Chanel No 5 : Perfume, EDT, EDP Review and Fragrance Poll

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

According to an oft repeated story, the iconic Chanel No 5 fails miserably in fragrance market tests, with the derived conclusion that the success of this great fragrance is based on the clever marketing strategy and carefully maintained brand image. Considering that today’s market tests have produced some of the worst excuses for perfumes, I do not find this to be the logical inference. Although an elegant brand image is an important part of the story, it is not enough to explain the mystery, the draw and the timeless beauty of Chanel No 5. I realize that trying to write a post of reasonable length on this topic is an ambitious task; after all, Tilar Mazzeo wrote a whole book on No 5 and yet many felt that she missed some important elements. Instead, I would like to describe Chanel No 5 in its different forms as it exists today and to hear your thoughts. I am convinced that the reason for its iconic status, is above all, the impeccable quality and allure of the fragrance itself.

Extrait de Parfum (1921, Ernest Beaux)

Every time I open my bottle of the extrait de parfum, I am never quite prepared for its exquisite beauty. It is not just that the materials that comprise No 5 are stunning, though they are the best of what is available today. On the whole, the fragrance has a unique and memorable character. It is elegant, yet it is neither distant nor haughty. It is sensual, yet it does not have a decadent aura. The sultry ylang ylang note with its unique juxtaposition of wintergreen brightness and ripe mango sweetness unfolds first, even before the famous Chanel No 5 aldehydes light up the composition with their characteristic effervescence. Although the initial impression is vivid and luminous, with the added brightness from the neroli and bergamot, the dark amber note gives a dusky, moody quality to the fragrance.

The contrast first set in place by the interplay between the sparkling aldehydic veil and the honeyed rose and jasmine notes continues as the fragrance moves into its dark base. The timbre of woody notes, including vetiver and sandalwood, gives a surprisingly masculine facet, which offsets the decadent languor of the floral notes. Vanilla and coumarin envelop the base notes, while plush, rich musks further soften the rough edges. The parfum has an alluring radiant quality, and yet, the sensation overall is soft, caressing and gentle. If you are only familiar with Chanel No 5 in other versions, discovering the parfum will be like finding a completely different fragrance.

Eau de Toilette (1952, Henri Robert)

While the original No 5 existed only as extrait de parfum, Ernest Beaux rebalanced the formula for Eau de Cologne in the 1930s to derive a lighter, fresher, less expensive version. In 1952, the new Chanel in-house perfumer Henri Robert created a new prêt-à-porter interpretation of No 5. It is not just that the concentration of the Eau de Toilette version is lower, it has a different intent as a fresh daytime fragrance. Nevertheless, Roberts’s Eau de Toilette retains all of the surprising juxtapositions that make No 5 so memorable. While the richness of the floral notes is toned down considerably, the rose, jasmine and ylang ylang still form a beautiful accord, reinforced by the woody violet and the sheer green hyacinth. The neroli, citrus and aldehydes give a fresh and vivid aura that is maintained even in the spicy vanilla and warm musk drydown. For me, the Eau de Toilette is like a chiffon wrap to the parfum’s heavy silk, and it has a joyful, sparkling quality that I find alluring. To many, it will be the most recognizable form of No 5.

Eau de Parfum (1986, Jacques Polges)

While the Eau de Toilette is my preferred version after the parfum, the Eau de Parfum created by Jacques Polges in 1986 is the modern twist on the iconic classic. If the parfum juxtaposes elegance with sensuality, and the Eau de Toilette underscores the luminosity and vivacious spirit, the Eau de Parfum exudes confidence and bold beauty. The creamy notes of peach lacing the rose, lily of the valley and jasmine heart are more prominent, while the smooth richness of the amplified sandalwood note replaces the musky darkness of the original. Instead, the Eau de Parfum is subtly colored by the darkness of leather and incense. It is less aldehydic than the Eau de Toilette, yet it is sharper. Overall, I find it more angular, in contrast to the polished smoothness of the original No 5.

