Pack your bags because CHANEL is taking us on holiday. They’ve booked the most luxurious mode of transport – no, not the Orient Express or Emirates First Class, it’s something much more special than that for this is an olfactory odyssey that takes one on a historical trek though the life and times of their inimitable founder: Mademoiselle Coco Chanel. There are three stops on the journey, so prepare to explore the green countryside of Normandy, dip your toes into the Atlantic coastline, and take long, endless strolls through a Mediterranean city. Don’t worry about packing any perfumes because CHANEL have got you covered with their latest collection: LES EAUX DE CHANEL.
With LES EAUX DE CHANEL, CHANEL say that it is not the destination that matters, but the journey. It is the idea of escaping – of exploring, losing oneself and finding oneself. It’s about traversing unchartered territory and experiencing new things. For the collection, CHANEL has called upon their in-house perfumer to create three contemporary eau de cologne-style fragrances (which are actually Eau de Toilette concentration) inspired by locations of historical significance to the brand. Housed within a new, travel-flask inspired bottle (which takes inspiration from vintage alcohol canisters carried in one’s waistcoat), these three ‘eaus’ mark a new chapter in the olfactory story of CHANEL. So let’s embark on an exciting journey and explore LES EAUX DE CHANEL.
PARIS – DEAUVILLE
Orange Rind – Petit Grain – Basil Leaf
Rose – Jasmine
Deauville perhaps has the most significance of all three locations explored in LES EAUX DE CHANEL because it represents the genesis of the legendary house of CHANEL in 1913. It is where Mademoiselle Chanel, then a milliner, opened her very first boutique, hoping to court the tastes of the many Parisians who visited the resort town on the weekend. It was in Deauville that the CHANEL revolution started – slowly and with a minimalist approach that broke all of the rules of convention at the time. For Paris-Deauville, the fragrance that celebrates this important beginning, perfumer Olivier Polge was inspired by the tall grasses of the titular town, creating something that CHANEL refer to as “crinkled leaves and bitter green” and to that I say sign me up!
“More than the actual reality of the destination, I liked the idea urbanites make of it when they dream of a weekend in the country. I wasn’t striving to capture the Normandy countryside as it stands today, but rather the promise of a stroll through the tall grasses.”
– Olivier Polge
I would classify Paris-Deauville in that category of scents that just make you smile. It’s so endearingly pleasant and familiar, like greeting an old friend you always feel comfortable around. At its core it is a traditional cologne – it has vibrant, sherbet like citrus up top, accented by the savoury-green quality of basil. It’s crisp, sparkling, refreshing and bright. Where Paris-Deauville diverges from the traditional journey of the eau de cologne is in the heart. Instead of a neroli/orange blossom/petit grain emphasis, the more dominant impression is of green jasmine, which turns this into something actually quite contemporary and with the dry patchouli in the base, it almost feels chypre-like, placing it in the same vein as fragrances such as Malle’s resplendent Eau de Magnolia. Paris-Deauville is easy, affable and entirely elegant – I cannot think of any situation where it would be out of place and its ease is exactly what makes it so wonderful.
PARIS – VENISE
Citrus – Neroli – Red Berry
Iris – Grasse Geranium
Cedar – Vanilla – Amber
In 1920, Mademoiselle Chanel found Venice. Reeling from the death of her lover, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, she was sent to the Italian city by her friend and muse, Misia Sert. There Coco Chanel absorbed the clash of cultures, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sergei Dhiagilev, and finding the inspiration for her first jewellery collection. So it’s no surprise that Paris-Venise the fragrance is the richest of the bunch (although these are ‘eaux’, remember, and rich is to be taken with a pinch of salt) capturing the spirit of the orient, the baroque and the gold, in what perfume Olivier Polge calls a “cozy, cottony sensation”.
“I wanted people to smell that gateway to the Orient, which, at CHANEL, is also an evocation of the baroque.”
– Olivier Polge
The biggest impression one gets from Paris-Venise is vanilla and as expected from CHANEL, it is of the highest grade. For me, this one is the most linear and perhaps the least striking of the trio. It has that signature CHANEL-shimmer up top (is there anything more delightful? I think not!) in the form of a sequin-like lemon seen through a veil of silk. The rest is a soft, almost-floral vanilla that has enough plush adornments on it – a touch of iris powder, a fresh flash of geranium and a dash of dry cedar, to be exact – to stop it from ever being considered gourmand. Paris-Venise is an intimate, silken oriental where vanilla is the star but not the be all and end all. Whilst it’s not my favourite, I can certainly see it being the most popular due to its sensual, cosy nature.
PARIS – BIARRITZ
Grapefruit – Mandarin – Aqueous Note
Vetiver – White Musk
Another destination and another iconic boutique – this time the locations is Biarritz. Amongst the hotels, golf course, beaches, casino and rich patrons, Mademoiselle Chanel opened a boutique in the Villa de Larraide, tapping into the rich and the royal patrons that made Biarritz such a place of High Society in 1915. Here, in the Basque coast resort town, Coco Chanel partied with her Russian friends and swam in the Atlantic Ocean, so Paris-Biarritz the fragrance celebrates a care-free attitude that can only be found in a life spent by the ocean.
“I wanted to create a sensation on the skin as if each ingredient were soaked with water.”
– Olivier Polge
I’ll say right now that Paris-Biarritz is the clever one. It’s also the most unusual and definitely the most compelling. Opening with a clash of grapefruit and sea salt, Paris-Biarritz smells almost as if one has spritzed a fragrance on a windy beach, the marine air mingling with the bitterness of grapefruit to create something evocative of spaces near the sea, but not in it. It intensifies with a stark, cooling and somewhat sterile lily-of-the-valley accord. CHANEL refer to it as “an ice cold dip on a sunny day” and I totally get that – this isn’t some exotic vista, it’s the magic of being beside the ocean, regardless of the weather. All of this sits atop a beachside breeze of vetiver and musk which bring a a fresh, green aspect, making for a clean, marine and supreme scented machine. Can you tell that it’s my favourite?!
LES EAUX DE CHANEL takes the fusion of the classic and the modern that CHANEL does so well and puts it at the central core of three summer-appropriate fragrances. Each tells a story of a specific place and time but does so in a way that is not literal, instead opting to allow one’s imagination to invent the olfactory cues rather that follow them. They are on the lighter side, so performance wise they don’t have as much oomph as LES EXCLUSIFS, for example, but in the case of LES EAUX DE CHANEL, this works in their favour. These are easy wearing, very spritzable modern eaus that one can wear without thinking too much. The goal is to smell sublime and with LES EAUX DE CHANEL, the brand certainly delivers.
Launching on 13 July, LES EAUX DE CHANEL will be available in 125ml Eau de Toilette for £97.
Samples, notes and quotes via CHANEL. Images are my own.