Everything Old is New

Before I forget … are we at the Posse your fragrant love slaves?  Have we combed the lands on our faithful MasterSteeds, far and wide, clad only in our ridiculous pointy-toed boots and some frankly uncomfortable chaps, looking for all that´s old, new, and in between?  Have we salted the earth with snarky reviews, batted around the skank, and started the stampede of a thousand lemmings?  Yes, we have done these things.  And now, poppets – it´s time for you to meander over to Basenotes to vote in their 9th annual fragrance awards, with such categories as best 2008 fragrance, best niche fragrance, and … your favorite perfume blog.   You have to register to vote, and then you´re entered into a drawing for a $250 gift certificate from FragranceNet.

Okay, today´s post.

 

Maybe it´s the weather, or the dire economic situation, or my new red lips.  But all I´m interested in right now are my heavier and vintage classics, which are my current comfort scents.  Hard times call for tough perfumes.  Off with the fleece slippers and on with the suit of armor, apparently.  In heavy rotation right now:  Mitsouko; Jicky; vintage Femme, which I have worn more in the past month than in the years I´ve owned it; Tabu parfum; Bal a Versailles.   As soft as it gets for me right now:  Patou Normandie*, and my beloved bottle of my mother´s My Sin. Today I´m blogging about another classic with plenty of personality — Chanel Cristalle EDT — I revisited recently.

What a difference 30 years can make in terms of perspective.  In its debut in the mid 1970s, Chanel Cristalle eau de toilette was the “young” Chanel – the one with training wheels, if you will.  Sure, daddy might buy you a bottle of No. 5 for your 16th birthday, but by the late 70s Cristalle was the fragrance of choice for my high school girlfriends not wearing the original Ralph Lauren (these were the days that spawned The Preppy Handbook.)   Unsurprisingly, Cristalle EDT remains in my mind an elegant teenage scent.  The EDP, created 20 years later, is more floral and, to my nose, less interesting.

Now, of course, Chanel has things like Coco Mademoiselle, Allure and Chance Eau Fraiche.  Out of curiosity I asked my daughters what they thought of Cristalle and they wrinkled their noses – it might as well be my atomizer of vintage Femme as far as they are concerned, modern tastes having shifted so dramatically to the fruity, gourmand and floral.

Cristalle EDT’s notes vary depending on where you look, but this sounds about right: lemon, bergamot, basil, petitgrain, galbanum, jonquil, jasmine, hyacinth, oakmoss, rosewood, and vetiver.  It´s the sort of classic scent that crops up when people on the perfume boards ask for a fragrance that smells like cut grass.  And it does have that kind of sharp, green freshness, but it´s Chanel, not Comme des Garcons.  It´s an abstract, jewel-toned grassy lawn with a mannered bed of flowers in the distance.  The citrusy/green herbaceous notes are most intense at the top; it´s a bit of a shocker if all you´ve ever smelled is the powdery No. 5 in cologne.  As it settles, it becomes woodier and somewhat smoother, but I would never describe it as “quiet.”  As is true of many Chanels, I think a man could wear this beautifully.

I have long admired Cristalle´s pungent, herbal bouquet, but only recently have I come to like it.  Unlike my more sophisticated high school friends, I felt Cristalle was too much; it wore me rather than the reverse.  It was brunch in a fancy restaurant and I was still wearing my bathrobe.

Smelling it recently, I realized Cristalle brought to mind something else – specifically, a younger version of Estee Lauder´s Azuree.  I looked up Azuree´s notes:  aldehydes, basil, bergamot, gardenia, jasmine, cyclamen, ylang ylang, patchouli, leather, oakmoss, amber, patchouli, vetiver, musk.   You can see the overlap there; in particular, the smokiness of the vetiver and oakmoss stood out.  Azuree is the elegant woman in her forties having a cigarette on the country club terrace while still clad in her tennis dress.  Cristalle is her teenaged daughter sneaking a Marlboro Light with her girlfriends behind the pool house.

It seems to me that Cristalle is trapped in the no-man´s-land between Les Exclusifs and No. 5, and it doesn´t really belong in their youth-market group either.  It strikes me as a strangely hopeful fragrance in these somber times, while still being completely plausible on a grown woman.   I was too young for it at 15, and too old at 30, but now at 45 it somehow feels just right.