On Chanel No 5 Today

Though No 5 is described as a beautiful abstraction, its high quality raw materials, particularly rose, ylang ylang, jasmine and iris, are what make it such a unique fragrance today. I get a shiver running down my spine whenever I smell the parfum with its incredible rose and jasmine absolutes from the Grasse region. The quality of the fragrance was the first thing upon which Coco Chanel insisted, mostly because she wanted it to be inimitable, but she could not have picked a more driven artist than Ernest Beaux. He meticulously searched for raspberry nuances in the rose oils he used in Chanel products and was very exacting in his requirements for every material that went into No 5. Henri Robert continued with this mission, and while he has authored several Chanel fragrances including Cristalle and No 19, he was above all a custodian of No 5, a true connoisseur of raw materials and obsessive in the pursuit of quality. Even today, while I might have qualms with Bleu de Chanel, Chance and too many Allure Homme flankers, I remain inspired by the impeccable quality I smell in Chanel No 5. One only needs to reflect on the sad state of affairs of Miss Dior, Dana Tabu and many other great perfume legends to see the difference.

As all livings things, perfume changes from the moment it is born; therefore, it is not surprising that Chanel No 5 smells different today. The natural animal materials originally used in the fragrance such as musk and civet have been banned. The plush and warm synthetic nitro-musks are gone from perfumers’ palettes and the quality of the ylang ylang notes is different. There are other examples, yet, as I open my vintage bottles of No 5 and smell each in succession until I reach the modern version, I find that the character of No 5 has been preserved. To be honest, I do not even care to do a detailed side by side comparison, because I find that No 5 as it exists today fulfills all of my yearnings: for beauty, for quality, and for elegance. Something this exquisite can never be old-fashioned.

What is your Chanel No 5 story? Do you or someone you know wear it? What is associated in your mind with No 5?

Samples from my personal bottles: extrait de parfum (review mostly focused on 2007 version), Eau de Cologne (1970s), Eau de Toilette (review focused on 2009 version), Eau de Parfum (review focused on 2009 version.)

Images: 1921 illustration by Georges Goursat Sem.

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66 Comments

  • Olfactoria: I started with the Eau de Parfum in the early nineties, more out of a sense of “This is elegance, this you have to wear to be somebody!”. I fell in love with N°5 much later, when I encountered the Extrait. I own, love and wear the perfume version now, as well as Eau Premiere. It still embodies the epitome of elegance and sophistication, high quality and timelessness to me.
    Thank you for your comprehensive overview, dear V. February 9, 2011 at 4:07am Reply

  • rosarita: I have worn #5 on and off since the late 70s, when I received my first bottle as a gift. I don’t know what concentration that particular bottle was, but every bottle I’ve purchased has been the edt. I’ve never smelled the parfum, let alone vintage, but I do love the elegant wearability of the edt. It is perfect in all weathers and for all occasions, imo. Eau Premiere is lovely and wearable, too. Thanks so much for this post! Most informative and a delightful read. :) February 9, 2011 at 5:08am Reply

  • Marina: My mom “discovered” Chanel after I gave her a bottle on a whim, last year. Before, she used to always have a fragrance wardrobe of several (maybe up to 5-7) perfumes at a time. Now, she refuses to wear anything else but No 5. When she arrives, I will try to get to the root of this sudden monogamy :), is it the scent, is it the brand, what is it? I got her a bottle of Natori for Val. Day, since it’s aldehydic too, but different enough. Because apparently I cannot stand the idea of someone being true to only one perfume :) February 9, 2011 at 7:23am Reply

  • Linda: Thank you so much for this! When I was at school, I was haunted by No. 5 because it represented the ultimate in luxury, and I saved up my pocket money for weeks to buy some soap! (I was eleven years old at the time). In Luca Turin/Tania Sachez’ book, it is described wonderfully, and as you affirm, the EDT is preferred over the EDP. I’ve worn both, but you have inspired me (this time much much older) to save my money again and purchase the extrait. Can’t wait! February 9, 2011 at 7:55am Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds like my own story. I first tried No 5 Edp in my teens, but my first impression was mixed, as it smelled so sharp and I could not even detect any rose or jasmine, which the SA promised to me. It smelled bitter instead. I am still not enamored with the edp, even though over the years I have discovered No 5 in all forms and grew to love the parfum especially. Eau Premier is another version I love. February 9, 2011 at 9:09am Reply

  • Victoria: The vintage No 5 is quite easy to find, but I am perfectly happy with the modern version, so I smell the vintage only for the sake of comparison or to learn how some materials were used back then.
    The edt is wonderful, a gauzy veil. It smells like late spring-early summer to me. February 9, 2011 at 9:12am Reply

  • Victoria: See, the quality speaks for itself. I get annoyed by the clever marketing theory on the premise that the only thing the consumers need is a memorable ad.

