New Perfume Review Chanel Paris-Venise, Paris-Deauville & Paris-Biarritz- Traveling with Coco

Just as it has been over at Hermes watching the changeover from a long-time in-house perfumer to a new artist is fascinating. When Olivier Polge took over he has presided over a lightening up of Chanel. What he has excelled at has been achieving it without losing the Chanel fragrance aesthetic. One thing left to show is whether M. Polge would bring this to the Les Exclusif line. His first release was the Les Exclusif Boy. It heralded the lighter direction, but it has been the releases since which solidified that. With the announcement of the Les Eaux de Chanel collection of three perfumes we would get a better idea of where the exclusive fragrance line at Chanel was going.

Olivier Polge

There are three new perfumes within Les Eaux de Chanel; they are meant to represent the ties between Coco Chanel and three different cities. I am going to write about all three because I have found them to be a coherent collection which is Chanel but also M. Polge’s modern vision of what that means.

Paris-Venise is described as being inspired by traveling on the Orient Express from Paris to Venice. That description makes you think a full-on Oriental is on its way. Here is where M. Polge chooses to go towards something less obvious by using the more transparent aesthetic to his advantage.

It starts with playful citrus and neroli top accord. This is that laugh of starting off a trip. The floral heart of iris modulated by geranium is also kept opaque although a bit of powder sneaks in. The base is M. Polge’s version of an Oriental base done with insouciance. Using cedar, amber, and vanilla these are the components of Oriental of the past. In Paris-Venise they are pitched at whisper level as it hints at the end of the trip.

Paris-Venise has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Paris-Deauville is meant to be a trip to the country for the weekend. What that meant for M. Polge was to imagine a cologne style which captures that vibe.

To do that there is what becomes the theme for this collection a joyful citrus accord. Comprised of orange zest and petitgrain there is a green undercurrent which is picked out with basil. Using rose and jasmine it turns floral but a lighter version of that. A patchouli fraction which is stripped of much of the heavier qualities is the base note.

Paris-Deauville has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

The last one Paris-Biarritz captures Coco’s love of the beach. Which translates to M. Polge’s aquatic interpretation.

This opens with a classic sea salt accord matched with the citrus of grapefruit and mandarin. This is not particularly interesting to start. It becomes more so as muguet begins to transform the heart into a greener effect. Vetiver provides a grassy kind of effect which makes a “dunes accord”. A set of white musks recapitulate the airiness of the opening sea salt accord.

Paris-Biarritz has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

These are not going to be my favorite perfumes of M. Polge’s time at Chanel. For the first time he has gone a little too light for my taste. That being said there is a consistent thought which shows up in all three, of the joy of heading out of the city towards something else. I think that will mean if you really like one you’re going to also like the others. At least for me it felt like taking a Trip with Coco on the days I wore each of the Les Eaux.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel L’Eau Tan- It’s Two Beauty Products In One

There are new products I get which remind me of old television commercials for non-fragrance products. The most recent recollection was of a product called Certs. Certs was a mixture of a candy mint in a roll infused with a breath freshening ingredient called Retsyn. Every commercial would have two people taking up a different side; “It’s a breath mint!” “No, it’s a candy mint!” Then they would tap the rolls together and say in unison “It’s 2, 2 mints in one!” When I received my bottle of the new Chanel L’Eau Tan I felt like it was two beauty products in one.

Olivier Polge

L'Eau Tan is a combination of self-tanner and cologne. It combines two of the very talented team of people behind the Chanel beauty brands; in-house perfumer Olivier Polge and creative make-up and color director Lucia Pica. Both joined the brand in 2014-2015 replacing longtime predecessors. In their short time they have reimagined Chanel within their respective areas. The idea of creating a refreshing self-tanning body spray comes straight from the historical style influence of Coco Chanel.

Lucia Pica

When Coco cruised the Mediterranean, she tanned just from being on a boat in the sunshine. As she appeared with her sun burnished skin in each port the fashion reporters of the time noticed. Women began to spend time in the sun to emulate her skin tone. Coco never one to miss a trick would release L’Huile Tan, in 1924, the first tanning lotion for women. Other perfume brands would also join in during the late 1920’s and 30’s. That there is an attempt to add a pleasing scent to the functional product of sunscreen goes back nearly a hundred years.

