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.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Chanel : Cristalle

Sometime ago, a perfumer friend taught me a lesson about accords. An accord, in simple terms, is a harmony of perfumery notes, that forms an idea or gives a distinctive perfumery note.

I used to think that accords are huge things, like the most obvious smelling things that makes up the idea of the perfume. Like woods, amber and vanilla can give oriental accord. I used to think they have to shout out loud, be made of materials that smell hideously strong, that paints everything the same shade of colour.

But when he presented me with one of the little secrets behind Cristalle, a well known secret in the industry, one that Henri Robert spent many months trying to get just right, I was just blown away.

Four little materials formed this accord, one smelling like raspberries, one of pineapples and violet, one of roses, and the last, of just some light chemical. Even when you combined them together, they did not really smelt like anything, it was just a chemical smelling mixture. An accord that is indestructable, even though it is present in the final formula in less than 1%. Its like a sequin flower pattern sparkling on a perfectly made yellow dress.

When we put this accord, which he liked to call “Sparkle” in one of the trial formulas, wow, the sleepy little composition took on a little life of its own. It was as if, on top of the faceted faces of the diamond little bits of light began to dance. The twinkle, sparkling effect floated above the structured cut stone, lending an air of magic and charm.

Cristalle opens with a lemon citrus with a smart green and herb note. Then the peach/raspberry/melon(helional?)/jasmin accord starts to show itself, carrying on from the citrus opening. It is very sweet, but only for a while, when suddenly the whole thing is over, and all you smell is the lingering woody note, light, woody and powdery ghost of a dusting on your skin. A very befitting end, clean and dry.

And so it is with Cristalle, such a beautiful composition that was somehow a little overshadowed by its bigger sisters No. 5, No. 19 and Coco for a while. While No. 5 was into classic heritage, No. 19 into haute parfumerie elegance, and Coco into heavy duty seduction, Cristalle had a much simpler calling, a summer sprizz to refresh its wearer on a hot sweltering day, it was launched in a time where light summery chypres like Ma Griffe (1946) were the rage of the day.

Had a Chanel perfume been launched as a man’s perfume, like the immortal and much higher profile Eau Sauvage, which I much believed it has evolved from, lemon, herbs, jasmine heart (hedione!), moss and musks, I think it would have seen the profile that it deserves.

Some 20 years later, a EDP version was launched by Jacques Polge, which tried to revive this. Unfortunately, I did not think it was a very good job. The top notes were not green and tart and refreshing, as I would have liked it to be. The heart notes, simply brutal, too much tangerine and peaches, and it smelt like someone rubbed overripe fruit on the skin. The delicate, shimmering citrus chypre accord was destroyed!

In my view, Cristalle EdT stays true to its calling, the original calling that Eau Sauvage set out to solve, prolonged freshness.

H&R states that Cristalle has top notes of bergamot, lemon, basil, cumin, hyacinth, peach, middle notes of jasmine, melon, narcissus, cyclamen, muguet, tangerine, and bottom notes of oakmoss, musk, civet, patchouli and sandal.

The citrus notes is given a spring fresh with a taut note of hyacinth. This leads, after a while, seamlessly lead into the herbal / jasmine heart notes, with a lively jasmine / hedione dance, with the sparkle accord topping it off. Try it, you will smell it, try to look for a sweet crystalline raspberry note floating on top of the citrus/jasmin base.

As the heart note carry on, honey and other phenolic notes (narcissus) provides it the essential hint of girlish sexiness in the heat of summer, oakmoss gives it depth and longlastingness, and musks for the diffusion.

Voila, like a sip of a perfect lemonade in an hot summer afternoon in Chanel haute pre-a-porter, of course.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Chanel Exclusifs: Cuir de Russie

Cuir de Russie is really a fragrance of its time. Again a creation of Ernest Beaux and created in an age and time when women were gradually taking charge of their lives. In this era are milestones like the “smoking jacket” by YSL, and the many smoking women, and of course the large variety of tabac type (Tabac Blond (Caron), Emeraude (Coty) and leather type fragrances (Cabochard(Gres), English Leather, Jolie Madame (Balmain), Cuir de Russie (Guerlain, Chanel)) or even orientals with a a captive leather note, like in Shalimar.

Top notes, Orangeblossom, Bergamot, Lemon, Clary sage, middle notes Carnation, Orris, Yasmin, Ylang, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Base Note, Leather, Opopanax, Heliotrope, Vanilla (from H&R)

Having a leather note in a fragrance is nothing new, because in Europe, one of the first areas where fragrances found extended use was in perfuming leather gloves. After the tanning process, the leather usually had a very pungent leather smell. Glove owners often sent these gloves to be impregnated by perfumes to mask or harmonize this pungent leather note.

Over time, when the smell of leather has become highly coveted, perhaps due the fact that a leather smell is indicative about the quality of the leather, and a sign that it is real, amidst the large variety of synthetic leather materials that does not possess that rich authentic smell. Anything with the feel and smell of leather had a decidedly luxurious feel about it.

In Cuir de Russie, these same ideas come through; a sense of luxury, a sense of empowerment, a sense of daring and independence.

The parfum explodes off my skin and it was as if I put on a pair of really expensive leather gloves. The first notes I sense are a cologne-like top note, with neroli, herbs and bergamot, and immediately I noticed the dry animalic chypre structure. This quickly gives way to a floral and leather accord, which is dry and woody. Irones (dry woody iris material) and isoeugenol (carnation) forms the floral component, and that surrounds the core of the fragrance a leather note and a sweet liquorice/moss note typical of Isobutyl Quinolene (together with the resinous tar like sweetness of opopanax) and vanilla, similar to the combination found in Shalimar. The dryness and smoky notes supported by careful use of cedarwood, coupled with styrax. The drydown is vanillic sweet.

In many ways, this fragrance feels like wearing animal skins lined with fur, smoking a cigarette. This fragrance works well for a man too, as the fragrance is rather androgynous, smoldering sensuality that is neither too feminine, nor overtly masculine.

The leather note is not a new leather smell, which would have made you feel as if you had put on some artificial leather conditioning fluid. Neither is the leather note totally taking the center stage, as in some other fragrances. The spices, carnation and resins help to lend a warm and “age” this leather, making it something convincing. The iris note lends a certain elegance to an otherwise brutal leather and IBQ combination. Finally, the tabac and woody notes create a story of a woman who dears to dress with assertiveness, of a certain bohemian chic.

I would say overall, this is really a fragrance that is very classy, luxurious and rich.

Photo from Chanel.com

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Article by Chandler Burr

Discovered this really good article by Chandler Burr on the background of the Chanel Exclusifs for The New York Times.
Do give it a read.

Photo from Chandler Burr.