    Natori would be a nice aldehydic option. What about Rive Gauche? Even though I have qualms about the new version, it is still very elegant and beautiful. February 9, 2011 at 9:16am Reply

  • Victoria: It is such a sweet story, saving money to buy that precious soap. I hope that you enjoyed it. :)
    I agree that the parfum is the best version. The prelude of ylang ylang alone is worth the price for me. February 9, 2011 at 9:22am Reply

  • Victoria: I just love reading all of these stories. For me growing up in what used to be USSR, Chanel fragrances simply did not exist, or at least I have no memories of them. Dior, Lancome, Rochas, Guy Laroche were the only French brands I remember. It was only after I left that I discovered Chanel and smelled Guerlain (until then, I only read about it, Guerlain fragrances are mentioned in Russian classics, Bulgakov mentions Chanel.) February 9, 2011 at 9:26am Reply

  • Zazie: I thought I knew number 5, I found it elegant and distinctive, but I felt like it wasn’t meant for me. I thought I liked some of Chanel’s “les exclusives” offerings much more. One day, with a perfume purchase, I received a small sample of number 5 parfum. The opening smelled familiar, but the opulent and slightly powdery floral heart stunned me. The sensuality of this elegant embrace subverted, in a moment, all my previous feelings on the fragrance and the house.
    I bought a full bottle, but was a bit let down: the gorgeous and HUGE powdery floral soul of my generous sample was now buried under a sparkling top and a more honeyed, rich dry-down. My bottle is good, it is elegant and polished, but leaves me wanting. Since my disappointment, I tried to date my sample and my FB – so far I’ve managed to find only one website, that works fine for my Guerlains, but gives me strange results for my n°5s… February 9, 2011 at 9:41am Reply

  • Susan Webster Adams: I’m reading the book “The Secret of Chanel No. 5″ and I am in awe of the story. I still need to discover the actual fragrance. I have never tried it. February 9, 2011 at 10:07am Reply

  • sweetlife: *sigh*

    OK, V. For you, I’ll try my bottle of parfum again. It was given to me in 2007, so it’s the one in your review. I do like it better than the EDT, but that’s not saying much, I’m afraid. Aldehydes and I–at least the No. 5 sort of aldehydes–don’t get along so well. The first sniff someone gave me of No. 5 was blind and I found the top so sharp I literally recoiled. Neither am I fond of powder. You begin to see the problem…

    But, hey, it’s been awhile, and you taught me to love No. 19, and I’ve always been grateful to see that beauty, so maybe you will finally lead me to this promised land, too. February 9, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • violetnoir: The first time I ever tried No. 5 it was from an atomizer that I found in my mom’s closet. I sprayed it, and it burned a hole in my arm!

    Although I love some of the other Chanels, I obviously avoided this one for years.

    Then my favorite SA at Nordstrom gave me a small bottle of Eau Premiere, which I find effervescent and utterly delightful.

    Once I got used to EP, I decided to buy the real thing in EdP.

    I like it, but I am not crazy about it. However, when I do wear it, I feel mature, elegant and very feminine.

    Hugs! February 9, 2011 at 11:43am Reply

  • meg jamieson: My first memory of Chanel#5 is like an ad copy; my mother, preparing to go out with my father, pausing to dab just a little behind my ears. Their nights out were as infrequent as the luxuries my mother afforded herself, and I imagine as highly prized.

    I have always loved smells, and have very, very few which I am not intrigued by. Smells people find gross or pungent don’t strike me that way, and so the farm I grew up on (cherries and apples), the world of cooking my mother inhabited, all of that is intriguing, but none of it meant what perfume meant. And Chanel #5 was my mothers only perfume.

    I loved others, my first being the original Victoria’s Secret (at 13) Lauren, Nina Ricci, but I could not imagine wearing Chanel #5, somewhat the expense, somewhat the idea of myself as not an adult.

    Then, full blown perfume onset later, a vintage bottle of extrait at an estate sale, and its beautiful smoothness captivates me, but still rarely. I am happy to have it wear me, but wear me it does, never quite melding. Gorgeous stuff.

    My own wearing has faded the olfactory distinctness of the memory of my mother in the hallway, bending down, her expression a perfect blend of humor and concentration, the cool touch of the glass stopper, my scent and hers, the same for a moment.

