Negative Reviews of No. 5 by Chanel

    Find out more about No. 5 by Chanel in the Basenotes Fragrance Directory


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    Femme's avatar

    Slovenia Slovenia

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    That body chemistry should differ greatly from one individual to another should come as no surprise.
    But after reading so many reviews - not just here, of course - praising or lamenting, whatever the case may be, this perfume's "greenness" or "freshness" I have no choice but to conclude that some noses are from Mars and others from Pluto. (Even though "sex symbols" have been traditionally used it in its marketing, I could not bring myself to associate it with Venus.)

    To my nose, there is more "greenness" and "freshness" in a whiff of olive oil (or any oil, for that matter) - and I am not exaggerating for comic purposes.
    It is not an entirely off-the-cuff simile, either, because that's what Nro 5 reminds me of spontaneously: of an almost solid greasy substance, reminiscent of a lump of lard, in which a cloyingly sweet flower scent drowned a while ago, dying an agonising death, and has been decomposing ever since. (I suppose it is the precisely the hint of organic decomposition, a common impression conveyed by Bulgarian rose, not to mention civet etc., that makes it so appealing to others.)

    To make matters worse, there is its famous longevity. It jumps you as you walk by and then clings to you, come hell or high water. (Literally: every time I had tried to give it a chance, from different bottles, no amount of water and scrubbing could get it off, not completely. It may not be a coincidence that each time I was also overcome by a powerful headache and faint nausea.)

    In case anyone is wondering about my skin type (which is relevant, of course): it is on the dry side (not overly so), the kind with almost invisible pores, that rarely sweats. My sweat often smells honey-like. Even acidulous scents turn sweet(ish) on my skin.

    On others, it fares no better, as far as my nose is concerned. It's greasy, dull, cloying and utterly uninteresting. Worse: due to its over-marketing, now it has the unpleasant added effect of branding the wearer with an aura of conventionality in my eyes. As much as I try to fight the thought (and I really do try hard), my first impression of a Nro 5 wearer is that she is a lady who is easily swayed by advertising and possibly cares a LOT about other people's opinions.

    As a serious collector and perfume lover, I know all about this perfume's history, and I couldn't care less about its historical value, except in the context of, well, the history of perfume. Wearing it for its historical value would be tantamount to wearing a 1906 bathing suit because it was oh-so-modern in its day.

    Interestingly enough, this is the only Chanel that I hate. There are a few that I am indifferent to, and two or three that I positively love and wear.


    09 February, 2013

    mermaid76's avatar



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    So disappointed with this one. I purchased it without first trying on a sample, going simply by all the rave reviews out there and its classic stature. Too powdery, and despite having the EDP, it did not last well on me either. Just shows how subjective this world of fragrances is :)

    14 May, 2012

    sofababe's avatar



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    As a perfume fanatic, I thought I ought to own it. But I didn't wear it. Occasionally I would spray a little onto my wrist and sniff it on and off over an evening at home. To me No.5 is a bit like going to a gallery and looking at a painting you find ugly but it just sold for $100m so you think you should admire it without really understanding why. I had EDT.

    21st March, 2012

    flathorn's avatar

    United States United States

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    So this is the one that started Attack of the Killer Perfumes.
    I can't wear this because of the aldehydes. It comes across on me as harsh with airy hairspray florals, and develops surprisingly little. I suppose if my skin and nose liked aldehydes I might see the loveliness of this classic, but I do not. This strikes me as the start of that slow slide toward what we all now recognise as the dreaded department store perfume smell. Now I know which one to blame.

    30th July, 2011 (Last Edited: 11th January, 2013)

    Nile_Etland's avatar



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    My mother was a great fan of No.5 (also Mitsouko and Joy), but although I grew to love the others I have never been comfortable with No.5, it may be a masterpiece & one of the Greatest Fragrances of All Time but it will never be part of my wardrobe.

