A bottle of CHANEL Nº5 is sold every thirty seconds – just digest that fact for a second – that means by the end of this sentence, someone, somewhere around the world has bought themselves, or someone they love, a bottle of a fragrance that is as iconic as the Volkswagen Beetle, as timeless as Cartier diamonds and as beautiful as Paris at night. Nº5 has been a consistent bestseller since its launch in the 1920s putting it in the unique position of being the scent of many generations – it is our scent, the scent of our mothers and grandmothers – the smell of first dates, goodnight kisses and heart wrenching goodbyes. Nº5 is so much more than a perfume, it’s a friend that has accompanied us on life’s many journeys and it is someone we all know oh so very well.
Writing about CHANEL Nº5 is like photographing the Eiffel Tower – others have been there, done that and said all that can be said, snapped all that can be snapped, sniffed all that can be sniffed, even, but still there is a yearning to experience it for oneself and to speak of that experience. CHANEL Nº5 is a legend of the perfume world. Scrap that, Nº5 is the most famous perfume in the world and when most people think of perfume they think of Nº5. So it’s a daunting fragrance to approach as a writer because how could one ever do it justice? For me, Nº5 is the elephant in the room – it simply has to be written about. In this piece I’ll be celebrating CHANEL’s flagship fragrance by taking a look back at its history as well as sniffing its five incarnations, guiding you, Dear Reader, through the fabric of a perfume that can only be called a legend, and even then the description doesn’t quite do it justice. This is Nº5 to the power of five.