Chanel 1932 : Perfume Review

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Do you know the feeling when you try an outfit and can’t decide whether it suits you or not? You think, “maybe it would be fine if I were to add a different purse or wear my hair up…” Those are the kind of pieces that end up gathering dust in the closet. Perfume is not exactly like clothing, because some fragrances don’t cast their spell on you immediately, but as my recent experience with Chanel 1932 proved, sometimes the first instinct is the correct one.

1932

I admit to having a certain reverence for Chanel. Its perfume collection includes some splendid gems like No 5, Bois des Iles, Cuir de Russie, and No 19, and even releases like Allure and Coco Mademoiselle have the kind of attention to quality that one rarely finds at department store counters. For this reason, I wasn’t ready to give up on 1932, a new addition to the Les Exclusifs collection, but when I first tried it on my skin I found it to be pale and limpid.

In my bid to give 1932 a proper chance, I wore it almost daily and kept a scented blotter on my desk for the past month. You see, I really tried!  I didn’t fall in love, even though I enjoyed some elements of this soft iris perfume.  The initial burst of grapefruit is bright and zesty. I especially love the wispy tendrils of jasmine caught among the iris roots and the soft moss touched up with creamy musk. The honeyed notes fleet about, recalling the sweetness of fresh tea roses and ripe pears.

I enjoy the elegance of the composition and the plush richness of iris, but on skin, it doesn’t sing. It doesn’t seem particularly new either. 1932 recalls the softness of 31 rue Cambon and the iris melody of 28 La Pausa, but it doesn’t smell distinctive enough to create its own strong image. It also doesn’t help that the fragrance is frustratingly fleeting. After an hour, I might as well not have bothered putting on any perfume.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that 1932 has little to recommend itself. It’s elegant and understated, and those who like their perfumes muted or prefer mild-mannered scents for work will enjoy its soft iris whispers.

If you too found 1932 wan, then I suggest trying No 5 Eau Première or the aforementioned 31 Rue Cambon (28 La Pausa is great, but just as fleeting as 1932), both of which are striking. Another option is Prada Infusion d’Iris, which is a buttery iris lit up by orange blossom–plenty of elegance as well as a hint of old Hollywood glamour.

Chanel 1932 Les Exclusif is available at Chanel boutiques and selected department stores counters.

Sample: my own acquisition

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71 Comments

  • theperfumeddandy: Dear Victoria

    I seems that many, like yourself, have found 1932 fleeting and failing to meet their expectations.

    A shame as one would have hoped that it would capture something of the sparkle of Chanel’s jewellery, which it is meant to recall.

    I will try it, but I fear that my skin, which eats up even the most intense of scents in half the time that others seem to have to enjoy them will devour this morsel whole in just a moment.

    Thank you though for your perseverance and wise words.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy March 13, 2013 at 7:35am Reply

    • Victoria: You should definitely try it! It’s a good fragrance, and perhaps, it will behave much better on you. March 13, 2013 at 11:08am Reply

  • solanace: Meh. I’ll try it, but it doen’t look like I’ll be craving it. I’ve been in love with Bois des Iles, though. It is light enough not to disturb the baby, and entertaining enough for me. March 13, 2013 at 7:55am Reply

    • Barbara: Bois des Iles was a pleasant surprise. I thought that it would be like No.5, which to me is a cold, aloof perfume, but it’s so different. Now I’m trying to decide whether I should buy the parfum or go for the EdT. March 13, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

      • solanace: Oh, I’d love to try the perfume. First thing I’ll do when I pass by a Chanel boutique. I really like the EdT, but I’m afraid it is a bit subdued for non-maternity me… March 13, 2013 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: To quote Suzanna’s review on Marni, if only I could amp it up a notch or two! 🙂 March 13, 2013 at 11:09am Reply

      • Daisy: To add to this, I wish I could amp up the new FM Dries Van Noten too! March 14, 2013 at 3:02pm Reply

  • rosarita: I’ve been looking forward to your review of 1932. I just won a sample from Perfume Posse and I am anxious to try it, given the reverence that I too have for Chanel combined with a desire for spring scents. 🙂 March 13, 2013 at 7:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I would love to hear what you think! I believe that Denyse of Grain de Musc liked it much more than I did. March 13, 2013 at 11:10am Reply