    I have always found the brilliance and strength of the aldehydes like an 'icepick between the eyes', as Luca Turin said of some fragrance he didn't like. Maybe I'm hyperosmic to aldehydes, as I react in a similar way to other fragrances that have a high aldehyde content (I even find the top note of 31 Rue Cambon a bit headache-inducing, although the drydown is fine) but whatever the reason this one is not for me.

    25 July, 2010

    AlexPanzer's avatar

    United States United States

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    I recently gave Chanel #5 a sniff at the local department store. I had high hopes for this because I know how Chanel #5 is regarded. As soon as I sniffed it I became really disappointed because it smelled like an old lady. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle smells really great but this one (Chanel #5) is just horrible. I can't imagine any modern/young lady wearing this stuff let alone paying the retail for it. I rate this one a 2. Even White Diamonds smell better then this.

    13 May, 2010

    pixieinthedust's avatar



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    Oh my. I don't know what it is about this perfume.. maybe the aldehydes paired with roses but I can't handle this smell. I know it is classic and I wanted to like it.
    But every time I smell this, it reminds me of an "old lady". Not classy, just old.
    So overpowering sweet and aldehydic, just nauseating to me.
    As much as I adore Coco M, I am complete polar opposite to No 5.

    11th December, 2009

    Loethlin's avatar

    Poland Poland

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    I really don't know how this managed to be this elevated gem, this oh so celebrated equivalent of class and all things beatutiful and high culture.
    It REEKS of old people and urine. This is the smell that lingers on crazy cat ladies when they go to but their cats' canned food. Maybe it's the aldehydes, i don't know, but it assaults my nose so rudely and even leaves sour aftertaste in my mouth, just from smelling it.
    This is so vile and offensive and suffocating even the smallest drop will sink into you, your clothes, your furniture, your car and everyone around you too, for good measure, and will stay there for several days. If you like this, by all means be my guest. Just don't come near me.

    06 December, 2009

    Foggy's avatar



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    I sooo wanted to like this perfume but unfortunately it's way too plastic and synthetic smelling for me. It reminds me of the smell of old plastic lawn chairs left out in the sun too long. The flowery notes are too brief and I can not detect any woodiness at all.

    17 September, 2009

    New San Antonio Rose's avatar

    United States United States

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    All I can smell is bug spray. Like the exterminator was just here. For four hours straight, in the pure parfum concentration. Please don't let this stop you from trying from trying this classic scent. But if you do smell bug spray or any other weirdness, try Guerlain's Liu. It's a beautiful floral aldehyde that's not from the House of Chanel. Not that I'm hating! Cuir de Russie is beautiful. Just not No. 5. Not to me, anyway.

    02 December, 2008

    Moondew's avatar

    United States United States

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    I know how famous this fragrance is, but to me it's an all around putrid, old lady smell. It was made in the 20s, so that doesn't surprise me all that much. I will never understand the rave reviews.

    14 August, 2008

    maramica's avatar

    Yugoslavia Yugoslavia

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    All I can say is public urinal with a dash of stale used products.
    Disturbingly over popularized and commercially shown.
    Excuse me while I crawl into a hole, thanks.

    30th July, 2008

    dainty's avatar



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    im 27. and this perfume i think is best for my great great granny!! yuck! old smelling pefume! waste of my money

    15 May, 2008

    sanziana29's avatar

    Romania Romania

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    I bought it because of it's huge fame, but I was very disappointed. Not staying power, smells artificial and a little cheap. I wonder if old version was different!

    01st May, 2008

    FullCircle's avatar

    United States United States

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    Have tried the Elixer Sensual Oil recently, and it's a no-go for me. I've never been swayed much by history and hype, so I take #5 only on its merits.
    Compared to other florals out there, it just doesn't measure up for me. I find it dated and odd. My mother wore #5 and I didn't like it on her...on me it's even worse (and I'm of the proper 'age' to wear it.) I know some fragrances grow on people, but given my history with it and a recent trial, I don't have much hope of that happening. I will try it again, no doubt, but for now, there are other fish to fry.

