Chanel 31, rue Cambon Les Exclusifs : Perfume Review


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

The melancholy aura and retro elegance of Chanel 31, rue Cambon are fascinating, given its decidedly modern interpretation. Experiencing it is like flipping through the pages of an old family album, glancing at the photographs of people in Edwardian outfits and flapper dresses only to notice a striking resemblance between their features and your own. While 31, rue Cambon is a chypre (a fragrance based on the interplay of citrusy, floral, woody, mossy, ambery/musky notes à la Guerlain Mitsouko and Rochas Femme), this chypre possesses a certain delicate and serene quality. 31, rue Cambon is not a fragrance that seduces, but rather it enchants softly. …

The opening notes of 31, rue Cambon combine the brightness of pepper, the tartness of citrus as well as a smattering of icy aldehydes. The initial effervescence provides an interesting counterpoint to the subsequent tempered development of the composition. The characteristic dryness of chypre is set against the luscious and buttery iris, resulting in an unexpected oscillation between an austere chill and languorous warmth. The initial glimpse of flower petals becomes a fuller and more dazzling picture.

Paired down to the central idea and uncluttered by embellishments is how I would describe the character of the newest fragrances from Les Exclusifs collection (28 La Pausa, Coromandel, Bel Respiro, No. 18, and Eau de Cologne). By contrast, 31, rue Cambon is the most classical and ornate of the six new perfumes, from its vivid spicy top accord to the woody-floral base. Yet, as the composition dries down, the resulting tapestry becomes weightless and transparent, very much in the spirit of the contemporary style.

The delicacy of 31, rue Cambon is as much an advantage as a drawback. While I am moved by the radiance of the composition, the whispering softness of the drydown leaves me yearning for a more dramatic turn of affairs. However, perhaps, this might be rectified in the parfum—to be launched in the future. Yet, when I consider the fragrances for which I have been reaching most often during the last couple of months, 31, rue Cambon is at the very top of my list. Even if it lacks drama, it makes for a beautiful and polished daytime perfume, making me feel elegant whether I am wearing an evening dress or a pair of jeans.

31, rue Cambon features notes of bergamot, black pepper, patchouli, cistus labdanum and iris. It is a part of Les Exclusifs collection that also includes No 22, Gardénia, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, 28 La Pausa, Coromandel, Bel Respiro, No. 18, andEau de Cologne. It is available in the Eau de Toilette concentration from the Chanel boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman.

Photo of 1928 Chanel dress from



  • carmencanada: Dear V., I concur with your take on this scent. There is something oddly restful about that uncluttered, stretched out quality of 31, the quietly glamorous resonance of its notes. As I commented previously on Cait’s blog, the Exclusives in general seem to me to come from Chanel’s “atelier flou” (where the chiffon and silk evening dresses are constructed) rather than from the “tailleurs” (the suits). Gabrielle Chanel did indeed liberate women from constricting outfits with her jerseys and sheaths in the 20s, her knit suits in the corseted New Look 50s. To me, this line ties in with that less-is-more spirit. Like you, though, I am impatiently waiting for a parfum version… The flou is a bit frustrating at times and one longs for more substance to the fabric! April 3, 2007 at 2:03am Reply

  • Elle: This is my absolute favorite of the new Exclusifs. I only have a decant, but am actually contemplating one of those gallon size (well, close) bottles. The only thing holding me back is thinking I should wait for the parfum, which I know will be beyond stunning. I’m actually sure I’ll need several of the Exclusifs in parfum form. April 3, 2007 at 8:16am Reply

  • Judith: I love this, too! It’s very much my favorite of the Exclusifs, and I happily bought (with some help from a split) a large bottle. But parfum would be perfect! Love the picture, want the dress! April 3, 2007 at 9:51am Reply

  • Billy: Just so I am sure…how do we all know that Chanel will be launching eau de parfum versions of the les exclusifs? I have been dying to purchase the eau de cologne and bel respiro, but if they are going to come out with parfum versions, I may want to wait. Has this been in the press? April 3, 2007 at 11:14am Reply

