Going into 2015 it was an interesting moment for Chanel fragrances. They were changing their in-house perfumers as Jacques Polge retired and his son, Olivier Polge took over. With almost six years of Olivier’s perfume making I believe he has been a positive force to the brand at this time. Looking back over his time it seems like there are two styles he seems to design towards. There is a set of perfumes which seem to move the perfumes of Chanel into the current time. The Les Eaux collection or No.5 L’Eau are examples of this. The other large part is his desire to capture that classicism that is at the heart of Chanel as a brand. He has managed to capture that effectively starting with his first Chanel release Misia. It also reappears in the latest Le Lion de Chanel.
Le Lion was released in the Middle Eastern market last spring. It is just now becoming available everywhere else. Because of that I bought a split of Le Lion back in the summer. It has allowed me to live with it a little longer than the typical new perfume review I do. This is a case where that time worked to Le Lion’s advantage.
M. Polge’s classic inspired creations I have found take me a little time to assess all their pleasures. Because he doesn’t shy away from the most recognizable styles there is a tendency to compare the new perfume to the older one it might remind you of. In some cases that has been my snap judgement. Le Lion was one of them. This felt too familiar to other things. I was glad to have a few months to see if that impression persisted.
When I first tried it there were moments which strongly reminded me of other classic perfumes. But not for the entire time. That is what having some time with Le Lion showed me. M. Polge does find the echoes of Guerlain Shalimar, Chanel Coromandel and Chanel Cuir de Russie but this is its own strong voice. The way he achieves it is through balance.
Le Lion opens with a very present citrus accord of bergamot and lemon. M. Polge uses this at a high concentration. This is so when the amber appears next it doesn’t steamroll it. M. Polge finds that precise amount of amber for it to be present without becoming annoyingly overbearing. The citrus cleaves it like a sunbeam through a magnifying glass. Labdanum adds a resinous burnishing to it all. Next comes a fantastic call back to the Chanel past as a modern Cuir de Russie leather accord is paired with that rich sandalwood found often in Chanel. A set of animalic synthetic musks fly in on a carpet of patchouli. This is where Le Lion becomes a complete Oriental style of perfume.
Le Lion has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
As I’ve been turning over my thoughts about Le Lion, I also came to understand it is similar to my thoughts about M. Polge’s tenure so far. He has admirably found a balance between new and classic. It has been often achieved through the balance of ingredients he uses in his work for the brand. As they say when taken on balance, he has achieved a remarkable run in the last six years.
Disclosure: this review is based on a decant I purchased.