* Hey, who sent me that Normandie decant?  Gail, was that you?  Goodness, what a lovely fragrance, I really should review it.  Rose, carnation, jasmine, vanilla, balsam, moss, and a must-try for carnation lovers.  Is it vintage?  I notice that unlike a lot of the others I can still get a bottle online.

photos: Chanel Cristalle advertisement, perfume4u.co.uk; C.Z. Guest and her son at her Palm Beach estate in 1955, one of many extraordinary society photographs by Slim Aarons at photographersgallery.com

58 Comments

  1. March, I ordered a decant of Cristalle recently in the EDT form and I find it very different from what I remember of it a few decades ago. I also thought it would be very young girlish – but not so. I think it does smell a bit dated but – whatever – I just love the “greens”. The only problem with Cristalle is I find it lasts 17 minutes on my skin and then it does a compete vanishing act. Have tried it on a few friends and all report the same thing. Love your smoking desctiption 🙂

    • Viewing the comments below, you’re not the only one who finds it short lived. Of course as Louise surmises it lasts forever on me 🙂 I will note that I had a paper strip in my car and I could smell it quite clearly two days later.

      The thing that surprised me was, I was shocked at the smokiness of the vetiver (which btw I like, that wasn’t a criticism). I wonder whether that’s changed, or whether I never noticed it?

  2. Wow, that image of pointy boots and ill-fitted chaps gets a girl’s loyalty right in gear…y’all have my vote ^:)^

    The heavy classics have been getting a lot of play over here as well-especially my tough-love Mitsouko PdT, and Bal. Today I feel the need for a little levity…hmmmm, maybe Bois des Iles? That’s as “light” as it goes in the chill. I am grateful to you for getting me to refocus on this perfume, after I’d dismissed it as too aldehydic.

    Cristalle is lovely, but, not to bore ya, it Doesn’t Last :-s Of course, I imagine it wears for 24 hours on you /:)

    • Prepare to laugh — of all things, BdI in the newer arrangement (Les Exclusifs) lasts no time on me at all, it’s ridiculous. I need to get ahold of some vintage and give that a whirl.

      I admit I find the first 60 seconds of Cristalle a bit of rough road, but if I keep my nose away from it for a few minutes it’s delightful.

      • Ach, another sad reformulation story :(( ? My BdI was bought just before the Exclusifs were issued, and is might powerful for an EdT-long-wearing, stunning sillage :d/

        • Well, there you have it. I had a small vial from a long-ago swap, and THAT stuck around. The new formulation seems gone fifteen minutes after I put it on. 🙁

  3. MasterSteed…it’s a noun…it’s a verb…it’s the imperative of the Posse. Your poppets thank you.

    Have not yet investigated Cristalle, but will keep in mind your clear thoughts when I do. Meanwhile, I know I’m still dealing chump change if Louise there is wearing Bois des Isles as “light” fare. /:) The wind is blowing heartily around here, and has brought something like a 40 degree temp drop, so I’m looking for an anchor–perhaps Chergui? Much as I’ve been grooving it in the cold, Black Cashmere doesn’t have that low center of gravity I’m looking for today…

    • Well, I’m chump-change if BC doesn’t have a “low center of gravity” 8-| :d

    • Chergui sounds like a perfect choice, frankly, and joining Louise in giggling about Black Cashmere. How much lower could you need? In fact I wear my lotion more than the perfume, BC is so huge on me. 🙂

      • Okay, let’s see: Bois des Iles lasts all day on me, and that is the current bottle. Black Cashmere soaks up enough to be spicy woody comfort, but not repellant.

        Did I tell you about the time I slid down the “anti-gravity” spinner thingy at the amusement park? It did amuse my cousin…and puzzled the ride operator. I’m just…I dunno…anti matter or something.

        You two resume chuckling now. For all I know, I’m an alien.

    • Was not that drop in temps *sudden*? I went from having a window open to ice pummeling the yard in about a half hour!

