Chanel 28 La Pausa and Les Exclusifs : Fragrance Review

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Iris_2

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The most intriguing thing is that the elegant and graceful scent of iris possesses a woody, chalky note, which seems incongruous with its wistful violet softness. Just as a flaw makes a face memorable, this facet raises iris beyond merely pretty and into the realm of mesmerizing. In the same vein, Chanel 28 La Pausa, named after Coco Chanel’s villa on Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, is a perfect tribute to iris. It captures all of its nuances, from the delicate floral overtones to the metallic darkness and woody silkiness. …

28 La Pausa is a part of Les Exclusifs collection which debuts this month. It also includes No 22, Gardénia, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, Coromandel, Bel Respiro, No. 18, 31, rue Cambon, and Eau de Cologne. The entry of Chanel into the niche fragrance category à la Hermès’s Hermessence, Christian Dior Cologne Trio and Giorgio Armani’s Armani Privé was eagerly anticipated. There are few companies that can use the kind of raw materials that Chanel still incorporates into its fragrances. Even if Chanel does not use the precious jasmin de Grasse and rose de mai in Coco Mademoiselle, one should have no doubts that they are included in No 5 (albeit, only in the most luxurious concentration, the parfum). Likewise, Les Exclusifs are marked by the kind of quality one feels when touching the finest cashmere or beholding a perfectly cut precious stone.

The luxurious feeling of 28 La Pausa is quite mesmerizing. The smoothness of iris is almost a textural sensation on the skin. The chilly undertones are subdued and warmed up delicately, rendering 28 La Pausa a living flower, rather than the exquisitely frozen petal of Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, the black velvet of Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre, the green roots of The Different Company Bois d’Iris or the powdery cloud of Hermès Hiris. The iris is set into the frame of white floral notes and musk that heighten the softness of the composition. If 28 La Pausa unfolded as a blooming iris, it dries down to a scent of warm skin and lipstick.

“Always remove, always strip away, never add,” was Coco Chanel’s famous dictum. If I could name one qualm in regards to the collection and specifically 28 La Pausa, it would be the overt simplicity and lack of sillage. While the line’s elegant subtlety is a perfect fit within Chanel’s minimalist vision, I cannot help but think of these fragrances as accords rather than as grand French perfumes (with the notable exception of 31, rue Cambon) like No 22, Gardénia, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, Coco and, of course, No 5. Perhaps this would not be the case if the concentrations were stronger, and I imagine how absolutely perfect 28 La Pausa might be in the parfum.

Nevertheless, the new Les Exclusifs fragrances are worthy of seeking out. The compositions are carefully polished and their elegance, distinction and quality are sorely lacking in most releases today, both mainstream and niche. While the iris hued beauty of 28 La Pausa captured my heart initially, I would name 31, rue Cambon, Bel Respiro, and No 18 as my other favorites. 31, rue Cambon is a chypre in the classical Chanel style. The scintillating verdancy of Bel Respiro is reminiscent of vintage Vent Vert by Balmain. No 18 (apparently, Jacques Polge’s favorite) is a luscious rose and ambrette seed marriage. For the time being, I shall leave it at that, because I plan to say more on all six of them in the future.

Although in photos the new Chanel bottle resembles the design of Marc Jacobs’s splashes, I would have to disagree after seeing it in person. The bottle is modeled on the classical Chanel cologne bottle, and even the largest size (200ml) is very elegant. 28 La Pausa, Coromandel, Bel Respiro, No. 18, 31, rue Cambon, and Eau de Cologne are available only in the Eau de Toilette concentration. Les Exclusifs collection is available from Chanel boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman.

Photo of iris from Serenity Spa.

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36 Comments

  • Bryan: I am always touched by the beauty of your prose. You inspire me to experience new notes, new scents, new perfumers. I adore your blog. I am looking forward to these as well and I am praying for parfum versions. Wearing Chanel makes me feel more sophisticated, more impressive. (I love their ties). This house truly believes in the art of perfumery, and it is an art. I do not underestimate your role in this “artistic movement.” Brava! February 14, 2007 at 1:15am Reply

  • Tigs: Do you know, V, if they intend to release these as parfums? It seems like a logical step… February 14, 2007 at 2:34am Reply

  • Judith: I cannot wait to try these, especially 31 rue Cambon! Thank you so much for the wonderful review of La Pausa. Looking forward to hearing more. . . February 14, 2007 at 6:54am Reply

  • Elle: Well, my fate is sealed w/ La Pausa at least. *Must* have. Gorgeous review. Like Tigs, I’m wondering if they’ll release them in the future in parfum form or at least edp. Praying they do. I’m also concerned about the tweaking of the older Les Exclusifs. Have you smelled them yet? Am hoping the tweaking was very mimimal. February 14, 2007 at 7:26am Reply

  • March: Thanks for the lovely review. I am now lusting for this and looking forward to sampling! We have *two* Chanel boutiques in our city, BTW, both of which deny they are (or will be) carrying these… sigh. February 14, 2007 at 7:39am Reply

  • Marina: Wonderful review! 31, rue Cambon, Bel Respiro, and No 18 are my favorites too, so far. 28, although indisputably beautiful, wasn’t quite “love” for me, more of a “like a lot” 🙂 February 14, 2007 at 7:48am Reply

  • TS: Your 3 favorites are my top 3 exactly. February 14, 2007 at 7:54am Reply

  • newproducts: What a lovely picture you paint of the iris flower as well as this perfume. I probably won’t be testing these for a while yet, but your review has me imagining how the scent will be. February 14, 2007 at 8:49am Reply

  • Katie: I second Tigs’ idea for parfum, though god only knows how painfully expensive THAT would get. Still, it’d be nice to have the option out there, heh.

    This sounds gorgeous, V, and as always your gorgeous words work magic. If it’s approaching the living flower as well as you say… god, I have to have it. So many go another route, choosing other aspects (woodiness, earthiness, ozonic) to highlight rather than capture the smell of the ones that grow up in the yard in the spring. I am drooling in anticipation to try it. February 14, 2007 at 9:28am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    I am anxious to try these soon during my next trip into the city – tomorrow !28 La Pausa sounds intriguing as does 31 Rue Cambon and no. 18. What is disappointing is the light sillage. That is an important factor in my perfume decision making.
    Based on your beautiful descriptive writing – I’m sure I would adore 28 La Pausa as I am drawn to iris . I wish Chanel would have made these treasures in an Eau De Parfum .
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you. What scent did you choose for today’s holiday of love ? February 14, 2007 at 11:08am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    I am anxious to try these soon during my next trip into the city – tomorrow !28 La Pausa sounds intriguing as does 31 Rue Cambon and no. 18. What is disappointing is the light sillage. That is an important factor in my perfume decision making.
    Based on your beautiful descriptive writing – I’m sure I would adore 28 La Pausa as I am drawn to iris . I wish Chanel would have made these treasures in an Eau De Parfum .
    Happy Valentine’s Day to you. What scent did you choose for today’s holiday of love ? February 14, 2007 at 11:08am Reply

  • violetnoir: Simplicity? No sillage? What’s going on, V? I guess I expected these to smell like French perfumery at its best. I hope that I am not disappointed, because I have pegged 28 La Pausa, No. 18 and Bel Respiro as the ones that I “think” I will like the most.

    Thank you for your beautifully written and comprehensive review.

    Hugs and love to you on this Valentine’s Day, V! February 14, 2007 at 11:58am Reply

  • Victoriasown: I am wearing La Pausa today and now thinking I may have rated it too low, although I don’t care for that dry opening, it passes soon enough. I’m ordering a decant set, I think I will then re-cap my reviews. Working from a set of vials may not be doing them justice, I think they need to be sprayed. Although I’m pretty sure No.31 will still be my favorite.

    Happy Valentine’s Day! February 14, 2007 at 1:18pm Reply

  • Robin: They sound lovely, all of them! Not sure they sound worth buying in such large quantities though, especially given the simplicity. Wish, yet again, that they had done a coffret with small bottles. February 14, 2007 at 1:36pm Reply

  • Laura: Oh, goody–I’ve been waiting for your review of these! Well, I knew I’d want to try these and your descriptions and judgement do nothing to dissuade me (to say the least ;D.) Lovely writing, V. February 14, 2007 at 1:41pm Reply

  • minette: hi. just tried les exclusifs today. this was the sa’s favorite. i liked it immediately, because it’s iris – a green iris, to me. but it faded quickly on the paper, and then on my skin – i could barely detect it. i think i may be anosmic to some of its notes – but it is quite pretty. i fell immediately for 31 rue cambon, btw. it felt so “me” i had to have it. chose bel respiro as my free sample with purhase.

    in visiting the new ones, i also revisited no. 22, and was in love with it all over again, as well as with cuir de russie. February 14, 2007 at 2:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bryan, thank you for your kind words! I am very impressed with the quality of Chanel fragrances overall. There is simply nothing like it. February 15, 2007 at 11:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tigs, no, I have not heard anything about the parfums. I am keeping my fingers crossed however. February 15, 2007 at 11:16am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, 31, rue Cambon is quite beautiful, complex and unusual. No 18 is also interesting, although I feel that La Pausa is truly made for me (except that it was diluted too much). February 15, 2007 at 11:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I have not had a chance to smell them yet, but I will this weekend. I hope that they are too tweaked. Well, Chanel is known for respecting its classics. February 15, 2007 at 11:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, they should carry them, but maybe it depends on the size of the boutique and location. February 15, 2007 at 11:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, they are all quite special! February 15, 2007 at 11:20am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I agree, they are great. February 15, 2007 at 11:20am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: N, iris is one of the absolutely favourite notes. It is warm and cold, soft and metallic, full of contrasts. Amazing to discover all of them in the perfume. February 15, 2007 at 11:23am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: N, iris is one of the absolutely favourite notes. It is warm and cold, soft and metallic, full of contrasts. Amazing to discover all of them in the perfume. February 15, 2007 at 11:24am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, thank you! For me, that is the only route that works. I love the feeling of the living flower, complete with a tinge of decay soon to ensue.

    As for the parfums, I can only dream… February 15, 2007 at 11:25am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, I wore La Pausa since that was the gift from my Valentine. I changed into Bois Oriental later in the day. What abou you? February 15, 2007 at 11:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, they are low on sillage, that is true. I would have liked something richer. February 15, 2007 at 11:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: V, I think that it is just enchanting. It is not dramatic, but truly exquisite. February 15, 2007 at 11:27am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, your idea is fantastic! I would love a coffret. February 15, 2007 at 11:28am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, thank you! I would imagine that you might enjoy La Pausa and Bel Respiro. February 15, 2007 at 11:28am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Minette, it lasts ok on me, but not as much as I would have liked. Given the fact that it is just beautiful, I find this even more disappointing. 31, rue Cambon is bound to be my next acquisition. February 15, 2007 at 11:30am Reply

  • portlandia: What, no parfum or even EDP? What are they thinking? Who is going to buy a hugely expensive 200 ml. bottle of EDT?!? I want these but NO way am I buying those Jeroboam sizes! I hope they bring out smaller sizes in higher concentrations later. February 16, 2007 at 2:22am Reply

  • Yves de chiris: Dear Victoria,
    You have already been introduced to me by Michael Edwards, who spoke in such glowing terms about you that he sparked my curiosity, which in turn impelled me to look up your site.
    Michaels’ comments were not exaggerated, since I have found your site (as I’m fairly lazy, I only got around to it a week ago), every day I enjoy reading a couple of pages like sipping a good brandy.
    Congratulations your comments are not only extremely accurate but beautifully written.
    It is nice to see someone your age showing such passion for the product.
    Just an observation; I see, as here, more and more complaints that fragrances don’t last long enough or don’t have enough “sillage”.
    Whilst one could understand it with light fresh fragrances this should not happen with notes incorporating woods, spices and balsams.
    I think this lack of performance is probably due to manufacturer’s lack of understanding of the role maturation and maceration plays in development of a fragrance.
    The business leaders of today are obsessed by two things, head count and inventory control.
    So to reduce their inventories they put pressure on their technical management, to cut down on the maturation and maceration time of their fragrances, which in turn kills their performance.
    Today most brand managers don’t even know what these terms refer to.
    Do you know that “Angel Eau de Parfum” is concentrated at 12%, but it is allowed to mature for 4 weeks and macerate again for 4 weeks? The same is true for “la Feminite du Bois”.
    Should you cut down on that time, in order to get the same performance, you would have to concentrate them at, at least 20%. Which would increase their costs far more than keeping a 2 month’s inventory.
    All Guerlain fragrances have lost in performance and I am wonder if the aforementioned is the cause.
    However I’m surprised in the case of Chanel (28 la Pausa), if any company is respectful of tradition it is they!!
    Another cause for lack in performance is the quality of the ingredients used.
    In the 1950s a designer would be prepared pay, minimum, $300.00 for his fragrance.
    Imagine what $300.00 in the 50s would represent today, when the highest most companies are prepared to pay is; $ 100.00 (and there are very few of those) and most will not go over $ 60.00.
    Amicalement
    Yves February 19, 2007 at 4:19am Reply

  • aryse: Hi Victoria,

    When I tested the fragrances at Chanel, the saleswoman smelled very good. During my tests, she explained me: “I am wearing Bel Respiro, it is my preferred of the new collection. A splendid perfume”
    And I thought: “Yes, great perfume, fresh and refined, a bucolic paradise with odors of scrubland brought by the breeze… spring before spring”.
    I agree completely with you Victoria.My 4 preferred are Bel Respiro, N° 18 (perfume whose iris-ambrette-musk agreement gives desire for roving among diamonds), 28 La Pausa (marvellous iris-violet earthy and powdered, radiant and secret which makes dream to Italy) and 31 rue Cambon, the second chypré of Chanel (after Pour Monsieur(1955) but in a completely new way. A perfume of skin, mysterious and elegant, the most sensual of the 6 in my opinion.

    Wonderful collection, certainly one of the best since a very very long time. I could not resist and I bought the 4 perfumes.
    Happy but without money. When one likes …….:-)

    Nice day. February 19, 2007 at 7:23am Reply

  • Fleur.de.Lys: Kudos to you, Victoria, for commenting on the lack of sillage as it is the truth. It is so refreshing to read genuine editorial that does not read like a dizzying, verbal spiral staircase of pretentious muck. When a perfumer like Yves de Chiris is commenting on the pages of Bois de Jasmin, that is in and of itself a very big statement. People are hungry for the truth and consumers are much smarter than some of the marketers that are actually managing product roll outs. It really leaves one wondering if certain card-carrying MBAs are really masters of bull#$%! administration. Diluting the very essence of an MBA indeed. February 22, 2007 at 10:05pm Reply

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