  • Kristina: Interesting review! When I first tried Chanel 1932 I loved the opening very much – a lighter, more summery rue Cambon. I had a problem with the middle notes though, very fruity and there was something rather heavy, it certainly wasn’t pale on me. I didn’t dislike it but I don’t really see the need for it in my perfume wardrobe – especially as I dearly love La Pausa. March 13, 2013 at 8:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I feel much the same way–since I have 31, Rue Cambon and La Pausa, 1932 doesn’t seem necessary. March 13, 2013 at 11:11am Reply

  • behemot: I have to say I liked Chanel 1932, but will never buy a full bottle. It is nice, well made although lacks personality and tenacity is very poor, at least on my skin. March 13, 2013 at 9:07am Reply

    • Victoria: On me too! It vanishes even quicker than La Pausa, which is saying something. March 13, 2013 at 11:12am Reply

  • Barbara: V, I was looking forward to your review. This is my biggest perfume disappointment of the year so far. It lasts for 10 minutes on me tops. Whoosh and it’s gone. March 13, 2013 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: It would have been great to experience it in a richer concentration, perhaps. March 13, 2013 at 11:12am Reply

  • Patt: I liked but didn’t love 1932. My large decant will be plenty, and I don’t expect to buy a full bottle. March 13, 2013 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: I liked it enough too, but it was so fleeting that it became just too frustrating. March 13, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

  • Annikky: Oh, what a shame – I generally love the exclusifs. I have a sample on the way, so I’ll have a chance to form my own opinion soon. But I suspect that this fleeting quality will be a problem, even if nothing else will. La Pausa drives me crazy with its disappearing act.

    In other news, my Vero Profumo samples arrived yesterday. I am wearing Mito today in anticipation of spring, and it’s great. I fully expected to like Rubij, so no surprises there, but I was totally unprepared for liking Kiki as much as I do. What a unique scent! Onda will need some work, I suspect 🙂 I only managed to quickly test EDP versions, so I still have the parfum samples to look forward to… March 13, 2013 at 9:50am Reply

    • Lorraine: This post has made me long for Bois des Illes, Rue Cambon and now Vero Perfumo:). March 13, 2013 at 10:56am Reply

      • Lorraine: Profumo. Sorry. March 13, 2013 at 10:58am Reply

        • Annikky: I have just noticed that I did much worse, somehow managing to mis-spell Rubj… Oh, well. March 13, 2013 at 11:31am Reply

      • Annikky: Lorraine, I don’t know where you live, but if you are in Europe, then First in Fragrance has Vero Profumo sample sets (excluding Mito, which you can order separately). These are excellent value for money and I have been happy with the service. If you haven’t tried VP scents, I absolutely recommend that you do – even if you end up hating them 🙂 Incidentally, I believe they are the very opposite of 1932… March 13, 2013 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I fell in love with 28 La Pausa so hard that I forgave it its disappearing act, but 1932 is even more fleeting on me! It made me wish for Les Exclusifs to be available in the parfum versions.

      I’m happy to hear that Vero Profumo turned out to be such a success for you. Kiki is the only one I don’t love, but the rest are perfect. Onda took a while to grow on me, but once it did, I found it addictive. Such a fascinating collection! March 13, 2013 at 11:19am Reply

    • Austenfan: I love Kiki, my favourite is Rubj (in extrait) but Kiki is a close second. Onda is weird and wonderful, but there is something so affable and friendly about Kiki. March 13, 2013 at 2:30pm Reply

  • george: Interesting. I still haven’t tried it. But I felt from reading the Chanel descriptions that this is probably falls in line with what Chanel now seems to be doing: it identifies a type of perfume (for lavender, see Jersey; for Jasmine, see 1932; for vetiver, see Sycomore) and then creates a refined version, which is an approach that only really works for really heavy perfumes- which can benefit from refinement- and otherwise leaves others far too wan. I think this is one of the pitfalls (that a lot of brands fall into) in terms of thinking of range, where they create a perfume to fill a hole, rather than to be a glorious statement in itself- that the initial spark for the perfumes creation is the need for a “jasmine”, and accordingly something is created that feels like part of a work of art rather than one itself, and which is therefore unsatisfying on its own. Les Exclusifs is now getting that feeling of being a range, and also aren’t there more perfumes in the range than in the non-exclusive one? Whatever the thinking was behind the creation of 1932, I don’t think it was Chanel’s creative method. March 13, 2013 at 10:01am Reply

    • george: I think as consumers we need to start thinking of the exclusive squared range; those scents within the Les Excusifs range which exclusive in their brilliance and those (ahem) which are not. March 13, 2013 at 10:05am Reply

