A Blog about my love in perfumes, the aesthetics, the hedonism, the greatness of these artistic creations of the olfactory world. It is about my wish, my dream to create something like this one day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Chanel Exclusifs : Chanel No. 22

Today I reached out to my three samples of Chanel 22.
One is a vintage version parfum, the other a modern parfum from a 5 sample parfum set by Chanel and the last is an Eau De Toilette bottle which is about 10 yrs old. I am frankly amazed at how different these 3 fragrances smell, even though they are all supposed to be the same thing, same theme, and same raw materials.

The vintage parfum is like a ghost, a whisper on my skin. As I put it on my skin, it drapes like a transparent veil on it, and I almost cannot smell it initially, because it was so smooth, there was no rough edges to catch hold in my nose, no distinct notes that you will notice, nothing like a serrated blade cutting painfully through the skin like many modern fragrances, but it was something so smooth that, in fact, you did not notice how much of it you inhaled, until you are quite so drunk on it, like a fine brandy, you get drunk even before ou know it.

Top Notes Aldehydes,Middle Notes Jasmine, Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Base Notes Vetiver, Vanilla, Incense. (Basenotes.com)

And so, it is the same thing for many of the vintage Chanel fragrances. They are so smooth, that the notes are well blended and subtle, you take sometime before you make them out. I read from BaseNotes that some people do not like the modern No. 22. I could not agree more, because compared with the vintage versions, the modern version is just plain roughness. Immediately I smell an overdose of PEA, sharp and piercingly green, and the harsh terpineol notes! I know a perfumer who told me once that the rose and jasmine bouquet of Chanel 5 and other Chanel perfumes are uncopyable (unmatchable) by GC, because their richness and bouquet is simply so complex, so subtle and so beautiful.

Apparently, in modern remakes, they may have cut back on these beautiful naturals specially grown in the Grasse fields for Chanel. They also would have switched from naturally derived rhodinols to switch to synthetics. I believe these naturals, and especially the rose note in No. 22 is most critical to its success, even more so than in No. 5, which tends to depend more on the fineness of the jasmine and ylang extra, to moderate the aldehydes.

In No. 22, the rose soars above the iris/vanilla accord to form the pillar around which the other white flower notes surround. The rose melds everything together, and gives the powdery flowery accord a theme. Within this, a spicy carnation note, similar to Bellogia (Caron) fixes the rose to the musky woody base. The aldehydes play a rather subdued role than in No. 5, so it is more elegant, less shocking. Many have speculated that the original intended volume of the aldehydes was just perfect in No. 22 (no overdoses here!). One could have mistaken that it was the original choice of Coco, the abstract yet uber feminine floral. But alas, perhaps it did not have as much character until someone mistakenly (allegedly) overdosed the aldehydes in No. 5.

An infinitely refined fragrance, only the finest raw materials will do justice to this fragrance. Anything less and it will begin to smell a bit vulgar. Yes, perhaps it is only a perfume for those who are in a bygone era, where it is not polite to scream. No. 5 was a scream, an advan garde peice of artwork, edgy like a cubist painting, chosen for its shock value, while No. 22 was like a classical painting, smoothed until no edges showed, like a Monalisa or a madonna on the rocks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Chanel Exclusifs : Bois des Îles

The first time I smelt Bois des Iles was in a samples fridge in the fragrance library in Firmenich.

The thought of exotic wood, in a faraway land, hardly related to the cold open refrigerator door and the cold bottle dripping with condensation. Yet the mildly golden liquid within transported me to another place.

As I put my nose to the touche, I sense immediately the spicy woody accord, led by a short burst of aldehydes and bergamot (so typical of Beaux), it quickly led to the main interlude of the fragrance.

The exoticism of the fragrance can hardly be denied. Slowly rising from the skin of my hand, it is like a warm stream of vapour, from a cup of hot chocolate with cinnamon and cloves. The accord is formed between the familiar milky creamy sandalwood and spices. The dominant sandalwood note is flanked and accentuated by soft aldehydes and rose/jasmine to give it lift and volume and a certain lightness, and supported by other notes like vetiver or perhaps vetiveryl acetate to give it the dryness and fine woody feel.

Before the sandalwood note becomes too sickly stifling and boringly “nourishing“, a spicy note immediately contrasts with and balances the rich creaminess. The slightly clove and cinnamon spice note is enriched with ylang.

The whole perfume is carefully balanced, not too overtly woody, just a hint of spices, florals and citrus/musk to lift it up. This fragrance could be a feminine or a masculine fragrance, either way. Many think of it as a feminine perfume because it comes in parfum, but I think it works really well on a man’s skin too.

Eventually this fragrance would evolve into another masterpiece, Egoiste, who many say is a fragrance way too ahead of its time. It was through the lens of Egoiste, with its ultra masculine note of sandalwood and black spices that made me understand this very sublime and subtle fragrance. If Bois des Iles is a exercise in polished elegance of the feminine, then Egoiste is a conscious exercise to push these elements to an almost rough hewn chiselled torso of a man. In many ways, Bois des Iles is one of, what I consider, the trilogy of Ernest Beaux. One of the last perfumes that is still on offer that is created by this great Russian perfumer. He started with the same group of materials with which he created No. 5 with the aldehyde overdose, and then polished up the florals which eventually gave birth to No. 22 and 4 years later, Bois des Iles.

Watch out for it, other woody perfumes I will review are Sandalwood by Elizabeth Arden, Samsara by Guerlain, Rush Homme by Gucci, Egoiste by Chanel, Feminite du Bois by Shiseido, Poeme by Lancome, amongst others.

Image from www.toutenparfum.com