In 2018 the current fashion trend is for self-tanning products which allow the wearer to minimize exposure to the UV rays. Mme Pica wanted to come forth with a Chanel version. Working with M. Polge to add a traditional cologne scent to the self-tanner produced L’Eau Tan.

I am going to review L’Eau Tan from the “It’s a cologne!” perspective with only a small nod to the “It’s a self-tanner!” part.

What M. Polge comes up with is to use a mixture of lemon and orange to form a citrus accord. From here there is a bit of floral support using the classic cologne ingredient, orange blossom. Then what really made this work is his use of tendrils of white musks winding through these traditional cologne components. It provides an effervescent expansiveness. As you should expect this is as transparent and as fleeting a fragrance as can be.

L’Eau Tan has 4-6 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

As it regards to the self-tanning aspect I wore this for four straight days on my arms when I was cooped up inside because of incessant rain. When we went out with friends one asked me if I had been down in Florida because I looked like I got some sun. I can’t speak for the accuracy of my friend’s perceptions but at least to her it was noticeable.

I am definitely going to be wearing this over the course of the summer because it is a nice light modern cologne perfect for some days. So, while I am in the “It’s a cologne!” camp I think there is something to the “It’s a self-tanner!” which means it is “2, 2 beauty products in one!”.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Bleu de Chanel Parfum- If It Ain’t Broke

Back when Bleu de Chanel Eau de Toilette was released in 2010 I wrote on CaFleureBon, “Bleu de Chanel is very likely going to be a huge commercial fragrance and make a lot of money.” It doesn’t prove any prescience on my part to state that. It has become true because then in-house perfumer Jacques Polge created a fragrance consisting of building blocks which represented the greatest hits of masculine perfume trends. As I also wrote in that review if I judged Bleu de Chanel on a scale of innovation it fails. If I judged it on the ability to be more generally pleasing to a large swath of consumers it succeeds. Time has proven that, as ever since its release it has been one of the best-selling masculine perfumes in the world.

Chanel has been protective of its brand over the past eight years only releasing one flanker, an Eau de Parfum strength version in 2014. That was also overseen by Jacques Polge in one of his last releases before retiring from Chanel. In that release it seems like the intent was to amplify the cedar heart while mellowing it a bit with amber leaving most of the rest of the architecture in place. When talking with others I facetiously call it Cedre de Chanel. I could see the appeal to those who are more attracted to clean woods over fresh citrus and ginger accords. From a consumer perspective it was successful if not quite as much as the original.

Olivier Polge

Now for 2018 we have the second flanker, Bleu de Chanel Parfum, another increase in strength. There is also another change which made me interested as Olivier Polge has taken over from his father as in-house perfumer. M. Polge’s freshening up of the Chanel aesthetic without becoming boring has been a success story I have enjoyed following. I was curious to see how he would approach Bleu de Chanel Parfum. The answer was he followed the old maxim, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

What that means about the fragrance is if the Eau de Toilette was all about the fresh opening. Followed by the Eau de Parfum’s focus on the cedar heart. Then Parfum amplifies the sandalwood in the base.

Bleu de Chanel opens with a much-attenuated fresh citrus almost like the sun setting. It is dialed way back from the original. Still enough to be recognizable. The amber heart captures that last bit of warmth before the sandalwood comes forward and dominates. The cedar is there to provide a bit of the clean contrast but this comes off more like something I could call Santal de Chanel.

Bleu de Chanel Parfum has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I realize if I did call this Santal de Chanel I am forgetting one of the greatest sandalwood perfumes ever; Chanel Bois des Iles. That is a perfect counterpoint when I say there is artistry versus populism. Bleu de Chanel Parfum is the latter. It is like providing three versions of a similar perfume and allowing the consumer to choose which part they prefer. I return to my original judgement from my review of the original. This is a great choice for the man who wants a single bottle of perfume on his dresser. Now he has a choice to go Fresh (Eau de Toilette), Clean (Eau de Parfum), or Woody (Parfum). There is a reason these are greatest hits of masculine perfume and having three different strengths does nothing to change that.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Chanel.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Intense- A Warm Hug from Coco

Over the last two years it has been an enjoyable experience watching Olivier Polge take over as in-house perfumer from his father Jacques at Chanel. In this early part of his tenure he has stamped his own signature upon the well-known Chanel aesthetic. Over the first releases it has seemed as if he has an eye on a younger generation of perfume consumers who like things lighter and more transparent. When I received the press release for Coco Mademoiselle Intense I realized it was going to be something entirely different.