    As for the promotion of the “ad story as king maker” well, it’s a good one from/for the ad folks, as well as continuing to undermine our senses as a place of sense making. February 9, 2011 at 11:44am Reply

  • Olga: I grew up in the former USSR, so when I was little, I did not know about №5. I don’t remember exactly when and how I learned about the existence of this icon of the perfume world, but it was some time in the 1990s. And that’s when my Mother received her bottle of №5 in EDT. She disliked it, and she did with it what she did with all perfumes she disliked — she passed it on to me. (that’s how I got Poison which is for me now a perfume haunted by memories and Yvresse which is still a love and a staple, by the way. But on to №5) I wore it for confidence. Sometimes in difficult working situation I would think “and I am wearing №5, I can do it” and will get the words out or continue pressing on. When I quit my job, I stopped wearing №5 and for a while a half a bottle was just sitting there (in cold and dark). I tried it again after I got married and absolutely hated it. It did not turn, but maybe it reminded me too much of my job or my chemistry changed, or my tastes, or all of the above. I got rid of the bottle as soon as I can, as if it was burning in my hands. Swapped it away for a newest fragrance around.

    This was about a year ago, in the very very beginning of my perfumista journey (oh yes, I am a newbie). Along the way I discovered that I adore vintage Arpege and №22. Oh well, said I to myself, it is time to try №5 again, dear. So in a mall I filled up the sample vials with №5 EDT and Eau Premiere. When I tried them, I was in awe at how much I loved №5 EDT and how different it smelled from what I remember and used to wear. Someone told me that the formula have been tweaked some time in early 2000s or late nineties, so a reformulation has worked for me. Now, that’s a first. So, №5 EDT is on my list now. I love its tenderness. I won’t wear it as a suit of armor as I did with the my Mom’s bottle, it is a completely different story.

    Eau Premiere? Are you asking what about Eau Premiere? Mals86 mentioned earlier that it didn’t smell nicely on her Mom and in her blog I read that it smelled like a celeb fruity floral. That’s what it did on me, so that was a no.

    I would like to try it in parfum. February 9, 2011 at 11:52am Reply

  • dee: The women that I grew up around are dark, and so were their fragrances—with the exception of my mother’s adoption of Lancome’s Tresor when it came out around the time I was in third-grade; so I had never smelled no. 5 in any incarnation until adulthood.
    I have since learned that 5 is my paternal grandmother’s scent, but I mostly associate her with the smell of delicious cookies!

    Of each of the concentrations, or adaptations (I have samples of them all) I own bottles of no. 5 EDT, and Eau Premiere. The EDT is much loved and oft worn by my husband (as is EP), and to me smells like “People Who Ride.” I’d be lying if I said I could pick out the notes; I have not reached that level of sophistication!

    That it is so popular, and that it continues to sell so well… let me share a story from my experience.

    I was in my Environmental Science class at Portland State, and for some reason, the instructor asked, “What is the most expensive perfume in the world?” and there were shouts from all over the room of “Chanel no. 5!” and the instructor nodded (it was the answer he was looking for apparently). I raised my voice with an, “Actually…” but was drowned out. No one had ever heard of Clive Christian and his silly bottles, or even of Joy. I think that men and women from that classroom are the sort of people giving no. 5 as a gift to the important women they love.

    Wow. Long post! Sorry!!!
    xoxoxxo February 9, 2011 at 12:10pm Reply

  • ScentScelf: I wish I had a story. Like Sweetlife, I have a sigh.

    Truth be told, I had one, just one experience with No. 5 where I could find the beautiful things inside it, even if it did not assemble as a beautiful something that day. All others days? ::cringe:: whisperssoap and aldehydes…

    I adore No. 19. I embrace Bois des Isles. I don’t know what to say. Am I a Philistine?

    Am in the midst of Mazzeo myself. Having trouble getting into that, too. Perhaps numerology can explain it all. (Leaves with another sigh…) February 9, 2011 at 1:53pm Reply

  • maggiecat: I own, wear, and love No. 5 Eau premiere, which feels more “me” than the original 9though i love that too). And I have been know to wear No. 5 body creme to bed, when i need a lift or…just because. Thanks for the review of theis lovely, classic, perfect scent with agreat history! February 9, 2011 at 2:05pm Reply

  • mals86: Everyone has an opinion – has to have one! – on No. 5. For many of us perfume fans, it’s where we started. So here’s my get-her-to-the-psychiatrist statement: My mother wore No. 5. As a small child, I was always puzzled at how that nasty stuff in the bottle could turn into the warm smell of my mother.

