Chanel Gabrielle

I was on the lookout recently for a sweet-sixteen fragrance for my niece. I had some general ideas – and thus far she’s liked what I’ve given her – but I wanted this to be a “classic” from a great house, something young and accessible enough to please a teen who’s maybe not up for anything too weird (yet.) I also gave a vague promise to her mom that I’d try to pick something that wouldn’t make her eyes water. I’m the cool perfume auntie; how great is that? My nephew is quite taken with CdG Blue Santal these days, a choice I approve of.

Anyhow, I settled on Chanel fairly quickly. It could have been one of the Chances – I like Tendre and Vive (not so much the original), and they’re highly popular among the younger set. I could live with that. I decided she’s not quite ready for Coco, which I adore; Coco Noir is fine and less challenging, but (call me old fashioned) I’m not getting that kid something “noir” for her sixteenth birthday. I figured I’d probably go with Coco Mademoiselle. It’s a pretty scent that manages to smell expensive and user-friendly at the same time. But first I figured I’d test-drive the newish Gabrielle. It could be a contender, right?

Here’s the blurbage from Fragrantica: Olivier Polge crafted this Eau de Parfum as an imaginary flower—a radiant and sparkling, purely feminine Chanel blossom based on a bouquet of four white flowers: a rich, enveloping heart of exotic jasmine shimmers with the fruity green notes of ylang-ylang, while fresh and sparkling orange blossom shines through, offering a glimpse of Grasse tuberose captured at its finest. Four points of light that recall the four corners of the bottle. Notes are mandarin, grapefruit, blackcurrant, tuberose, ylang, jasmine, orange blossom, sandalwood and musk.

I admit I was pretty excited about this. It’s the first interesting non-Exclusif thing they’ve done in awhile, and it’s Olivier Polge! Having Kristen Stewart as the face of the scent made me think it’d skew younger, and the square flacon is even prettier in person. Really, what could go wrong?

Lord, this thing. I just don’t know. Don’t get me wrong; Olivier Polge on an off day is still capable of making a fragrance that’s better than so much else out there. But…. well, my bar’s a little higher than that for Chanel, and thoughts that ran through my head during my several attempts included: where’s the rest of it? Was this some leftover recipe they decided to market because it did well in a focus group? Why did they waste that name and that bottle on this scent?

Gabrielle isn’t going to offend (except maybe based on your expectations), and it’s certainly office-friendly. It’s bright, vaguely citrus-green, the florals are soft, and it sits on a base of sandalwood and musk. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I wondered if there was something wrong with my nose until I read the posts by Victoria and Angela, and then I felt better.   They both compare Gabrielle to Coco Mademoiselle, and they aren’t thrilled. I admit that I happen to like Coco Mad – I don’t want to wear it, but for what it is, it’s lovely, and I understand why it’s so popular. Even Luca Turin (somewhat grudgingly) gives it four stars.

But I’m heading toward a different comparison. Coco Mademoiselle is way sweeter and more zaftig than Gabrielle; to me, Gabrielle reads (in its own wan way) much closer to No. 5. I admire No. 5, and I tried to wear it for awhile when I was younger, but I don’t really like it. Its aldehydic blast strikes me as both powdery and cold, and I get too much rose. Gabrielle, on the other hand, could almost be a flanker – a No. 5 Mademoiselle. There are similar notes. Gabrielle’s citrus/sandalwood in the drydown mimics No. 5’s aldehydes, without the fangs.

And for my niece? In the end I went with the Coco Mademoiselle – the oil formula, which I think is borderline spectacular where the EdP is merely very pretty. And again I thought I was making all that up in my head, but Vika apparently feels the same. It’s sold out/unavailable on the Chanel site but if you poke around at a decent Chanel counter, they may just have a bottle tucked away. I bought the last one at my Nordstrom.

25 Comments

  1. Coco Mad was the first ‘real’ perfume I bought for my teenage
    daughter. Gabrielle is getting lots of so-so reviews so I think you made the right move. Hope she enjoys it!

    • Thanks, I think I made the right call for my niece! And you know…. she probably would have liked Gabrielle fine, but I’d feel uncomfortable.

  2. After reading so much less than excited reviewing I decided to wait for my Gabrielle expectations to lower considerably before trying it.
    It’s not like I need more perfume and I have a swathe of my collection already CHANEL oriented.
    Portia xx

    • I forgot, you are kinda a big ol’ Chanel ho, right? You know, just give it some time. I’d say it depends sorta on how you feel about No. 5. But I still think it will bore you to tears.

  3. Phew! I thought it was just me…… I found Gabrielle inoffensively office-compatible at first. Just before it started getting on my nerves. Rather like the colleague who decides you’re her bestest friend ever and keeps nattering at you and asking questions anybody with half a thought in their head could answer themselves – all while you’re trying to concentrate on getting work done. that’s Gabrielle.

    • Now THAT’S funny! I’d moved on each time after giving it a fair try, and wound up covered in other stuff, you know how that goes….. so I didn’t experience the endless nattering. Now you sort of make me want to! I have a spray I made up for myself. Maybe I’ll give it a test drive at the office, which is the only place it’d be deployed.

