Chanel No. 5 L’Eau

For ten glorious minutes, No. 5 L’Eau is exactly as promised: No. 5 with an Instagram filter. Brightened, a little desaturated. A sheer, slender No. 5, brimming with the signature sparkling aldehydes, paler than its predecessors. For those first ten minutes, I found L’Eau undeniably lovely, and would have happily recommended it to anyone who prefers No. 5’s effervescent top notes to the golden warmth of its drydown. But the family resemblance quickly fades, and L’Eau softens into a wisp of a white floral with a cloud of that white musk Chanel is so damn fond of lately.

No. 5 L’Eau is unambitiously pretty. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want in a perfume. But it’s not what I want from a No. 5. The original No. 5 revolutionized the definitions of femininity in perfumery, liberating women from floral fragrances. Taming that rebel yell into L’Eau’s tasteful whisper doesn’t sit quite right with me. I don’t like seeing L’Eau’s wonderfully distinctive opening smoothed into unremarkable pleasantness, especially in light of Chanel’s declaration that “No. 5 L’Eau is the No. 5 of today.” Because this demurely bland little fragrance is not the No. 5 we need today. We need the trailblazing No. 5, the No. 5 that put some steel in your spine. Now more than ever.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. My No. 5 L’Eau sample was acquired at Sephora. 

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9 thoughts on “Chanel No. 5 L’Eau

  1. ‘No. 5 L’Eau is the No. 5 of today.’

    This is what I cannot stand. The quiet, demure, pretty fragrance befitting the quiet, demure, pretty girl, not woman, because who wants to be a woman. This is the trend of mainstream fragrances, something pretty, unobtrusive, we wouldn’t want our perfume to give off the impression that we’re a bit ‘too much to handle’, we wouldn’t want to smell like a bitch. And so I continue to drench myself in perfumes that are bizarre, unsettling, bold, outlandish, the ones that scream from across the boardroom table that I’ll skin someone alive if they cross me with their sexist bullshit. Chanel can keep this, I’ll keep wearing the original parfum like the women of yore did.

    1. Parfum and EDT for me, too. Well-behaved perfumes rarely make history! 😉 (Although they certainly make sales. L’Eau has already shot its way to #4 on Sephora’s best-seller list after barely a week. Siiiigh.)

      1. I accept that in any other time, I’d have been considered a witch. Might as well make the most of that now. I have some Burning Leaves layered over Avignon on today.

  2. Ah, dang, I had high hopes for this one. I fell in love with Chanel No. 5 Elixir Sensuel a few years ago, but it has been discontinued and I’ve been hoping for something similar ever since.

    The elixir is like a “simplified” (or secretive? or sleepy?) version of the EDP, all aldehydes and ylang-ylang to start with an amber-woody-floral drydown, and FANTASTIC longevity + low volume (great for fancy dinners — your date will know you smell alluring, but it won’t interfere with the taste of your food).

    The Eau Premiere was also a big disappointment for me, being overwhelmingly vanilla-y IMHO.

    I don’t know… do you have any ideas for a fragrance that might match what I’m looking for?

  3. My first perfume, age 10, was a sample of Paloma Picasso brought home by my mom who worked at Hechts. It was bold and funky and smelled nothing like the Loves Baby Soft-style powdery, unoffensive scents that were aimed at young women like me in the late 70s and early 80s.

    I’ve worn “in your face” scents my whole life, and have patiently been awaiting the return to favor of Orientals. With the growing obsession with “natural” fragrances, and Millennials now comprising the largest generation in the workforce, i can imagine Chanel needing a way to convince younger customers to look beyond Chance and Madamoiselle – could L’Eau be intended to be that bridge?

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