    As a young woman, I never considered wearing it. Who wants to smell like her own mother? no thanks. Also, the bottles I tried at the store smelled cold, aloof, angular: very not my style.

    It was only a few years ago that I discovered buying perfume on ebay. I bought Mom a small bottle of Eau Premiere, but it was surprisingly not-nice on her, so then I went hunting parfum as a birthday present for her. I bought an old, opened, almost-full 1-oz bottle of parfum still in all its boxes, described by the seller only as “used,” for $36 including shipping. I tried it on, just to make sure it was legitimate, and it was so soft and faint at first that I made the assumption that I’d been cheated, and someone had filled up that pretty bottle with fake stuff, or cologne. Half an hour later I found myself wandering in a cloud of beauty, with my jaw on the floor in amazement.

    Having done some research since then, I now think the bottle is ca. late 1940s-1950s, and it is gorgeous and glowing and unlike anything else I’ve ever tried. I have tried the modern parfum since then as well, and it is still miles above most other department store offerings, but not the same heaven as that vintage stuff. February 9, 2011 at 9:16am Reply

  • Victoria: Discovering the parfum is such a great experience, since it is quite different from the other concentrations. I have No 5 from different decades and I see differences among them all in side by side comparisons. It is hard to follow in love with something and then discover it changed. February 9, 2011 at 3:57pm Reply

  • Victoria: What do you think of the book? Do you like it so far? February 9, 2011 at 3:58pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sometimes it is just not meant to be, and it is ok! I do not love all classics either, but I am often, just by the nature of work, revisiting them. Plus, over time my opinions and tastes change, one way or another. February 9, 2011 at 4:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: Olga, it is a nice story with some interesting twists. I wear No5 EDT whenever I want something understated, elegant, and the parfum whenever I want to feel pampered. It is a fragrance many in my family love on me, so it is a nice plus. February 9, 2011 at 4:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: D, I expected that my question would elicit interesting responses, but reading these comments from you and others has been a special treat. Such varied and interesting experiences.
    I talked to my mom today and asked her what she thinks of No5, so she confessed that she smelled it once, didn't like it and found it "not her type." Mom wears Tubereuse Criminelle, btw! She is a not so secret perfumista! February 9, 2011 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Victoria: Even after I grew to love No5, I was wary of the EDP for a long time. I believe that it was reformulated, because now the drydown smells like iris and leather above all (on me, at least.) February 9, 2011 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Victoria: My husband who was reading the post earlier remembered that the only perfume his mom has was No5. He recalls that as a kid he always wondered what happened to No1 through 4! :)
    Your story is absolutely wonderful, and it just made me envision the scene. Probably because I also have a similar memory of my mom and perfume. In her case, it was Diorissimo. February 9, 2011 at 6:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Will it make you feel better if I confess to not liking Joy? :) February 9, 2011 at 6:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, I was given the cream once as a gift, and it was very nice. Eau Premiere is a great alternative for those who find No5 too rich or too aldehydic, elegant and understated. February 9, 2011 at 6:34pm Reply

  • Victoria: How interesting! I will pay more attention. Generally the stores here like Macy's smell like such a melange of things that nothing stands out in particular. February 9, 2011 at 6:35pm Reply

  • angie Cox: I wear the pure perfume but sadly it’s started to remind me of department stores because they spritz with it. My sister says she wears it at Christmas as it smells like going shopping for gifts as the shops do smell of it. February 9, 2011 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Musette: I have loved No 5 since forever – but I am the Aldewhore so it stands to reason :-) I have a bottle of the perfume from the 70s-80s? It’s lovely. Slightly different from the edp, as you say – but you know, I don’t recall having smelled the edt in forever. When the weather cooperates I will have to revisit the Chanel boutique.

    No 5 is one of those ‘anytime’ fragrances for me. If I need that touch of understated elegance – cool but not cold. It’s a perfume that makes me stand up a bit straighter and make sure my lipstick isn’t smudged.

    xo February 9, 2011 at 8:11pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Oh really, V? Joy? But, but…the vintage EDT made me cry!

    See, now I really do feel better! How about you ScentSelf? February 9, 2011 at 9:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love the quality of jasmine and rose in Joy, and it is above all what I enjoy. Yet, as a whole, it just does not move me. There is something magical in fragrance that all of us respond in different ways to the same scent.

