Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Bel Respiro from Chanel Les Exclusifs: fragrance review

In continuation of examining Chanel Les exclusifs a little bit closer, one cannot but notice that they are all inspired and drawing elements from olfactory creations past from the archives of the house.
Bel Respiro is another similar case, as is 28 La Pausa -discussed yesterday- in its own way as well.

Named after one of Mlle. Chanel's houses on the outskirts of Paris Bel Respiro is meant "to evoke stems, leaves and springtime". Does it succeed in this endeavour? It does in part. It draws inspiration by the verdancy of both Chanel#19 and some aspects of Cristalle, especially in the eau de parfum formulation (which incidentally was meant as a completely different interpretation of the theme of the old Eau de toilette by the addition of floral elements such as honeysuckle and lily of the valley, advertised with the tag line "Cristalle grows up!" when it launched in 1993). Even the vetiver drydown of Chance is making a hushed appareance, which in my opinion is Chance's one redeeming quality and the reason it just escapes from being irrecovably linked to my mind to images of teen girls sucking on a fruity lollipop.

The green bite of galbanum, a stemmy aroma that according to perfume guru Arctander evokes "green peppers or tossed green salad" is present lending a bracing start in the vein of Sisley's Eau de Campagne (devised by Jean Claude Ellena) or the classic Vent Vert by Germain Cellier. However the effect is much more timid in Bel Respiro, as if they are a little afraid to frighten the customer with too much of a herbal smell that would clash with their bourgeois attire. Despite that hesitation the start does evoke languid summer days, lying on the grass, the breeze through one's hair, not a care in the world.

This is soon betrayed by the homogenous sweetness that is prevalent in almost all of the new Exclusifs and is obeying to the dictatorship of the wearable. Of course for a scent to be wearable is not a fault per se. It's the relative lack of daring imagination that is a little disappointing to witness, because my expectations were so high. The sweetness is not unpleasant, it is classy with a promise of creaminess, however the lack of depth that is usually associated with creamy florals makes this pale and rather limp, as if it features an aqueous quality that I thought had been long abandoned (but I guess is not). It also gives the impression of a sweet posy of hyacinths subtly smelled across the numerous rooms of a grand mansion, decaying slowly in their vase. Don't get me wrong, I like a slight hint of decay and death in floral fragrances, but in this particular case the discrepancy between herbal opening and sweet drydown does not excite me. The minimalism displayed in the whole line is not convicing in its bouquet.

Chanel #19 and Cristalle in eau de parfum (also by Polge) succeed much more in marrying the deep emerald accords with the lush florancy, giving complexity and substance that sadly Bel respiro lacks. If Bel Respiro had that divine quality which I am seeking it would resemble the luminous feathered tail of a peacock.

It is not a bad fragrance; in fact if I had to choose, I think along with 28 La Pausa and Coromandel (contrary to my initial unsniffed expectations), they would be safe choices that correspond to most of my lifestyle's situations I envision them to be worn. However, to tell you the truthm I am not so keen on purchasing a full bottle of Bel Respiro simply for the reason that I am deeply enamoured of Chanel#19 which satisfies me on every possible level. Nice try, however!

Art photography by Chris Borgman courtesy of his site

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