There’s always a sense of unease amongst the perfume-appreciating public when a brand announces that they are tinkering with a classic and presenting it in a new guise. Teeth are clenched, short breaths are inhaled and noses are on guard, all held in hope that whatever this new fragrance child turns out to be, it lives up to the high standards set by its forbearer. Personally, I’m not so precious about the classics and I view these remixes as being similar to the remake of an iconic film. Just because something is being remade, doesn’t mean that every single copy of the original will be deleted. The classic will still be there so if the new version doesn’t resonate, that’s fine, one still has their classic to enjoy. So yes, brands can remix and remake as much as they like because you know what? The results can often be quite interesting indeed (case in point: Shalimar Parfum Initial).
I say all of this because CHANEL are just about to launch Nº5 L’EAU, an entirely new interpretation of none other than Nº5, arguably the most famous perfume in the world. L’EAU comes as the first rehash of Nº5 under the penmanship of Olivier Polge, CHANEL’s latest in-house perfumer, who took the reigns in 2015. This however, is not the first rebirth of Nº5, which has seen a number of incarnations in its time, starting as an Extrait composed in 1921 by Ernest Beaux before the perfumer revisited the composition to create an Eau de Toilette just two years late in 1924. Under perfumer Jacques Polge’s tenure, we saw an Eau de Parfum concentration composed in 1986 in addition to an ‘Eau Première’ version which followed in 2007 as an introductory scent for a younger audience. Now we have L’EAU, a fragrance that is being billed by CHANEL as the Nº5 of today.
“A fragrance for here, now and always” – that’s how CHANEL describe Nº5 L’EAU. The fragrance is a “complete reinvention” of the original but at the same time, the brand is quick to point out that Olivier Polge has been respectful of Nº5’s history whilst he has dissected the formula to see just how it ticks, and rightly so. Nº5 L’EAU looks to the future to create a new Nº5 – a Nº5 for the modern generation. The trick here is to create something new from something so instantly recognisable, to make the known surprising and to not lose the spirit of the composition along the way. So how successful has the exercise in modernising and lightening an olfactory icon been? Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out!
French couturier Jean Patou launched his iconic flagship fragrance ‘JOY‘ in 1930, almost immediately after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Patou created his signature fragrance with a view of making it an affordable luxury for those that were no longer able to shroud themselves in the couture of the day. Quite ironically however, the fragrance was known as the ‘most expensive perfume in the world’ for quite some time, due in part to its prominent use of natural jasmine which, as you will all know, doesn’t come cheap.
It seems poignant almost that the house of Patou should launch a new interpretation of JOY in 2014, whilst the world is in the midst (and hopefully at the back end of) a global financial crisis. This new version of Patou’s classic is entitled ‘JOY FOREVER‘ and is described by the house as being a “stunning floral perfume that unveils a new chapter in continuing story of JOY“. Created by perfumer Thomas Fontaine for “today’s discerning woman”, JOY FOREVER is a more translucent, radiant and vibrant take on one of perfumery’s most iconic and timeless perfumes.
“Her mother may have worn JOY for its sheer luxury but she will choose JOY FOREVER for its natural quality and scent. She lives for the moment….she lives for today!”
JOY FOREVER joins the likes of Chanel’s Nº5 Eau Première and Guerlain’s Shalimar Parfum Initial as entry level fragrances for those that aren’t quite ready to commit to the classics. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is the fact that, whilst it doesn’t smell anywhere near as heady, intense or timeless as the original JOY, it does look back to the past, not quite as far back as 1930 mind you, but instead it looks to the aldehydic florals of the 1980s, from which it takes more than a few olfactory cues.
Chanel and I have fallen out recently. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well it’s simple, the venerable house has failed to live up to expectations of late with recent releases such as last year’s Coco Noir (a perfume so yawn-worthy I couldn’t even be bothered to review it) being well-made but painfully safe, proving that this once innovative house prefers to go for the big bucks rather than the big wow.
Still, we have the wonderful boutique-exclusive ‘Les Exclusifs de Chanel’ line to rely on for our wows, right? Not always, 2011’s Jersey was a serious lavender miss-step that proved that there is such a thing as a granny perfume, and an angry one at that.
You may be thinking – “So what, Chanel always produces quality” – and you’d be right but lest we not forget that this is the house that broke ground with N°5 in 1921 with a perfume deliberately designed to smell manufactured and put-together like a piece of couture – with Chanel one not only expects quality but also innovation.
