complex but also achingly beautiful.
For about 20 years I occasionally sprayed some of this from a tester, and what I got was somewhere between 'bottom of the fridge' and 'nothing', and I thought of it as actively unpleasant. What was wrong with me? It's glorious, but for some reason it never clicked for me until last year, when it sneaked up on me and showed its true beautiful nature. Now, almost without me realising, it's my second-most-worn, after my great love, Mitsouko.
To paraphrase Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, I'm about to go where many, many others have gone before, and try to say something insightful about Chanel No. 5.
I hadn't owned a bottle of No. 5 in so long that I was afraid I might not even recognize it, when I found a bottle of the discontinues Elixir Sensuelle on eBay. I missed that train the first time, so I snatched it up. To be honest, I was worried that it might be old, or even fake. But I popped the top off, and there it was--that same, strange, elusive, weird, tickle.
How to describe it? Actually, trotting out the old Marilyn Monroe warhorse can be helpful, because Marilyn was a lady of very particular tastes. She loved the color white to the point of obsession. She loved Champagne. She loved going without underclothes. She did not love the "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" dress, but she knew it was a dress that "only Marilyn Monroe could wear."
Wearing Chanel No. 5 feels like fizzy skin of microscopic fireworks on the sheerest layer of silky golden white. (Describing the scent is like describing the sound of something that's almost beyond your range of hearing. It's the wearing that counts.). It's like wearing the stuff of Marilyn's Mr. President dress, but you don't have to be sewn into it. And you can wear it for whomever you want. It feels like electricity. It feels like magic.
This is the perfume that my life partner seduced me with. Chanel flats. Black and gold outfit and all.
Have often sneaked some of hers. I think though, it is better suited to the Feminine.
I wear Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie often. They are better suited to my skin.
To this day, when I pick this up, on any woman,
it has me stand up to attention.
14th January, 2016 (last edited: 26th January, 2016)
I'm so pleased that I have waited this long to experience one of the great classics. Chanel's No. 5 is almost indescribable. It brings tears to the eyes. I won't try to explain the ethereal effect, the simultaneous depth and lightness of this great perfume.
What I wanted so to do was to run to my records and see how Coty's classic L'Aimant fared date-wise with the Chanel. They are so similar, but the Chanel has a depth in its base notes that so anchors the elusive whisps of Ylang, Neroli, Jasmine and Rose, so between the two, it does come out the winner.
I found that Coty's L'Aimant (1927) trailed Chanel's No. 5 (1921) by three years. I am humbled.
I love them both.