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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

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


Blogger Unknown said...

I agree with your sentiments on how many nuances Rue Cambon has. I've only worn it a few times, and every time I get something new. It's more complex than it appears upon first sniff. I'm loving it more and more. I get lots of iris-rose-sandalwood, similar to that in Guet-Apens, too.

11:50 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I can't stop wearing it :-) I keep telling myself I should give some test-time to others, but this one is too fascinating :-)

11:51 PM EST  
Blogger Bryan said...

I think this is my favorite from the new exclusifs. I adore its sophisticated simplicity. (The oxymoron police are at my front door). I loved your review. I have to go and pray they release the parfum version of this.

12:53 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

31 is vying with 18 as the first on my list of purchases. I don't get any similarity to Guet-Apens but I'vev only tried both scents once. I do feel iris-powdery-peppery notes with some green... I second Bryan's oxymoron: though 31 is rather multifaceted in its evolution, its seems to achieve its sophistication with comparatively few ingredients and in this sense, it is perhaps more authentically Chanel than the brand's mainstream offerings like Chance or Allure. I actually think they're much more of an achievement than what they initially appear to be. Like a little black dress or a "tailleur Chanel", it's all in the cut, in what's *not* there...

2:34 AM EST  
Blogger Anne said...

I sprayed this several times on the top of my wrist last night. Others are gifted and have words for the beauty of this creation. I am reduced to shaking my head in amazement at the elegant perfection of this fragrance.


6:51 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Testing, testing...

7:37 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Sorry about that, still having trouble with the new gooble/blogger sign-in (Goober? Bloggle? No, wait -- Boggle!)

7:38 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Anyway, my POINT (if I'll just get to it) is I totally agree about your AC/GA reference as Chanel-ish. To me it's got that chic, streamlined, dry feel. I can't explain it very well, but there you have it.

I need to go spray some on today; I was horking them all down in the same 36 hrs., no wonder I got the fragrance equivalent of a tummy ache.

7:41 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

Wonderful review! This is by far my favorite. It's the complexity that makes me love it so much and I agree w/ you - it instantly seemed Chanel like to me, not Guerlain, despite the similarities to G-A. Blessedly, my normally citrus amplifying skin doesn't seem to do that w/ this one and I quickly pass the opening stage and get to the heart notes. Mad, passionate love. This *has* to be made into a parfum. If Chanel has not picked up on the psychic vibes I've been directing at them about this yet, something is wrong w/ the universe.
I'm w/ March - blogger is being problematic.

7:46 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

A beautiful review- you express yourself so seamlessly, it's a joy to read.

Being a Guet- Apens girl, I've got to say that only shared notes link them for me- as the GA cocoons me in spicy-sweet amber, and I find that the individual florals take turns on the dance floor [so to speak] in 31.

It's really the most complex of all of them, and I keep retrying it; it smells different each time.

Very Chanel, a true classic, and worthy of the hype.

Don't know if it flatters me enough to buy it...

A very beautiful, generous, and gloriously Celtic SA at the Boston boutique said to me, quietly and longingly:

"When I wear perfume, I want to feel beautiful !"
On her, 31 did just that-
Not sure that it loves me like it loves her, lol.

8:08 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The oxymoron police is not welcome here. We love oxymorons. Without them there won't be perfume reviews :-)
I want the parfum version of 31 too.

8:41 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chaya - you've found another decent Chanel SA - well done. And I'm sure it suits you, even though I'm still waiting on a sniffing.

M - congrats on your Basenotes bronze!

8:42 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

For me too it is a choice between 18 and 31.
I loved what you said: "Like a little black dress or a "tailleur Chanel", it's all in the cut, in what's *not* there..." It is so true. And therefore those who want instant va va voom and in your face presence from their scents might be sorely disappointed in the new Chanels.

8:42 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I love when a scent makes me speechless like that, it means it truly touches my heart. ...of course I eventually recover and start rambling on about it...:-)

8:43 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It's a boggle all right. :-)

8:44 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Well, I can't explain it either, but I know exactly what you mean. :-)

8:45 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

This is without a doubt my favorite among the Exclusifs--really beautiful! And it was DH's clear favorite as well (he sniffs so many scents on me he gets bored, but he was startled into full consciousness by the beauty of this thing). I only wish it were stronger or lasted longer. Parfum, please! This is a scent that deserves it.

I put it on today and am luxuriating in it. Later, i will try it next to Attrape-coeur to see how similar it seems to me (some people say it's identical on me). I haven't worn A-C in awhile, but I remember it as much more powdery than this.

Robin says this is great layered with 18. That does sound interesting, but I am still in the individual testing phase.

I will almost certainly end up buying a bottle. Then, my question will be which other scent to get as the "sample" they give with with purchase. More testing is necessary! 18? Bel Respiro? Probably not La Pausa, but still. . . or. . .

I finally got around to trying the Cologne, and surprisingly (or perhaps not, considering March's and Elle's impressions) I really like it! It will be great in summer!

8:45 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I hope they have a Psychic Vibes Receptionist at Chanel...surely they do :-) I wany 31 in parfum too.

Sorry about the blogger.

8:47 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you!
Here is what I think, if you love it, it will love you back and smell amazing on you. I also think that you and 31 are made for each other.

8:48 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Wow, I had no idea. Big, huge merci for letting me know! :-)

PS. Did you receive your Chanel decants yet? Waiting for pressure or anything.

8:50 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! So of all 6, which one would you say is your absolute favorite, if you can choose one (I can't! I love two).

8:50 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You know what sample you should get? The new Cuir de Russie! Just to see what they did to it. I read great things about the reformulation.

