Last week I went to the launch of the new Chanel No5 fragrance, No5 L’Eau, and for the past three days I have been doing a bit of a “compare and contrast”, walking around wearing the original No5 on one wrist and the new No5 on the other. Chanel No5 is one of the world’s most popular perfumes and perhaps its most iconic, but I have to say that it has never been quite my taste. I think of it as an “everything” fragrance – it seems to have all of the smells you can possibly think of crushed into it, an army of smells, and it’s difficult to single out any one particular note. You can sense the jasmine and the rose and the amber and the sandalwood and the bergamot and the lemon and the iris and the ylang-ylang and the neroli and the vanilla and the patchouli and all of the other things that are in there, but try and focus on one note and all of the others gather around it like a clingy gaggle of schoolgirls. I always think of the No5 components as being a very loyal gang – they will not be separated at any cost, and if you try to corner one component on its own (is that lily of the valley I spy? is that rose?) you’ll be confronted by the full force of the No5 Squad.
Those who find this overwhelming might welcome the arrival of Chanel’s newest fragrance, No5 L’Eau. It’s altogether lighter and fresher than the original scent – I think much more modern, more delicate. Olivier Polge, the perfumer for the House of Chanel and the nose behind this fragrance, said at the launch that he had worked a lot on the head notes of the perfume – the “dynamic aspect” – with citrus and tangerine enhancing the aldehydes. But L’Eau is still instantly recognisable as No5; it’s an interpretation of it, or an “expression” as Olivier called it. The floral headiness is still there (with rose quite prominent, or perhaps I’m just spotting it because I love rose!) but I don’t find the florals to be as powerful. And the warmth from the vanilla and sandalwood are perhaps more apparent in L’Eau, which is perfectly fine by me; give me light and powdery over suffocation-by-flowers any day of the week!
I think (though nobody mentioned this) that Olivier Polge’s intention was to make a No5 that would appeal to a younger customer and if that’s the case, then he’s done a brilliant job. L’Eau has all of the vital essence of the original No5 – that loyal gang of inseparable fragrance components – it’s just that the lighter and fresher notes are leading the pack. I could never wear No5, it was just…too much, as though I was a child playing dress-up in clothes that were far too big for me. But L’Eau and I are getting on just fine – it suits me much more and I feel incredibly chic. There’s still that sense that I’m a child dressing up in adult’s clothing, but perhaps someone’s altered the fit of the jacket and taken up the trousers and made it all feel that bit more suitable and relevant.
Chanel No5 L’Eau launches in September – I’ll update with more details when they come in.
*I attended the press launch as a guest of Chanel along with other writers and beauty editors, this is not a paid-for or sponsored post. (All sponsored or advertorial content is clearly marked “AD”.) If you’d like to see an absolutely brilliant video of the trip then please click here to see Lily Pebbles’ short film.