~by guest writer AlbertCAN
Of all the people in the world I would have never guessed that I would be one of the first to write a full review about Chanel No. 19 Poudré, one of the two latest introductions from the fabled house. In fact even if the spirit of Coco Chanel told me this morning I would not have believed it, for all signs pointed to an uneventful day.
Yet life has a way of stringing the impossible, isn’t it? I had to take a photo with my personal belongings otherwise nobody, including myself, would have thought of it.
August 4th was my day off, the unorthodox result of my manager’s scheduling so I could work Monday to Saturday. This Thursday was meant to be routine—errands in the morning, fitness workout in the afternoon, early retirement by night in preparation of the early shift tomorrow.
Except I found out in the evening that I had to cast my ballot an important provincial tax referendum by tonight else I would have missed the opportunity altogether, with the nearest voting station at a local mall about 15 minute drive from my house. Nothing chic has been discovered in that toy plaza since the arrival of Givenchy Amarige d’Amour, as I uttered to myself when I pulled out of my driveway.
The voting station was everything I loath, being a stone throw away from Walmart and the Hello Kitty concession stand, right next to the mall’s washroom. By the time I drop off my vote, after being asked to triple seal my ballot with three distinct envelopes I was just ready to leave. But then I remembered that one of my fragrances was about to run out, and not wanting to waste too much of my time I marshalled myself to The Hudson’s Bay Company, our historic—albeit slightly paunchy and tired by now—national department store monument. Move along, I said to myself, just get on with it.
The fragrance section of the HBC on a Thursday evening was nothing to behold: Sales staff three people strong, all manning multiple stations and sounding a bit inexperienced when interacting with other clients. With my look of death they left me alone after 10 seconds.
That’s when I bumped into a big display stand of Chanel No. 19 Poudré.
I did a double take and quickly scanned the store’s Chanel inventory. Not a bottle of No. 19 in sight, and only the display of the new edition available: 2 bottles of 100mL Chanel No. 19 Poudré eau de parfum. The most seasoned Chanel reps, even account managers, couldn’t tell me weeks ago when their supplies of Chanel No. 19 Poudré would come to the Vancouver flagship store. Now I was face to face with two bottles in the local mall, with associates not even knowing a thing about it. (“I think it’s a limited edition*,” the poor lady said as she carefully surveyed the shelves, “Two is all we have.” *editor's note: Chanel No. 19 Poudré is inteded as a regular diffusion to the original line and not as a limited edition)
I quickly grabbed the tester and gave it a test run. Now, having read all the information from Perfume Shrine (here and here) I knew what to expect: Beautiful orris absolute, soft and buttery sheer. Much more delicate than the original, and with the icy zing of galbanum now in tender check. I’ll take one, as I quickly pulled out my credit card. I walked out of the store a happy man. The story, however, had just begun.
While my initial impression of the scent stays true on the blotter--for up to three days I find-- on the skin is a slightly different story. About 10 minutes after the initial testing the orris absolute, so prominently featured in Chanel’s Les Exclusifs line (most notably 28 La Pausa and No. 18) started to soft focus: the delicate floral initially pinning in the background started came to fore, and on my way home one thing was becoming very clear—the orris absolute gave way to a suede musk, bolstered by a synthetic iris, which was what I got for the rest of the three hours. It’s still going softly but surely, actually.
Now I would be inclined to say that the musk element feels like a natural progression from Chance Eau Tendre, but to be honest the woody-musk drydown is very much a thoughtful rendition of the original No. 19 elements, most notably the pronounced woods within the eau de toilette version without the oakmoss presence. In fact that’s the ironic arch about the structure of the new fragrance: I had the eau de toilette of the original and the new one side by side on each arm and they are essentially the same breed. The biggest difference among the two would be the green and the floral facets—in No. 19 Poudré the rose and jasmine absolutes are decidedly not present, and neither was galbanum taking a cut in the new version. What makes the original so interesting (and so difficult to sink into at first try) is that hit-your-face-like-ice-blade freshness only the finest galbanum from Iran could do (anything less would conjure a hint of garlic from the inferior grade). The new version, in short, feels almost like a summery of the old in a more updated language, albeit a bit hollowed out in the centre to usher in an iris-musk sillage.
Thus am I disappointed? Far from it: I know this is going to surely reach a new generation and an entirely novel set of audience, most notably the American and the Asian audiances. In fact the entire artistic creation is right on the money, from the bottle to the juice. Even the image, albeit a bit on the forgettable side, is well integrated into the target image.
The original No. 19, to begin, is truly one of the priciest formula in the original Chanel archive, with the finished compound costing around 1800 Euros (the exactly figure from ’s A Perfect Scent eludes me at the moment). Yet it continues to be a tough sell in the States with its cashmere opening and independent development. When looking at the formula, most notably the original eau de toilette, one notices the genius of Henri Robert by pairing the warmth with the cold, the sunny cis-3-hexanol salicylate and Burrhedione with the severity of iris, the crisp neroli with the sensual woody . Carefully beaded verdant crystals on top of premium silver penne velvet, breath-taking but not for everyone. So if the new edition could help breaking people into the masterpiece, well, why not? Yes and no.
I don’t question the Chanel perfumers’ desire to stay true to the spirit of Coco Chanel, and I don’t question the quality of iris at the beginning of the fragrance (I have several commercial orris blends in stock, and after smelling them along side the latest Chanel it was pretty obvious that some synthetics, most notably the tea-like alpha-isomethyl ionone, is paired with the orris absolute). Yet I wish the sillage could be a bit more varied and nuanced, a bit more imagination on top of modernizing the tradition: Wouldn't it breath-taking to dazzle us, Monsieur Jacques Polge, by pairing galbanum with a beautiful green element not available at Coco Chanel's time, such as the Michelia alba leaves extract? (Come to think of it: Why not? Wouldn't the high priestess of innovation appove when it's brilliantly done? ) And the white floral facet: well, pretty—I can feel the lily of the valley hovering in the background with the use of hydroxycitronnellal—but all this makes me yearn for the original so much more. So we have anther version of No. 19 that’s not for everyone, this time in a different context.
On the other hand the new No. 19 is quite versatile, not only accommodating for different events but also as a layering base for the original parfum in order to amplify the iris in an interesting way. And as I have alluded to earlier in this article, the verdant fragrance can potentially be used as a masculine for some dandies. In fact I look forward to pairing this with a few drops of my 15mL parfum (which works surprisingly well as a masculine, by the way). By the same token, on the other hand, best to test the fragrance before purchasing a full bottle, as unlike the traditional No. 19 line what's on the blotter may or may not be what you get on your skin, as the case to me.
Chanel No. 19 Poudré is a green floral and was developed by Chanel house perfumer Jacques Polge: The notes of Chanel No. 19 Poudré include neroli, galbanum, jasmine, iris, white musk, vetiver and tonka bean. I sampled the 100mL Eau de Parfum tester, both on paper and on skin. I purchased a bottle, although I haven’t opened it yet. It’s out in the market, although at the moment availability varies depending on geographical regions.
photo of bottle in box, copyright by AlbertCAN