Here she is, finally!
Gabrielle is the first feminine pillar fragrance from CHANEL since Chance in 2002. That’s a 15 year gap, which is somewhat unprecedented in an industry that is all about churn, churn, and more churn. But thankfully, CHANEL is a house that takes their time when it comes to fragrance. Of course, since 2002 CHANEL has launched fragrances, releasing a number of flankers of their existing perfumes, not to mention the launch of their Les Exclusifs collection as well. So Gabrielle isn’t the first new fragrance from CHANEL in 15 years, but it is the first entirely new pillar for women.
You may have guessed from the name, that Gabrielle takes inspiration from the brand’s founder Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. At CHANEL all roads lead back to Coco and a number of their fragrances have historically born the name of the founder (Coco, Coco Mademoiselle and Coco Noir), whilst others are named for dates that were important to her (Nº19 and Nº22), so Gabrielle is very much in this same vein. But for Gabrielle it is the rebellious and passionate spirit of Gabrielle Chanel that is celebrated, not just her name.
“I have chosen the person I want to be and am” said Gabrielle Chanel and Gabrielle the perfume, which has been composed by the brand’s in-house perfumer Olivier Polge, is described as being as “majestic, courageous, valiant, bold and passionately feminine” as Chanel herself. The fragrance is a floral, a “dream flower, an explosive corolla, a whirlwind of petals”, created to encapsulate the spirit of the founder. So how does this new addition to the CHANEL collection measure up to the brand’s other classics and was it worth the 15 year wait? There’s only one way to find out – let’s sniff!
Mandarin Peel, Grapefruit, Blackcurrant, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Orange Blossom and Tuberose.
How Does it Smell?
So how does it smell? We can wait no longer! Well, to simplify things with two easy points of reference I would say that Gabrielle smells like a cross between Coco Mademoiselle and Nº5 L’Eau, with the fruity sweetness of the former and the citrus sparkle of the latter. But that’s a vast oversimplification and when it comes to Gabrielle things are much more complicated than that (this is CHANEL after all) so I shall elaborate in full below.
Gabrielle is crisp and fruity in the opening. To my nose, all of the colour is removed from the fruit, leaving just the sparkling dewiness and the radiance. I find the citrus notes to be somewhat undefinable in the way that many CHANEL things are – they smell good, but its difficult to pick out the individual notes and the impression is very much of glistening, shimmering citrus fruits, paying homage to the aldehyde sparkle of the CHANEL classics.
The very core of Gabrielle is a bouquet of white flowers and as is the modus operandi at CHANEL, said bouquet is abstract with no one flower peeking out above the others. In fact, I’d say that CHANEL’S claim that the flower in question is imagined would be spot on. It feels solar in the way that orange blossom is but it also has the freshness of a clean jasmine note, with a subtle green-sweetness that is evocative of tuberose. It’s as if, piece by piece, and petal by petal, these flowers have been deconstructed and forged as one new flower. Gabrielle’s flower.
The base is where things go a little bit murky for me. I found the sparkling citrus of the top notes and the radiant florals of the heart to be buoyant and glowing, but the base seems to be lacking in oomph and presence. Much like Nº5 L’Eau (which was a really clever piece of work), Gabrielle relies on a heavy wind of musks to power it through to the dry down. Whilst these bring lift, they do so at the expense of character and it feels as if Gabrielle peters out quietly after time.
Now for the biggest question: what is the verdict? I think Gabrielle is as I expected to be, which is to say that is incredibly ‘CHANEL’ in its style. One can tell that ingredients used are of top notch quality – they really do sparkle and have a remarkable clarity to them. Gabrielle is weightless but it also has a presence. It’s the type of floral one could wear on any occasion, being casual enough to pair with a t-shirt but also smart enough to pair with work wear. What Gabrielle is not is daring or innovative, but that’s not what one looks to CHANEL for (although Les Exclusifs does offer those two things to a degree), no, one looks to CHANEL for beauty in style and materials.
What you think of Gabrielle will largely depend on how you fair with CHANEL’S other offerings, especially Coco Mademoiselle and Nº5 L’Eau. As for me? Well I very much enjoy the CHANEL style so Gabrielle is a fragrance I would happily smell on others. Would it be the first CHANEL I pick out to wear? Probably not and if I were erring on the negative side, I would say that Gabrielle is one of the brand’s blander fragrances and it could almost be mistaken for a scent created by a number of other designers in the mainstream. But as I’m a positive guy, I’ll instead say that Gabrielle’s radiance and glowing signature is likely to win many people over, I may just not be one of them.
Gabrielle is available in 50ml (£79) and 100ml (£112) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, notes and quotes via CHANEL. Images are my own.