I haven't progressed to the layering stage either. I still have to give a good try to Cologne and La Pausa.

8:53 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M, got a review slot on PP this Thursday instead of my usual every-other-Wednesday slot - if they arrive in time (i.e. they haven't yet) I'm sure to say something.

8:59 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Wonderful! Will be waiting.

9:02 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, Attrape-Coeur was too powdery, even for me. I did not like it. Is Rue Cambon powdery in that way, or does the similarity lie more in the harmony of notes? In any case, this sounds extremely appealing! Must try.

9:26 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It is more of a general feeling I get, they have that rounded, soft, sweet ambery-floral thing going on that I love. I did not find 31 to be powdery at all. Actually, come to think of it, I didn't really find any of the new Chanels to be powdery.

9:28 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

...but then, I don't find Guet-Apens to be powdery either, at all, so I am not a good judge of powderiness. :-)

9:29 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

That's an idea--although D. reported that Chanel said they had NOT reformulated, just changed the packaging (of course, they don't necessarily have the right info--or tell the truth). And I do prefer the parfum there (I hope it's not being phased out; I will have to ration mine). But I will sniff and see. . . .

10:10 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That's why I selfishly want you to try it and compare. Chanel can say what they want, I'll trust you :-)

10:12 AM EST  
Blogger donanicola said...

I tried to ignore the Chanels over the weekend after my abortive visit to Old Bond St last thursday afternoon (ok 6pm). It's no good though - this review (thanks Columbina!) has tipped me back into a state of feverish anticipation. And congratulations on the bronze!

10:24 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! I can't wait to hear which one of the new Chanel you like the most!

10:27 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Well, I will sniff it (and I could even bring my CdR parfum along to compare). But I haven't smelled the Edt in a long while, so I may not be the best judge.

10:33 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

...waiting for the report...:-)

10:41 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a terrific review! I'm exercising major discipline keeping my credit card in my wallet. I just have to repeat the mantra "no buying without sniffing; it's not going anywhere and will be ready when your bank account is". Do you think 31 is a good all-year scent, too?

11:43 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I never thought I had so much will stay on a no buy at a time like unbearable :-)

I think 31 can totally be worn year-round.

11:47 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little bit of info for Lily: no, the extraits for the four rue Cambon classics will not be discontinued. However, they'll just be sold in 15 ml. I'll be going back to test the new Cuir de Russie... I feel I need it both in parfum (for the beauty) and edt (to spray with abandon). I'm a no-buy too, M., and I feel your pain!

1:10 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It hurst, D, it HURTS! LOL
Thank you for the information about the parfums!

1:14 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I think this is easily the best of the Les Exclusifs -- a very impressive scent. Great review M!

1:45 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I just read that you called it a showstopper, and it definitely is. Very impressively well done, 31 Rue Cambon.

1:51 PM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Thanks for the information, CC. M--as of now, AnnE and I are planning a w/e excursion to Chanel, CdR parfum (me) and EdT (her) in hand. We may have other noses there as well. Will report back!

PS While I can see some similarity to AC after the opening of 31, I don't think I would have noticed it if it hadn't been mentioned. 31 works much better on me.

2:27 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Very awesome! I am waiting for the report. I am sure you'll have fabulous time there, sniffing and comparing.!

2:29 PM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...

My "No Buy Zone" is quickly coming to a close (it lasted almost two full months). I need to realize that cold turkey isn't for me. Wait a minute...didn't I just buy a bottle of Chergui last month? Ooops, my bad! God, I am so weak! I need to come up with a better system. Maybe one bottle every six months? Every four months? That seems more doable. I can't wait to try this!!!!

3:35 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I hear you! Going cold turkey for me often results in worse financial wrongdoings than before no-buy. The moment I am off no buy I go nuts. :-)

3:55 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, big congrats on your award! You (and Mr. C.) deserve the kudos.

I wore this one again yesterday, and was struck again by its beauty all day/evening long. I love each of its many facets - which makes the entire trip completely satisfying.

The only other scent that makes me feel the same way is Iris Poudre.

5:17 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops - didn't sign that last one. that was me, minette.

5:18 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! Iris Poudre and 31 is a great comparison, not because of the notes, but because of that multifaceted quality of theirs.

5:24 PM EST  
Blogger donanicola said...

Hello! I finally got to the boutique and was it worth it. I was so excited though I went straight for 31. The SA laughingly said I should have started with the EDC and was impressed when I hauled out my bag of coffee beans. Anyway, as I predicted, I loved 31 from the start although I do find that opening quite harsh, it is so astringent on me. Still it doesn't last long (10 mins) then into that beautiful heart... if I'm honest I could do with slightly less vetivert at the bottom but I wonder if that's skin chemistry and another day I'll hardly notice it. I find it supremely elegant and like nothing else I've smelled. I was excited by Bel Respiro too but it smelled very bitter on me so a disappointment there. No 18 was a revelation - sort of sparkly - and a bit powdery - really lovely and I enjoyed Coromandel. The SA said she layers Coromandel with the EDC. 28 Pausa was lost on me but with the sole exception of Hiris I'm not an iris fan. the EDC reminded me of 4711, in a good way but again a bit sharp on me. I'm interested in the 18 and 31 layering....... anyway, the relief in having finally smelled these! I was in a good mood all day Saturday - didn't even mind being mauled by the lovely Irish at rugby!

12:27 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Yay! I am so glad you liked them. 31 and 18 are my favorites. I know what you mean about vetiver in 31, but sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn't.

12:37 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it. It's unique, not too sweet and just fabulous!!
Reminds me of an old fragrance by Courreges which is no longer made.
Shari, Plainview, NY

10:30 PM EDT  

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