Super Scent is back, again! As you may or may not know, the idea of this series is for Basenotes, Persolaise and I to pick a perfume house and list our top five (or a few more if the house has an extensive catalogue). We are not allowed to discuss or show each other our lists before we publish and we must pick fragrances currently available and in their most recent formulations. We encourage you to share your top fives too and it’s always fascinating to see both the similarities and differences in our lists. So please do join in!
So far we’ve looked at Lauder, debated about Dior and edited the catalogue of Etat Libre d’Orange to pick our favourites, which takes us up to today and our latest subject: Chanel. Chanel is the house responsible for popularising the link between fragrance and fashion, cementing themselves as not only one of the world’s greatest couturiers, but also placing themselves at the forefront of fragrance. They are an illustrious brand with a fascinating eye for detail and a never-ending thirst for quality. Let’s take a look at my top five!
I should preface my description of Nº19 with the disclaimer that, as a general rule of thumb, green fragrances are my least favourite, which makes my love for this incredibly verdant perfume all the more remarkable. To me, Nº19 is the spirit of Coco Chanel bottled and with its sharp, almost bitchy, aldehyde and galbanum bitterness, it represents her famously abrasive attitude, and it simply gives no damns, which is no surprise as it takes its name from CC’s birthday. Underneath that is a sensitive heart of iris, showing a softer side amongst notes of rose, oakmoss and leather. Nº19 is one heck of a powerhouse – it’s like a spray-on power suit and it says one thing loud and clear: don’t mess with me.
Misia is the first outing for perfumer Olivier Polge at Chanel, whose father, Jacques has been creating for the brand for decades. It is, hands down, the greatest lipstick/makeup-inspired fragrance out there. Misia is a vibrantly rouge fragrance, complete with a sumptuous rose note, a delicately sweet dose of violet, a generous helping of doughy, powdery iris and some warm, skin-like leather for good measure. All together it smells like lipsticks, face powders and furs, but it’s surprisingly lightweight which really allows it to shimmer and shine. Misia simply is glamour in a bottle.
I was always going to like Nº22, I mean it’s a glamorous white floral with Chanel’s signature overdose of aldehydes, which is pretty much my idea of a good fragrance. The whole thing works on the contrasts of sparkling aldehydes, rubbery and oily tuberose, and ice cold incense. Coming together, this trio of opposing forces create a snowy white floral that is evocative of the blonde bombshells of old hollywood. Like Misia, Nº22 is pure glamour in a way that is inimitably ‘Chanel’. Or to put it another way, Nº22 is Madonna circa 1990: Blond Ambition Tour realness.
I knew Coco before I realised that I knew it. I remember smelling it for the first time as a perfume nerd and realising, instantly, that this is a smell I had encountered before. I’m not sure who wore it, or even if it was a specific individual, but Coco is a smell that reminds me of my early childhood (we’re talking nursery school days here) so instantly, it feels like a comfort scent. Coco is Chanel’s answer to the gigantic spice bombs of the ’80s and it’s perhaps the best example of this style. It’s rich and resinous, but it also has a remarkable brightness to it, thanks to some sparkling fruity notes, that allow it avoid being just a gigantic block of oriental weight. Coco is bombastic and very much of its time – it’s a cornucopia of fruits, spices, resins and flowers that smells like an intricately pieced together gown, but it’s wearable spirit is more pert-a-porter than haute couture.
I know, I know, the obvious choice, how utterly uninventive of me, but c’mon, Nº5 really is a darn good fragrance and it’s not easy to overlook. For me, like many others, this flagship fragrance was my gateway to the Chanel brand and it’s the one I turn to most (although my Misia obsession has been getting in the way of late). What is there to say about Nº5 that hasn’t already been said a thousand times and by better writers than I? By now we all know it’s an overdose of aldehydes blended with rose, jasmine and sandalwood, so rather than covering well-trodden ground about how it smells I will simply say this: Nº5 is a legend amongst lesser mortals. It’s the scent of a million wives, daughters, sisters, mothers and grandmothers, making it a huge part of many lives. You really can’t get better than that.
Join the Discussion!
What are your favourite Chanel fragrances?
Let me know in the comments box below!