I could make an argument that Coco Mademoiselle is the best designer perfume of the 21st century. It sits in a place where it exemplifies everything I think is important about the Chanel fragrance empire. To compose an intense version Olivier Polge was going to invite direct comparison to his father. I also wondered how intense this would be. It turns out that in both cases Coco Mademoiselle Intense succeeds better than I might have imagined.

Olivier Polge

One of the things which concerned me prior to smelling the perfume was the press release which promised an overdose of patchouli. If there is anything which makes Coco Mademoiselle soar it is the precise balance of orange, rose and patchouli which make it so good. Telling me one part of that is about to become unbalanced was worrisome. What M. Polge does is to only nod to the other two Mademoiselle ingredients while also amplifying a couple supporting notes from the original.

Coco Mademoiselle Intense opens with a whisper of orange and rose before the patchouli rises to the forefront very quickly. The first time I wore this the rapidity with what made the original special to me was dispensed with irritated me a little bit. It felt pushy but that is probably just me. This is a fabulously sophisticated patchouli which helps ameliorate my bruised desires. Tonka comes next providing its toasty nutty warmth. This is where I bought into Coco Mademoiselle Intense as this turned into a warm comfort scent. This only deepened as vanilla provided more warmth. With the concentration of patchouli the vanilla never turns treacly; it is in balance.

Coco Mademoiselle Intense has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

M. Polge also provides a precise balance of three ingredients like his father did with the original. His choice was to do it with traditional base notes. It is what makes this intense. Most time intense in the name of a perfume means blaringly so. Instead, Coco Mademoiselle Intense is a warm hug from Chanel.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

The Expansion of the Perfumer’s Palette

Over the last year or so I have been fortunate to be given a bit of a crash course in new perfume ingredients. The chemist in me is fascinated with the structure of the molecules and the difference in effect moving bonds and atoms around has on a scent profile. Equally as fascinating is the way natural materials are extracted and then further separated via different physical techniques.

It is fun to meet a perfumer who is using a new raw material as they build a new perfume. There is a palpable enthusiasm at using something different. I wonder if the same kind of enthusiasm was present when new pigments expanded the options for the painters. I suspect any artist when given something new to consider they immediately begin to think of the places this could fit into their current imaginings.

I’ve also begun thinking about this because of the new wave of transparent minimal fragrances being released to appeal to the younger generation of perfume buyers. Since there is seemingly a market for minimalist constructions it provides an outlet for the different isolates of the cornerstones of perfumery to provide a different perspective.

What has been trending particularly this year is to use a particular isolate which is missing a characteristic part of the full-spectrum ingredient. For instance, the sandalwood used by perfumer Nicolas Beaulieu in Comme des Garcons Concrete is missing some of the austere woody character. The white flowers at the heart of Chanel Gabrielle can be dialed to a desired indole level by perfumer Olivier Polge. Daniela Andrier uses a specific less rooty version of iris in Tiffany & Co.

What is interesting is each perfumer adds in what is missing with a different ingredient providing an opaque abstraction of the keynote. M. Beaulieu uses rose oxide and its metallic nature to replace the desiccated wood. M. Polge uses a set of white musks to set off the small amount of indoles present. Mme Andrier lets patchouli provide a different earthiness.

