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