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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Perfume Review: Les Exclusifs de Chanel - No. 18

Guerlain has been busy lately, re-issuing old, forgotten scents, releasing all sorts of aquas and pink fleurchons for the mass market, and building their “exclusive” collection. Dior, while not making me happy in the least with their endless sequels to Poison, did experiment a little (and with great success, as far as I am concerned!) with boutique-style scents, in the form of Hedi Slimane’s men’s colognes. All the while Chanel was lying low, seemingly doing nothing to impress us, perfume maniacs, biding its time…and then - Ba-bumm! - in one go it launched not one, not two, but six new scents, and re-launched four classics. Unless the competitors hurry up and come up with something just as huge and impressive, 2007 will be the year of Chanel, and deservedly so. I will admit that the sheer number of the new Chanels bothered me a little; I was wondering whether the quantity would not negate quality. I shouldn’t have worried. Les Exclusifs are masterfully done, a couple of them seem to be truly unique; many of us should be able to find among them at least one scent to love.

The six new Chanels were “based on the complicated trajectory of the founder’s difficult and flamboyant life. They are also the scents she cherished, outdoors and at home” (Allure, Feb. 2007, page 178). No.18 is an homage to Chanel jewelry (and, to me, a jewel among the new releases). The first Fine Jewelry collection, Bijous de Diamant, which consisted of platinum and diamond pieces, was launched by Mlle Chanel in 1932. In 1997, a worldwide flagship fine jewelry boutique was opened by the company on 18 Place Vendôme in Paris. It was the boutique that inspired Jacques Polge to create No 18. Allegedly, the scent, built around the ambrette seed, is Maitre’s personal favorite (The Australian), and that does not surprise me in the least. Of the six, No 18 strikes me as the most unique, in a way that I find hard to describe. The fragrance defies my attempts at classification: is it fruity? is it floral? is it musky? What IS this cool, shimmering, indeed jewel-like creation?

No 18 starts surprisingly raw; for a minute or two, in the very beginning, it displays the earthy quality I adore in iris scents, the cold, rooty smell very vaguely reminiscent of - funny as it sounds- carrots. A hint of fruity-citrusy brightness appears and disappears, illuminating the composition in the same way in which light reflects on the facets of a diamond. The ambrette seed lends to the scent the elusive, intangible quality: it is floral, but does not smell of any one particular flower, it is fruity in the vaguest way possible, and it has a very distinct musky characteristic, which adds an unexpected, subtly-animalic undertone to No 18, making it evocative not just of jewels as such, but of jewels worn on a warm, clean, smooth, human skin. Another surprising aspect of No 18 is its slight boozy-ness. My H&R Guide to Fragrance Ingredients informs me that ambrette seed has a distinct Cognac note; what I smell, however, is not Cognac as much as sweet, thick, white wine of some sort, with a fruity aftertaste. The jewelry glistening on the beautiful, silky skin, the feeling of slight intoxication and exhilaration – this is No 18. The scent is seemingly simple, one has to truly pay attention to distinguish the nuances of its development, but the simplicity is deceptive in the way that the simplicity of precious jewels is deceptive. One moment they lay apparently one-dimensional and uni-colored, and then the light hits one of the facets and the gems start to shimmer and sparkle and come to life.

No 18 speaks to me about the opalescent surface of pearls, about the cold, dazzling transparency of diamonds. It is chic in the true Chanel style, which means that it is elegantly understated, without excessive ornamentations. As for the sillage and lasting power, the perfume is soft, stays fairly close to the skin, but the lasting power is very good. Six hours after the application, I can still smell the smooth musk and the slightly drunken fruitiness. I have yet to test and re-test the other Exclusifs, but so far No 18 is my favorite, and is definitely full bottle worthy for me.

No 18 is available in Chanel boutiques, $175.00 for 200ml.

The first image is mine. The photos of 18 Place Vendome, of Chanel exhibiting her first jewelry collection, and of a necklace from the 2005 Elements Celeste collection are from


Blogger tmp00 said...