  4. I also was underwhelmed and disappointed by Gabrielle. I don’t like Coco Mad at all, I gifted my bottle to a friend. I adore the original Coco in winter. At first I thought of Chanel Une Fleur after spraying Gabrielle, then I did side by side comparison. No contest, Une Fleure preferred. However; I purchased a small bottle of Gabrielle. It’s pretty enough fragrance, but the bottle is gorgeous!

    • I know, that bottle! It’s so much prettier in person, where you can see the details. They kept making a big deal of the bottle but I thought, square flacon, so what?

  5. My first bottle of fragrance given to me was by a wonderful family friend from France. He gifted my mother and I each a bottle. I don’t remember what hers but mine was Hermes Caleche. I was 11-12ish at the time and found it too strong. I don’t remember what it smelled like and often think I should order a sample. I loved wearing my mothers Worth Je Reviens. I liked the musks at the drug stores and Loves Baby Soft in those days. Wow that was so long ago thanks for the trip down memory land.

    • Love’s Baby Soft! LOL I can smell it in my head…. I wonder what I would think of it now. Caleche is lovely but not “me.”

  6. Great review, dear!! I, too, wanted to love Gabrielle and had high-ish hopes for it (it is Chanel, after all!), but tamped those down a bit after reminding myself about the Disappointment that was Coco Noir. However, after trying it every which way, I liked it just so-so. For some reason, it made me think it could be a nice, pretty Chance flanker. And that bottle is a treat! If I found a one-ounce of it, I might spring for it.or a mini of it. But give me the original Coco, the Les Exclusives and even L’Eau any day!

  7. I went to sniff Gabrielle yesterday and was…underwhelmed. I think conceptually they were trying to convey the sweet, virginal Gabrielle living at the convent school at Aubusson, in contrast to the young, ambitious mistress of the smoldering Coco. Did nothing for me.

    But you are totally the cool perfume auntie! She’s lucky to have you!

    • Heh, I love your visuals, and that is NOT the way we think of Gabrielle, is it? I see her in that sweater portrait, cigarette in hand, staring at the camera.

  8. I so,so wanted to like Gabrielle. I’ve been waiting for it to come out, hoping the tuberose would be bearable because it’s…well, Chanel. I’d even be happy-ish to get the soft scent everyone else is getting. But I don’t. It’s very pretty for the first 30 seconds or so, and then the tuberose, and something that smells like plastic, take over and wallop my from behind. I ended up scrubbing it off my wrists, and if you had told me before now that anything by Chanel would be a scrubber on me, I would have called you out as the apostate I thought you were. Alas…I truly dislike this one. I love No. 5, Eau premiere, the new Eau, 1932, the Cologne, and like so many others. Just…not this. At all.. Even a little.

    • Well THAT sounds awful! And you’re the second person on here to pronounce it a scrubber, which is fascinating (and kind of alarming.) I wonder what’s causing that?

  9. I was really disappointed in Gabrielle. The list of notes contains lots of things I really love. But the reality was a true scrubber on my skin. It smelled so nasty and unspeakable. The grapefruit went urinous on my skin I think. Bad. Bad. Bad. I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough, and washed all the way up to my elbows, like I was scrubbing for surgery. Last Friday, I was at the mall with a girlfriend, and I spritzed her instead just to see how it worked on someone else. It was totally well behaved and lovely on her. Nothing special, but nothing bad either. She liked it. Ugh!

    • ANOTHER person calling it a scrubber — whoa! Whenever I read an assertion that fragrances smell the same on everyone, I roll my eyes. Sorry about the grapefruit!

  10. Had a sample in my Elle. It’s not that it isn’t my style: the quality isn’t there. Is Gabrielle the latest starlet with a celebuscent? Only $19.99 at the drugstore! P.S. I rather hated it.

  11. Going to visit my (adult) daughter today, she lives in a city with some decent shopping so I want to smell Gabrielle for myself as the Chanel ho that I am. Daughter wears Coco Mad as her signature scent so I’ve not worn it myself but I like it, and it smells terrific on her. I didn’t know it was available as an oil but I’ll bet DD has some, if not, we’ll spend some time hunting it down, she’s a shopper in a whole ‘nuther class than I am. Your niece will love it.

    • Oooh, report back! How did you feel about the Gabrielle? Did you find any Coco Mad oil? I would LOVE for one of my girls to have Coco Mad as their signature, but no joy there! And I hope my niece loves it, I think she will…

  12. I guess I disagree with almost everyone about Gabrielle! It didn’t knock my socks off, but I thought it was surprisingly refreshing and whimsical for Chanel, which always seems to take itself so seriously even when it’s pretending not to. It smells kind of like a riff on a Jean Claude Ellena to me, and especially wearable in the humid summer heat I tried it in. It does just barely keep from plunging into dryer sheet territory, but hey, some people love the smell of laundry. I don’t get the bottle though, it’s thin glass and a cheap top and is definitely a step down from their previous designs.

  13. I tried a spritz of Gabrielle while I was at the mall a week or two ago. I thought it was pleasant enough but not particularly interesting. I was testing other stuff at the time too, so it didn’t have my undivided attention. But it didn’t command my attention either. I didn’t think Gabrielle had much to do with Coco Mad, which I have always found too sweet for my taste. Both in aesthetics and scent, I thought it more comparable to No.5, which I have also never liked (on me, at least).

    I sometimes think I’m just not a Chanel person, though. I like Coco (original), Coromandel, and No.19 and that’s about it.

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