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.
My all-time best vintage perfume find was a bottle of Guerlain Meteorites for $60 at a mall kiosk. It really was the exact scent of the Meteorites pearls- violet, rose, and cosmetics powder. It was so close to perfect, but in the end, it was just the tiniest bit too retro, too period-piece.
Chanel Misia, with its excruciatingly pretty violet-rose scent, is the fresher, brighter, modernized Meteorites that I’ve been hoping for. It manages to evoke the pleasurable glamour of old-fashioned cosmetics and fluffy Caron powder puffs without actually smelling like powder. Misia is defined by its delicate, candied violet note. It’s as girly as a Pinterest board filled with ballet slippers and pastel macarons.
When I read that the perfumer was Olivier Polge, I thought about the resemblance to his Balenciaga Paris. Paris is much thinner and less sweet than Misia, a starched white shirt to Misia’s swirly skirts. Many Misia reviews are comparing it to Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose, but they’re completely different in tone: if Misia is a wisp of light pink, Lipstick Rose is a streak of vibrant fuchsia. As a longtime Lipstick Rose lover, I adore (and need!) both.
I was so smitten with Misia that I bought a small bottle on the spot last week, which never, ever happens. The generous Chanel SA also included an adorable 4 ml deluxe sample, which I would be happy to pass on to you. If you would like to enter to win the Misia sample, please leave a comment telling us your favorite Chanel Les Exclusif fragrance. This giveaway is open to both U.S. and international commenters. The giveaway will be open until noon on Friday, April 3rd. Good luck!
(Scene opens with three Chanel executives sitting around a conference table. Or maybe being all shadowy like the fashion coalition in Zoolander. I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on this part.)
Exec 1: As you both know, Chanel has asked us for a new flanker to Coco. They want a “luminous oriental”. It’s going to be called Coco Noir. They’re giving us this gorgeous black-and-gold bottle. We’ll have access to Chanel’s exclusive supply of Grasse jasmine and rose. We’ll also be working with Jacques Polge, the perfumer who created the original Coco. I think that we can really knock this one out of the park. What have you got for me?
Exec 2: Well, we already have an excellent oriental in our Les Exclusifs line, Coromandel. We could transfer it to the mainstream line. Even though it’s a niche perfume, it’s definitely not too weird or inaccessible for mainstream tastes.
Exec 3: Ooh, we could do one of those rose-oud perfumes. Those are really popular right now.
Exec 2: No, no, we need something innovative! Something original! Something even richer and more luxurious than the original Coco! We need something that will stand the test of time against all of the disposable perfumes on the market today. We need a true fragrance masterpiece!
(The executives stare intently at each other.)
Exec 1: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Execs 2 and 3: HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA
Exec 1: OH MAN YOU ALMOST HAD ME GOING THERE EXEC 2
Exec 3: I’M GONNA HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT JOKE FOR THE OFFICE PARTY BWAHAHAHAHAHA
(The executives slowly regain their composure.)
Exec 1: Eh, let’s just tell Polge to add some more patchouli to Coco Mademoiselle.
It is highly unlikely that I would ever wear Chanel Sycomore. It is too rough and “outdoorsy” for me, a total priss who loathes hiking. However, I really enjoy smelling it. Sycomore is an unusual fragrance, particularly for the somewhat conservative house of Chanel. Sycomore’s natural feel is also out of character for Chanel, the master of aldehydes. Sycomore is a warm-toned vetiver fragrance. It smells hot, sticky, and spicy, with a thread of green running through to cut the warmth. Sycomore is a truly unisex scent, although all that vetiver might make it more popular as a masculine. Highly recommended for all of you earthy types.