    08 November, 2007

    Caltha's avatar

    Sweden Sweden

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    I don't get no 5, I just don't. It's the sharpest, soapiest, most powdery and aldehydic fragrance I've ever encountered. It's hardly even a fragrance, at least it doesn't smell like anything pleasant or recognizeable, it's more like the sensation of a drill up your nostril. A drop of this to another fragrance could add an interesting vintage touch, but on it's own it's just an assault to the nose. I'll admit that it softens slightly with time, but it's still mostly just sour, sharp and soapy. Like an annoying tune played entirely in the treble.

    29 June, 2007

    dimples's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    I guess I'll have to try this in the parfum version. I've tried it many times in the EDP and EDT and simply do not like it at all. Perhaps it's my memories associated with it or perhaps it's overly used. I certainly do not know what the fuss is about.

    22 June, 2007

    elgab89's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    It may be a classic and I was sure that I would love it, as I like anything that has jasmine traces in it. However I was not impressed. I felt it went from classic to outdated. Strange but on my skin it kind of had a talcum baby powder undertone - not my favourite.

    21st March, 2007

    stephanie1980's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    Many people seem to treat this perfume the same way most people regard the Beatles within the context of the music scene. Untouchable, The Original, Timeless. Never been matched.
    So too with me. I think the Beatles were quite simply vendors of pleasant tunes, were in the right place at the right time and were the first celebrities of their genre.
    Now just transpose all that onto the dreaded number 5. It was the first famous perfume and was always going to be lauded. It takes guts to say you don't like number 5 because people will immediately jump on you and accuse you of not knowing taste if it jumped up and bit you. Whilst probably secretly agreeing. No 5 does bite-it is false, soapy and assaults your poor curous nose like a diva slapping a paparazzi. Don't go near it unless you're 50 plus and are happy to smell compltely un-natural with this thing sitting, clashing, on top of your skin for hours

    27 February, 2007

    benb's avatar



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    I know this is a classic and it is probably because it is a female scent but this one doesnt mix well with my
    skinchemistry. Sorry. Thumbs down.
    benb

    01st February, 2007

    maggie's avatar

    United States United States

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    Lucky No.5 had Marilyn to tote it and now the impossibly romantic Luhrman commercial with Nicole Kidman. Chanel was above all- a top showwoman. Gifted designer.

    This scent is, however difficult to wear and overrated. Cold. Unsexy. Sorry.

    30th January, 2007

    arabesque's avatar

    United States United States

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    My Grandmother wore this. This might be why it smells so old-ladyish to me. However, I tend to prefer classic, older fragrances, Shalimar and Guerlain parfums in particular. Chanel No. 5 smells bitter and chemically to me... Kind of like bugspray.

    27 December, 2006

    crushme's avatar



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    Since it's a classic, I bought one. I never wore it on any night occasions. I don't wear it during day time either, since everybody in the office would know what I'm wearing. The bottom line is that it does nothing for me.

    21st November, 2005

    lefay's avatar



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    I wanted to love this "classic," but found the aldehydes unpleasant; on me they create a raw, ragged impression, as though the formula is unfinished somehow. No. 19 works better on me, but overall Guerlain has Chanel beat for sophisticated, complex, feminine fragrances.

    18 October, 2005

    Quarry's avatar

    United States United States

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    Someone has to present an alternate perspective from the previous reviewers', so I'll stick out my perfumed neck and say, "Ick." It's the aldehydes. I'm certain science will eventually describe the olfactory apparatus that translates aldehydes into an enhancing experience for some, but I lack that bit of biology and thus am instantly repelled. Don't think less of me, please!

    10th August, 2005

    babecca's avatar



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    WOOF! What a dog, I cant understand how it can still be so popular today. I was really looking forward to trying this scent, and ordered a sample off the internet. The aldehyde just smelled like so much powder and dead flowers. Just a couple light sprays and I reeked - I have to admit it has staying power! I was also suprised by how little it happened to develop over time - I expected something more dynamic from such a star.

    05 August, 2005

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