Perfume Review: Les Exclusifs de Chanel - 31 Rue Cambon
31 Rue Cambon was inspired by Chanel's legendary boutique, “brightened by vast chandeliers but restrained by bold, sober pillars and cold mirrored walls” (Allure, February 2007, p. 180) Mlle Chanel famously favored (and made chic and popular) simple cuts, uncluttered designs, restrained, clean lines in fashion, but was a big fan of an abundance of jewelry and loved to surround herself with luxurious objects. When Jacques Polge first saw Chanel’s apartment, he was rather shocked by how little the place corresponded with his impression -“well-cut clothes, simplicity”- of Chanel (Allure, February 2007, p. 181). 31 Rue Cambon very successfully conveys Chanel’s duality, that irresistible combination of austere and opulent.
The beginning of 31 boasts bergamot aplenty, juicy, fresh and not in the least sweet. I have never held a bergamot fruit in my hands and never had to peel it, but I imagine that if I did, it would smell just like this, tangy, unripe, and a little bitter. On some days, the citrus accord is particularly strong and lasts for a long time. On such days, the scent almost completely skips the heart notes and goes straight to the green-earthy drydown on my skin. At times like this, I understand why 31 Rue Cambon was called (oakmoss-less) chypre. It smells dry, leathery, aloof, like a cold beauty in a severely tailored Chanel suit. More often, however, the burst of bergamot in the beginning is short-lived and the scent lingers in its middle stage, or as I call it, the Luxurious Stage. At that stage 31 Rue Cambon becomes a soft, warm, enveloping, floral-ambery confection of a scent, along the lines of Guet-Apens. I am not the first one to notice the similarity, and I think that the sweet iris note in the heart of 31, combined with the multifaceted, ambery/ incensey/ slightly leathery/ vaguely animalic labdanum and sweet sandalwood is what makes the scent reminiscent of Guerlain’s beautiful creation. Funnily enough, the first time I smelled Guet-Apens, it struck me as a Chanel kind of scent, not a Guerlain, although for the life of me I cannot satisfactorily explain even for myself the reason why. Coming back to 31 Rue Cambon, the middle stage also features a slightly peppery, cinnamon-y, carnation-like accord that makes me think of Chanel’s perhaps most opulent perfume to date, Coco. During this middle stage, 31 becomes more of a floral-oriental scent rather than a chypre.
The drydown finishes the development of the scent in a rather unexpected manner. I smell quite a bit of patchouli and a lot of vetiver. Together they create a dark-green, earthy accord, the presence of which I find surprising and extremely appealing in this chic, urbane creation inspired by a couture salon. It this brooding, a little leathery, peppery base the chypre nature of the perfume again becomes apparent. 31 Rue Cambon strikes me as perhaps the most complex of the six Exclusifs. It is full of nuances, little details and subtle twists, it keeps changing every second on my skin and seems a little different each time I wear it. I find it fascinating, intricate, extremely well-constructed and incredibly beautiful. It is without a doubt full bottle worthy for me.
31 Rue de Cambon is available in Chanel boutiques and in Bergdorf Goodman, $175.00 for 200ml.
The photo of Coco Chanel is from designpage.com.au