  • minette: they’re doing this one in parfum? cool. this is the only one of the exclusifs i had to own – i knew it as soon as the molecules hit my nose. your review is spot on. lovely! April 3, 2007 at 11:51am Reply

  • Marina: Love 31. No, LOVE it. What a stunner. And what a beautiful review. April 3, 2007 at 8:11am Reply

  • Tigs: Thanks for the review of this one, V: my fave, and the popular winner, also, it looks like. Interesting image, too! I have a decant but will probably wait for the parfum to purchase from the boutique. It’s a fascinating, changing scent, and I’m craving it, but my husband actually complains that he can’t smell it right after I apply it. He must like it otherwise, because he very seldom gets so irritated about lack of sillage. April 3, 2007 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Ina: “Enchants softly” – exactly what it did to me. It wasn’t a love at first sniff but it got me under its spell the more I wore it. The parfum will be superb. April 3, 2007 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Karin: How lovely to get a chance to try this! It sounds wonderful…

    Karin April 3, 2007 at 4:52pm Reply

  • Robin: Funny thing, but I am reaching for it not at all, despite the fact that I think it is the best of the set. I have already drained my sample of 28 La Pausa, and Bel Respiro nearly so, and no. 18 because I can’t make up my mind about it. Rue Cambon is lovely but I want that La Pausa much more 🙂 April 3, 2007 at 10:10pm Reply

  • k-amber: Wonderful as always. I have waited for your review on this. The moment I read about new Chanels and a magical word “chypre” made me smile 🙂 31, rue Cambon did not betray me, yet slightly softer woody accord than I had expected. Thank you for your comment I truly count on.

    Kaori April 3, 2007 at 9:07pm Reply

  • aryse: Impossible to say anything else, Victoria.I agree completely with your comment.
    31 rue cambon is my favourite in the new Chanel collection.As you said, it can be used in many occasions and, its tenacity is very good (that is not the case of 28 La Pausa). April 4, 2007 at 8:41am Reply

  • ParisBreakfasts: This is fascinating and new to me, yet a bit like “nosing” wine.
    I wonder did you see Luca Turin’s review of Chanel’s new six? September 11, 2007 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Melinda: I’m wearing this today and I am loving the scent. I love scents from the 1920’s mostly and I agree with you… this one, even though its “new” has a very retro smell to it. It’s elegant and longlasting. I sprayed it on me 8 hours ago and I still smell lovely 🙂 April 3, 2013 at 9:06am Reply

  • KatieAnn: Dear Victoria – I hope all is well with you in Brussels!
    I have a quick question for you (or even for anyone else who wants to chime in, if they see this comment). I have an older sample of 31 RC (most likely EDT, but could be EDP). It is decanted and so I have no idea. This is unfortunate, because I am really enjoying and am thinking of a full bottle. The problem is I have heard the reformulation to EDP has created noticeable changes. My question is, have you tried the newer EDP and what are your thoughts? Thank you so much. I am really curious to see what others think about this….. December 2, 2017 at 9:54pm Reply

    • Carolina: I only know the EDP which I have in a carded sample.
      I adore it.
      So elegant and long lasting (though the sillage is not the best).
      I will get a 75 ml bottle next time I go by a Chanel store (sadly where i live there is none). October 6, 2018 at 10:06am Reply

    • Cecilia: I have sampled both the edt and the new edp. The edp is a bit more fruity and sweet on me, at least during the first two hours, while the edt was a bit more sparkling and woodier. These are just minor nuances and, of course, the overall impression is the same, but I personally find the edp more creamy, not to mention a bit more lasting on my perennially dry and perfume consuming skin. They are both stunning, but I personally prefer the new edp concentration. In fact Rue Cambon grew so much on me that I’ve just splurged on a full bottle. But definitely try it on skin before buying! March 19, 2019 at 9:34am Reply

      • KatieAnn: Thank you Cecilia. This is most helpful. I like that it is fruity and then turns creamy later on. I love creamy florals. Thank you for all your help. And congrats on your new perfume. 🙂 March 19, 2019 at 10:20am Reply

  • P.L. Travers: smells like walking through a garden of lilies in India, like being at a Hindu wedding with incense and fire June 4, 2021 at 5:51pm Reply

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