These sound so nice. I might have to haunt every Chanel outlet in SoCal to try them all!

10:41 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, I don't always do musk. But ambrette seed musk smells I do love. I'll wait patiently for my parcel, and if I manage that, I think I'll qualify as a Zen master.

4:45 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review...Do you think these are androgynous enough for a guy to wear? Not that it would stop me necessarily...

5:37 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

what a lovely review!
I love this, too.
It hit me, this am, that what it reminds me, is somehow of Elena maitre at his best, because of the transparency/base ratio.
What do you think ?

Dennis: Why not ?
Do what pleases you-
If you smell good, you ...smell gooood !
Screw convention !

7:06 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, wow, I thought I wasn't really that interested in these new releases (what with my fragrance ennui at the moment), but your review has me lemming No.18 so badly!! It sounds gorgeous and subtle. I want!! M, I bow to your lemming producing ability.

7:49 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chaya-
I agree completely about convention! Just as long as it's not too perfumey...My Grandmother wore Chanel, and I adored her and love smelling Chanels on other people...maybe it's an association thing.

This is one of the best blogs for lemmings, definitely!

7:58 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Ya know, the more I read about this one, the more I wonder if it's The One For Me (along with La Pausa and Coromandel and ... all the rest of them)

7:59 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved your review! No. 18 sounds wonderful!!! Can't wait to get my hands on some samples. I love the "transparency", it says "class" without screaming it.

8:16 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am 99.9% sure they are in LA boutique. If you get as much musky stuff from No 18 as I did, you are going to love it. :-)

8:22 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You already qualify. For an impatient person like me you are on the level of Dalai Lama...:-)

8:22 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you. I do think that they are androgynous enough. Well, 28 La Pausa is obviously floral, and perhaps you'd find No 18 to be delicate and tender in a feminine way, I am not sure, but the rest all seem to have a unisex feel to them. Bel Respiro and Coromandel strike me as particularly unisex.

8:26 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. For a couple of seconds, in the top notes, it reminded me of Jardin sur le Nil. Then it was gone, but, yes, I agree!!

8:28 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

6 (!) new releases from Chanel (!) should get rid of any ennui! Please, be excited, because they are wonderful :-) I think you will like this one and 31 Rue Cambon also comes to mind...

8:29 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I don't find any of them Perfumey, in a sense that No 5 can be said to perfumey, you know?

8:31 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It might be, it might be...:-)...along with the rest of them...

8:32 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

"it says "class" without screaming it" - you just described all 6 scents in go, and I don't have to write any mroe reviews. You also summed up the whole Chanel philosophy. :-)

8:33 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

There was an interview with Polge (can't find it, it is online), where he said that it is his dream to reissue the old Chanels. I understood the "old Chanels" not as Cuir de Russe , etc., but as those that were taken off the market years ago. Perhaps Ivoire, No 46, Jasmin and who knows what else they have...We can dream too :-)

8:36 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

M -- Luca Turin (did you see his duftnote review?) scared me by comparing Coromandel to Borneo. Whaddya think? (He also said 18 belonged "next to Iris Gris in Heaven." How much higher praise can you get?) My money's on La Pausa and 31RC.

P got her bottles last night, so I am looking forward to my samps! Neither of our two crap Chanel boutiques here is carrying them. :-(

9:00 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Turin is a better judge re: Pause and Iris Gris, as he obviously have tried both :-D I, unfortunately, don't get Borneo in Coromandel. I am not a fan of Borneo, but I say, "unfortunately", because I would have loved some Borneo-esque strangeness in Coromandel. What I get, however, is mostly Prada. Not that it's bad, mind you, but...well, I have to test it again.

9:14 AM EST  
Blogger AnyasGardenPerfumes said...

M - I found there are ebay sellers offering decants into 5ml spray bottles in a set, but I would love the little set you got. Are these at the Chanel boutiques? Available online? Cost?

