Minor Chaos

First off, thanks to everyone who recommended Marc Jacobs’ Daisy as a possible fragrance for my young niece.  I smelled it yesterday and found it entirely (indeed, almost humorously) devoid of sex appeal — if there is an iota of musk in there, I can’t smell it.  And while it is a generic sparkling fruity-floral, it’s neither syrupy nor crass.  I wouldn’t wear it, but it is a light fragrance perfect for a girl, with the bonus points of the adorable bottle and being mercifully free of any unpleasant celebrity-laden associations.  Right now various retailers like Sephora and Macy’s are selling elaborate Daisy gift sets with solid-perfume compacts, teeny cute mini-Daisy purse sprays, fun makeup bags, etc.

Second — UPDATE — I apparently managed AGAIN to paste some code in here rendering half the post invisible in Internet Explorer. I am sorry. I’ll make an effort to recheck the darn thing in IE before I take it live.

Okay, today’s topic. I’ve been putting this off, but here goes:  am I nuts, or does the re-released Donna Karan Chaos smell … different?

There.  I said it.  Flog me with some Yatagan or a plastic decanting pipette, but I can’t help it, it doesn’t smell quite right to me.  Something’s missing.

Granted, we’re talking about my comparisons to samples from old-formula Chaos bottles of various vintages, many of which are different enough they already smell like dupes of each other.  Some are spicier; some are darker; the top notes might have gone off a bit.  I think Chaos’ stunning bottle probably got left out on display more often than other, plainer bottles.

Prior to the re-release of Chaos, when things were looking desperate, I wrote a review of Anarchy, the Irma Shorell dupe, which is  — seriously — to my nose a credible effort.  It does not smell materially different than a couple of my samples of vintage Chaos from different sources.  It’s missing something at the top, and it’s not quite as darkly mysterious as my full bottle, but it’s less prickly as well.

So here’s the new one, and nobody could be happier than I was when they appeared.  And … well, I don’t know.  I wish I had Octavian from 1000 Fragrances here to help; he could sniff it and tell me they’d tinkered with the  dextromethampetamine or whatever.  He’s got a perfume chemist’s nose and knowledge, and I don’t.

The notes from Basenotes list (for the original Chaos): sandalwood, cardamom, cinnamon, padukwood, agarwood, saffron, clove, amber, musk, sage, lavender, chamomile, coriander.

The new Chaos is brighter.  It seems more focused on the top (the saffron is quite prominent) and less on the gigantic, raspy bottom — the gap to me between vintage and new Chaos is like the gap between Chaos and Black Cashmere, if that makes any sense.  Black Cashmere is a gorgeous scent and I adore it, and it will take the top of your head off if you look at it wrong — I’ve had to scrub that fierce, growling beast off more than once. Also, the new Chaos seems sweeter — more amber and clean musk, less spices.   Since my time machine’s broken, and acknowledging that I have no way of knowing precisely what the original Chaos smelled like in 1996, the new one, while quite nice, seems more muted and softer.  It’s a narrower bandwidth focused on the soft, creamy comfortable middle of the scent without quite reaching either the heights or the depths of the original.  In my opinion.  While I’m going out on a limb and sawing it off, does anyone else get this… this cola-syrup-deal that pops up in the new Chaos faintly every now and again?  It’s not unpleasant, just kind of odd.  (On the other hand, if I recall correctly, “cola” was a word that turned up occasionally in reader reviews of the original, so maybe the scents are closer than I thought.)

If I’d never smelled the original Chaos — or Anarchy, to be honest — I’d be raving over this new Chaos as the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I only have one sample of the new, which I dumped in an atomizer, and I will try to get some more samples and re-test it. But somehow the reissued Chaos does not fly out of the bottle, reach down my nose and rip my heart out of my chest the way the original did — that jaw-dropping smell that made me shrug and roll over to eBay going, I don’t care what it takes, I’ll pay it.  At the time it was the most expensive bottle I’d ever bought, and (unlike some others) I never regretted it.  I wondered at first whether I’ve just gotten jaded about Chaos, but a revisit of my older samples and my bottle — nail-varnish top notes and all — still grabs me in a way my new sample just doesn’t.  Your thoughts?

