History and Review: Chanel Eau de Cologne — 4.0 points

The refreshing blend of citrus and herbs that we classify as ‘eau de cologne’ today can be traced back to the fourteenth-century ‘Hungary water’, the first alcoholic perfume known in Europe. Reputedly formulated per the order of the Queen of Hungary, possibly Elisabeth of Poland (1305 – 29 December 1380), the concoction is said to have been based on the distilled essence of rosemary. Later formulae might also call for other aromatic essences. More closely associated to what we recognise as eaux de cologne, however, is the original 4711 Kölnisch Wasser created by Giovanni Maria Farina in 1709, containing essence of bergamot, orange, grapefruit, and petitgrain. Defunct though the original compositions may be, the freshness and radiance of their character have survived and come to define the hallmark of eaux de cologne.

Likewise, the sweltering heat of summer had inspired me to seek out such beloved traits in eaux de cologne, and I revisited a few modern compositions over the past weeks. I revelled in the avant-garde intensity of Pamplelune (Guerlain, 1999) and the wondrous contrast between green fig and wood of Ninfeo Mio (Annick Goutal, 2010), but I beheld the immaculate Eau de Cologne of Chanel (2007) by perfumer Jacques Polge, which seems to strike the ideal aesthetic between classical allure and minimalistic polish.

eau de cologne de chanel

Here, the beautiful backbone of vibrant citrus versus sensual musk in an eau de cologne is not only well preserved, but also polished. The creation of Eau de Cologne, it seems, necessitates only the essentials: bergamot, orange blossom, and musk. These are dosed generously, and the composition executed with such balance that each turn — from the bright clarity of bergamot and the green floral of petitgrain and neroli to the sweetness of orange blossom and musk — is seamless. It is simple yet brilliant, like a chip of white diamond.

This bright character is not unlike 4711 Kölnisch Wasser, an all-time classic and affordable eau de cologne, and one may well question the necessity of another pricey eau de cologne. However, the quality of materials and simplicity of Eau de Cologne are what sets it apart. The beloved freshness and radiance is brought to the fore, but kept understated. That is the quality of Eau de Cologne that I admire. So, even if I did not own one, I think it would be worth a trip to a Chanel counter just to smell it.

Smelling the result of beautiful materials and excellent balance is already pleasing, and such an uncluttered presentation of a classical idea is all the more reason to like this one. It perfectly distils the classical essence of an eau de cologne in a modern manner.

Sources: chanel.fr; Élisabeth de Feydeau, Les Parfums: Histoire, anthologie, dictionnaire, Robert Laffont, 2011, 1206 p.

Review: By Kilian Moonlight in Heaven — 4.0 points

Now is the hottest time of year in Thailand, but I am still forgiving of its scorching 38°C because this is the time when mangoes become ripe and I can enjoy the fine treat of mango sticky rice or Khao Niao Mamuang. The comforting dessert pairs juicy mango with creamy glutinous rice and coconut milk, and Moonlight in Heaven (By Kilian, 2016) evidently takes up this vibrant contrast.

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‘Khao Niao Mamuang’ — mango sticky rice

The tropical air of mango is suggested by a tart note of blackcurrant. Peppery and lemony notes lend their bright clarity to it, whilst a creamy nuance of fig softens its tang. A vivid green contrast recalling the green ivy of J’adore (Dior, 1999) tames the fruity sweetness. Perfumer Calice Becker is the creator behind both J’adore and Moonlight in Heaven, and her finesse is reflected in their fruity accords, which seem to possess the supernatural perfection of a Dutch still life.

Soon, the powdery sweet accord of glutinous rice dominates, rounded by floral hints of jasmine and orange blossom. A creamy note suggests the rich flavour of coconut milk, much like the sensuality of a moon-lit woman in the photograph by Patrick Demarchelier that also inspired the composition. The floral and milky rice powder juxtaposed with a tart mango is the lively tropical idea of the composition until the dry down, in which the sweet tonka bean of coumarin and the woody nuts of vetiver complement the idea.

