Smells Like April

Last week a gal who sits near me at work came back to my desk and said, giggling, “Jane’s perfume smells like an old lady.”  (Jane = not her real name.)  I set off immediately to investigate.  I like Jane a lot. She shares our office suite but works for a different company; she’s stylish, successful, generous with her time and keto snacks, and funny as heck in a sly, measured way.  If Jane had an old-lady perfume on, I had to find out what it was.

Jane did not smell like an old lady (whatever that means).  Jane smelled spring-like – maybe a little green and a little floral, but also very sophisticated.  I couldn’t begin to guess what her fragrance was, so I asked, and (Jane being Jane) she not only told me, she gave me a spare atomizer so I could test-drive it myself.  The mystery scent? Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte. 

The original Cristalle is a 1974 EDT by the renowned Henri Robert, a floral-chypre with a galbanum kick and a cool, understated elegance.  It was the fragrance of my best friend in high school, and while it smelled amazing on her, it never seemed right on me.  I tried again in the mid-nineties with the Jacques Polge EDP, which is sweeter and warmer, but still, no dice.  The pre-Exclusif Chanel classics are fragrances that I admire very much, rather than desire for myself.

Cristalle Eau Verte dates to 2009, and is an even bigger step away from its namesake – really, other than the name and the bottle, there’s not much similarity to either version of Cristalle.  Gone is the mossy base, and in its place is a lighter, almost effervescent citrus-y scent.  Here’s their online blurbage: “master perfumer Jacques Polge re-imagines the beloved classic in a lighter, fresher version, to reveal a sheer and luminous heart. Magnolia notes are rendered transparent with fresh citrus and neroli accents, for a modern expression of a timeless floral bouquet.”  I’m a sucker for magnolia, which is abundant here, and the whole thing has that Chanel abstract elegance that (again) I’ve always admired but never seemed quite right on me.  Until now.  I promptly bought a bottle, my first full bottle purchase in some time.  The biggest knock I find in online reviews is that it doesn’t last, but I get a solid day out of it, so who knows? As my sense of smell returns in fits and starts, part of the thrill is that I can smell it at all.

Finally, another piece of good news – browsing the Guerlain counter I was thrilled to see a repackaged Encens Mythique, which means I’ll be able to buy another bottle and not worry about getting my hands on a third (!) backup of the original.  This bottle’s actually prettier, in my opinion.  I gave it a sniff and it still smells fantastic, so if you haven’t tried it, you are missing out – rose, saffron, woods and incense coming together in a scent that hovers, delicate and atmospheric, around me and which garners me compliments almost every time I wear it.

Have you “discovered” a scent that’s been around for ages and wondered, how did I miss this? And are you as forward as I am about asking people (including total strangers) what they’re wearing?

  • Ann says:

    Yay, dear — so glad your sniffer is coming back so well! And glad you liked the Cristalle EV — I like it too, even though it lacks the ooomph of the original. And as for “old lady” smell — sign me up!! Although I have to admit to being knocked out in church years ago by too many older women bathing in Youth Dew!! 😉

  • Austenfan says:

    I’m glad to read your post about Cristalle Eau Verte, which I like but do not love. I prefer the original Cristalle and even that one I don’t wear often. Chanels for me are not really an affair of the heart either.
    To me the term old lady scent equals proper perfume. And I remember some rather heated discussions about it on other blogs. I must admit I find it rather offensive myself.

    I hope you won’t be offended or find me too much of a smart alec for mentioning that Cristalle was done by Henri Robert, not Guy Robert. Henri was uncle to Guy. The latter is responsible for beauties like Doblis, Madame Rochas and Amouage Gold (Luckyscent has got it wrong).

  • Musette says:

    LOL! Hon, you remember my stalking the plant nursery guy’s shirt, don’t you? Of course you do! I don’t think he’s ever really trusted me after that, though his wife and I are now great pals. I ask people alladetime, as they do me (which drives El O nuts – eh). The oftenest-queried? Calyx.