I am, of course a blip that probably isn’t on Chanel’s radar and it will surprise no-one that my dissatisfaction hasn’t stopped them with their schedule of releases (or releasing dreadful adverts staring Brad Pitt). Their first release for 2012 is part of Les Exclusifs de Chanel and has been named after and created to honour the year the brand’s high jewellery line debuted – 1932.
From the Chanel website:
“A constellation of diamonds – In 1932, Mademoiselle Chanel showered Paris with diamond stars and a high jewellery line was born. Jacques Polge chose to evoke this constellation-collection with a precious, white and oh-so feminine flower; jasmine. Worked petal by petal to make every facet shine, it gradually spirals into place, waits to reveal itself on the skin and finishes by divulging its sophisticated and voluptuous side.”
Parfums Salvador Dalí is an odd brand. They aren’t readily available in the UK but I always see them when scouring the discount stores for interesting things. I often find myself tentatively eyeing up their weird, surrealist bottles and wondering whether the juices they contain are as crazy as the vessels that contain them.
On one such recent trip to the discounters I came across the Salvador Dalí perfumes as usual and decided to refer to Perfumes: The Guide to see what our Perfume Oracles (Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez) thought of them. Only two Dalí fragrances received a high rating of four stars; Dalí and Laguna, the former of which is evaluated by Turin in the following way:
“[…] a big, handsome, strapping floral chypre somewhere between Amouage [Gold] and Bal à Versailles, though lacking the exquisitely rich texture of the former and the bold, striking structure of the latter.” 
Well, as you can imagine I was sold by the word “Amouage” and less than five minutes later I had added a 30ml sized bottle of Dalí Parfum de Toilette to my shopping cart (a steal at £10) and had checked out. A blind buy is a risky thing I know, but I figured that if I didn’t like the scent I could at least display the bottle somewhere and ogle it on a regular basis.
Released in 1983 Dalí, created by none other than the great Alberto Morillas, was Salvador Dalí’s first foray into the perfume market. Dalí’s wife and muse Gala was the inspiration behind the fragrance and it contains notes of rose and jasmine which were her favourite flowers. Parfums Salvador Dalí describe Dalí PdT as “a feminine fragrance, with character, created in the purest of tradition of opulent Chypre perfumes”  and I would classify it as a big ole 80s floral made with a soft touch.
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.
In 2010 the king of dark, brooding orientals and baroque florals, Serge Lutens, decided to launch an ‘anti-perfume’, a perfume that was designed to give you “a lasting sensation of wearing a ‘clean’ scent” . Cue a huge outcry from the perfume community and hardcore Lutens fanboys (and girls); “He’s doing WHAT?! A clean scent?! Looks like Uncle Serge has finally lost it” they said.
Aristotle said “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness” and It is clear to me that Uncle Serge hasn’t lost it, instead it seems that he has quite the sense of humour. I can just see him sat in his office above his flagship boutique in the Palais Royal, chuckling away at the thought of the die-hard Lutenites trying L’Eau for the very first time. In my head he utters Miranda Hart’s catchphrase “such fun” as he tries to stifle his giggles.
This year Lutens has decided to take the joke that little bit further with the addition of L’Eau Froide, and as the name suggests, this time the water he is playing around with is is cold. Where L’Eau is described as a new kind of clean, L’Eau Froide is “Some fresh air in the rusty old water pipes.”  I told you he had a sense of humour! L’Eau was an essay in cleanliness and purity but L’Eau Froide is an essay in austerity and is just as gothic and Lutensien as you would hope it to be.
Talking about another Vivienne Westwood scent (Anglomania) last week as part of the ‘Gone, But Not Forgotten’ Series led me to drag out my bottle of Boudoir which has been lurking somewhere in the back of my ‘purgatory drawer’ – a fate that awaits those perfumes of mine that no longer have a place in my collection.
When I gave Boudoir its first spritz in what must be at least a year I was shocked, why was this in the purgatory draw? I like this! My biggest problem, it seems, is that I have a short attention span, I can only concentrate for a maximum of about five minutes before being distracted by something shiny or basically anything other than the task at hand (a problem that was recently brought to my attention by my boss, who very politely mentioned that my time management skills left a lot to be desired) and this is true with perfumes, I do tend to love something for a while before I get bored and want something new. I guess you could call me a ‘fragrant magpie’ of sorts.
Anyway, enough about me, on to the fragrance! Boudoir was Vivienne Westwood’s first fragrance and was released in 1998, it is classified as a ‘Floral Chypre’ and is the only Westwood fragrance that seems to have stood the test of time, Libertine, Anglomania and Let it Rock have all since fallen by the way side and have lost their places as part of the Westwood collection.