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The contrast between sour fruit and powdery sweetness gives it a vibrant character. The mastery with which its radiant fruity accord is woven alone is worth exploring, and its toasty sweetness is just as refined. I especially like the way its tart cassis courses through to the dry down of sweet powder. And unlike most sweet fruity bombs, Moonlight in Heaven is composed. Yet, it is tenacious enough for the hottest days of Bangkok, during which I have been wearing it. Moonlight in Heaven proves that a dessert-inspired, fruity perfume does not have to be another boring tutti-frutti: it can be just as evocative.

Sources: bykilian.com, wikimedia commons by Terence Ong

Review: Chanel Boy — 4.5 points

Much like how Gabrielle Chanel had played with the code of women’s fashion, perfumer Olivier Polge experimented with the fougère accord in creating Boy (Chanel, 2016). This perfumery accord was born when perfumer Paul Parquet created the eponymous Fougère Royale (Houbigant, 1882). The accord classically revolves around lavender, oakmoss, and sweet coumarin, but also contains a citrus top, geranium and spicy herbs in the heart, and woody or animalic notes in the base. It is traditionally associated with masculine fragrances. But Polge was determined to flout that rule and toy with the accord. The result is nothing short of brilliant.

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Already, the fresh top of Boy is a tell-tale sign. It is Chanel; it is aldehydic with penetrating citrusy and rosy notes. These come hand in hand with grapefruit and fresh lemon. The effect feels like an effervescent champagne with a rosy tinge. Accompanying that is lavender aplenty with its aromatic, herbal, and floral charm easily felt. This sublime lavender of Boy runs the show for the rest of its top-note freshness.

The composition, then, segues classically into a rosy geranium heart, but it takes a surprisingly soft turn here. A touch of orange blossom and jasminic brightness wraps around the sharp geranium. A rich sandalwood accord evinces an intimate caress towards the dry down.

It becomes enveloping, but also with a dusky accent. At first, the tonka bean note of coumarin provides a warm sweetness, like a gentle fondle. This develops into a full embrace with the powdery sweet vanilla and heliotrope. There is also a hint of hidden desire in hot patchouli and civet that feels like a nod to the classic Jicky (Guerlain, 1889). But contrasted classically by the mossy note of Evernyl, this sensual sweetness has suddenly acquired a rough-hewn signature. Around this mossy sweet powder forming the dry down is a rich musk cocktail that keeps Boy soft and intimate for all of its day-long duration — those who are anosmic to certain musks may thus find this part of Boy to be a whisper.

The fougère accord is manipulated in Boy to reveal an interestingly tender side. Whilst the classical trinity of lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss as well as the animalic touch of civet are kept, the character of fougère is made softer, borrowing elements of feminine fragrances. The fresh introduction consists of aldehydic and rosy notes beside the traditionally hesperidic notes. The powdery sweet coumarin is enhanced with heliotrope, vanilla, and musks. In this way, the accord sways towards its rosy and enveloping side. With Boy, Polge has saliently demonstrated the flexibility of this perfumery accord.

I think the reinvention of the fougère has been in the making, and Boy is almost the tipping point. Looking back in 1921, there was Maja (Myrurgia, 1921) whose fougère elements of citrus, lavender, geranium, and woody vetiver are hidden beneath a dominant spicy oriental personality. Then, only a decade ago, perfumer Jacques Polge perhaps tested the water with the patchouli and amber of Coromandel (Chanel, 2007) that resembles the rose-patchouli fougère of Zino Davidoff (Davidoff, 1986), except for the fact that lavender — one of the defining elements of a fougère — is absent in Coromandel. And, though Brit Rhythm For Her (Burberry, 2014) marries lavender and rosy peony, it is still a fresh floral rather than a fougère. But with Boy, the classical fougère has entered a new ground. Boy re-orchestrates the classical fougère to interesting effects. It may well pave the way for a revolution, and the next descendant of Boy might surprise us.

But, for now, I am quite enamoured of its rosy freshness and mossy-yet-sweet powder with that restrained elegance of Chanel.