This is what will drive this current generational shift in perfume styles. By having more options, the perfumers can more precisely find a desired effect. It is the definition of modern perfumery to take nature and interpret it through our sense of smell. With the cornucopia of new options, the expansion of the perfumer’s palette promises a creativity that fragrance has not seen before.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel Gabrielle- Things Change

For any brand to remain relevant it must adapt to the changes within its consumer base. It is one of the reasons I am so fascinated with the current consumer landscape. With two large generations for brands to court they will obviously tilt towards the younger one. Over the last 18-24 months this has played out in the fragrance area. The older the brand the more they will have had to figure out the changes and try to stay ahead of them. When it comes to perfume I can make the case that Chanel as a fragrance brand has not only signaled the changes they have called the tune for others to dance to. Because of that the new releases from Chanel have larger significance than just a new fragrance from one of the founders of modern perfumery.

Last year No. 5 L’Eau was the first look at where Chanel might be heading. In-house perfumer Olivier Polge is given the opportunity with this change to claim the next era of Chanel fragrance as his own. No. 5 L’Eau was M. Polge’s attempt to find a middle ground between the past and the present. I thought it was a fantastic perfume brilliantly executed. M. Polge’s next fragrance is meant to be a new pillar for the house it is called Gabrielle.

Olivier Polge

M. Polge describes Gabrielle as an “abstract floral”. I am coming to realize when a fragrance brand uses “abstract” that is PR speak for a transparent style of perfume. The more correct description of Gabrielle is as a transparent floral. What is fascinating here is M. Polge is doing what he did with No. 5 L’Eau. He is taking some of the heavier perfume ingredients; finding a way to make them more expansive. Gabrielle succeeds with this task as M. Polge finds that same middle ground that he did with No. 5 L’Eau.

Gabrielle opens with a transitory citrus top accord using grapefruit as the focal point. The flowers begin to arrive straightaway. Neroli and ylang-ylang come first as they pick up on the sunny quality of the citrus transforming it to a floral version. There is a faux-aldehydic sparkle to this. The heart is all white flowers, orange blossom, tuberose, and jasmine. M. Polge doesn’t remove the indoles completely. They are dialed down but they are there and that choice makes the heart a more relevant accord than if M. Polge played it safe using non-indolic versions of the notes. What is here is an effusive version of this white floral bouquet without being insipid. The base is sandalwood and a few white musks which provides a linen-like closing accord.

Gabrielle has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Coco nee Gabrielle Chanel

The name of this perfume is Ms. Chanel’s name that she was born with before she became Coco. While wearing this and bearing that in mind it made me think Gabrielle the perfume represents Gabrielle the aspiring fashion icon. Still searching for exactly what she stands for while knowing there are some things which are going to be part of Gabrielle or Coco. This is also going to be how many perfume lovers approach this. If you have come to Chanel through Coco; Gabrielle might seem to be a trifle. If you are someone who has stayed away from Chanel because it is “too strong” or “too old” I believe Gabrielle might bring you to Chanel for maybe the first time. I do think Chanel is trying to send the message that you don’t have to go as far towards the transparent as many other brands seem to believe. Chanel seems to be saying that things change but the underlying style is ever present.

Disclosure: this review was based on a preview bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur 2016 Year-End Review Part 1- Overview

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2016 will probably go down as a pivotal year in the perfume business. As an observer of much of the field this year I have seen change in almost every place I can see. Which leads me to believe it is also taking place behind the scenes where I am not able to know the entire story. Change like this can be unsettling which has made for some worrying trends but overall I think it has contributed to another excellent year. I smelled a little less this year than last year; 680 new perfumes versus 2015’s 686. Surprisingly the amount of new releases has also plateaued with 1566 new releases in 2016 versus 1676 last year. Maybe we have defined the amount of new perfume the market can bear. Over the next three days I will share my thoughts on the year coming to an end.

We are told in Ecclesiastes, or by The Byrds if you prefer; “To every thing there is a season” and so it is in perfume as the season of the Baby Boomers has ended and the Millennials have taken over. This younger generation is now larger, has more discretionary income, and is spending more on perfume than the Boomers are per multiple sources. While the public at large was made aware of it this year the industry could see the change coming a year, or more, prior. What that meant for 2016 as far as fragrance went was every corporate perfume entity was on a fishing expedition to see if they could be the one who lured this group of consumers towards them. The drive for this is huge because lifelong brand loyalties can be formed right now within this group. Certainly, the enduring trends of the next few years in fragrance will be determined by where they spend their money. All of that has made 2016 fascinating because at the end of the year that answer is no clearer than it was at the beginning. The prevailing themes, based on what was provided to them, is they want lighter in sillage and aesthetic, gourmand, and different. That last category is the ephemeral key I think. The brand which can find them in the place where they Periscope, Snapchat, and Instagram is going to have an advantage.

