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Monday, March 19, 2007

Perfume Review: Chanel No. 22

There is a little bit of mystery surrounding Chanel No. 22 (which, of course, makes it all the more appealing). On the one hand, according to, the scent was named after the year in which it was created, 1922. On the other hand, it is also said that the fragrance “was presented in 1928 to a world yearning for lightness to dispel the gloom of difficult economic times”. According to the cute and amazingly uninformative little book that accompanies Les Exclusifs, No. 22 is “a light variation of the brilliant No. 5”, and it thus might be possible that No. 22 was one of the mods given to Chanel by Ernest Beaux, among which she has chosen the variation that became No. 5, and No. 22 was returned to a year later and became a “white floral” to match Chanel’s new White Look.

Has it been up to me back then to choose a favorite between “the mod No. 5” and “the mod no No. 22”, I would have undoubtedly chosen the latter, and Marilyn Monroe would have famously worn to bed a scent as elegantly aldehydic and abstract as No 5, but a little warmer, a little earthier. Who knows how that extra little bit of warmth might have changed her life…but I digress. I have to respectfully disagree with the people at Chanel about No. 22 being a “light variation” of No. 5. Firstly, the former seems to me to be as full-bodied a scent as the latter, albeit a little softer, a little smoother. Secondly, although following the same abstract trend and featuring the same hefty dose of aldehydes, No. 22 is otherwise an entirely original composition that should be judged on its own merit and not as a “variation” of another fragrance.

The beginning of No. 22 has a joyous, vibrant feel brought on by the aldehydes: the top notes are sparkling like precious stones and effervescent like the most expensive of champagnes. The bright effect is softened a little by the presence of orange blossom, which here smells creamy and powdery, somewhat along the lines of the orange blossom in Patou’s Divine Folie, only much less sweet. The note in No 22 has the same “retro cosmetics” undertone that makes me think of vintage face powders and lipsticks. And so there you are, having a wonderful time, sipping champagne, checking in the mirror your perfect makeup and your jewels, and not expecting any special surprises from a lovely Chanel scent you are wearing, when –Whoosh! – out of nowhere appears a humongous, incredibly luscious, heady bouquet of the buttery tuberose and the creamy ylang-ylang and the slightly peppery carnations…The flowers come accompanied by a very distinct and very unexpected incense note. Judging by what I read on various forums, the world is divided into two groups: those who get the incense in No 22 and those who don’t. Personally, from the beginning of the middle stage forward, I smell a lot of incense in No 22, to the extent that, if I were to describe the perfume in three words, I would have characterized it as Aldehydic-Floral-Incensey. Incense is like a black thread running though the whiteness of the composition, binding together the stems of the white flowers comprising its bouquet.

That incense note and the warm, woody, earthy base of vanilla, amber, sandalwood, musk and vetiver are the factors that make No 22 so special for me and so preferable to the cold, marble beauty of No 5. These surprisingly sweet, slightly balsamic, rather brooding notes breath life into a very elegant, very beautiful and very classical blend…Without the prominent incense, vetiver and amber, No 22 would have been a blushing bride getting married in a veil, with eyes cast modestly down…With addition of the darker notes, it is that same bride, in the same creamy-white trousseau, hiding under her veil and in her downcast eyes a dark little secret and a knowing smile.

The No 22 that I am describing comes from a pre-Exclusifs bottle. If you have smelled the new No 22, please share your impressions and comparisons.

Chanel No 22 is now part of Les Exclusifs de Chanel collection and is only sold in selected Chanel boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman, $175.00 for 200ml.


Blogger tmp00 said...

I haven't sniffed 22 in years, but I always liked it better than 5. Not that 5 isn't gorgeous, but I could never personally deal with the powdery bit. @@ I'll have to revisit.

1:38 AM EDT  
Blogger Madelyn E said...

