The Chanel Project: 31 Rue Cambon. Wait for it…

thewaitingDo you want to know? In the Chanel collection of scents, after No. 5 it’s 31 Rue Cambon. If 31 Rue Cambon were a person, and someday that person passed away, its gravestone would read “Perfume” pure and simple.

On me 31 Rue Cambon opens with that “perfume” perfume note that cause young people to say on Makeup Alley that a perfume smells like an “old lady”, which then causes other perfumistas to want to use a “nail gun” to “attach” signs to those young people’s foreheads that say things like “Someday when I am an old lady, I hope I smell half as good as 31 Rue Cambon.”

If you don’t care for this note, well, don’t turn in your perfumista badge yet; I don’t entirely care for it either. Have some patience. Be that adult who can delay gratification for a while.

You know about delayed gratification, right? It’s linked to a lot of things; among other things, being able to delay gratification has been thought to be a greater indicator of success later in life than intelligence. Over time, it has even been shown that the brains of those who are able to delay gratification are different; though it’s also true that external factors affect one’s ability to say “no” to something temporarily. In an environment of scarcity, for instance, it makes no sense to delay gratification.

But perfume is not a feature of scarcity. It is a luxury, something you consume when all of your other Maslovian needs have been met. It is something you breathe in, sink into, and enjoy.

Sink into 31 Rue Cambon. Enjoy it. The bursting floral bouquet reportedly substitutes lush tropical ylang-ylang for Chanel’s more usual jasmine. I believe it, because this perfume is far more come-hither than No. 5 or any of my other Chanel perfumes. There is nothing prim about 31 Rue Cambon. This is not a perfume that speaks of home or office. A person wearing this might be going literally anywhere. With anyone. To do just about anything.

The base notes of this perfume, according to Fragrantica, include labdanum and patchouli. You see where this is going, right? If someone offered you a perfume with ylang-ylang, labdanum and patchouli in it, wouldn’t you think they had offered you something for a hippie sexpot? Would you associate it with the proper high-classness of mid-twentieth century Chanel suits? No. You might associate it with the fashion house that introduced jersey to sportswear and did away with women’s corsets. Think big. You should.

There’s a peppery stem-ness even in the base of 31RC that does not allow the whole thing to become as creamy smooth (and featureless) as, say, Cuir de Russie in the far drydown. It retains some structure, some body. And quite a bit of naughtiness. I don’t know if it’s the labdanum or something civet-ty, but I find 31RC to have juuuuuuuust a touch of warm satisfied woman to it.

I can see why the uninitiated might turn away from this perfume in the first few minutes. That is flat-out a mistake. If you love perfume at all, it’s worth letting 31 Rue Cambon develop. It is a rich, rewarding classic in its own right.

Do you have trouble waiting for things besides perfume?

Image is “The Waiting” by Tormod Ulsberg, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.

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The Chanel Project: Chance


Upon my first wearing of Chance, I decided that I felt about perfumes the same way I feel about books: awwww, all of them should be loved by someone somewhere.

I’m dead serious about this. I worry about how inanimate objects feel, especially about whether or not they feel lonely and unloved. I used to tuck in all my dolls every night, and to this day when I find something old and unused at the bottom of a drawer my first thought is “Poor thing, you must have been lonely.”

Fortunately Chance has its lovers. You can find plenty of people on the internet singing of their love for this 2003 Chanel creation. If I had to guess, I would assume that most of them are people without too many bottles of perfume in their collection. I say this in all seriousness, because if they had any broader experience of perfume, they might think of Chance as I do: the blandest expression of perfumes of the last decade, an absolutely nondescript perfume that opens with unidentifiable fruits and closes with unidentifiable woods, the kind of perfume that gave rise to the term “fruitchouli”. Which is not an accolade.

Even when wearing it all day, I have trouble remembering what I’m wearing. There is nothing distinctive about Chance, nothing at all.

But the people who love it find it to be that elusive combination of fresh and sensual that American perfume buyers are always looking for, the kind that reminds them of nothing actually sexual or natural. (Thanks to perfume writer Barbara Herrman for tweeting that story.) It is what they wanted.

Chance doesn’t appear in the top selling perfumes of the year that one finds posted at perfume blog Bois de Jasmin. Coco Mademoiselle – which is only fruitier and cleaner – consistently outsells it.