10:19 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

This was a gift. I understand that Chanel boutiques give these as samples, one sample per one bottle purchase. I haven't seen them on ebay yet, but everything ends up there, sooner or later :-)

10:21 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

No. 18, although it stays close to the skin at all times, actually lasts quite well on me. 31 disappears quite fast, even though it is a more sillage-ful scent than No 18. The one that is actually, well, I wouldn't say loud, but loudER than the rest on me and the most long-lasting is Coromandel.
I would love all of these to come in parfum!

11:25 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina, congratulations on the nice write-up in the Philly paper. It is well deserved. No. 18 sounds like my sort of thing. So many scents these days sound like my sort of thing. :-)

1:41 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! And yes, too many sound like my sort of thing too. What's worse, too many of them actually turn out to BE my sort of thing :-)

1:43 PM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Somewhat sick, so I'll be short (if not sweet)! Wonderful review! Can't wait to try these! And I will soon. . . . So curious how they will work on my skin. Ina had me lemming Coromandel, but I like neither Borneo nor Prada, so. . .we shall see. High hopes for 31; pleeeeease let it last on me!!

1:53 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I hope you feel better soon!!

Sad to report that 31 really doesn't last well. Of course, I have no opportunity to spray it, perhaps, if applied lavishly, it would last longer. The bottles are certainly big enough to allow generous application :-)

2:01 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Just tell me: which ones will I want?

2:02 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

LOL! Ok, my guess is:
Bel respiro
28 La Oausa
Eau de Cologne
maybe No 18

2:08 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what cute miniatures you have, they're adorable! waiting for big sisters, aren't they ;-) ?
I am very interested in Bel Respiro and 31, Rue Cambon, would love to try them. however, as I have already stated some time ago, the gigantic splash bottles are somehow putting me off... probably better for my bank account anyway.

3:30 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The miniatures are calling out in tiny, pitiful voices, "big mommies, big mommies, come, we are waiting for you, we are lonely". Unfortunately, they might stay orphans for a long while, as I am on a no buy. :-(
I think you'll love 31 Rue Cambon...:-)

3:41 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Gorgeous review! Haven't tried them yet, but I strongly suspect this may turn out to be my favorite...if I'm able to pick one.

3:44 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You'll easily like a lot or even love 5 of them. Seriously. They are disastrously likeable :-)

4:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi. i found this one interesting on paper - but a bitter quality kept me from testing it on skin right then. i plan to go back and give it a proper skin test, because of the ones i didn't try on skin, this was my fave. coromandel reminded me too much of zino by davidoff, and was a tinge too sweet for me. i immediately fell for 31 rue cambon - as soon as the molecules hit the air, i knew it was for me. if it's the only one of the new releases i fall for, that's cool with me. it is a beautiful scent. - minette

4:13 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Bitter? Interesting! Congratulations with your purchase! 31 is gorgeous!

4:51 PM EST  
Blogger ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Oh Colombina, you've done it again! So beautifully described you've created a lemming. Thank you for your wonderful review. I look forward to hearing about the others.

7:51 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you, Tamra! Have you tried any of the Exclusifs already? I think you will like this one!

8:03 PM EST  
Blogger ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Not yet. I did not order the sample set but I can definitely head to my local Chanel boutique this weekend to give them a sniff. It sounds like I need to!

2:21 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear M., I have to concur on your choice of N°18, which I have finally gone to test at the Chanel Boutique. I find it extremely seductive and hard to pin down: as you said, it is flowery, fruity and musky without any easily recognizable note. I have 31 rue Cambon on the other arm which strikes me as a green-powdery chypre -- I'm not getting leather on this one and the patchouli is very blended. Iris in the top notes and later in its powdery form; jasmine seems to poke its head in after a few minutes. I'm very taken by the modernity and classicism of the line, though the prices... The mommy bottles are not going to be lined up on my dressing table any time soon, I'm afraid!

9:35 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am waiting for your reviews of the new Chanels!

9:39 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am so glad you liked it too! I agree about the price. I mean, yes, the bottles are big, so the price per ml is not bad at all, but it is a big sum to dish out for a scent in one go . :-(

9:40 AM EST  

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