      • nikki: I completely agree. I have never thought that Chanel was that great, some perfumes are good, but in comparison to Guerlain both make up selection and quality and fragrances are just second best. Of course, the brand Chanel has the connotation of being super deluxe in most countries, mainly in third world countries, however, judging more critically, not everything Chanel makes is really special once one gets over the name and history which both are constructs of a great PR machine… March 13, 2013 at 11:06am Reply

      • Victoria: It’s a mixed bag, to be sure. Chanel definitely puts a lot of money into their formulas, unlike some other brands launching “exclusive” lines. Of course, I don’t know exactly what they costs, but smelling the incredibly expensive iris in 1932 leaves no doubt that they are willing to spend on fragrance. But then again, the price of the raw materials is only one part of the equation, and perhaps, not even the most important one. March 13, 2013 at 11:23am Reply

    • Victoria: 1932 is described as jasmine in the press materials, but to me, it’s mostly iris. I don’t know how it was decided that this perfume was needed to fill a gap, because it doesn’t seem to. It feels more like a replay of 31 Rue Cambon and 28 La Pausa. March 13, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

      • george: My nose is looking forward to finding out whether it is mainly Jasmine (as per the marketing) or Iris (as per your take, and I am sure you are right). But the answer as to why there is a gap between the marketed idea of the perfume and scent in the bottle may well be the same as that with Jersey: when you refine Lavender (in contrast to, say, patchouli) to fit in with a particular aesethetic, you aren’t actually left with very much, and maybe that’s why the les exclusifs line’s attempt at a Jasmine (as per the marketing materials) falls short on its highlighted ingredient in the same way that Jersey does. March 13, 2013 at 12:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: I would love an interesting take on jasmine, but with some many different variations existing already, I wonder what else can be done. March 13, 2013 at 4:34pm Reply

  • Leah: Right there with you Victoria! There were many aspects that were lovely which I tried to highlight in my review, but it vanished in the drydown just when I caught a whiff of vetiver. Les Exclusifs seem to be divided among unforgettables (Bois, Cuir, Sycomore, Cambon, Coromandel) and disappearing acts (Jersey, Beige). While 1932 has more character than the latter, the longevity was very frustrating. I wonder how long we will have to wait for the next release? March 13, 2013 at 11:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m probably in the small minority who likes Beige, but Jersey was a miss for me, mostly because it smelled like fabric softener. 1932 is much better, by contrast. March 13, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

      • Annikky: Well, there are at least two of us. I know it’s not a masterpiece, but for me it has a very specific niche: high-pressure, conservative work situations. I usually don’t care what people think and am quite adventurous with my scents at work (I am lucky to have a private office), but sometimes you really don’t want to/shouldn’t mess around. Beige is great for those days. And it lasts well on me. March 13, 2013 at 6:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: For me, it also works as a second skin scent, perfume that doesn’t really smell like perfume. I also love that it lingers beautifully, and at the end of the day when all of the gardenia petals vanish, I’m left with a soft, creamy musk and vanilla. Understated doesn’t have to be pedestrian. March 14, 2013 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: I completely agree! I was so looking forward to trying 1932 when I heard “jasmine and woods,” but all I got was 31 Rue Cambon with the interesting, chypre-like parts removed. I’ll stick to 31 Rue Cambon. March 13, 2013 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with your description–“31 Rue Cambon with the interesting, chypre-like parts removed.” 🙂 March 13, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

  • Vanessa: “It’s elegant and understated and those who like their perfumes muted or prefer mild-mannered scents for work will enjoy its soft iris whispers.” Well, this is me summed up right there!

    As it happens, I tried this in Glasgow the other day, and I found the opening a bit of an aldehydic iris mishmash – I was reminded a bit of the similarly chaotic opening to TF Violet Blonde. I also got the nods to 31 Rue Cambon and La Pausa – it was super irisy in fact, and I nearly wrote it off as being confused and offering nothing new.

    I stuck it out though, and it went very silky soft on my skin some hours later – truly beautiful at this point, and for that reason alone I am actively pursuing a split! March 13, 2013 at 11:35am Reply

    • Victoria: I gather it also lasts better on you than me? I’m glad to hear that it worked out well for you, and there is definitely something to be said for having understated, introspective fragrances in one’s wardrobe. March 13, 2013 at 11:56am Reply

