12 Absolute Best Chanel Perfumes for Every Occasion

Chanel has been in the fragrance biz since 1921 and what an auspicious debut Chanel No 5 proved to be. 

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Almost a century later, the company has maintained its reputation for elegant and timeless compositions. This is a considerable achievement when you consider how many brands have allowed their heritage to be diluted at the expense of quick cash. Instead, Chanel has made heritage and the life of its unique founder an integral part of its lucrative perfume business. 

With an impressive mix of classics and new launches, Chanel offers discerning fragrance consumers the ideal selection of options for every situation. We’ve rounded up some of the best in a variety of categories, including classic, casual, work, romantic night out, summer and winter.

The name of the perfumer is included in brackets after the name of the fragrance. If you’re wondering why the same perfumers’ names keep on popping up on this list, that’s because Chanel, in the tradition of the grand maisons of old, relies on the expertise of their in-house perfumer. 

Best Classic Chanel Perfumes

Chanel No 5 EDP

Perfumer: Jacques Polge

To quote Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

Without hubris, we can confidently say that Chanel set the standard for modern perfumery in 1921 after she briefed Russian-born nose Ernest Beaux to create “a woman’s perfume with a woman’s scent”. 

Chanel No 5 was revolutionary in a number of ways. Unlike many of the perfumes that were popular at the time, it didn’t focus on one specific note. Most importantly, it showcased the compound aldehydes, with its fizzy soapiness, to spectacular effect. 

In 1986, Jacques Polge reinterpreted the original in an EDP concentration. Its aldehydic opening is enhanced by citrus notes of neroli and bergamot. A large shot of ylang-ylang introduces a rich yellow floral dimension to the composition. 

It’s followed by an elaborate bouquet of iris, May rose, lily-of-the-valley and jasmine notes in the fragrance’s heart. 

Sandalwood and vanilla make for memorable partners in the smooth and sensual dry down.

Even if you do find it too “mature”, there’s no getting away from the influence of Chanel No 5.


coco chanel edp

Chanel Coco EDP

Perfumer: Jacques Polge

Launched in 1984, Chanel Coco bears all the hallmarks of the decade. It’s big, bold and brash – by Chanel standards. And we mean that as a compliment. 

A brief Sicilian mandarin note gives way to the distinctive spiciness of coriander. There’s more spice in the form of cloves. They can sometimes be overly domineering, but here they’re perfectly balanced by notes of Bulgarian rose, Tunisian orange blossom, jasmine absolute and ylang-ylang from the Comoros.  

As to be expected from an oriental, the drydown is rich and dense. Notes of Indonesian patchouli, benzoin and tonka work together to create a thoroughly grown-up fragrance that oozes retro glamour.  


Best Casual Chanel Perfumes

Chanel No 5 L’Eau EDT

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

There’s no denying the all-time classic credentials of Chanel No 5. But there are those who feel that the parfum and EDP versions are too heavy and, dare we say it, old-fashioned. 

It’s for these reasons that the French luxury fashion brand took the big step in 2016 of launching a lighter version of its icon. Ostensibly aimed at a generation of younger women who wanted to be modern without smelling like their mothers and grandmothers, Chanel No 5 L’Eau is our casual choice.  

The intro is all freshness, with notes of lemon, mandarin and orange in play. There’s no mistaking the soapy presence of aldehydes in the opening, albeit more toned down than the original. 

The richness of ylang-ylang takes the lead in the floral heart, with hints of jasmine and rose in the background. 

Musk dominates the drydown and completes what is a very worthwhile addition to the Chanel No 5 franchise. 


Les Exclusifs De Chanel 1957 EDP

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

The latest addition to the upmarket Les Exclusifs de Chanel private collection is undoubtedly a Chanel creation. It has a deceptive simplicity about it. 

The opening has a fresh, clean, almost-soapy quality, courtesy of the bergamot and aldehyde notes. The notes of orange blossom and jasmine bring a delicate floral aspect, while orris adds just the right amount of powderiness. 

There’s also an interesting contrast between spicy pink pepper and coriander and slightly sweet vanilla and honey notes. Further interest is added by a woodiness in the base, thanks to the cedar note.

None of these elements dominate the scent, as Chanel 1957 is really about its beautiful musk accord, which is present through the various stages of the fragrance. It gives the fragrance a cosy, easy-going elegance.

It’s a chic skin scent in which the best ingredients have been used to create it.


Best for Work

Chanel Allure EDP

Perfumer: Jacques Polge

We all know how increasingly tricky the work fragrance scenario is. Something that will make you stand out, without offending the sensitivities of others. Which is why we can’t think of a better office option than this multi-dimensional 1999 release. Chanel’s Allure gets the balance between power and subtlety oh so right.

It begins in fresh citrus territory with pronounced notes of mandarin orange and lemon. Peach adds a slightly fruity element.

Featuring notes of honeysuckle, jasmine, water lily, magnolia and freesia, the heart is floral a-go-go, without any of the associated sweetness, but more on the fresh side of things. They are complemented by a delicate touch of rose. 

After all that fresh, fruity and floral action, Allure takes on an oriental character in the dry down with a big dose of quality vanilla that’s supported by creamy sandalwood. 

As with many Chanel fragrances, it’s also available in EDT and parfum versions. 


Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte EDT Concentrée

Perfumer: Jacques Polge

One of the lesser-known Chanel fragrances, this 2009 flanker to the 1974 original is well worth sniffing out. 

Inspired by the designer’s love of the outdoors, it works a treat when you’re all cooped up behind your computer screen, thanks to its fresh, floral and green accents.