    I’m now verrrry curious about the CauVert. Gonna seek it out.


  • Tammy says:

    I think “old lady” is generational in the sense that it is likely what their grandmothers and moms wear. So the “old lady” smells of the future may well be dryer sheet, white musk, fruitchoulis and Juicy Couture type stuff. (No knock intended on JC, I have some)

  • Monika Goodrich says:

    Rive Gauche was my signature scent for many, many years. My mother gave me a bottle when I was in high school that was gifted to her (she was a Chanel 5 loyalist). I loved it so much and always got compliments on it. As I got older and it became harder to find RG, I started to experiment with other scents, but never got the compliments that I received when wearing RG. I truly love FM Carnal Flower, Byredo’s Flowerhead and other florals. Even though Carnal Flower is supposed to be potent, no one EVER smells it on me. It lasts maybe 15 minutes – not enough to even get out the door! LOL!. Such a shame. Maybe I should just stick with RG again, and not try to fix something that’s not broken! And by the way, who says “old lady” smells are for old ladies!!! I’d rather smell sophisticated than like candy!

    • March says:

      That is hilarious about Carnal Flower! And I love Flowerhead, along with several Byredos. You should definitely give Rive Gauche another whirl, I wish more people wore it.

  • hczerwiec says:

    “Old lady” perfume usually means some stonker that I’m going to adore. I’ve smelled Cristalle Eau Verte, and really enjoyed it, but like No 19 and Silences better, so I never bought it. I’ve seen Rive Gauche mentioned in the comments a few times, and that’s definitely something I missed the first time around because I heard it described as a rose scent, and I’m not big on rose.

    • March says:

      Rive Gauche is more aldehydic/aromatic than rose. As a college freshman smelling it for the first time on my roommate, I hated it — I didn’t understand the fizziness at all. Now I think it’s lovely.

  • cinnamon says:

    I too knew someone who wore Rive Gauche back when it was really RG. It was so beautiful and distinctive on her, but it was never something I wanted to wear. Vicarious pleasure.

    • March says:

      Those are some of the best pleasures! BTW I know the comments aren’t threading in the post — they updated WordPress and broke it, lol. We are working on it.

  • Kathleen says:

    I have Cristalle Eau Vert and am loving it for spring. I’ve never had the original Cristalle, It was never my choice compared to No 5, No 22 and Coco which I wore in past. I need to smell it again out of curiosity.
    I love any perfume that is described as “old lady.” I suppose that is my type of fragrance. Smells like what authentic perfume smelled like! I have been sampling and purchasing fragrances I missed out on:. Fath de Fath, Ysatis, some Estée Lauder’s (Azuree ordered! Beautiful, White Linen) Noa, Niki de Sainte Phalle, Silences, Dior Dolce Vida, Oscar Esprit. They are appealing to me more and more!

    • March says:

      Whoa, you are getting caught up with some fantastic scents! And please do smell the Cristalle — the older EDT if you can find it. It sounds like something you would like. I ADORE Coco! I have several vintage versions.

  • Dina C. says:

    I loved Cristalle eau Verte from the moment it premiered and bought it immediately. It’s one of my top three favorite summer scents. I find it lasts all day on me. I agree that Magnolia is a great note for our mid-Atlantic area where magnolia trees are abundant.

    • March says:

      Oh, good to know! I don’t know how/why I missed it — I presume because my first two attempts with Cristalle had been failures. And I agree about magnolia notes. Have you tried the Malle Magnolia? It’s just a delight.

  • Deb says:

    This old lady gets asked all the time..Pleasure, Estee Lauder. But it’s been too long since I’ve had a backup. I’ll give Cristalle a go.

  • MMKinPA says:

    I still haven’t discovered many of the classics so there are a lot out there to try. I too hate Old Lady as a descriptor. Perhaps it’s the combination of an actual complete perfume with a little too much sillage?? I find that my sister in law, who wears one scent all winter and one all summer often projects too much – I think she’s a little nose blind and oversprays!