Coming soon: reviews of Chaos Pour Homme — okay, not really, but that’s the first thing I thought of when sniffing a new-to-me fragrance last week, and my feelings about DK Fuel, now that I’ve managed to retrieve it from behind my work station where it had slunk off to… occupational hazard.

image, Marc Jacobs in a tutu and Naomi Campbell from a funny photo spread in Bazaar last year

  • Ann says:

    Hello Chaos Lovers,
    I have been wearing Chaos for over 12 years. I have a stockpile of the original in both the EDP and Parfum versions. I have tried Anarchy and other expensive and not expensive dupes. I burned up the phone lines when I heard that Chaos was re-released. I waited by the door for the delivery, prepared to buy 20 bottles if it was the same. No one was more disappointed than I when I tried it (over and over). It is not the same. It is weaker, flatter and just plain boring. It is not the scent (like the original) that will make men swoon. I don’t know what is missing, but they screwed up. I am seeing them show up on E-Bay, as mine will and the prices of the original will remain high. Anarchy is a better version than the new Chaos. Yes, who do we complain to?????

  • chanel22 says:

    I own the original Chaos but I have not smelled the new version. I think it is only common sense that the new release would not be identical to the original because Donna Karan fragrances are made by Estee Lauder and the entire range of Estee Lauder fragrances seems to have been tweaked in the past couple years. There have been many rumblings about newly purchased bottles of Youth Dew, Whtie Linen, Estee, and Private Collections to name but a few. Even Beautiful has received some harsh criticsm, so why would Chaos receive a different fate.

  • Tara says:

    I wish we would get some advance warning on these reformulations – 10CC was magical, and I would have hoarded a couple of bottles had I know it would be changed. The new version is wearable, but it’s a shadow of its former self, and the special magic is not quite there. I’m glad I never smelled vintage Chaos… one less thing to lament…

  • Robin says:

    I have not tried any of the reissued DKs, but had seen other comments about Chaos not being the same. However, Louise’s comment above about BC not being the same — that’s the first I’ve heard, and am so sorry to hear it! Chaos is wonderful but I have more of an emotional attachment to BC.

    • March says:

      Well, think how much better we all feel now about our backup bottles of Black Cashmere! 😉 And if you drop back by, you probably know — have you heard anything about the ancillary products for Black Cashmere? I can’t decide whether to get another lotion on eBay (that old lotion can go rancid) or try a new one… I adore that BC lotion.

  • violetnoir says:

    I love the photo! Say what you want about Naomi, anger issues, court dates and all, but she is the best at her game!

    So glad you purchased Daisy. DD loves it, and that bottle is just too cute!

    Chaos…see my comment to Louise, above. You just don’t mess with perfection! 🙁


    • March says:

      Hah, I was just yammering to Elle above about how I love me some Naomi … she’s been in some of the magazines recently, modeling. Nobody can touch Naomi, Linda and the gals. [-(

  • Elle says:

    I was wondering if I was the only one to notice a difference! It’s as if the scent has adjusted itself to match the less interesting bottle. 🙁
    I adore MJ. I always want everything he does to be successful just because he seems so damn nice. That photo shoot must have been a blast. 🙂

    • March says:

      I remember thinking how fun the article was, and being surprised (and touched, frankly) at Naomi Campbell’s loyalty and affection for him, considering what a wack job diva I thought she was. Not that I hold that against her. Nobody is more thrilled than I to see Linda, Naomi, Christy etc. back in the game.

  • Nava says:

    Just a quick thought about the storage issue: I find that bottles-in-boxes-left-in-as-much-of-their-cellophane-wrapping-as-humanly-possible-stored-in-a-closet-or-a-similarly-dark-place tend to last longer than if they are left out to be ravaged by light. Sounds slightly vampiric, but it does prove true most of the time. Then again, not every fragrance is packaged in a cellophane-wrapped box.