Christine Nagel (l.) and Olivier Polge

There was also generational change taking place at two of the most prestigious perfume brands, Hermes and Chanel. The new in-house perfumers for both took full control in 2016. Christine Nagel released Hermes Eau du Rhubarbe Ecarlate and Galop D’Hermes. Olivier Polge released Chanel Boy and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This shows both talented artists know how to take an existing brand aesthetic and make it their own.

Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, Luca Maffei (l. to r.)

The next generation of perfumers exemplified by Cecile Zarokian, Quentin Bisch, and Luca Maffei loomed large this year. Mme Zarokian did thirteen new releases in 2016 all of them distinctively delightful from the re-formulation of Faths Essentials Green Water to the contemporary Oriental Puredistance Sheiduna. M. Bisch brilliantly reinvented one of the masterpieces of perfume in Thierry Mugler Angel Muse. Sig. Maffei released ten new fragrances with Masque Milano L’Attesa, Laboratorio Olfattivo MyLO, and Jul et Mad Secrets du Paradis Rouge showcasing his range. 

There were also fascinating collaborations this year. Antonio Gardoni and Bruno Fazzolari contributed Cadavre Exquis an off-beat gourmand. Josh Meyer and Sam Rader conspired to create a Northern California Holiday bonfire in Dasein Winter Nights. Victor Wong the owner and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes was able to get the most out of independent perfumers like Ellen Covey in Bat and Sarah McCartney in Macaque.

Some of the independent perfumers I look to surprisingly released perfumes which did not please me. Thankfully there were new ones who stepped up to fill in the gap. Lesli Wood Peterson of La Curie, Ludmila and Antoine Bitar of Ideo Parfumeurs, and Eugene & Emrys Au of Auphorie did that. Chritsti Meshell of House of Matriarch made an ambitious economic move into Nordstrom while producing two of my favorites from her in Albatross and Kazimi.

The mainstream sector had another strong year as the mall continues to have diamonds hidden amongst the dross. In 2016 that meant Elizabeth & James Nirvana Bourbon, Alford & Hoff No. 3, SJP Stash, Prada Infusion de Mimosa, Thierry Mugler Angel Muse, and Chanel No. 5 L’Eau were there to be found.

If the beginning of the year was all about rose the overall year was a renaissance for neroli perfumes. Jean-Claude Ellena’s swan song for Hermes; Eau de Neroli Dore. The afore mentioned Green Water along with Jo Malone Basil & Neroli and Hiram Green Dilettante showed the versatility of the note.

The acquisition of niche brands continued with Estee Lauder buying By Kilian and L’Oreal doing the same with Atelier Cologne. The acquisitions of Frederic Malle and Le Labo, two years ago, seem to have been positive steps for both brands. Especially seeing Le Labo in my local mall getting such a positive reception made me believe that if the good niche brands can become more available the consumer will appreciate the difference.

Tomorrow I will name my Perfume, Perfumer, Creative Director, and Brand of the Year

The next day I will reveal my Top 25 New Releases of 2016.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Vera Wang for Men- Discount Bin Archaeology

I still go scavenging at the local discounters still hoping to find something unexpected. Most of the time I just replenish some of my favorite Discount Diamonds. At the end of the summer I saw something different down at the bottom of the giant Bin O’Fragrance. I patiently dug down to see what it was. I saw a plain white box and was hoping it was a tester which got mixed in. Many of my best scores have been the odd tester which gets caught up with the lots. Which explains my motivation to dig down. When I got to the bottom I saw it was not a tester the plain box had a professional logo which read “Vera Wang for Men”.