    • March says:

      I think your “old lady” guess is pretty good — I figure it’s anything that doesn’t smell like a dryer sheet or that it came from some tweener store.

  • Brigitte says:

    Oh and yes I do ask people what they are wearing…. even strangers in the grocery store 🙂

  • Brigitte says:

    Like cinnamon I more or less rediscover scents I wore in my distant past. Right now that’s NOA, Niki de Saint Phalle and a custom scent by Sarah Horowitz that I wore in the late 1990s.
    Cristalle was a big love of mine in the mid 1970s.. my juniou high school scent…. would love to get my nose on it again and it’s flanker too.

  • Matty says:

    I hate the term “Old Lady” perfume as well.

    • March says:

      I don’t hate it so much as find it silly and borderline amusing — like listening to a 6-year-old telling you asparagus is “yucky.” Grown people who can’t find a better descriptor/putdown than “old lady” deserve all the terrible body sprays they hose themselves down with.

  • Tatiana says:

    I once followed a woman up and down several aisles in the grocery store before I was certain it was her perfume I was smelling. When I asked her what perfume she was wearing she seemed a bit taken aback, but she did tell me it was Hermes 24, Faubourg.
    I wonder what makes a perfume smell like an old lady. I used to think it was powdery notes, but as far as I know Cristalle Eau Verte isn’t powdery.

    • March says:

      I figure “old lady” is anything that doesn’t smell like cotton candy or dryer sheets? Cristalle Eau Verte is not particularly challenging, for sure, so I don’t know what that’s about…. my MIL had 24, Faubourg and it smelled fantastic on her, but rather intimidating.

  • cinnamon says:

    Not really discovered but rediscovered: bought Diptyque Philosykos recently. Had long forgotten it’s unusual creamy freshness. It looks like we’ll be getting ‘true’ spring here from tomorrow. Can’t start soon enough. So sick of rain and gale force winds. Ah, and for perfumistas, I’m on book 10 of a very dark mystery series, John Connolly’s Charlie Parker books. They aren’t for the faint-hearted, and there’s a bit of magical realism in the soup. In the current one, a character says CP’s cologne smells of incense which is both apt in the context and sent me off thinking about which incense it could be. Lastly, the silly ‘old lady’ reference had me thinking about one of my suite-mates in college who wore Ivoire de Balmain — the epitome of classy.

    • March says:

      I adore Philosykos! I went on a fig bender years ago (Figmania! parts one and two on the Posse lol) and that’s always been one of my favorites. I feel like we took a step backward in the whole “spring” department…. my heat actually kicked on this morning. And yes, Ivoire — a classic. My first roomie wore YSL Rive Gauche which I hated at the time but I quite like it now.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    I’m so hoping that my beloved Encens Mythique has NOT been reformulated. I’m halfway though my second bottle, and I found slight differences between the Mid-eastern bottle and the French one. Now about the “old lady” perfume smell– that just makes me see red. When I was 10 I was sneaking my mom’s Tabu and Maja. What is wrong with people? I love smelling all kinds of scents. Is the scent of “old lady” floral rather than fruity? Is it a pefume smell rather than strawberry shampoo amplified with macrocylic musk? I just don’t get it. I’ve always loved the heavy hitters, before I got into the Indie and niche, scents like Knowing and Youth Dew (another one I was bathing in on the sly when I was young). I guess I was old before my time, and now that I’m middle aged, really “old”….

    • March says:

      I too detected a veeeery slight difference between the first two — but not enough to make me feel sad about it, since they’re both so ethereal and lovely. And the one I sniffed at Saks smells just as nice. The “old lady” thing makes me laugh, since I view it as a sign I’m probably going to like whatever’s being discussed. And as I said elsewhere here, I figure “old lady” is anything that doesn’t smell like a dryer sheet, lol.

  • Liz | says:

    Yes! I always ask what people are wearing. What other people wear is so fascinating to me!
    I wonder how missed on Anais Anais!