No. 5 by Chanel, 1921
Chanel No. 5 edp (***) No. 5 edp is great until you realize it smells like Baghari, only with a heady floral section to make it float and a Polysantol slab to weigh it back down.
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.
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.
I have to admit, I didn't want to love this one. My mother wears it and has for my entire life and at first spray I can't shake the sensation that any second she's going to catch me in her bathroom and usher me to the babysitter while she and my dad get ready for a night on the town. I wanted to casually try it and then move on, leaving No. 5 in the care of my mother and countless other ladies. Yes, at first it is everything that I associate with my mother and perfume. That extravagant opulence of the 80's, the carefully constructed hair laden with hairspray, the tinge of something unnatural that may be a cigarette or perhaps a drink, the strong invasion of flowers too profuse to fit within a vessel. Then something very interesting happens, after an hour this sculpted Venus began to respond to my own chemistry and emerged as something I had not expected. No. 5 takes on a fresh and vital chracter on me with perdominant rose, a faint rich cream, and powder, but surprisingly vetiver has become the star. Wow, it is beautiful! Suddenly I begin to see how Coco herself, Marilyn Monroe, and my elegant-but-nononsense mother can all wear this sparkling, striking, masterpiece. If you've never tried this for yourself for fear of smelling too much like someone else, you may want to consider giving No. 5 a test run. You may be amazed at what she has to say about you!
It was Christmas, I was 16 and my poor Mother had been nagged to weariness over the past 3 months about L'heure Bleue,I'd never smelt it, but I fell in love with the romance of it. It took such a leap of faith for my Mum to spend so much on a perfume for a child, that I pretended to love it. But I didn't.I resolved to wear it for a week, and put it in a drawer, never to be smelt again.The next day, leaving the house, to go out to the cold, dry dark I thought, Casmir? Van Cleef? No, I'll HAVE to wear it.So I did, and in the cold, dark night, it came alive and I fell in love. Its a cold, dark night,20 years later, and I left the house hoping to fall in love with the slighty clove medicinal floral greeness that I get from my chemistry with No 5. But I can't.It doesn't warm, it doesn't change and then dazzle on me, it's just kind of, meh, and may go in a drawer, never to be smelt again.But, although I certainly didn't nag for this one, don't tell my Mum.
OK, this is going to be different. I'm reviewing this based on how it smells on friends & family. Some wonderful scents go rancid with my body chemistry or don't match up with my personality and lifestyle, this is one. But I love smelling it on others who are lucky enough to be able to wear it. It has a light floral scent to me, and maybe something like powder. Expensive powder! Pleasant & soothing, it seems like a year round evening scent.
"This was my mother's perfume..." Thus probably begins many reviews of Chanel No. 5. I have seen people accuse it of being an "old lady" perfume. I can't say I find the scent to be "old lady" so much as "perfume." For me, those perfumey aldehydes just don't work. On me, it smells like hostess soap. As a young woman, just establishing herself after college, I preferred the crisp, green of No. 19. On my mother, however, it was lovely. She had many fine fragrances in her collection, but No. 5 was "hers." My cousin Joan wore Shalimar, her sister Irene wore Je Reviens, and their mother, my Aunt Mary, wore Joy. On each, her chosen perfume was lovely, but whereas my 20-something-cousins seemed to "wear" their perfume, my mother and my Aunt became their fragrance, or rather, it became them. After having so often complimented my cousin Irene on her Je Reviens, she gifted my mother with some. It was awful on her; it smelled like the worst possible cheap soap (even worse than No. 5 smells on me). It was hard to convince her that on her this wasn't the exquisite essence it was on my cousin, and I was left with no great opinion of Je Reviens. Thankfully, my mother returned to her No. 5. Many years later, as I kissed my cousin Irene good-bye after a visit, I was greeted with the most entrancing scent. "What are you wearing!?" I asked, astonished. "Je Reviens," she answered, as if to say, "what else?" I had not remembered it being so wonderful. Not long after, when I visited her sister Joan, I was greeted by the most celestial garden of spice, and after the same, shocked "What are you wearing!?" she nodded, knowingly, "Shalimar." Years earlier, I had not sensed the spiciness of that "powdery" vanilla. What is this long tale meant to illustrate (apart from that the women in my family have excellent taste in perfume)? That, even among the closest family members, there will be great variation in how fragrances present. We all know as much. But there is a theory I have developed from this experience as to why some people consider perfumes like No. 5 to be "old lady" perfumes--because their best expression is achieved on older women, and so we associate the scent with older women. My cousins had to grow into their perfumes; the fragrance, likewise, evolved on them. This isn't simply a matter of maturity or class. As women's body chemistry changes, as their skin density changes, so too, I believe, does their fragrance. (Not to be too sexist, here, I imagine the same happens with men, but we don't yet have a generation of mature men here in America who boldly wear what are considered "women's" perfumes to test this theory.) Not long before her death, as I brought my lips to my mother's cheek to kiss her goodbye, I smelled the most perfect perfume. I couldn't describe it as anything in particular--just the most wonderful and perfect scent of a woman. When I asked the inevitable "What are you wearing!?" she said, "Chanel No. 5, as always."
I wish we had the option to rate with simultaneous thumbs upthumbs down. Neutral is never appropriate for Chanel No. 5 Thumbs up: This is a post-modern work of art. (OK, a very pretentious statement, but let me explain). Whenever I smell Chanel No. 5 a classic symphony orchestra innocently chugs away while a loud distorted guitar screeches relentlessly in the top register. Somehow, the orchestra was brilliantly tuned to the guitar, allowing the dissonance to coalesce with the violins resulting in a haunting Gothic architecture (complete with flying buttresseshaha). This is the stench of bodies rising from the dead. Superb. Thumbs down: Chanel No. 5 is the opposite of inviting; it is telling everyone around the wearer to stay away because we are going to war and expect to die. As a fragrance, it is more like war paint instead of make-up. Maybe that is the whole point, but yuck. Please stay away from me, Chanel No. 5.
This was my fragrance many years ago; given up at a time of great change. I always liked it's heady presence. It is unmistakeable. Anyway, here I am years later feeling nostalgic. I've invited it back into my life, wearing it occasionally when I want to noticed, and remembered. Welcome back my friend.
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 :)
No. 5 by Chanel, 1921
|Top Notes||Ylang-Ylang, Neroli, Aldehydes|
|Middle Notes||Jasmine, Mayrose|
|Base Notes||Sandalwood, Vetiver|
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