I remembered Vera Wang for Men as being the topic of discussion on the perfume forums back in 2004 when it was released. I went back and looked and the consensus was that it was derivative being easily compared to other fragrances which were judged as better. That kind of opinion probably kept me from trying it when I was at the department store, at that time. Now, usually when I am reviewing something I don’t have any idea about the overall opinion towards it. But as I was in line with the bottle I was reading the old reviews on my phone. Once again I almost let it stop me but for $9.99 I was curious to see whether I agreed. It took me some time to finally get around to opening the cellophane and checking it out. What I found was an office-ready amiable leather and sandalwood fragrance.

vera-wang-for-men

Vera Wang for Men was composed by a team of perfumers; Jean-Marc Chaillan, Olivier Polge, and Pascal Gaurin. It is difficult to find what brief they were given. All the ad copy was about being the “irresistible fragrance that becomes the signature of the man who wears it”. That could not be the instruction the perfumers were given. Whatever they were told they did put together a pretty traditional fragrance of masculine themes of citrus, leather and wood. As I spent some time with it I found this to be a good version of those themes.

One of the nice things was using a tarter version of citrus by going for yuzu which has a distinct thread of green. Mandarin leaves were used to make sure that thread was noticeable. The leather accord is straight forward but with nutmeg used to tease out the sweeter parts of it. The base is sandalwood, tobacco, and vanilla. These are all there but this is where a little more volume might have made this even better.

Vera Wang for Men has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

For all the notes which could have produced a boisterous vapor trail leaving perfume Vera Wang for Men is much more mannered than that. It is that which I think has allowed me to enjoy it more than those who previously encountered this when it was released. I did some checking online and you don’t have to perform discount bin archaeology; Vera Wang for Men is readily available at many stores for a discount price.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Calvin Klein Crave- Growing Pains

Because I’ve been so interested in the trend of perfume brands reaching out to Millennials this year I’ve been looking back to find other times fragrance was designed to specifically capture a young market. It will not surprise anyone that a good example would come from Calvin Klein. For almost 40 years now this has been a brand all about finding appeal for the young consumer. In 1994, with ckOne, they were perfectly positioned to ride the swelling wave of cleanliness in fragrance long before it turned in to a tsunami. By 2002 they were ready to do it again with Calvin Klein Crave. Except this time, it was one of the rare fragrances for this brand to end up in the Dead Letter Office.

As the brand was looking out at their target audience they were seeing the beginning of the wireless age. Nearly every young person had a pager hanging from their belt while the early cell phones were just starting to penetrate society at large. Creative director Ann Gottlieb wanted to oversee the creation of a perfume which would capture this connected generation on the bleeding edge in 2002.

calvin-klein-crave-the-new-scent-for-men-get-it-on

Ms. Gottlieb assembled a group of four perfumers in Jean-Mark Chaillan, Olivier Polge, Pascal Gaurin, and Yves Cassar. The perfumers were given the brief I think all Calvin Klein perfumers are given, “make it young, fresh, sexy, and clean”. Except with the concurrent electronics modernity in mind it drove them to think a little more outside of the box than they might normally have done. What resulted was something that seems Calvin Klein but at other moments seems like the name on the label must be incorrect.

Crave opens with some of that unusual quality right away. The perfumers use a Calone-laden “fluorescent fresh accord”. There is so much Calone here that the melon-like quality of that aromachemical is also evident. To that the perfumers add a different fruity partner; carambola, or starfruit, which has a tart smell to it but not nearly as much as a citrus note would have. That actually turns the fruitiness of the melon and the carambola into its own sort of fluorescent fruit accord. To all of this there is a strong green counterpoint. The longer this lingers on my skin the sugarier the fruit gets and just as it is about to become Kool-Aid the perfumers unleash a spate of herbs as basil, coriander, and allspice come forward. For a little while this is a like a chaotic house party as the fresh of the Calone, the fruits, and the herbs whirl madly. Again just as it threatens to become annoying the base notes try and calm things down. Crave goes all woody as sandalwood and vetiver provide the calming effect needed while the typical mixture of white musks finish this off.

Crave has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a perfume which lives life on the edge of irritating. If it stays on the right side of the line, as it does with me, it is a fun fragrance. If it falls on the other side of that line this is going to be an irritant. It seems the consumers were in the latter category as three years after launch it was pulled. It is still the quickest discontinuation for the brand.