Source: chanel.fr

Review: Chanel N°22 — 5.0 points

Between 1919 and 1921, perfumer Ernest Beaux created a series of compositions. They were likely modifications of his successful Rallet N°1 (1914), also known as Le Bouquet de Catherine (Rallet, 1913) before the name change. They were presented to the mademoiselle. One was selected in 1921 and became Chanel N°5, and another was released a year later as Chanel N°22. This derivation from Rallet N°1 might explain resemblance between both as fragrances of aldehydic floral family, which combines aldehydic notes, flowers, and woods. But whereas the accent of Chanel N°5 falls on its opulent florals, Chanel N°22 plays up its dry woody notes.

chanel 22It is certainly a kinsman of Chanel N°5. It is aldehydic. Its metallic, citrusy, waxy notes are bright and scintillating – a counterbalance for the heft of white flowers. But there is also the warmth of sweet ylang ylang in the opening. Its solar and floral note does an excellent job at tempering the metallic chills of the aldehydic top.

The floral depth of ylang ylang that opens Chanel N°22 also bridges well to the heady white flowers. Orange blossom and jasmine absolute at 0.2% lend their peculiar narcotic accent to the composition. Th sensual florals remind me of a classic white strand of pearls that would lend an elegant touch.

Their decadent florals are matched by the dry woods, vetiver, and frankincense. The combined effect is that of incensed woods interspersed with white petals. Its woody note is rounded by a powdery sweet vanillic note. Towards the dry down, it is powdery, and incensed woods and musk form the main impression.

Chanel N°5 may be the classic floral aldehydic perfume, but Chanel N°22 is just as interesting a composition. Aside from the classical shimmering effect the aldehydic top has on its languorous white florals, the woody notes and incense provide a sober contrast. The indulgent florals are kept in check as the dry woods dominate, and this tension gives Chanel N°22 its character. It is a sublime woody variation of the original floral aldehydic composition.

A note on the concentrations: The extrait de parfum is no doubt rich with fatty absolutes from heady jasmine and carnal orange blossoms. But what startles me most in the extrait de parfum are the noble and rich woods of incense that fume out of skin on top of narcotic floral absolutes. It is basically the same as the eau de toilette, but its richness and the way its incense note emerges will make you swoon.

Sources: chanel.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: Chanel Gardénia — 3.0 points

Gardénia (Chanel, 1925) was first conceived by perfumer Ernest Beaux as he revisited his earlier idea in Le Gardénia (Rallet, 1920). However, it has been re-orchestrated by perfumer Jacques Polge and re-launched as an eau de toilette that suits modern tastes.

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Despite the name, Gardénia in the current formulation is not so much a rendition of the gardenia. It is, perhaps, a conceptual theme of the ideal garden of white flowers for the Mademoiselle. It brings in groves of camellias, orange blossoms, tuberoses, and jasmines — pretty flowers in nondescript gardens. It is above all a pretty, modern, floral perfume.

The opening has, like many modern perfumes, the brightness of pink pepper oil at 0.8%. There is also a kind of green sharpness to suggest the foliage. Soon, the composition warms up with sweet floral notes and the lactonic creaminess. There are orange blossoms, jasmines, and tuberoses. The green nuance and creaminess of sweet tuberose set the tone for Gardénia. Its fluffy musk marries well with the white florals and forms the most of the dry down. It is sweet and likeable. It does not offend or inspire.

Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena likes the composition because it evokes happiness. I like Gardénia for being easy on the nose. I am treated to a pleasant floral perfume without an attitude. From the beginning, it does not try to make an impression with a hard strike at my nose. Nor does it plunge my olfactory bulb into deep thoughts, as the composition develops. It is simple, pretty, and balanced. It will not offend anyone, and is only guilty of not being interesting. It is nice enough, but never memorable.

Certainly, not Billie Holiday with gardenias tucked in her hair.