  4. Oh, yeah…and y’all should be noting that you are also nominated for the Fragrantica blog awards. Ride ’em, Posse!

  5. Hey, March.

    Great review, as always. I rarely/never post on blogs these days, but I’m de-lurking today since you mentioned the Normandie decant. You may remember me. I sent you some Apercu back in ’06, and to my delight you really liked it. I also included some Normandie in the package. Now, I have no idea if the particular decant you referred to in your post was from me or if someone else had also sent you a samp. I had bought my bottle in ’06; I have no idea how old the bottle is. Probably dates to the late ’90s??

    ITA with regards to Cristalle EdT. I’m closer to 50 than 40 and find Cristalle to be perfect some days. On me it has good longevity.

    Ride ’em, Cowgirl!

    • It was you!!!!! Thank you thank you thank you! I was so entranced by the Apercu, as you’ll recall, that I never gave Normandie the proper attention. I have this drawer (well, several) of decants and dug Normandie up while searching for Apercu. Really, really lovely, I may have to get a bottle. Also I am ashamed to admit I don’t really know Ma Collection – perhaps a resolution for 2009.

      Sadly, my decant of Apercu had gone completely off, I have no idea why. 🙁

      • Oy. Sorry to hear about the Apercu decant. You want that I should send you s’more? Be glad to. Last I checked, my bottles were okay. Let me know.

        Ma Collection is def worth exploring. If I had to choose right here right now, my picks would be Colony and L’Heure Attendue. But, as they say, YMMV.

        • Colony is the pineapple one, right? And several of them have clove, which sounds appealing…

          Um, would asking for a small vial of Apercu be the tackiest thing on the planet? Seriously, I’d love another taste. I can’t think what went wrong, I had it tucked away. 🙁

          • Not tacky a-tall. I offered. Has your email address changed since ’06? I’ll dig it up and contact you that way to make sure I have your correct address. Guess I better run check my Apercu to make sure it’s still good. . . .

            Yes, Colony is the pineapple. Marvelous, IMO. TTYS.

  6. I have noticed that more people seem to be armoring themselves with scent these days. It’s particularly noticable on the Metro. Angel seems to be a favorite among the women. Men also seem to be girding themselves with scent….though I’m not picking up on a specific scent for them. Only more spices, fewer aquatics and “clean” scents.

    Anyone else noticing the same thing?

    • Gah, Angel. They keep running at me in Macy’s with the *body butter* of all things. Shudder. I’m going to have to start carrying my garlic and my crucifix with me… I am smelling something spicier, suspect it’s the Secret Obsession but am not sure (this summer it was a whole lot of Prada Iris, and I was happy with that.) And you’re right — the men smell woodier/spicier, that’s such a trend/cliche right now, but I LIKE those scents. Stuff like Zirh Ikon, John Varvatos, Polo Double Black blah blah blah.

  7. The vote has been cast !

    The credit crunch is making me crave incense for the office: Olibanum, Chaos, Bois d’Armenie, Aedes de Venustas, Parfum Sacre. But for an evening out I reach for the opulence of Mitsouko, Joy, Enlevement au Serail, Jubilation 25. And I fall asleep at night with my nose practically buried in the (unlit) ACP Jasmin Vert candle which to me smells exactly like MdO Carnation (staple comfort love of mine).

    Back in the days I remember Cristalle really worked for me in body lotion form. And you are abosolutely spot on the Azuree / Cristalle mother and daughter at the club !

    • Incense. Yum. Still the bulk of my single-note collection. I’ve been wearing a dab of Poivre 23 to bed, which strikes me as a bit sinful.

      Ooooh, I forgot about my Serail – I’d love that right now.

  8. 1983, L.A. in spring, I was beginning to get over a bad breakup, bought a celadon sweatshirt-like dress (remember those?) and some white lacy tights and a bottle of Cristalle EDT. It became my signature scent for being newly-hatched single (during the day anyway.)

    Now,it seems from reading POL and the other forums that Cristalle has gained the reputation of being an Executive Lady Bee-otch office scent; where did that come from?

    I too am putting heavy perfumes on with a heavy hand in this cold winter. It’s comforting somehow. And last week I smelled perfume on 2 (two!) women in the locker room at the gym. Maybe Light Blue or something like that. Could be a trend.