    As for Chaos, I really like the new version, but have yet to really wear it since it’s still warm where I am. The original was another one of those ahead-of-its time scents (I’m using way too many dashes here!), like Cher’s Uninhibited.

    By the way, March: DSquared2’s scents are now at Sephora.com. I’d love me some “SheWood”! 🙂

    • Shelley says:

      Note to self: Leave the cellophane on the perfume box, but take it off the albums. (That’s right kids…vinyl…and not the kind some of you like to wear and/or smell in your perfume. 😉 )

      • Nava says:

        Ha! Absolutely. You should suffocate your fragrances, but never your albums.

        Also, scents in opaque bottles tend to last a lot longer as well. I have an open bottle of Black Cashmere (the original) and it’s got to be at least 5 years old. Still smells amazing, as well as some vintage CSPs that haven’t yet “turned”. Those babies are over 15 years old. Guess they’re not babies anymore…

    • March says:

      I know — I saw Dsquared in Nordstrom this weekend! I got Diva to giggle when I pointed out the name He Wood … 😮

      Hon, the keep-the-cellophane-on only works if you are a hoarder (as you blogged on once) rather than a user…. I’m more the, let’s eat all the chocolates at once type. :”>

  • Musette says:

    I’m with Shelley! This is akin to somebody messing with the Mallomar formulation!

    Glad Daisy works for you for your niece! The fact that I, too, cannot remember what it smells like is a Very Good Thing for a 9yr old girl!


    • March says:

      Babe, you are just lovin’ that alien now, aren’t you?!? I’m sad that he won’t play with me, will have to upgrade Firefox…

      • Musette says:

        He is Me and I am Him. I’ve aways kinda had a ‘thing’ for him… Feel bad that I can’t comment much on Chaos – I have that li’l samp that La Belle Enabler gave me:-) but it’s harvest time and the only thing I can smell is Kleenex.

        A LOT of Kleenex.


  • sweetlife says:

    Looking at the list of notes, March, it seems to me that the sandalwood is the most likely to have been messed with, disappearing trees being what they are. When Corso Como reformulated it stayed lovely but got thinner and less raspy in a way that’s similar to what you’re describing.

    On the other hand, the same bottom note is more likely to be prominent in juice that’s been around for awhile. NST Robin noted in a review of her old bottle of Paris that the sandalwood base had become much more prominent (and in a lovely way). But, you know, I’m not a perfume scientist, I just play one on TV.

    As for BC — well now I don’t feel quite so foolish with my back up bottles. And she’s never taken my head off once. Not since our very first encounter, when I had to decant and dab. Then, mysteriously, it became OK to spray…or, at least so it seems to me. I haven’t had any complaints.

    That bent (limp?), pink ballet slipper is hilarious…

    • sweetlife says:

      Chiming back in because I just noticed agarwood in the list of notes. That sandalwood/agarwood combo is the same one that disappeared from Corso Como (and if anyone has an ancient bottle of CC that they fine unwearably heavy contact me pronto!).

    • March says:

      I think you are probably right — the sandalwood is one of the things that Luca Turin mentions regarding (I think) several fragrances in The Guide, and I do remember his specifically referring to that regarding 10CC. I will fess up that I retried 10CC recently and thought, wow, I have so much more tolerance for that scent than I used to, I really like it now! And then being told by 10CC fans that it’s been sorta dumbed down… :”> Sandalwood is one of those smells that in profusion can give me a headache. So I like the new 10CC, but if I loved the original, what a disappointment.

      I also think/agree that there’s less agarwood in new Chaos, which is what I was getting at with “raspy.” It simply has less character than the original, and like 10CC I suppose whether individual folks find that sad or an improvement is a matter of personal taste.

