When I took my thirteen-year-old into Saks with me to explore the Chanels, the first thing she said when she smelled Chanel No. 5 was, “it smells like rich people.” I thought that remark was apt in two ways – No. 5 instantly conjures the old-guard moneyed classes. The other insight was the word “people” – Chanel doesn´t smell like rich women; men could quite easily indulge in its dry, chilled florals. While a random person on the street might be surprised to discover a man wearing No. 5, an adventurous perfumista would understand.
We were there to smell No. 5 Eau Premiere, of course – the new twist on Chanel´s iconic fragrance.
I worked through a bottle of No. 5 cologne back in the day, but it´s been some time since I really paid attention to what it smells like. My first reaction, unsurprisingly, is that I like it much, much more than I used to. I meditated on the spray of EDP on the back of my hand – dry, yes, but sweetly smoky – and realized I´d finally grown into it. I don´t spend my days running around in a Chanel suit, but I can easily imagine spritzing some No. 5 on before lunch with a friend. Now I need to try the parfum, which I´m thinking is probably extraordinary.
I brought Diva along to test-drive some of the Chanel scents I think are targeted to the youth market (i.e., anyone younger than me); she tried Coco Mademoiselle, Allure and Chance Eau Fraiche. I thought Mademoiselle was lovely on her, but she pronounced it “too spicy;” the allure of Allure continues to elude us (and I´m not spraying “Sensuelle” on a 13-year-old). Predictably she liked the Chance Eau Fraiche a lot; I can´t remember Chance regular, but would have assumed it was fraiche enough on its own. It´s a perfectly nice scent and she was immediately on board with the idea of a bottle as her Chanel gateway drug. But I think she likes it because it smells more or less like the ubiquitous fruity-floral of her generation.
Eau Premiere is a different, and interesting, proposition on its own. Its resemblance to the original No. 5 is immediately apparent; while the aldehydic powderiness been toned down significantly, it still retains a velvety texture. No. 5 classic is a “cool” fragrance; in fact the most frequent criticism I read from people who don´t like it is they find it too cold. Premiere is the opposite – warmth, but not the warmth of a blazing (or even dying) fire. It´s the warmth of a blanket or a cashmere sweater, the warmth of a single, spicy rose in a vase by the window, with the snow falling outside.
Eau Premiere snuck up on me, frankly. I tried it first with five other things (typical!), and then twice more as a “normal” person would wear fragrance – all over, by itself. I put it on, thought yes, that´s nice, and went about my day. But there´s something slyly subversive about Eau Premiere. It takes the original construct, the chilly élan, of No. 5, using notes that signal immediately how close their relationship is, and turns it on its head. Warm, not cold. Inviting, not aloof. Closeness, not distance. And for all that, it´s not a “comfort scent.” It´s not your favorite tatty cardigan or a lap robe by the fire. It´s quite elegant – Audrey Hepburn, maybe, instead of Grace Kelly, but elegant nonetheless. My minor complaint is I wish its formulation were a tad stronger – maybe like Allure they´ll come out with one. My quandary now is: do I need a bottle of it and No. 5, or will one do?
October Roses, Liz Lindsey, lizlindsey.com