  • Ferris: This one is a pass for me. Sounds very bland and probably will won’t last on my skin at all. March 13, 2013 at 12:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not bland really, but it’s very fleeting. March 13, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Maureen: I would love to try this Chanel. I loved #19 Poudre, but it just did not last on me, I had to reapply after 4 hours. 1932 sounds lovely, but for the price, one should be able to expect it to last more than a couple of hours. March 13, 2013 at 2:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: No 19 Poudre is understated, but at least I can smell it throughout the day, but I know that others also complained that it vanished too quickly. That’s always so frustrating. March 13, 2013 at 4:35pm Reply

  • Sandra: I am a huge fan of Chanel fragrances. However, I tried this one on and it lasted longer when my scarf around my neck got spritzed then on my skin. So much so, that in a crowded New York City bar 2 woman asked what that perfume was and how beautiful it smelled. When I took the scarf off, I couldn’t smell a thing on me. I may be alone here, but I am a huge fan of Beige out of this line. They should of called 1932 “31 Rue light” March 13, 2013 at 2:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like Beige very much too! Almost every review I’ve read seems to find it bland, but to me, it captures so well the elegance and understated allure of Chanel. And it’s memorable. March 13, 2013 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Lucas: Victoria, great minds think alike – by total accident I posted my review of Chanel 1932 at Chemist in the Bottle today as well!
    And I see we share some thoughts about this new Les Exclusif. March 13, 2013 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I wish it were a touch bolder. March 13, 2013 at 4:37pm Reply

  • annemariec: It sounds like 1932 is not more than the sum of its beautiful parts. Perhaps Chanel needs to go back to the drawing board, if it cares about innovation. Maybe it does not? March 13, 2013 at 3:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: I suppose, I really had high hopes for 1932, so it was even more disappointing since it was so coveted. March 13, 2013 at 4:40pm Reply

  • Madeleine: Hi Victoria,

    Gosh you were tenacious with this one, sad the perfume doesn’t share that quality.

    I’m getting more disappointed each review I read. It seems to me that Chanel have launched something just for the sake of it and why bother when it is a mere ghostly replica of two of its masterpieces?

    I loved the opening of your review. It has happened to me with clothes and with perfume. When I started out I kept forcing fragrances that people raved about and tried to make them fit me. Some eventually did, but usually my gut instinct is right.

    Madeleine March 13, 2013 at 3:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve tried! 🙂

      I know exactly what you mean about trying to love something, whether because it enjoys a great reputation or is in fashion. It’s always good to push one’s boundaries a bit, but with some fragrances, I discover that they just don’t fit. For instance, I love the idea of Jean Patou Joy, but whenever I wear it, I feel like a kid playing dress up. It just doesn’t seem right. March 13, 2013 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I will definitely smell this one when I get a chance to try Les Exclusifs.
    I always feel sort of under groomed for wearing Chanels. The mean green ones I am ok with, but No.5, Cuir and Bois feel too polished for me. It does feel like a failure though, because Chanel is so revered as a perfume house. It’s almost like loving classical music but hating Mozart. ( I love M’s music by the way)
    I don’t dislike them but they sort of almost annoy me, with their smooth perfection.
    It’s odd isn’t it? How much people’s tastes in perfume differ. March 13, 2013 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: True, even someone who loves classical music can find more affinities with Bach than Mozart (I personally prefer darker, more somber melodies). Same with Chanel, and I completely understand why you would feel this way. They are much more austere and polished than say, Guerlains. March 14, 2013 at 1:52pm Reply

      • Austenfan: It’s the polish I mind ( I think) the austerity not so much. Apparently this bothers me much more in perfume than in music. Though on the whole I too prefer Bach to Mozart. March 14, 2013 at 2:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: It makes me think which other fragrances I find overly polished. I first smelled Bois des Iles through a swap years ago, and it arrived in a plain amber vial with a dropper. It was such an unattractive bottle for such a gorgeous perfume, but it also made it somehow more approachable. I remember putting drops of it on my neck before heading off to my classes, and my roommate thought that it looked like I’m applying medicine. 🙂 March 14, 2013 at 4:17pm Reply

          • Austenfan: Medicine for the soul!

