When there are perfume ingredients I’ve become exhausted by, there comes a point where I can’t take one thin mint more. Even if it is wafer-thin. The set of synthetic musks given the sobriquet “white musks” had been one of those. Imparting a laundry fresh scent to the foundation of seemingly thousands of perfume; it was becoming too much for me. The fragrance oil producers were rapidly synthesizing bigger and fresher versions. An oxygen molecule here, a double bond there, and it was a new fresh muskiness in the latest perfume. I was more interested in the synthetic chemistry than the scent. Over the last twenty or so years the shelf of white musks has expanded rapidly.
In the last few years it turns out the solution to my boredom, perversely, was not to dial them back. Instead, in the hands of a skilled perfumer, it was to layer them. Overlap them. Building a tower of white musk which once it was erected formed this unexpected softness. Like diving into a pile of fluffy white down feathers. I’ve come to look forward to these kinds of perfumes. The latest of them is Chanel 1957.
In-house perfumer Olivier Polge was asked to create a new perfume for the Les Exclusifs collection to celebrate the re-opening of the Chanel flagship store in NYC on 57th Street. For now, it is only available there with wider release coming in Spring 2019. The name also refers to the year Coco Chanel was given the “Neiman-Marcus Fashion Award”. It seems an odd choice to highlight something like that. The press release follows that with this, “Now world-renowned for her creative talent she drew upon rare, carefully chosen ingredients to reveal and exalt them.” Part of that sentence is accurate when describing 1957; the part about exalting carefully chosen ingredients. The “rare” part especially when referring to white musk not so much. M. Polge has done a fabulous job of elevating the common white musks to something compelling.
1957 opens with a green herbal accord of baie rose and coriander. This acts as a palate cleanser setting up what is to come as it fades rapidly into the background. The first layers of white musk along with neroli begin to rise. In contrast to these clean white musks the indoles of the neroli stand out. It adds some grit to the overall effect. Iris adds a dash of powder as the white musk continues to intensify. There is a momentary sharpness within the white musks which the iris serves to soften. Then the tipping point is passed and now the plushness of a multi-layered white musk accord appears. M. Polge adds a thin veneer of sweet honey. It adds a dash of contrast as the indoles of the neroli did earlier. The tower is now complete and M. Polge flips the lights on providing an inner glow stoked by the neroli and honey. The final effect is gorgeous.
1957 has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is probably the most modern perfume released by the fragrance side of Chanel. It can be dismissed as another floral musky perfume. It can also be loved for the same quality. I appreciate the engineering effort of M. Polge to create his tower of white musk to overcome any kind of snap judgement.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.