For a perfume as successful as Chanel No. 5, there have been remarkably few interpretations over the decades. This shows just how much the French luxury brand regards its icon.
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One of the daily duties of Chanel’s “in-house perfumer-creator”, as Olivier Polge is known, is to ensure the quality of the raw materials required for its production.
A departure from the soliflores (perfumes based on one particular floral note) that were popular at the time, Ernest Beaux’s original from 1921 is a masterful blend of aldehydes, May rose and Jasmine from Grasse. It’s been reformulated over the years, due to regulations regarding allergens and changing social norms regarding the use of animalic ingredients. But that doesn’t stop this masterpiece from being supremely sensual and rich.
Ernest Beaux created the first variation in 1924. “The highly precious nature of the Parfum quickly justified the need for a lighter eau de toilette version that stayed true to the spirit of the original,” says Olivier Polge. Woodier than the Parfum, with vetiver at the fore in the drydown, it’s recommended for those who find the original too opulent.
More than 60 years later, in 1986, Jacques Polge (Olivier Polge’s father) introduced this variation. While retaining some of the opulence of the original, it has more of a vanilla emphasis in the drydown.
Jacques Polge gave the classic an airier, more contemporary feel with this 2008 release. It features aldehydes made from citrus essences, subtle florals and plenty of white musks. Soft and sensual stuff!
All icons have to evolve and this 2016 take can be seen as the brand’s response to those who were complaining that Chanel No. 5 was “too mature” / “too old lady-ish” for their tastes. With its fresher aspect (lots of citrus in the opening, toned-down aldehydes and cedar in the drydown), this Olivier Polge version is probably the biggest departure from the original out of all the versions.