            It’s odd, because I frequently read comments about for instance Amouage Gold, that apparently requires a ballgown to pull off. I feel perfectly comfortable wearing Gold no matter my outfit or the state of my hair. Same goes for the classic Guerlains and Joy (which I wear very happily).
            That said, I am dying to try 28 La Pausa and 31 Rue Cambon, because they are so iris heavy. March 14, 2013 at 5:17pm Reply

    • Monika: “I always feel sort of under groomed for wearing Chanels” – my feelings exactly. I’ve stopped even testing them, but I want to rectify that. March 14, 2013 at 2:58pm Reply

      • Tracy: I know what you mean. I usually feel too underdressed for Joy and some other perfumes. Or it messes with my tastebuds when im eating or drinking wine. underdressed – its similar with cars for me! I always felt underdressed in our Audis, tho I did continue to enjoy driving them. April 4, 2013 at 1:38pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Never having experienced 28 LP and only knowing 31 RC in passing, I liked this one very much – enough to purchase a large decant – large enough to allow me to spray lavishly. It’s a lovely, sheer floral and very easy to wear. That said, I find it too pedestrian to be categorized with the LE line.
    I was wondering if Chanel intended 1932 to be the “Chants d’Aromes” of Chanel, so I wore it side by side with the Guerlain edt recently and, well, no comparison.
    So I will happily wear this decant till it runs out, and that should be enough satisfaction for me. 🙂 March 13, 2013 at 5:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also think that there is no comparison to Chants d’Aromes, which is such a graceful and delicate (but not fleeting!) composition. It takes some inspiration from Ma Griffe, but it also creates something new and distinctive.

      If you enjoyed 1932, I think that you will definitely like 31 Rue Cambon. March 14, 2013 at 1:48pm Reply

  • kaori: Dear Victoria,
    I have waited for this review. I’ve tried 1932 a few times at their stores and have a trouble with the last notes. Ahh..the iris part is so good…sad.

    Kaori March 13, 2013 at 11:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Kaori, I also loved the iris part the most, and also when jasmine weaves in and out. Such a delicate touch. March 14, 2013 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Miss Kitty: I really liked 1932 until I realized that it reminded me of something…. and that something was Chance. Don’t get me wrong–I actually used to wear Chance, and liked it a lot. But somehow the similarity is enough to cheapen it for me, no matter how much I like it. It sort of feels like paying Dom Perignon prices for a bottle of Cold Duck. March 14, 2013 at 1:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I will have to smell them side by side! Your comment really intrigued me. March 14, 2013 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Daisy: Your thoughts on 1932 echoed my own! I found it nice and well-done, but it doesn’t have the character that some of the other Exclusifs do (Coromandel, No. 22, Cuir de russie, Bois des Iles).

    Fleeting fragrances are a little pet peeve of mine. The “Hey, where did my perfume go?!” question that pops into my head is quickly followed by the rhetorical question, “Geez, what was the point of that?!” March 14, 2013 at 3:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Exactly! Especially when you’re spending the kind of money Les Exclusifs demand. 🙂 March 14, 2013 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Roberta: Dear Victoria,
    What a wonderful review! I agree with all points, except the bit about longevity. Interestingly enough 1932 stays for over 12 hours on my skin! Even after showering I could still smell it on my wrists.
    Another interesting thing: when I first tried the fragrance, I couldn’t stop thinking about my high school years. I was puzzled and kept smelling my wrists, until I realized that it actually reminded me a lot of Ralph Lauren Romance (sorry, Chanel), a fragrance I wore a lot during my teen years. Oh well, I’m not a trained perfume connoisseur, but that’s just what I thought. May 18, 2013 at 7:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s spot on, Roberta! I can see why you find the similarity. I like Romance, but I want something more original from Chanel. May 19, 2013 at 12:54am Reply

      • Roberta Vommaro: Thanks, Victoria! I feel less “ignorant” (perfume wise) now.
        Yes, I was a little bit disappointed as well. I went to Chanel last week to get a FB of 1932 (I love Beige and thought 1932 would be perfect for me) but decided to give it a try first with a small sample. I got 2 samples: a 1932, and a 31 Rue Cambon one. Guess which one I’m buying next week? 🙂 May 19, 2013 at 4:47pm Reply

  • sibilum: A little OT, but I need to ask: does anybody know how much it costs the 15 ml parfum at Chanel’s Paris stores? My sister in law is going there soon and I NEED Bois des Iles parfum. Here in Brazil we have only the EdT. July 13, 2013 at 2:42pm Reply

  • perfumekev: 1932 has the potential to be a great perfume, I do not dislike it but I do not love it.

    if it just had some more jasmine and rose absolutes it probably would have rectified the non descript quality of this perfume.

    I have tried 1932 seven times now. I finally took 10g. of the edt and added some Jasmine co2 in a 10% solution and some Rose de Mai abs in a 10% solution then added a touch of santalol from New Caledonia sandalwood oil. now the fragrance really starts to come to life.

    I think 1932 just needed a little boost to make it more satisfying.

    just my opinion. July 31, 2013 at 12:38pm Reply

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