Featuring notes of bergamot and Amalfi lemon, the opening epitomises sparkling freshness. 

Neroli continues the theme in the heart of the scent, with its bitter-sweet nuances. A note of magnolia brings a floral aspect – it’s crisp and opulent at the same time – while jasmine infuses it with a delicate sweetness. 

Settling with a musky drydown, this EDT doesn’t have the best longevity. So we recommend keeping it in your purse for the occasional, refreshing top-up.


Best Date or Romantic Night Out

Chanel Chance Eau Tendre EDP

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

Just when we’d given up on many modern fruity florals, along comes the youthful Chanel Chance Tendre to restore our faith in the popular genre. Launched in 2019, it’s the fourth addition to the range that originally made its debut in 2003.

Notes of grapefruit and quince set the citrus-fruity mood. What relief! There’s none of the screechy sweetness that’s prevalent in so many other examples. It’s soft and most appealing. 

The fragrance really comes into its own when jasmine absolute and rose essence make their presence felt. A sophisticated floral to be enjoyed by you and your date.

And then there’s the musk, which brings it all together in a very skillful and romantic way. 

It’s not a reinvention of the fruity-floral as we know it, but it’s certainly a masterly fine-tuning of it. 


Gabrielle Chanel Essence EDP

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

As with its predecessor, Gabrielle Chanel EDP, this 2019 release is inspired by the maverick spirit of Coco Chanel. The new version isn’t a radical departure from the original but, like any worthwhile flanker, offers something different in its own right – a richer and denser character. 

It opens with a light and fresh sprinkle of citrus notes, while a red berry note is just discernible in the background. 

This is a white floral fragrance when the heart notes come into play. Olivier Polge has not skimped on the ingredients, which include jasmine, ylang-ylang from the Comoros, Tunisian orange blossom and an exclusive variety of tuberose. Together, they create an enticingly luxurious effect with just the right amount of sweetness. 

The tuberose is the star of the show, but it doesn’t smother the other florals. It’s typically creamy, but with a refined freshness. That elegant mood carries through to the drydown, where white musk predominates, with sandalwood and vanilla in support. 


Best for Summer

Chanel No 19 EDP

Perfumer: Henri Robert

Launched in 1970 and created by Ernest Beaux’s successor, Chanel No 19 refers to the birth date of Coco Chanel, who was born on August 19, 1883. It was also the last Chanel fragrance to be created while the grande dame was still alive (she died in 1971).

Historical significance aside, we love this classic for its unusual floral-woody-green character. 

It begins with citrus-fresh notes of bergamot and neroli. But they are secondary to the large dose of galbanum, which gives this EDP its outstanding bitter-green profile.   

Iris pallida softens the initial impact with powderiness, while notes of ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose bring floral intensity to the mix. 

The woody base notes of oakmoss and vetiver keep it resolutely sharp.

Fifty years after its initial launch, this EDP remains a complex and compelling beauty. It’s probably the least crowd-pleasing Chanel fragrance.


Chanel Paris-Riviera EDT

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

Chanel launched its new collection, Les Eaux, in 2018, with three fragrances inspired by destinations that were significant to Coco Chanel: Paris-Venise, Paris-Biarritz and Paris-Deauville. We were immediately smitten by the quality and fresh tone of these releases. The latest addition to the range, launched in 2019, Chanel Paris-Riviera, has had the same effect on us.

For Paris-Riviera, Olivier Polge took inspiration from the happy and exciting time in her life on the Côte d’Azur. It’s perfectly reflected in the gentle juice, in which nothing feels heavy-handed or out of place

The EDT opens with the range’s signature freshness, this time in the form of orange peel and petitgrain notes. They are given a soft treatment. A special type of neroli sourced by the house, which amplifies the opening, is blended with jasmine for a bright citrus-floral effect. 

The jasmine flows seamlessly to the dry down, where a light creamy sandalwood note is paired with vanilla-ish benzoin balm. 

Get your hands on this limited edition before May 2020. 


Best for Winter

Chanel Coco Noir EDP

Perfumers: Jacques Polge & Christopher Sheldrake

In a fragrance world where flankers are often a case of ever-diminishing returns, you can rely on Chanel to give you a very good reason to spend your hard-earned cash on another extension to one of their best ranges.

Launched in 2012, Coco Noir takes its inspiration from the fashion legend’s love of black and Venice. It’s a suitably baroque affair with oriental flair. 

The intro of bergamot, orange and grapefruit notes is deceptively citrus-fresh, but deliciously sensual. It doesn’t take long for rose to reveal its romantic intentions. And who can say no to such a lush take on the queen of flowers? A geranium leaf note adds to the rosiness. 

The base belongs to patchouli in all its rich, dark and exotic glory. Tonka bean and sandalwood bring warm creaminess to the composition.

We’ve recommended this one for winter, but it would work equally well for a romantic night out. 


Coco Mademoiselle EDP Intense

Perfumer: Olivier Polge

When Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum was launched in 2001, it became another huge success for the French luxury brand. Created by Jacques Polge, this floriental made its mark on a generation of women with its contrasts of fresh citrus and sensual patchouli. 

Olivier Polge, le fils de Jacques Polge (excuse our basic French), created a worthy successor to Chanel Coco Mademoiselle EDP with Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum Intense, which was launched in 2018. 

It opens with the familiar citrus burst of the original, but then Indonesian patchouli has been pumped to the max, with rose and jasmine in close support. 

The sensual aspect has also been amplified with Madagascan vanilla and tonka bean. This all adds up to create a more sophisticated scent.  

Our sources tell us that a new version of Coco Mademoiselle is about to be launched in March 2020.

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