    I guess, I feel that there is no need to force love for a classic. February 9, 2011 at 10:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: “It’s a perfume that makes me stand up a bit straighter and make sure my lipstick isn’t smudged.” How true! It does not feel either stern or high-maintenance to me, just comfortable and elegant. I suppose that it is a great little black dress perfume. I know that I did not mention it when we were recently speaking of such fragrances, but it is mostly because I felt that it would have been too easy of an answer. :) February 9, 2011 at 10:37pm Reply

  • Natalie: I can’t think of No. 5 without recalling the painful memory of dropping my precious bottle of extrait (purchased on a trip to Paris at age 15) on a travertine floor — SMASH-O! On the plus side, that bathroom smelled really, really good… February 9, 2011 at 10:55pm Reply

  • Victoria: That is just heartbreaking!  I can also imagine that the scented lasted for a really long time, as No 5 is quite tenacious.
    My painful perfume memory is being accused as a 7 year old of spilling my mom’s Diorissimo. To this day, I plead innocence! :) February 9, 2011 at 11:14pm Reply

  • Kim: I have loved No 5 since, as a small child, I got into my grandmother’s make up table and “played”, incIluding a good dose of No 5 in my explorations. It still is the one I would pick if forced to wear only 1 scent. I, too, love the parfum best but prefer the EDP next – I like the extra leather and iris. But I have found there is a difference in the parfum I purchase in the States vs what I have purchased in European duty free shops in airports, with the European being more leathery and somehow deeper. One clerk suggested it was due to a difference in the alcohol used in the European blend which didn’t sound right to me since it is all made in France? Any ideas? February 9, 2011 at 11:43pm Reply

  • DianaWR: I wear and love No 5 EdT primarily, though I like EdP enough I’d own a bottle of it, too. I’ve never tried the parfum, but I suspect I’d like it as well. One of the things I love is how one of a kind the scent is. I know it immediately upon encountering it and always think its beautiful. February 10, 2011 at 12:40am Reply

  • Katy: My memory of Chanel No 5 is my grandmother. She wore it exclusively all her life. I can’t wear it, because the moment I smell it, I get choked up. I miss her very much.
    Thank you for this beautiful review and for the historical perspective. I had no idea that the Edt and the Edp are not just different from the perfume, but also created by different perfumers. I assumed that they were all done by one person. February 10, 2011 at 8:43am Reply

  • Yulya: Chanel #5 is my signature fragrance. I own quite a number of fragrances, but this one remains my beloved. It is me! I own the three ranges – perfume, EDP and EDT. Dear V, you are absolutely right, they are all different, yet, they are eminating from the same vision. Beautiful! And… I am getting compliments all the time!
    Yulya February 10, 2011 at 10:38am Reply

  • Victoria: I have heard that there is a difference between the EDT/EDP made in France and in the US, and this is because of the differences in water and alcohol chemical compositions.
    As for the parfum, I am not sure why that would be the case, because it is made in France. Unless the versions for export are formulated with a different type of alcohol, which is very likely. February 10, 2011 at 10:41am Reply

  • Victoria: Me too, I never fail to recognize it, and yet, it never seems ubiquitous or predictable. I simply get surprised and touched by its beauty.
    I am going to wear the parfum when I get home tonight. Reading all of these comments made it crave it again. February 10, 2011 at 10:42am Reply

  • Victoria: Katy, I am sorry that your grandmother is no longer with you. Sometimes I wish I had a perfume to remind me of my paternal grandmother. She never wore perfume, having no time or money for such luxuries. I think that my main olfactory memory of her is the scent of wild strawberry jam. We would pick the berries together, and then she would make crepes and jam to go with them. February 10, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • Victoria: Yulya, you put it so well that the EDT, EDP and parfum are emanating from the same vision. Owing all three makes sense to me, because while they capture the same vision and character, they offer different interpretations, suitable for different moods. February 10, 2011 at 10:46am Reply

  • Vintage Lady: I wore Chanel 5 during a time when I was working for an American enterprise. My memories of it were that men liked it very much! We celebrated a party and all I could smell there was Chanel 5 even though I had not put much because I know how to be discreet! But even though, it all smelled Chanel 5, and I could not smell any other perfume from the other women and girls there, I swear. We went out dance afterwards. My boss wanted to dance with me, the shy boy asked finally! to dance with me, who was always lowering his head at work, always shy. I don´t know but this is how I remember Chanel 5! February 10, 2011 at 11:08am Reply

  • Musette: Update:

    I wore the parfum last night in honor of this post – interesting situation ensued, one that seems to happen with certain aldehydes this time of year (bitter cold IL). It starts out lovely…then the aldehydes turn to rotten meat and the jasmine goes full poopy (I woke up @ 2am thinking one of the dogs had an accident in the house!). This happened with L’Aimant as well. Interestingly, it only seems to happen at extrait/parfum strength.

