Never underestimate the power of Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels. Having tried Chanel’ N°22 many times along my perfumista escapades I had never really found the love for it that I, and others thought I would. I mean it is a big aldehydic floral, and I’m sort-of into that kind of thing (OK, I love that kind of thing), but no N°22 never seemed to grab me, that was until an ever-persevering Birgit slipped a sample (and a number of hints, in an entirely non-pushy way I should add*) my way.
Now I will just put it out there that I have learned to love N°22, to me it epitomises the spirit of Chanel. It’s classy and elegant, but just that little bit rebellious. But whilst I enjoy it, I’m just not sure I’ll ever be running out to buy a bottle, my feelings very much lay in the ‘oh wow this is great but I don’t think I need it’ camp. That said, I am still definitely making my mind up about it and if there is one thing I have learned being a fumeophile it is that one should ‘never say never’!
N°22 was originally released in 1922, created by Chanel in-house perfumer Ernest Beaux (he of N°5 fame) it was intended as a lighter version of N°5. Chanel describes N°22 as “a skin scent […] full of grace […] (that) also bears the imprint of their (Chanel & Beaux’s) audacity.” N°22 now sits within the Les Exclusifs de Chanel line and I would probably rate it as my favourite Les Exclusif offering so far.
Heart: Jasmine, Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang and Rose
Base: Vetiver, Vanilla and Incense
How Does it Smell?
Seeing as N°22 takes inspiration from N°5 you won’t be surprised to learn that it starts with a huge explosion of aldehydes. Imagine the moment a bottle of champagne is popped open, that initial release of pressure and burst of shimmer & sparkle, and you’re on the right track.
The aldehydes in the top notes are icy-cool and slightly, ever-so slightly camphorous. They take the overdose of aldehydes in N°5 to the next level, meaning that N°22 can be considered as the ‘quick book yourself into rehab before it’s too late’ kind of aldehyde overdose. This is the 5th November/4th July firework display, not the hand held sparkler. To put it another way, N°22 is the queen of aldehydes.
As the aldehydes subside to a soft twinkle, they make way for a beautiful blend of sweet florals. In the spirit of early Chanel creations the florals remain almost entirely abstract, giving the impression of a floral bouquet rather than individual notes. That said, a rubbery tuberose is quite easy to pick out at times and when pushed I can sniff out the faintest hint of dewy rose.
Underneath the abstract bouquet of flowers is an underlying vein of cool, aloof incense. I find the incense interesting because it is instantly recognisable yet completely alien in a way. It stops N°22 from becoming just another floral and puts it up there with N°5 in terms of being an concept piece, a composition that cannot really be linked back to nature.
The warmth of the dry down is a stark contrast to the icy-cool opening. It manages to showcase a number of strong textures and it is powdery and creamy all at once. It feels like beautiful suede or the softest velvet. What’s also really surprising is that, after all of the initial fan fair N°22 really softens and becomes the skin scent that Chanel promises. It wears like a couture Chanel silk.
N°22 is a beautiful perfume, the problem is that I was expecting a little more from it. Perhaps it’s a bit too close to N°5 to be considered special, it is alternative take on the N°5 theme after all, and those are some big shoes to fill. If I was pressed to choose between the two I think I’d probably go for N°5 because it has the richness that N°22 lacks, but I would recommend it for those who are looking for an alternative, slightly more floral N°5.
Which number would you go for?
N°22 is available in 75ml &100ml Eau de Toilette and 15ml Parfum. It is part of Les Exclusifs Chanel line and prices range from £100-£180.
Notes vía basenotes.net. Image 1 reneeashleybaker.wordpress.com. Image 2 chanel.com. Quotes via chanel.com. * updated.