    • OMG those sweatshirt dresses! And of course I looked like a fireplug and wore it anyway, along with the frizzy Flashdance hair…

      Part of what I think has happened to/with the Cristalle is, for awhile there, I only ever saw the EDP on display. It’s I guess more floriental? Would have to look up the family… wonder whether people find it more abrasive.

      • Cristalle EDP has stronger oakmoss. I don’t wear oakmoss well, it smells like aftershave on me. The EDP smells more mature. It is pretty different from the EDT, which I can wear just fine, although it doesn’t really do anything for me anymore. The EDT seems more a Summer scent and the EDP a winter scent.

  9. Gah! The Preppy Handbook! Pure trauma to my confused, misguided artsy-fartsy teenage self. The one who went to a fine arts boarding school then returned to Virginia for college in the late 70’s to attend, none other than, THE University. (Or U.VA for those of you who haven’t been blessed with the experience of walking the hallowed grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s glorious campus.)

    My college roommate and suitemates: Cristalle, Marlboro Lights and puking beer off of the balcony of the dorms on a Friday night. Me: Opium or Cinnabar, Camel cigarettes and taking off on a motorcycle with my blues musician boyfriend for his weekend gig in Richmond.

    If you like Normandie, you will probably like a number of the others in the Ma Collection. Louise and I went on a “mini-Ma binge” some months ago and between us, we have a few bottles. Love them! We’ll talk!

    • In hindsight I am profoundly grateful I didn’t go to UVA, although it was the thing to do at the time… and I’m with you on the fragrance and Camels! 😉

      I keep losing out on those Collection sets. 🙁 Maybe we three could get together one day and play?

      • Yes, a Patou playdate would be fun. And wait, you weren’t up for motorcycles and blues bars? (No, it wasn’t a Harley. I think it was a British bike of some sort. Pretty cool at the time.)

  10. Babe,

    It’s so cold here that folks are having to blow-dry their door locks and the dogs are sliding on the sidewalk ice like they’re wearing skates (solid rain, then quick, heavy freeze – one of the many wonders of Midwestern winter) Def longjohns and turtlenecks and several layers.

    What to wear to combat that disastrous combo? Mitsy is too chilly – I’m thinking Femme or Bal…or maybe even Shocking! You’re right, these are Old School Times.

    Cristalle …. that scent made me melancholy then and it makes me melancholy now… I liken it to a Vacances wannabe, with that cut-green scent with (what?) underneath; whereas Vacances is warm and joyous, like a day on the Cote d’Azure in July, Cristalle is the Palm Beach lawn…..but your parents are inside the house, quietly and viciously fighting…and you just know that Mummy is on her way to the lawyer in about an hour…and daddy is headed to the club. But that could just be me…

    Re: voting. I’m from Chicago. We vote early and vote often, among other things! I didn’t know about frgrantia (thanks, Shelley – you’d better clue me in on that Stephen Jones!) will head on over there to cast my ballot!

    xo>-)

    • psst..hey, Musette…don’t tell March & Louise…you’ll never believe what I ended up choosing for this frigid, iced over landscape…me and my early meeting…go head, try…then learn: Rose Ikebana.

      Who knew? I’m loving it. RIGHT NOW. Craziest thing. But these are crazy times. I’ll come home and use Chergui for the fire. My nose just was too tender, and you’d be surprised what comes out of this frag in the cold. Nothing earth shattering, but it is…different than in the heat. Remember last summer’s counterintuitive blast o’ fumes list? I think I could take it the other way…

      • Huh. I will have to hunt up a sniff of that to see what’s what!

        I chose Shocking! today – I thought about the others and somehow Elsa won out…..she’s holding her own against these frigid temps and my own rising temp, as I try to find an elusive (and extremely valuable) Purchase Order…..:-w…I swear, they just dance off, giggling like sprites, only to show up EXACTLY WHERE THEY SHOULD’VE BEEN, the weasels.

        xo>-)

        • What do you suppose I did with our Visa bill? And my wool socks? Are they with your purchase invoices?

