Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chanel No. 19

In one of the most memorable reviews from Perfumes- The Guide, Tania Sanchez defined No. 19 "...this extraordinary perfume appeals to any woman who has ever wished to know what it is to be heartless". While I definitely know what Sanchez is talking about, I'm not quite sure Chanel No. 19 really takes me there, despite the effort to put my heart aside. If I had to assign a scent to this state of mind, I'd go with Bandit. No. 19's flowers, while cold and uppity at times, are also melancholy, serene and have learned a thing or two about life.

The EDT version didn't always agree with me. Too many jagged edges that poke my comfort zone. There's something hollow there, and the green notes can fall apart occasionally, which is a shame. I hear that on just about anyone else it's a thing of beauty. I prefer to wear the EDP, which is rounder and sweeter, while still retaining a certain sparkle and crispiness. While there's something about it that speaks of spring, I love it on the coldest days when it feels like a wind chime in the distance.

The parfum (I have a not so new but not quite vintage bottle) is dry, and while not as leathery as the No. 19 of yore was rumored to be, the oakmoss is unmistakable and the strong bones of a chypre are evident. But more than anything, and what makes this scent special and melancholy to me is the large amounts of powdery orris. It's dusky, it broods, it has a past and quite a bit of baggage, which is probably why someone on Basenotes recommended it for middle-aged women (is "middle aged" the new "old lady"?).

Considering the big bad chypres I used to wear in my early twenties, I can't take that comment too seriously. All I know is that on certain days there's nothing that suits me more than No. 19. whatever it might say about the state of my heart.

Notes: galbanum, hyacinth, neroli, bergamot, rose, orris, jasmine, muguet, ylang-ylang, vetiver, oakmoss, leather, sandalwood, musk.

Chanel No. 19 in EDT is available from department stores and Chanel boutiques. The other formulations I reviewed here are more elusive.


  1. Hey dear, wonderful review! I had a tantrum or two about the "wire mum" and "cloth mum"-relation, given in The Guide myself! I love No.19 in EdP-form, like you, best and i have never understood the "heartless" connotations it gets. For me it is all about a humid feminine mosses and flowers with a wooden rainstorm underneath.

  2. How weird...I put some of this on to climb into bed and read with last night. Wanted a little quality time with No. 19. And read the TS review as part of my "studying"/investigation.

    While job events had me in the mood to discover something "heartless," I found that the drydown wasn't. Heartless, that is.

    Maybe "middle aged" is the new "knows better." ;)

  3. Lillie, thank you so much :) I love the "wooden rainstorm" description.

  4. Tom, I'm very curious to know how it would act on your skin. I made Ori try it and is was quite masculine- the flowers scattered away right from the start.

  5. ScentScelf- I'll join you in the "knows better" department. It's a good place to be and the company is quite awesome :)

  6. Wow. Serene and melancholy: that's the response to my beloved No 19 which matches my own experience of it more exactly than any other I've read. My skin brings out any powder in a scent so removes the potential cold or medicinal aspect of the green. Funnily enough I don't like the smell of No 19 in the bottle but in contact with my skin something magical happens with the EDT. I'm hoping to get my hands on the Parfum soon and am interested to see how we'll get along...
    Gaia, I just stumbled on your blog and have enjoyed my meanderings round it so far, for your writing as well as the fact that you appreciate some of my other favourites: Mitsouko (sigh), Chamade, old Paloma parfum (in tiny, infrequent, and ahhh-back-in-the-day applications!). Now I know you're here I'll definitely visit again.
    Regards, Lena


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