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Sources: chanel.fr, hipquotient.com, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

Review: Guerlain Pera Granita — 3.0 points

Next in the series of Aqua Allegoria is Pera Granita (Guerlain, 2016) by in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser. ‘Pear granita’ references the Sicilian ice-based dessert known as granita siciliana. It is similar to sorbet, but has a rougher mouthfeel due to the crystalline texture of the ice. So, pear sorbet is as close as the name Pera Granita could be interpreted. And, Pera Granita, though not peculiarly Sicilian or fastidious about its texture, fulfils its promise of a sweet and sour treat.

allureru

Its tart pear introduction is juicy with drizzles of lemonade.  The accord is quickly backed by blooming florals. Amongst others, the sweet apricot note of osmanthus and the sensual roundness of orange blossom come to my mind. Pera Granita seems to strike the balance between tart fruits and florals. But, sadly, the pear top fades all too quickly, leaving only its tangy after-taste. What remains is a lemony, rosy accord with musks. In the late stages, the balance is tipped to the sweet musky side. It is quite nicely done, but not very exciting.

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If anything, I wish the tart pear were more long-lasting and with more interesting support as in the case of Pamplelune (Guerlain, 1999). However, Pera Granita is just as a pear sorbet should be. It has to be sweet and it does just that, with some sliver of natural complexity to refine the fruity-floral composition. And, whilst I would not be asking for poached pear in red wine with cinnamon and anise from this Aqua Allegoria, I would enjoy it more if there were more pear purée to keep the cheerful sweetness company.

Nonetheless, I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone just entering the world of perfume. Pera Granita can give the pleasures of being perfumed without a single thought to it. It requires no acquired taste for the animalic funks, the leathery whips, or the mossy roughness. One can enjoy the triviality and the carefree light-heartedness on the route of a Guerlain before one finds the way to the Guerlinade of Shalimar (Guerlain, 1925).

Sources: allure.ru, greenbeverages.com

Review: Diptyque Eau de Sens — 3.5 points

Eau des Sens (Diptyque, 2016) was created by perfumer Olivier Pescheux with the focus on a fairly known flower throughout the world: orange blossom. The goal, of course, is to highlight its beauty. But, it is also important to make the fragrance accessible with considerations given to its general appeal. For example, some may prefer the carnal sensuality of the flower, while others look for the comfort that it provides in scenting talcum powder. Eau des Sens takes these well into consideration and straddles nicely between the two sides. Eau des Sens is a balanced idea of shared fragrances from its character right down to its longevity.

eau de sens

Eau des Sens opens with a bright theme of the bitter orange tree. The combination of bigarade oil, petitgrain oil, and neroli oil – all from the bitter orange tree – introduces the theme nicely. Its citrusy sparkle, green woody nuance, and spicy floral note are there to behold. And, perhaps, juniper berries lend their bitter pine accent to give the impression of woods and stems.

The sensual central character of Eau des Sens emerges with the floral opulence of its orange blossom. The accent here is luminous, and not so much the narcotic creaminess that often typifies orange blossoms. But, at times, I find this orange blossom heart slightly ‘high-pitched’. Here, the woods of patchouli also contrast nicely with the heady orange blossoms and keeps the composition wearable.

It finishes on a floral musky note that marries well with the central orange blossom character. It also projects its orange blossom very well. Often, I kept catching whiffs off Eau des Sens, only to find out that the sources of that floral power were the blotter or my scarf a few metres away. More importantly, the dry down cleverly avoids coming close to the soapy musks of many orange blossom toiletries.

Eau des Sens is a balanced, well-crafted orange blossom theme with longevity to boost. Whilst it may not possess the ultimatum of Fleur d’Oranger (Serge Lutens, 2003), the multifaceted richness of Séville à l’Aube (L’Artisan Parfumeur, 2012), or the nectarous harvests of Fleur d’Oranger (L’Artisan Parfumeur, 2005 & 2007), Eau des Sens offers accessibility and fulfils its promises. It explores the fairly familiar theme of orange blossom on both sides, balancing between sultry seduction and reassuring comfort.

Source: diptyqueparis.com