Review: Chanel Coromandel — 5.0 points

Gabriel Chanel was an ardent collector of Coromandel folding screens. These decorative wood screens with elaborate inlays are so termed because they were shipped to Europe via the Coromandel coast of Southeast India. It was also here that dry patchouli leaves were often laid among clothing to repel moths. Hence, I find it apt that perfumer Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake would decide to explore this multi-faceted material in Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), a perfume inspired by the mademoiselle’s passion for the folding screens.

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With just a resinous piney start, it quickly descends into a rich patchouli. The camphoraceous and earthy facets of this raw material are curtailed, whilst the woody balsamic aspect is pushed and extrapolated. Fruity jasmine adds to the voluptuousness. Benzoin and vanilla play up the balsamic sweetness of the woody facet. And, to offset the heft, resinous incense is the perfect foil. The result is a patchouli so opulent that it tantalises with the richness of chocolate.

The dry down is just as decadent and smouldering, with sweet benzoin and incense lingering well into the night. Its resplendent sillage beguiles with enchanting sweetness of woods and resins. Its restrained gourmand exploration is mesmerising. Coromandel is a revelation about this otherwise earthy, woody raw material. It invites me to imagine the couturier lounging in her chair, feeling cocooned by the woody warmth of the decorative screens whilst beholding the gilded and mother-of-pearl inlays.

Source: Boris Lipnitzki’s portrait of Gabrielle Chanel in 1937

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Review: Guerlain Vétiver — 5.0 points

Vétiver (Guerlain) is a paradoxical tour de force. The astounding amount of vetiver oil is dressed up with ingredients that extend the natural facets so that the sum, despite ornamentation, still feels minimalistic. At the time of its creation in 1959 when complex, opulent perfumes were de rigueur, its pared down approach was far ahead of its time.

Jean-Paul Guerlain skilfully orchestrated the composition to highlight the juxtaposition of bright and dark aspects in vetiver. The lingering bitterness, a character shared also by grapefruit, dominates at the start and is cleverly pushed by citrus. The liquorice aspect is enhanced by spicy-sweet clove. The dark smoky woods complemented by mossy notes. It is essentially vetiver but with its contrasting facets amplified so that it feels almost baroque.

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Personally, I love its suave character. The pairing of the spicy-sweet, fruity note of cloves with a floral note creates the impression of a white carnation boutonière pinned to the left lapel of a suit. Likewise, the combination of sweet spices, smoky woods, and floral conjures up the multiple facets of tobacco. It is a vetiver with a panache and great tenacity.

Combining the rich aesthetics of a grand parfum and the uncluttered clarity of a modern composition, Vétiver feels timeless. And, I would reach for it whenever I want to feel the rich complexity of the woods effortlessly.

Source: Parfum de Pub

Review: by Kilian Noir Aphrodisiaque — 4.5 points

Chocolate is a challenging note. The sweet chocolate with which we are familiar is created with the help of vanillin, a principle odorant of vanilla that is used to flavour chocolate, but tuning that up alone would make for an intensely sweet milky bar. The rich overtones of fruits, flowers, spices, and woods are needed to bring out a grand cru chocolate, but the dense note of cocoa can also mask these, leaving the composition flat. For this reason, I am amazed by the sumptuous chocolate accord in Noir Aphrodisiaque (by Kilian, 2016) replete with complexity and glow.

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The subtle layers of notes add to the nuances of dark chocolate, making it rich and decadent. Bergamot, juicy lemon, and citron provide a bright prelude that quickly makes way for the confection. Chilly iris lends its cool, dusty texture of chocolate, whilst fruity jasmine bestows its voluptuous, narcotic scent.  A dusting of cinnamon serves as a spicy contrast that balances the languorous richness. It feels as though I had just had a bite into Choc-Abricot of Sprüngli: the dried apricots reveal their intense fruity and floral notes wrapped in bitter-sweet chocolate from Santo Domingo cacao.

