Tuesday, 29 April 2014

My Top 3 Favourite Perfumes: Chanel No.5 (1921)

Top 3 Favourite Perfumes:  Chanel No.5

Image of my current collection of Chanel No.5 fragrances
I thought I should share some of my favourite perfumes with you guys, one of my top 3 is of course the iconic and definitely legendary, Chanel No.5. Originally available in 3 concentrations Parfum, Eau De Toilette, and Eau De Cologne.....Eau De Parfum later replaced the Eau De Cologne concentration in the 1990's.
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Composed by a Russian-French perfumer, Ernest Beaux and released in 1921. Chanel No.5 is an aldehydic floral perfume. It was the first fragrance of it's time to incorporate a high amount synthetic compound called "Aldehydes", a compound created in the lab which has a signature "Soapy, waxy, lemony" smell reminiscent of clean linen. Mademoiselle Chanel specifically requested Beaux to compose a perfume which "Smells like a woman", a perfume which "Should not smell like a rose nor a lily of the valley, but overall blended as a whole composition".


The Name: 

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Coco Chanel grew up as an orphan
Perfumer Ernest Beaux, in 1920 presented Coco Chanel with two series of perfume samples numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24 for her to choose one from. Chanel chose the 5th sample and also chose to name it No.5. Chanel is superstitious and told Beaux "I present my dress collections on the 5th of May, the 5th Month of the year and so we will let this sample No.5 keep the name it already has, it will bring good luck".


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Cistus the 5 petaled rose
The number 5 had always been a significant number in Chanel's life, according to Chanel the number 5 signified the "pure embodiment of a thing, its essence, its free spirit, and its mystical meaning". Whist spending her juvenile years in an orphanage Chanel would prey daily and the path that led to the cathedral were laid out in a repeating circular pattern of 5, according to the book "The Secret of Chanel No.5: The Biography of a Scent" By Mazzeo 2010. Her attachment to the number 5 continued with the abbey gardens surrounded by a 5-petal rose called "Cistus".


The Bottle:

Chanel loved simplicity and wanted her bottles to represent "Pure transparency .. an invisible bottle".
Completely opposite to the elaborate and complicated bottle designs so popular at the time. Some say her rectangular flacons was inspired by her lover's Arthur "Boy" Capel's Charvet toiletry bottles, and others say that it was inspired by the rectangular whiskey decanter she admired.What I find beneficial about having a simple bottle design is that, you never have to compete or invest millions of dollars into the design of the "latest" bottle trend, you always have one bottle design only, its very economical and clever!

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From Left to Right, the oldest to the most recent design of No.5
The bottles of the 1920's are different looking from the bottles produced today. The original had "small, delicate, rounded shoulders,and was offered only to select Chanel clients". In 1924 the bottle was modified because it was too delicate to be shipped, therefore the square corners were added.The bottle had remained the same ever since except the bottle stopper which used to be a small glass plug, seemed to have enlarged in the 1950's and became even more prominent in the 1970's and re-proportioned in the 1980's.
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A guide to estimating the date of your Chanel perfume bottles, to enlarge right click and press view image.

Over decades, Chanel No.5 and it's bottle are nearly 100 years old and has become a "cultural artifact", so recognizable and iconic. I can only think of a few perfumes in my head that had sustained such longevity and are still popular today, one of them is of course my other top 3 perfume Shalimar by Guerlain.

Vintage version (1950-1960):

My sealed EDT from the 1950's
I own all concentrations of No.5 except the parfum version. The vintage EDC is slightly warmer and ambery than vintage EDT otherwise they are quite similar.

From the get go I can smell a silky, delicate veil of aldehyde embroiled with jasmine, bergamot, neroli and ylang-ylang enveloping my skin. 30 minutes into the application the rose, oak moss, and civet starts to become dominant as the top notes fades slightly.

Bright floral opening, a mossy animalic mid, a woody damp base
Right now I can imagine my floral silky veil being blown by a gentle breeze from a damp forest nearby which carries with it hints of moss and civet. 3-4 hours into the application the scent becomes dominated by sandalwood with hints of vanilla, vetiver, and orris root becoming more dominant whist still maintaining the floral structure. At this point where I'm standing with my veil of silky aldehyde and florals , the gentle breeze becomes moistened by humidity in the atmosphere as rain approaches and the calm before the storm is fast disappearing.

Modern Eau De Parfum (2013):

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Year 2013 bottle of No.5
I have a 200ml splash bottle of the modern EDP which I bought in 2013 during my trip to Paris, the batch code also indicates that it was produced in 2013. I like it but I also don't like it....

Longevity and Silage wise, it is a shadow of it's former versions, it also appears to smell more youthful and more appealing to younger audiences. Most likely this may be due to a restriction of the use of natural ingredients which really DOES RUIN the perfume industry! A lot of unique scents no longer smell as unique or high quality as they used to be....the modern EDP smells like No.5 Eau premier....I love the scent but I prefer my No.5 the way it used to originally smell.

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Painting: Daniel Gerhartz 1965, a good representation for the reformulated No.5. Youthful, faint, soft, floral all the way through. A vulnerable version of the strong-willed woman Chanel No.5 was.
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Jasmine: Dominant in Both Vintage and Modern No.5
When applied I first smell soft and powdery hints of a reduced portion of aldehyde compared to the vintage and notes of roses, jasmine and ylang ylang with a touch of sweetness amplified. I CANNOT smell much citrus, civet , nor oak moss, in fact I am having lots of trouble detecting them. The scent remains soft, powdery and floral throughout the whole time I am wearing it and doesn't seem to change much...lasts only about 3 hours and then disappears into thin air. I don't mind the changes but the thing I do hate about it is the connectivity and silage....I like my scent to last especially if it costs me 2 week's worth of wages....I work part time at a restaurant and they pay super duper low.

I would recommend this version to sophisticated women in their 20's and over and also to those who does not like the vintage No.5 because it smells too mature...I however like my original No.5 with depth, individuality, and a certain nostalgia that I get from inhaling it's heavenly fumes.

What do you prefer? The vintage? or the reformulated?

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What do I wear to bed? Chanel No.5 - Marilyn Monroe


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