There is a bit of cautionary tale in Crave for all of those brands trying to figure out what the Millennials want. Even an all-star team can miss the mark by trying too hard to cater to a perceived taste.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Chanel No. 5 L’Eau- Refreshing a Classic

Once I received the press release back in May; my most anticipated release of this year was going to be Chanel No. 5 L’Eau. This is a perfume which came with so much anticipation for me. Chanel stated this was going to be their attempt to update their classic No, 5 for a new generation. For in-house perfumer Olivier Polge this was really going to be the first mass-market release under his tenure. M. Polge did release Chance Eau Vive last year but that was really just a riff on the grapefruit, jasmine, musk axis of the original Chance by his father. No. 5 L’Eau was going to represent his first opportunity to stamp his influence on this venerable brand. With my curiosity dialed up to maximum when I had the opportunity to purchase a preview bottle last week I hopped right on it. I have spent most of the last four days intensely examining No. 5 L’Eau. Much to my surprise it is a perfume worthy of the scrutiny.

When I received my bottle, despite being assured in the press release it wasn’t, I expected a watered-down limpid imitation of No. 5. Reading through that press release it felt like Chanel was all on board with the trend of making things ultra-transparent for the Millennials. As I read M. Polge’s words talking about replacing metallic aldehydes, removing the powder, lightening up the jasmine, and decreasing the vanilla I expected the worst. Instead M. Polge has made astute decisions throughout the construction of No. 5 L’Eau. What he seems to be saying to Millennials is if you’re interested in No.5 I’m willing to meet you…half-way.

olivier polge

Olivier Polge

Throughout No. 5 L’Eau M. Polge has cleverly found substitutes for the heavier aspects of No. 5 in an attempt to modernize. It starts right from the beginning as the famous aldehydes of the original are replaced by a different set of aldehydes in No. 5 L’Eau. The main aldehyde in No.5 was a 13-carbon aldehyde, 2-methylundecanal. It has a characteristic metallic scent profile. The beauty of aldehydes is there are a whole palette for the modern perfumer to use. For No. 5 L’Eau M. Polge chose the ones which have a citrus-like scent profile; the 8-carbon and 10-carbon ones seem like the culprits here. These are matched to the actual citrus notes of mandarin, lemon, and orange. Together this comes off as a vibrant blast of pure sunshine. These aldehydes provide lift to the citrus notes as if they were champagne bubbles bearing them upward. I love this opening for honoring the past while updating everything.

Rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang are the floral DNA of No. 5; providing its heart. For No. 5 L’Eau M. Polge does lighten things up but not so much to turn this trio of notes insipid. It starts with retaining the iconic Rose de Mai. The change comes with using one of the synthetic jasmine notes which provide that same expansiveness that the citric aldehydes did for the top accord. It also elides the indoles out of the equation allowing the depth of the Rose de Mai to do most of the floral heavy lifting. Next M. Polge chooses a fractionated part of ylang-ylang which removes the fleshiness and promotes the greener nature. It is almost lily-like but it has that ylang-ylang floralcy without the stridency lily would have brought to this. Again M. Polge has worked with the historical and turned it as expansive as it could be.

The original No. 5 ends with a beautiful woody duet of vetiver and sandalwood. Only here does M. Polge go for the obvious although it is in keeping with the expansiveness of the earlier development. Cedar replaces the sandalwood and it is joined by a suite of white linen musks. Vetiver is used more as a supporting player to those than a true equal. By going with the laundry clean musks they provide the final bit of lift which has been building from the beginning.

No. 5 L’Eau has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I don’t think I have ever been as impressed with M. Polge as I am after experiencing No. 5 L’Eau. He laid himself out there on a project where derisive laughter was the more likely outcome. Instead he took that famous society lady of No. 5 armed her granddaughter with an iPhone, a Chanel purse and sent her out into the world. I don’t know if Millennials are going to flock to this. I hope that they do. Of everything I have tried this year which has been aimed at them this is the first one which has challenged them to consider what it is that defines their personal style. My fingers are crossed that when the Holiday scoreboard is revealed at the end of the year No. 5 L’Eau is on top.

Disclosure: This review is based on a preview bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke