Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
I very much anticipated the launch of No.5 Eau Première. Granted, not everything from Chanel has enchanted me. I could live without Chance and the numerous masculine Allure flankers. Les Exclusifs could have possessed more tenacity. Yet, all of this notwithstanding, I am hard-pressed to point out another fragrance house (with the important and notable exception of Estée Lauder in the US) that pays so much attention to the actual contents of the fragrance flacons. The fruity jasmine, the sumptuous rose and the seductively creamy musk of No.5 Eau Première have the kind of richness and quality that seems to be more and more difficult to find elsewhere.
If No 5 has always struck me as possessing a certain restrained elegance, Eau Première has a tender, somewhat vulnerable side. Those who expected a dramatic departure from the original would be disappointed, but on reflection, I find that Eau Première is a perfect update to No 5—it is derived from Chanel’s tradition, which is rare to find in flankers associated with classical launches. It is not a pink fruity-floral like Éclat d’Arpège (Lanvin’s modern take on the legendary Arpège.) It is not a variant on Angel (even if innovative and interesting,) the way Coco Mademoiselle appears. It feels more lighthearted and effervescent than its predecessor, and yet, nothing compromises its depth and complexity. The classical aldehydic top of No 5 has been made softer—think cashmere versus heavy satin, while the base has lost its opaque quality.
With both the top and the base becoming more transparent, the floral accord shines. The clarity of the backdrop throws into relief the beautiful richness of classical Chanel No 5 florals—rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang and iris. Each is striking and faceted, and together they blend into a soft and gorgeous harmony. Although Eau Première is definitely lighter and airier than No 5, it has an outstanding sillage and wears very beautifully on the skin.
The great role that iris plays in the composition is the reason why No.5 Eau Première recalls for me the soft gilded quality that pervades Guerlain’s fragrances like Après l’Ondée—the same rich dose of iris, the raspberry sweetness of rose, the delicate warmth of the base. Of course, Eau Première is a Chanel child through and through, and yet, I am delighted to find in its heart a hint of my first passion.
No.5 Eau Première is available at Saks 5th Avenue and other major retailers.