    A couple of my other aldehydes do the rotten meat thing (without the Jasmine there is no poop).

    I’m wearing it today again, to see what happens. so far, just beauty – but the morning is young… February 10, 2011 at 11:44am Reply

  • Victoria: That’s certainly a lovely memory! I am sure that you smelled amazing and looked beautiful too! February 10, 2011 at 1:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Wow, interesting! I have never noticed the rotten meat effect in aldehydes, but since as the meat spoils, it does get a pronounced metallic note (among other things,) it makes sense.

    Well, it is certainly The Beauty and the Beast phenomenon then. :) February 10, 2011 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Roberta: My sister wears No 5 as her signature scent, and I associate it with her. It is so beautiful and elegant on her, but on me, it is very bitter and harsh. Maybe, it is my skin chemistry, or maybe it is just that it is my sister’s scent. :-) February 11, 2011 at 10:07am Reply

  • Joan: I actually like the eau de parfum the best. I’m a big fan of peach, and also a big fan of animalic florals (I’m more inclined to wear Joy or Mitsouko than No. 5). All versions are gorgeous, though. I have Eau Premiere, and I think it’s the most relatable version. February 11, 2011 at 10:47am Reply

  • Victoria: I can completely understand it. My aunt wore Paris, and while I loved it, I could never wear it myself. February 11, 2011 at 2:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: Eau Premiere is definitely the most accessible to those who either do not like overly aldehydic fragrances or prefer a softer, floral blend. Very pretty. February 11, 2011 at 2:04pm Reply

  • Aida: I love No.5, it’s so beautiful and elegant, perfect with a little black dress and heels. I think you should be at least in your 30s, and feel successful but at the same time feminine to wear it, so that it doesn’t wear you :) January 21, 2012 at 6:42am Reply

  • Gill: Chanel No. 5 makes me feel like a grownup. May 28, 2012 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Veronica: My story of N5 is a short one. My mother was given a bottle of EdP as a gift – and that’s whenI tried it for the first time. My impression was: old school, good quality but definitely not me – fragrance. Didn’t understand what the noise was all about… So after a while a saw a tester pure perfume 35 ml bottle at online store (for half the price of 30 ml parfum at boutiques) and decided that it was a great deal – so I ordered a bottle for my mom. When the bottle arrived I couldn’t escape the temptation to try it! And that’s when i got it! Pure parfum really is the magical perfume worth being the legend for almost a century. It really is the ultimate smell of femininity. The dry down of amber and vanilla almost blends into my natural skin scent – so that even my boyfriend – who wears modern marine-blue fragrances – couldn’t resist it’s magic – he was sniffing the back of my neck all day long and telling his friends on the phone “Did you know that chanel n 5 smells really good?” I was hooked: the bottle never actually made it to my mom’s. And I have to say – ever since I discovered the magic of n 5 I was less interested in trying new perfumes – they are often nice, interesting… intellectually I can appreciate Cuir de Russie, N19 or L’Heure Bleu … or Infusion d’Iris… But after a couple of days I start to miss n5′s base notes of the most perfect skin-like blend of Iris powder and amber and vanilla. I could wear it every day on every occasion at any weather. The only downside of this habit would be loss of ability to smell it on myself. That is the only reason I rotate it with some other things… November 24, 2012 at 6:15pm Reply

  • Jeanette: I am a fairly recent deveotee to Chanel No. 5 and I love the way it makes me feel. I primarily use the Eau de Parfum from 1986, I like it’s richness and it’s comparative affordability to the Parfum. I always feel beautiful and attractive when surrounded by this fragrance but the image that immediately comes into my mind when smell this or even think of it is of a moment only a couple of months old when I cuddled and comforted my daughter after she had got scratched by her cat while playing a bit rough. I held her and talked about how her kitty doesn’t understand how delicate her skin is and doesn’t yet know that her claws can hurt us in play. As I cradled her into my lap and cleaned the scratch to ready it for a bandage, she nuzzled into the drape of my blouse, breathed in deeply and relaxed with a smile. She looked up at me and though there was no mention of the perfume or the scent I knew that she had experienced it in her own way; and that from that moment on, when she grew older and able to recognize the scent this imprint would be perhaps more profound to her than to myself. April 25, 2013 at 2:52pm Reply