Dear Columbina,

Yours is the most exquisite, poignant review of this Chanel classic - No. 22 - that I've read.
My mother recived a bottle of Chanel No. 22 -perfume extrait from my beloved father on their wedding day : June 1st 1947.
Chanel No.22 has always held a special place in my heart .
Over the past few years , my sister and I for nostalgia's sake 9and romance , of course )
have tried to honor that special moment in time by presewnting our mother (now 80 ) with Chanel N0.22 -albeit a EDT spray and body lotion.
It simp;y isn't the same .
I sowish that the 22 perfume was more readily available .
How hard is it dear C, to have it shipped from France to the US ?
Thank you ,once again for bringing to life such a precious remninder of Chanel's collection. I can envision it's softscrnt illuminating the room..
Now .. breat deep,, and exhalr I thinkyou'v got it ,
utterly beautiful - devastating feninine in a nelancholy way.
I love it and I wabt it .. oh wgat ti fi b

2:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Octavian Coifan said...

In an article about designer fragrances from Vogue 1925... No 22 is presented among other number fragrances of Chanel, now completly forgotten. So, the story about 1928 is totally false.
In the same time, the story about chosing a number (5 and 22) from 2 series is not totally true because almost all those numbers were put on the market by Chanel. But the most succesful were 22 and 5.
The fragrance that Chanel loved and is close in a way to 22 is Quelques Fleurs - the original, not was is today sold on the market

4:07 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Beautiful review! I'm so psyched about this week being devoted to aldehydes! I adore #22, but it took me a long, long time to appreciate it - had to have my white floral conversion first since I actually, and most unfairly, am in the group who get very little incense. However, after reading Victoria's comment I'm wondering if it's because I only have ever tried the vintage parfum (from what I was told, it's from the early 50s). I'm going to have to try a newer version and maybe even an edt to see if I get more incense - which I would love.

7:06 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Great review! In contrast to Elle, I get mostly aldehydes and a reasonable of incense, which is totally worth the wait through my least favorite part (those white florals). Having read V's note up there, I should try the new one.

7:54 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:08 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

I've been creeping up very carefully to aldehydes, which I've started "doing" in discret touches through Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie, then a bit more boldly with Divine's L'Ame Soeur... N°22 has been on my "to try" list for weeks but I always get sidetracked by the other exclusives. Your review will help me push the spray button. And then I'll just to add to that ever-growing Exclusives list (4, no, 5 so far). Where is my Arabian prince (a variation on the theme of the oligarch)?

8:24 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Coffee deprivation... "I'll just have to add", of course. And "discreet" with two "e"s.

8:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much for the information! Easter mass! OK, I have to try the new 22!

8:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think on me there is a similar amount of powder in 5 and 22, which is to say- quite a bit, but not too much for me. It is just that I find No 5 to be a "cold" scent, while No 22 has warmth and life...I do like No 5 too, just not as much.

8:34 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Madelyn,

Thank you very much for your kind words! I don't know if you ever deal with eBay, but I do sometimes see No 22 parfum there, sometimes from American sellers, so no international shipping would have to be involved. Having said that I haven't had problem shipping perfume from overseas either.
Also, hasn't it been said that parfum concentration of No 22, Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie was not discontinued? Somebody correct me if I am wrong.

8:38 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you very much for the information!
I must try vintage Quelques Fleurs now.

8:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

We both have to try the new No 22...even more incense! That would be wonderful.

8:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I'd say it is in equal proportions- aldehydes-flowers-incense on me. I am very curious to try the version with an even stronger incense note.

8:42 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think you will totally love it!

8:42 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Where are those Princes when one needs them?! Tsk. Or oligarchs. I am not fussy. :-)
Seriously though, No 22 is a beauty and I would love hear about your impressions of it.

8:43 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I knw alll about cofee deprivation.

8:44 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Simply can't get this out of my mind this morning. Do you know if they sell the new one in a smaller size than that whopper 200 ml?

9:32 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Nope, the new one only comes in the 200ml vat :-( *sigh*

9:40 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Sobs. :-(
Oh, but I love that vintage ad you used!

9:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I *love* old Chanel ads...I am this close on starting collecting them...No, no, no, must resist the urge to fall into the abyss of a new obsession!

9:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Wonderful! Great to know that for once a reissue did no evil to a perfume.

10:19 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

The four rue Cambon extraits are *not*, repeat *not* discontinued. Here, aren't we all breathing better?

3:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Phew! Great to know! :-)

3:31 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the pre-LE 22 as being more full-bodied and earthier. Although I could not wear either 22 or 5 in the universe we currently reside in, I think that I would choose 22 over 5 anytime.

I don't get the incense note on this one- at all. Mostly a splash of aldehydes with flowers blossoming- even the floral dry-down is pretty faint.

4:18 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I probably wouldn't have loved it so much if I haven't got so much incense. I am very grateful it's so incensey on me :-)

4:52 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this one! Thanks for the terrific review. No. 22 is so unlike other scents I like, but I really adore it.

7:40 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you, Angela!
It's very "me" either, and not the kind of scent I usually go for, but somehow I just love it :-)

7:43 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

*twiddling thumbs and waiting for aldehydes week to be over*

Signed, EFT

8:29 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

*gasp* But aldehydes are Classic! LOL
Well, I can't say I that much of a fan myself, but there are some I love...and some I hate. :-)

8:32 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was an amazing review - I kept saying "yes! yes!" with every new sentence. That was as much of a pleasure to read as the scent itself. My grandmother wore only no. 5 because she said it was the only thing that didn't 'turn' on her - I find I have the same problem, but 5 reminds me of her. I have a deep religious belief in 19 and 22. Thank you for seeing what I smell in 22, and communicating it so beautifully.

2:05 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much for your kind words!

2:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been wearing No. 22, since I was 18 or so... about 35 years... I have 2 bottles left of the "old" stuff. The fragrance has changed somewhat and in the end the only "type" that was close to the old one was "Eau de toilette". I came on-line to see if I could still purchase it, as Chanel has been threatening to pull the fragrance for years and I didn't exactly believe it this last time either (darn it)... anyway, it's now awfully pricey... my other long time favorite (but, was pricey any number of years ago) is Bellodgia by Caron... since, Chanel 22 seems to be out of my sanity price range for now... guess I am off to see if I can rediscover Bellodgia. P.S.... I never liked No. 5, I originally found No. 22 unused on my grandmother's dresser, right nest to her well-used No. 5.

6:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Kym said...


I have been trying to find #22 as a gift for my 84 yr. young mother. I can't find it anywhere. Some places are "out of stock". I checked Bergdorf today (9/13/08), but it's not even listed in their stock. Any help would be greatly appreciated. THANK YOU !!

11:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Kym said...

My e-mail address is : should there be anyone who can direct me to #22. Thank's

11:42 AM EDT  
Blogger Kym said...

A huge THANK YOU to Marina who helped me to find Chanel #22. Chanel Boutique in NY (212)-355-5050.

$190.00 for a 6.8 oz bottle
& 10.00 to ship Fed Ex
Smile on my Mom's face- PRICELESS !!

12:52 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have used only 22 for at least 40 years. I was urged to try it when in the Bahamas and have never changed, even tho I cannot smell... others can. I have Parkinson's and loss of smell is an early hint of it.
I am abouut out of it and cannot find it in the small town I am in.

7:32 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked for Chanel no22 while in a Chanel boutique in Paris and was told that its only made for USA export at that time (2000)and not available in France.I have been back several times and the answer then was that it was discontinued.
I wish they would bring it back!

12:03 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone has their favorite way of using the internet. Many of us search to find what we want, click in to a specific website, read what’s available and click out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s efficient. We learn to tune out things we don’t need and go straight for what’s essential.

1:14 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was in Dubai last week and alas could not buy Chanel No.22 not in the Chanel boutiques or in bloomingdales or any of the many upmarket department stores. I was told they sell No. 22 only in Europe and US. My loss as I reside in australia. I must plan my next holiday to US.Just to buy No.22

12:02 PM EDT  

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