    • Disteza says:

      I’m not a big DK fan, but I noticed your comment on the ballet slipper–it is most definitely NOT limp! Ballet toe shoes have an exceptionally strong curved shank–that, along with the hardened toe box is what supports your foot when you go en pointe (or, up onto the tips of your toes). Without that bit of footwear engineering ballerinas everywhere would break their toes. Ah, and here my mother thought she wasted all that money on ballet lessons!

      • March says:

        I am not a dancer, and thanks for clarifying. I admit it looks extra curved the way he’s holding it, but having seen the shoes in the dance store I remember being surprised at the shape.

      • sweetlife says:

        Ladies, ladies, my comment about the ballet slipper was a failed attempt at double entendre…there’s something about the way he’s holding it, and the way she’s laughing at it that goes beyond ballet.:-?

  • Shelley says:


    I shall attempt to console myself with the one bottle of Black Cashmere I have — a lovely thing, that — and perhaps fulfill the honored position of She Who Never Smelled Chaos. :-< Love the picture...totally thought it was a Bollywood kind o' thing. And glad you happily resolved the niece thing.

    • March says:

      I thought those photos were adorable when they came out — MJ all tan and buff (and fresh from rehab? whatever, he looks happy)

      I am assuming the original Black Cashmere, having been in production awhile, will be relatively easy to find online for the time being. I am fond of the lotion, have not checked to see if they’ve redone it but should do so.

  • Anne says:

    Sad news, this Chaos thing. You know how I love the original. But I do wonder. When I smelled my purchase years ago (I too ran to ebay, price be damned!) it was everything my sample was. But it was summer so the bottle went into hiding. Cool, dark place. Several months later and out of hiding, I found things had changed. Tried it different days ‘cuz I figured it must be me. Not bad, just different. I don’t know how the bottle was stored before I adopted it but still….. Time will show the truth with the new one I guess.


    • March says:

      I think fragrances just go … off. In fact, I have noticed this effect with testers in stores, which unless they are fresh are treated abominably — under bright lights, on display, often in fairly warm environments. You sit a tester around like that and who knows how long it will last? So I would not be surprised to discover that an older bottle of something, even stored in the cool and dark, would smell subtly different. I have a number of vintage fragrances that are clearly damaged in the top notes, but the drydown is still lovely.

  • Louise says:

    Well, dang, March…I hate so to be right, or at least in good company :”> I’ve been complaining about the new releases of Chaos and Black Cashmere since I excitedly bought them at BG. Actually (!) I was gonna offer you my new bottle tomorrow, since I hoped you’d get more out of it than I. The offer still stands…

    I didn’t know the old Chaos back in the day, but do have some well preserved parfum and the cute mini-sprays you gave me, and of course my Anarchy. So yeah, the new stuff is OK, but pretty flat and just…fine, OK, nothin’ special by comparison. Certainly nothing to run up to NY for. I’m back to the Shorell.

    If I complain it’s also short-lived, you can just laugh, and tell me my skin eats everything…but this one gets confirmation by friends and other online perfume freaks.

    I think I am even sadder about the Black Cashmere-it’s really weak, and if the original it was over-the-top on you, well that just settles in the perfect wearability range for me. Here the comparison is easier-I bought a bottle last year at NM, and also a mess of backups when I heard they were discontinuing it. And, most def,the new juice is weak, missing the er, depth (balls?), of the original, and fleeting. Very disappointing. Who do we complain to?

    Rant over. See ya later, doll 😡

    • March says:

      I hadn’t seen any comments one way or another re new Chaos, except the sighs of relief that it smelled basically the same — by which I mean it hadn’t been reformulated into something wildly different than the original, which sometimes happens.

      But it’s nice, if sad, to have a confirmation of my general impression that the re-release is a bit wan and flat. I would love to try your bottle, though, to see if I feel the same.

      A lighter Black Cashmere might actually appeal to me. :”> Goodness, that thing can be prickly, although I adore the body cream.

    • violetnoir says:

      Wow, Louise, that’s so sad! I have not smelled the “new” Chaos. I’m just holding on tight to my original bottle and the lotion, and I won’t look back (or forward, as in this case!).

      Hugs, babe!