Friday, August 26, 2016

What Makes French Perfume Timeless? The Mystique of Chanel, Paris

A fragrant walk through history
Paris, France is still considered the perfume capitol of the world and with good reason. Just think back to Empress Josephine's splashing the boudoir walls of Versailles with heady perfumes which can still be noted to this day! I have a precious little perfume bottle which belonged to my grandmother. The fragrance is still there, even though the bottle is empty. Yet is is just as I remember it as a child. 

The Mystique of Chanel No 5
My mother always had a large bottle of Chanel No. 5 on her vanity. I'd sit for hours to play with her makeup and dab her perfume "behind my ears". Chanel No. 5 was created over 90 years ago by couturier Coco Chanel and was revolutionary at the time. This is because it was the first perfume to use a class of chemicals called "aldehydes". What's unique about aldehydes is that one of them actually smells like soap. 

Some aldehydes smell like soap, giving perfume a clean, fresh smell. Senteurs D' Orient Soap.
Remarkably, Chanel No. 5 was developed to mimic the scent of a woman and the use of artificial substances, namely aldehydes had never been used in such quantity in a perfume before. As a marketing ploy the bottle itself was made to resemble a Whisky Decanter!  Chanel No. 5 was imbued with the fragrance of sandalwood, vanilla, jasmine and rose. A very sensuous mix for the time but it uniquely carried the clean scent of soap due to the high concentration of aldehydes. Now my mother didn't wear Chanel No. 5 that often and said that it was not really her absolute favorite.

My Chanel Camelia Flower Makeup Bag

However, she still had it because it set the bar of what a quality French Perfume should be. She could then judge her other perfume selections by that standard. True to form, she also had a round black bottle of My Sin or Mon Peche by Lanvin, Paris which WAS her favorite. Like Chanel No. 5, it was new for the times as an aldehyde heavy perfume, formulated by Madame Zed and released in 1924. My Sin was discontinued in 1988 but the inclusion of rose and vanilla places it in squarely in the sphere of Chanel No. 5.

My Coco Eau de Parfum by Chanel
The Mystique of Coco
Coco was released in 1984 and formulated by perfumer or "nose" Jacques Polge. It is classified as an oriental perfume for women. Coco builds on the rich, warm base notes of Chanel No. 5, namely vanilla, sandalwood, jasmine and rose but adds: Top notes of coriander, mandarin orange, peach, jasmine and bulgarian rose; middle notes are mimosa, cloves, orange blossom, clover and rose; base notes are labdanum, amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, opoponax, civet and vanilla.

Perfume is just as important of an accessory as clothing and jewelry.
Coco is packaged in the same Whisky Decanter bottle as the original Chanel No. 5 and I purchased it as one of my first adult perfume acquisitions. So like my mother, I have it as an example of a high quality perfume, a benchmark by which other fragrance choices are measured.   

Thierry Mugler's Alien, Coco and Givenchy's Irresistible are all quality French perfumes.

New Perfume Formulations today are moving away from using, natural, organic herbs and flowers. Still, this is nothing new as what we have seen with the introduction of aldehydes in Chanel No. 5 in the 1920's. Many people were (and are) turned off by the smell of chemicals so some are turning to Natural Baby Perfume (see as an alternative. One of the signs of a quality perfume is lasting power and the inclusion of aldehydes improved it's ability to last. Apply to pulse points on your wrists as the warmth of your blood-flow will increase the intensity. French perfume lasts for many hours and even the next day, I can smell it on my skin. So a quality perfume like this will tick off all the boxes: Subtle but complex. Melds with your body chemistry. Long wearing and actually smells better over time
My other favorite perfumes from Paris shown here include: Thierry Mugler's Alien and Givenchy's Very Irresistible. Both are elegant and complex with tremendous lasting power. 

French perfume is part of being properly dressed.

The top selling Chanel Perfumes are linked below and available via these affiliate links on Amazon.

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