My post last week on Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere got me meditating on Chanel´s Les Exclusifs, released earlier this year. I need to make a confession, because it´s something I do all the time with fragrances, and it drives me nuts. Remember when Les Exclusifs came out? And how Luca Turin raved about how great they were, and it was a bright new day for Chanel and perfumery etc. etc. etc., and we all blogged on them obsessively? You remember, right? That was February. At first sniff I was impressed by their fidelity to the Chanel brand (elegant, if a little more streamlined and modern-feeling); some of them I really liked.
And then … well, that was that. Haven´t touched them since. I´ve had generous decants of six of them sitting there in my closet getting dusty while I run around looking for my next fix. I do that all the time. I´ll sample some hot new fragrance or line; I´ll blog enthusiastically; and then I´ll pretty much forget it exists. It embarrasses me. Yes, there is an onslaught of new product, but why do I forsake something I already know is good for the thrill of the chase?
So. In the spirit of changing my fickle scent ways, and having discovered (news flash!) how great No. 5 is, after the other, hmmm, 98% of you, and feeling new love for the brand, I went back and retried Les Exclusifs without peeking at my review from February, giving each one a more leisurely second time around than my frenzied sampling earlier this year.
28 La Pausa – a dry, warm, woody iris. It´s simply lovely, and if it were even 10% stronger I´d likely own it. After applying 12 sprays to my upper body, including my shirt (yes, I counted) I enjoyed 45 minutes of gentle sillage. My favorite part is 20 – 30 minutes in, when the slightly bitter, thin top note dissipates and the warmth of the orris really shines. At that point it´s a great skin scent, suitable for something discreet in the office. But anything that disappears in under an hour (and I´m the person who clings to fragrance like a limpet) isn´t worth it in my view.
Coromandel – huh. I liked this a lot the first time around, but now the raspy, sour sandalwood-spice of the first half-hour is kind of offputting; also, given where the fragrance starts off it´s surprising how sweet it is when it dries down. Exceptional lasting power, though.
No. 18 – I know the fans of ambrette seed are legion, but I am not one of them. I appreciate its pickled-musk smell in theory, but in practice … no. It´s not an offensive or unattractive smell by any means (and who am I to judge, given some of the nasty things I wear?) But I defer any further comment on No. 18 on the grounds that it´s not going to appeal to me no matter how well done it is.
31 Rue Cambon – um, why have I not been wearing this all year? This is amazing. Am I at the start of some weird Chanel obsession? Hmmm. This is troublesome. 31 Rue Cambon is the non-chypre chypre that was invented to replace the traditional oakmoss base. The weird thing that´s happened with this one in the summer is that it´s become less chypre to me in the heat, rather than more. You´d think it´d be sort of too much, but you´d be wrong. I get peppery goodness along with all the delicious sweet bits – but sweet a la Chanel – which is to say, like a good champagne, somewhat dry at the same time. I´m putting this into regular rotation for the fall.
Eau de Cologne – it´s a very nice cologne, from the mildly peppery opening through the drydown that smells lightly of vetiver to me. I like it because it tilts a little toward the masculine woods rather than the citrus/petitgrain. But if this is priced similarly to the others, I can´t see that it´s worth the money. If you´re the sort of person who wants a signature scent, and you want it to be a status version of traditional cologne, maybe to wear to work where you need something really subtle and inoffensive, then here´s your fragrance. But if you are that person, you´re probably not reading this blog. OTOH – for something that wears as lightly as this one, I can smell it on my skin even at the end of the day.
Bel Respiro – Sometimes those green sap/crushed leaf scents rub me the wrong way, and I never know until I try it whether it´s going to be love or a scrubber. The first 20 minutes of Bel Respiro is, for me, some rough road. After that it settles down, the bitterness recedes, and you´ve got some gentle florals laid over a light grass and crushed-herbs base. I like it a lot at that point, and it´s got surprising lasting power for something that doesn´t wear very heavily.
Refreshing my memory reading my original post, the changes in my feelings seem somewhat seasonal. Coromandel and Bel Respiro are more overbearing in the summer heat (and it´s still in the upper 80s/low 90s here). 28 La Pausa is even lovelier than it was in the winter – I think it blooms in the heat a bit. But like the new Prada Iris Infusion, whether the problem is longevity or anosmia on my part, it´s not quite strong enough for me. The major surprise was how awestruck I was by 31 Rue Cambon this time. It garnered lots of blog raves on its release, and while my first time around I thought the drydown was really nice, the opening seemed harsh. No longer. I´d now put it up there with Bois de Iles on my Chanel Lust List, and that´s saying something. Although, now that I think about it … is it my imagination, or is there more than a passing resemblance between the two? What do you think?
For any of you who dabbled in Les Exclusifs – for the purpose of scientific study, talk to me. Did you try them early on? What did you like then? Did you buy any full bottles? Are you still wearing any of them? Did your preference change over the last six months? How would you stack them next to the older Chanels?
image: The Secret Lives of Iris IV, Diane Wilson, www.firelily.com