          • Those particular invoices turned out to have been removed from the desk by a forgetful El O (who couldn’t help but smirk at my ‘disorderliness’ as I was frantically hunting for this file as it contains all the steps for this project. Imagine his chagrin as he quietly brought it in off the shop floor…..but I was gracious in my response. Must be the cold – it’s actually too cold for mayhem! imagine that. 😕

            Your Visa bill ………Visa bill was taken with wanderlust,spritzed on a bit of Cristalle and headed for Palm Beach! I’m joining her a little later this afternoon for gin and tonics on the terrace. You are invited!

            xo>-)

      • That’s interesting. I wonder if something about freezing it made it different? If I could get those turkeys to give me a bottle, believe it or not it might be Rose Ikebana. Not that I’m holding my breath or anything. /:)

    • I HATE that kind of weather. As far as I’m concerned the only thing that stopped me from moving to Chicago (which I adore) is the weather, summer and winter. I’m too much of a wuss.

      That’s an interesting comparison to Vacances. I can see your point about the melancholy. And I think Shocking sounded like the right choice for you today. @};-

  11. Dearest Posse, you certainly have my vote!! What amazing fragrance slaves you are!

    Someone graced me with My Collection samples out of the goodness of her heart last spring. Very exciting scents. I couldn’t wear a one of them–too complex for me to suss out. I was trying to find all those fascinating notes, and my nose wasn’t up to the task I seem definitely rooted in today’s scents. Instead of Jicky and Mitsouko and Cristalle, I prefer Parfum de Therese, Une Rose, and Fleur de Cassie. Or I grab the very classical, but very soft, Roja Dove scents.

    But to prove how far away I am from your use of the heavy-hitters, I’ve finally come fully under the sway of Chasse aux Papillions. As soon as I thought I was letting it go to a better home, it wrapped its fingers around my waist and tugged hard. It’s probably my most used bottle this month. As the economy dives and personal crises roar, I prefer scents that recall gentle sunshine.

    • Well, okaaaaaaaaaaaay … Therese and Cassie aren’t exactly Bath & Body Works on the light and bright scale. And you’re reminding me I need to dig up Unspoken.

      I hear you on La Chasse. It’s one of their biggest sellers, and arguably their most “commercial,” and man is it pretty. :)>-

      • PS Hit SAVE too soon. Did you take Russian back for Lady Bug? Or something else palatable? Or did they laugh at you at Macy’s?

        I’m gonna do another red lippie post, the Carmine Carnage continues.

  12. Those of you for whom Cristalle doesn’t last will be happy to hear that the Chanel SA at the Saks flagship, the one with the fancy schmancy smelling bar, told me recently that Polge is working on a Cristalle extrait right now. Take it for what it’s worth.

    I love Azuree, March. It’s so incredibly WASPy that somehow it tips over the other side and becomes something I can wear. That tennis lawn opening just cracks me up. Hello Mrs. Robinson.

    And–hey–I just dug my Ma Collection set out last week. Gonna try the Normandie just as soon as I can get the $#@$! cap off. *grumble, grumble, grumble* I am definitely getting the whole armor+vintage connection. Especially on the days when I can’t quite get the outfit together. Somehow the classics make me feel CLOTHED.

    And the lip odyssey continues!

    • Oooooh! I would totally be up for Cristalle in extrait! That would be interesting. And I had exactly Tania Sanchez’ reaction when I first smelled vintage Azuree, on one of those expeditions when I was grilling the Lauder SA — what ELSE you got hiding back there?!?!?! Private Collection, etc., in one fell swoop. I remember smelling Azuree and thinking, wtf — how come nobody TOLD me about this?!?!?! And you can buy it for, what, $35?

  13. Why have I not reached for this before in this vintage obsessed phase I’m in? Thanks for reminding me. Today I’m happily wearing Monteil’s Bakir and Bal a Versailles parfum, but tomorrow it will be Cristalle on one wrist, Azuree on the other. Brilliant comparison!

    • I have never tried Bakir! How green *is* it? Just a little? Or more oriental? I should just suck it up and get some, I love the name.