  • LT: I just came upon your comprehensive and enjoyable review. I think I may be one of the few who prefer the current EDP over the current EDT. Some recent turn the EDT took has made it less attractive to me (I loved it way back in the ’70s). Would love to wear the parfum every single day, but in the interest of my wallet, EDP becomes my standby. Exquisite standby. Thanks for your review! May 5, 2013 at 6:38pm Reply

  • Melinda: Hi Victoria. I recently tweeted a link to this review, I hope you don’t mind. I found this to be so insightful. Chanel no 5 is one of my absolute favourite scents and I have noticed the difference in this EDT and EDP, and now I know why! I also think that maybe owning both (or all 3) you can use it for different days or day/night time, depending on the insensity of the fragrance you would need.

    I recently read a “biography” written by one of her assistants, that claims Chanel no 5 was created in 1924. I found this particularly irritating, because so many sources claims it’s in 1921. As a lover of no 5 I was a bit annoyed. If you want to check out my thoughts, the book is called The Improbable Return of Coco Chanel August 22, 2013 at 8:31am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Melinda. I certainly don’t mind. Off to read your article!

      I have all three versions, and I realize that I wear all of them, except that they all fit different moods. The extrait is enveloping, the ultimate luxury. The EDT is like a glass of champagne. And the EDP is versatile enough to go from morning to evening. August 22, 2013 at 9:55am Reply

  • Darlene: Hello, Victoria – came across your wonderful and knowledgeable review of Chanel No. 5 fragrance and am hoping you are still available to answer a question for me :) I have worn Anne Klein II for years – no longer available – and, believe it or not, my first love was Tabu. I definitely love the powdery, spicy type perfumes, not a lover of floral, lighter notes. The scent of amber is a favorite of mine. I’ve never tried Chanel No. 5 and have an opportunity to purchase a vintage bottle from the 70′s?(perfume) and after reading your review(s) I’m wondering what type of scent I will be getting. The base notes of Chanel No. 5 make me think it may be a match for me. In your opinion, which type of this scent do you think I would prefer? I was not thinking of the EDT but am wondering if I might prefer that and also, I don’t want to purchase this bottle from the 1970′s, fall in love with it and then not be able to find another! I would appreciate any info you could give me Victoria. Loved reading your review of this fragrance and also the replies. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge/opinion on Chanel No. 5. Regards, Darlene January 23, 2014 at 10:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Darlene, thank you for your nice words. I recommend trying No 5 as it’s sold today and making a decision based on that. It’s not radically different from the 70s version, so it should be a good test. January 23, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

  • Cornelia: Hello, Everyone. I have loved Chanel N5 since the late 60′s. I was working as a library student assistant in the children’s dept. and this senior gentleman one day brought me the perfume! I had always conversed with him…I do not know if I ever knew his name! He was a Chanel Angel! I accepted it in my innocence. I have worn it ever since and have purchased it in France as well as the US. Sometimes I have been disappointed in the cologne…too much alcohol or something. I am here to ask if Chanel still uses animal products. I am a vegetarian and am very mindful of animal cruelty products. Does anyone know? I hope the ambergris has been replaced by something synthetic. By the way, I love your poetic reviews! January 25, 2014 at 8:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: Welcome, Cornelia!
      As far as I know, all musk and ambergris in Chanel perfumes are synthetic, as is the case for many other big brands. January 26, 2014 at 8:32am Reply

  • Caroline: Victoria, if you see comments on older posts, I’m curious to know if you’ve tried the No 5 hair mist, and whether it’s really any different from spritzing one’s hair with regular fragrance. May 7, 2014 at 11:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve tried it, and I don’t really think that it’s majorly different. The only thing is that it doesn’t contain much (or any) alcohol, and it might be better for color processed hair, or hair that’s fragile.

      You could also spray regular No 5 at the nape of your neck under the hair, and the effect will be the same. May 8, 2014 at 12:43am Reply

  • Lulee: My late aunt Fela gifted me with a bottle of Number Five on my sixteenth birthday and followed up with a bottle of Number Nineteen the year after. At the time I had no idea of the history of the fragrance but I loved it just the same. To this day it always makes me think of her. Thanks for your fascinating posts! August 19, 2014 at 10:09pm Reply

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