So imagine the “rebel” who actually buys and wears Chance and what it must smell like to them compared to the other big American sellers. Chance is much warmer and more “sensual” (meaning with a base that includes some cleaned up reference to “wood” as well as “musk”) than its better-selling sister. It’s less of a sugarbomb than Flowerbomb, and far more elegant and evocative of classic perfumery than Light Blue. Of course they love their Chance!

I’m glad this perfume has people to love it. Perhaps those people wouldn’t like perfumes that are actually heavy with wood or warmer notes like amber or myrrh even if they smelled them. After all, every American consumer has had the chance to wear Angel and they’re choosing Chance over that. As someone who loves expanding horizons I’d love for them to try House of Matriarch’s Bohemian Black, Soivohle’s Amun-Re Tears of Ra, Jalaine’s Patchouli oil, even Amouage Fate. But they don’t need to. They found Chance and they’re happy with it.

Every perfume should have someone who loves it.

Image is “gambling woman” by (the world through highland cattle’s eyes), via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.

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Resistance is futile

borgcubeWhen you fall in love with a perfume, how long can you wait till you have to have it?

I am making myself wait till I reach the end of the billing month to acquire what will be a relatively tame purchase. I’ve only smelled the perfume twice – once I fell madly, mouthwateringly in love with it and had that sensation of “This is all I will wear this spring!” (Which predictions of perfume monogamy never come true.) The second time the cold or my skin ate it and I couldn’t smell it much at all. I need to give this a third wearing before I pull the trigger, and I need to stick within my budget, and I need not to give in to the “acquire acquire acquire” impulse.

I have to say, though, I’ve learned over the years that the perfumes that hit me that way are the ones I am happiest to have in my collection and wear the most.

What is a reasonable length of time to wait before buying a FB? Do you (virtuously) use up a decant before you invest in a FB (something I’ve learned to do instead of blind buying but never seem to be able to do when I’ve sniffed something and have to have it). Are you able to wait for sales, or holiday gifts, to acquire something?

Image is of a Borg cube, undoubtedly © to someone who isn’t me, swiped off the net because it’s a Star Trek kind of weekend. I will miss you, Mr. Nimoy.

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The Chanel Project: Bois des Îles

I consider Bois des Îles to be the third in a trio with Chanel’s Cuir de Russie and (vintage) No. 5.

I don’t know why other people don’t comment on the relationship more; I have a feeling it’s because either

1) They haven’t smelled much of the vintage No. 5, in which this aldehydic . . . → Read More: The Chanel Project: Bois des Îles

Roses for winter

I just am dying for roses this time of year. Not for Valentine’s Day (I don’t need them dying in my kitchen, I much prefer the sunny bright bouquet my beloved brought me), but around me.

Did you read Undina’s post on her rose equation? It made me think of so many roses I wear: . . . → Read More: Roses for winter

Your mileage may vary

What are you wearing for Valentine’s Day?

I thought Aperture would be sexier than it was. I know, I know – camera apertures. Nonetheless, if you’re going to name a perfume “Aperture” I’m going to think outside that box.

My imagination was clearly in a different place from the perfumer’s. I long for a . . . → Read More: Your mileage may vary

Thought on shopping

Here’s what I’ve learned about shopping that has slowed me down a tad:

Things I’m not sure about turn out to be poor investments. If I spend much time wondering if I really like it or not, turns out I won’t wear it that much if I get it, no matter how “interesting” it is . . . → Read More: Thought on shopping

Cheap buttery thrill: Adam Levine for Her

Are we supposed to be too strong for shopping therapy now? Is the phrase anti-feminist? I can’t remember.

However you slice it, I needed some shopping therapy last night, and TJ Maxx really delivered.

I found a remaindered bottle of Aniston (I’d always liked it enough as a beachy type summer fragrance but figured I’d . . . → Read More: Cheap buttery thrill: Adam Levine for Her

The Chanel Project: Cuir de Russie

I don’t want to lie to you. To me Cuir de Russie smells exactly like vintage Chanel No. 5, with no aldehydes and with the woods amped up and with some leather added.

Sorry. Short review.

Part of Les Exclusifs collection of Chanel, Cuir de Russie is not easy to get one’s hands on. If . . . → Read More: The Chanel Project: Cuir de Russie

Flavors of lavender

A positive review of Burberry Brit Rhythm for Her (which sadly I cannot locate) sent me off into one of those spirals of must-have, must-have, must-have. I love the idea of lavender oil, I like the calming effects of smelling it and I like its clean freshness, and it sounded as though I might enjoy . . . → Read More: Flavors of lavender