      • The H&R Guide (*adore* this book and use it as an extended unsniffed shopping list – it’s how I found out about Bakir) lists Bakir as an Oriental w/ top notes of orange, aldehyde, spicy and fruity accord, middle notes of clove, cinnamon, rose, jasmine and ylang-ylang and base notes of patchouli, benzoin, amber, myrhh, moss and musk. On my skin it’s basically a rich mix of fruit, floral and incense notes. Delicious! I’ve read on POL (where I always go to check on what is grabbing my attention in the H&R Guide)that some people get raspberry incense and a head shop vibe from it, but – stopping to thank various Perfume Gods here – that’s not really been my experience w/ it.
        I’m not sure why I’m so vintage obsessed these days, but I think it has to do w/ general boredom w/ current releases and a desire for more complex scents that have stood the test of time. I also take comfort from wearing scents that I associate w/ eras I’ve willfully chosen to idealize and view from the perspective of a happy Hollywood movie director (at least while wearing its perfumes). 🙂

        • Thanks so much for the update, it sounds wonderful. I lost out on a bottle recently. 🙁 Better luck next time…

  14. I love this post! The country club mother/daughter comparison to Azuree & Cristalle is so true. I’ve loved Cristalle since back in the day, but it’s not *me* in the same way that No. 19 is. Cristalle is a summer fragrance for me, lasting all of twenty effervescent minutes (edt) before evaporating right off my skin, but I enjoy those minutes a lot.
    I live one state over from Musette, and yeah, the winters are hard core. I’m in a patchouli phase right now, and my current favorite is Les Nereides Patchouli Antique. I want heavy, enveloping, very rich scents. Like, I’m layering Black Cashmere with Montale Patchouli Leaves. It’s not just the weather, it’s all the bad news; I want fragrance that feels like molasses to ground me.

    • Wow. BC layered with Montale Patchouli Leaves sounds simultaneously wonderful and like something that would kill me. But I hear you on the enveloping, rich scents.

      And the seasonal inappropriateness of a Cristalle review did strike me, but we need a little summer in winter, right?

  15. i bought a decant of the EDP and also had the EDT, there are quite a few differences, the EDP is more juicy, but not in that fruity-floral way, but rather conjures moist grass to me. the EDT is lighter, greener, somehow sharper. i like them both, they’re fantastic, i their special freshness, come summer, come winter

    • It’s funny, the brand switches back and forth between pushing one or the other. For several years the EDT was almost impossible to find at the counters, and folks worried it was getting the chop. Now I never see the EDP sitting around. I resniffed the EDT yesterday, what a great scent.

  16. Hi again! I feel as a newbie here at the posse I need to introduce myself w/ every post. Especially one that revolves around Cristalle and tennis courts and discussions of WASPs and such. Can I join in? Please? Anyway, I do loves me some Cristalle EDT people. But one of my best friends truly owns this as her signature scent. She’s been wearing it since she was 16, so when I smell it, I think of her (which is not a bad thing of course). But when I wear it, I feel like a bit of an impostor. So while I adore it and appreciate it fully, it will never be a fragrance I can wear comfortably and call my own. So sad.

    And speaking of weather, it is freezing here in the NW. Busted out my FdB for some comfort tonight which helped.

    • Hey, welcome! And your moniker makes me smile, because in college I went to one of those groovy oil shops and made my own “special blend” and it was Pikake and something. Fond memories.

      Yes, please, join in! HAve a martini. Can I offer you a cigarette? No? I know, I know, nobody smokes anymore… it was the signature scent of my best friend as well, so in addition to everything else it makes me think of her.

      I spray FdB on my flannel sheets sometimes. That’s cozy.

      • I love my moniker too. I chose it for POL “way back” in 2003 after a trip to Hawaii when I was in search of the perfect plumeria fragrance which I of course never found (still haven’t). Joined POL for advice and became a perfume junkie as a result. I wanted the moniker “plumeria” but it was already taken, so I chose pikake, and now it just kinda speaks to me. Even though jasmine is such a difficult note for me to wear. I just love the little pikake blossom and I love Hawaii, and it represents my initial draw to this whole perfume world.

        So it snowing here like crazy in Portland. It never does, so I feel like I am in some strange universe. Can’t decide what to go with today. Have been loving Ajne Fleur Blanche. Does Ajne get much play here? Fleur Blanche is a lovely woody gardenia. It’s supposed to open my crown chakra…which according to the Ajne questionnaire (which you can do over the phone) I need help with. I bet you all could have some fun with that action.

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