These largely confer refinements to the chocolate, but the secret to a bitter chocolate impression lies in patchouli. Its warm, woody, balsamic facet is the perfect foil for the chilly, dusty iris, and its diffusiveness helps lift the composition. The effect is similarly observed in Dior Homme (2005), Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), and Borneo 1834 (Serge Lutens, 2005).

As it develops, it furthers explores the nuances and becomes most addictive. The bitter chocolate impression led by patchouli is softened by creamy and tantalising smoky notes. Here, sandalwood provides the milky chocolat chaud fantasy and tonka bean lends the sweetness and warmth of toasted almonds. The dark woody tang contrasted by a mellow baked good suggestion keeps the dry down engaging and airy.

Perfumer Calice Becker authored Noir Aphrodisiaque, and her signature luminosity and layered complexity are telltale.  It is chocolate from beginning to end, but it does not feel dense and flat. Instead, it peels away in layers to reveal nuances of citrus, floralcy, spice, wood, and vanillic sweetness. It is polished and each transition seamless. I can imagine wearing it at just about any occasion; it is just as alluring and elegant.

Sources: fragrantica.com

Review: Gucci Bloom — 4.0 points

White florals seem to be back in vogue these days. Recent major launches that come immediately to my mind such as Twilly d’Hermès (2017) and Gabrielle (Chanel, 2017) were infused with such notes. With such popularity, it is easy to feel jaded of white florals. But, Bloom (Gucci, 2017), the latest launch by Gucci, makes for an exception; its vibrant interpretation breathes life into the white floral accord and makes it memorable.

Gucci Bloom

Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci, wanted a rich white floral fragrance that transports one to a thriving garden, and Bloom superbly captures that spirit. At first, it offers the promised offering of a creamy white floral set in a lush green garden. The initial green stem suggestion is followed by sweet creamy notes of tuberose and jasmine, with a hint of bright lily of the valley. However, this seemingly simple pairing of green garden and white floral belies the creative streak of perfumer Alberto Morillas, who crafted Bloom. Look underneath and one finds a rose juxtaposed to the rich white floral, lending a bright effect to lighten the creamy heft. Perhaps this effect is what the marketing at Gucci refers to Rangoon Creeper whose flowers turn from white to red as they open. And as Bloom develops, the white floral accord is also accompanied by the green contrast, which morphs from stem to fruity, musky pear. In the dry down, its creamy floral segues into powdery vanilla and musk.

Bloom offers a white floral garden with a vibrant surprise. Its floral is sensual yet possesses a radiant effect, and that makes for a highlight. While those of us lusting after a take-no-prisoner white floral will have to look elsewhere, the restrained character of Bloom makes it versatile and will suit just about any occasion and time. If you want to enjoy a daydream about a fantasy garden, a spritz of Bloom will suffice.

Source: gucci.com

Review: Chanel Gabrielle — 3.5 points

I find it difficult to write about Gabrielle (2017), the latest major launch in fifteen years by Chanel Creative Team and perfumer Olivier Polge. This is because it does not evoke anything beyond the propriety of a nice, likeable launch. I have but few adjectives and words with which to work.

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Perhaps, I should start by describing all the notes of Gabrielle with the few vocabularies that come to mind: lovely and bright. The vivacious debut of grapefruit and mandarin segues into a bright white floral heart. Although Chanel purports that this is a quartet of orange blossom, ylang ylang, jasmine, and tuberose from Grasse, what I smell is mostly a fresh lemony jasmine with a creamy accent, which is cushioned in the dry down by soft sandalwood and musk. Whilst a fresh white floral such as this is a dime a dozen, there is an accent reminiscent of dried fruits and prunes to it that lends Gabrielle its lasting luminosity — that is probably just about the only aspect that I find interesting. Other than that, Gabrielle seems to have borrowed its bright white floral from Jour d’Hermès (2013) and diluted the fruit syrup of Coco Mademoiselle (2001), arguably its more daring chypre-esque sister.

Still, I am quite willing to forgive Gabrielle. Its well-mannered white floral intended to appeal to the market at large is hardly distinctive, but at the same time it is not entirely without ploy. It also smells of quality, from the zest of its citrus to the creamy accent of white florals and the soft musk. This is rare by today’s standard. Hence, for its purpose and intent, Gabrielle makes the cut for a decent launch. Everything about Gabrielle is intended to hook, and it did me, but it does not arouse any feeling beyond mere satisfaction and fleeting delight.

Source: chanel.fr

Review: Chanel 1932 — 3.5 points

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In 1932, Gabrielle Chanel debuted her fine jewellery with Bijoux de Diamants collection. The pieces contained motifs of her inspiration — constellations, comets, and her star sign, Leo — and were designed such that they seemingly embodied the sense of liberty inherent in her couture. They were free of clasps and fastenings, and could be worn in different styles, for example, like a necklace or a fringe tiara. In exhibiting the collection, moreover, she opted for life-like wax mannequins with ravishing eyes and real hair instead of the traditional trays. And, all this happened at a time when the economy was still recovering from the Great Depression. How could she be so audacious and tread so lightly with such hefty carats?

Eighty years later, 1932 was created by perfumer Jacques Polge and is intended to capture the sparkles of diamond constellations that made history for Chanel. It is a great concept, and indeed the aldehydic shimmer of 1932 (Chanel, 2012) is nothing if not sparkling. It is starchy, and has the metallic tang of a grapefruit rind. The opening of Chanel N°5 Eau Première (2008) comes to mind. Some ten minutes into development, the chills of iris emerge and soon dominate.

The aldehydic notes and iris together may conjure the sharp brilliance of cut gemstones, but beneath that austere chills is a transparent white floral-jasmine layer that softens it. Over time, the aloof character of 1932 warms up to a creamy, inviting musky note in the dry down. The sweetness of its floral is also nicely offset by a subtle vetiver note.

The magic of the Bijoux de Diamants collection is that it remains timeless. I doubt that I can say the same of 1932. Its combination of aldehydic, floral, and woody notes is a familiar tune, and one could find far more striking orchestrations of iris, such as those of verdant Chanel N°19 (1970) or chypre-esque 31 Rue Cambon (Chanel, 2007).

Nevertheless, the elegance and quality of 1932 can hardly be considered disappointing. I revel in its refinement, from the rich aldehydic iris wrapped in diaphanous layers of jasmine to the plush creamy dry down. In terms of character and performance, it may pale in comparison to its more distinctive brethren, but the quality of its materials is beyond reproach. In fact, its demure nature may yet delight those who like their perfumes soft-spoken. So, never mind the history, a perfume must above all smell good, and 1932 does exactly just that for me.

Source: chanel.fr

Review: Chanel N°5 Eau Première – 4.0 points

Few brands do justice to the re-working of their classic creations as does Chanel. This is why I enjoy re-tracing the incarnations of Chanel N°5 (1921) to see what each interpretation has to offer. Previously, I examined the verves and radiance of a young mademoiselle in Chanel N°5 L’Eau (2016). This time, I say we look back at the modern legacy of the grand dame in Chanel N°5 Eau Première (2007).

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Its cascade of notes makes for a luscious sensation, whilst its clarity lends itself to ease of wearing. One is first greeted with heady and sunny ylang ylang, and there is a dalliance with the aldehydic note, both of which are customary to Chanel N°5. This leads over to the iconic bouquet of rose and jasmine blended into a floral mélange, but with each note still lending their nuances to the mix.

As Eau Première develops, I notice the progression from a bright, crystalline layer to a warm, round and sensual one. Its powdery iris note, in particular, gives the luminous sheen and softness of silk. And in the dry down, the warmth of its vanillic, musky base is still accompanied by a lingering hint of floral bouquet. Eau Première lasts easily a whole day and continues to persist on fabric. Its radiant, indistinctly floral sillage is also recognisable.

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From top to base, the framework of Chanel N°5 is preserved: only the emphasis has been shifted. By trimming the top and base, the composition acquires greater clarity and the focus now falls to the beloved bouquet of Chanel N°5. Here, perfumer Jacques Polge seems to have struck the perfect middle ground between classical pomp and modern clarity. In other words, Eau Première is an excellent update to the original.

Sources: chanel.com