Perfume Review: Chanel No. 5 L’eau

Only this commendation I afford her, that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and being no other but that she is, I do not like her.

                        Shakespeare, “Much Ado About Nothing,” Act I, Scene 1

I could say the same thing about the most recent flanker to what may be the most iconic and easily recognized fragrance in the world: Chanel No. 5.

Giovanni Strazza's "The Veiled Virgin," which has always amazed me. How does cold marble look soft and tactile? No. 5 is, in my opinion, similarly amazing.
Giovanni Strazza’s “The Veiled Virgin,” which has always amazed me. How does cold marble look soft and tactile? No. 5 is, in my opinion, similarly amazing.

Created in 1925, with the addition of aldehydes – not widely used in perfumery at that time – to suggest the aroma and sparkle of clean snow, this floral creation is still the best-selling fragrance worldwide. This wasn’t the first commercial, or even successful commercial, use of aldehydes in a fragrance (those would be Armingeat Rêve D’Or, 1905, and Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, 1912, respectively), but No. 5 is overdosed with them, specifically C10, C11, and C12. As a consequence of its popularity and the growth of aldehydic florals in the industry, the use of aldehydes came to be so closely associated with Proper French Perfume that soap manufacturers began scenting their products with aldehydes, and now we tend to think of aldehydes as smelling soapy.

Full disclosure now: my mom wore No. 5 parfum, the mid-1960s stuff, until her bottle ran out in the early 1980s. It was her “dress-up” fragrance (the everyday one being Jovan Musk for Women, another aldehydic floral musk). My dad bought her a bottle of EdT for Christmas, but she didn’t care much for it. She took to wearing clean florals like Coty L’Effleur and Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue instead, until recently, and now she is devoted to the No. 5 Crème Velours pour le corps, the body cream. It is truly wonderful on her!

Although I always liked No. 5 on her, I didn’t want it for myself. What young woman wants to smell like her mother? Not this one.

cannes-med-klieg-lightsAlso: those blinding aldehydes. Klieg lights in the face, dude, at least before the florals pop up. I like them now, but No. 5 has always had that aggressive alde-slap opening, and it takes some getting used to. I’ve never smelled the early-90s Elixir Sensuel version (reportedly focused on ylang, with the aldehydes toned way down), but I liked 2007’s Eau Premiere very much, so I was looking forward to trying the new L’Eau variation, created by Jacques Polge and released this year (2016).

The SA who’s been working at the New River Valley Mall Belk since the mall opened in the late 1980s was there when I popped by last week, and offered me a manufacturer spray sample of L’Eau. L’Eau’s notes are Rose de Mai, lemon, mandarin, bergamot, orange, aldehydes, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, cedar and “cottony” musk notes.

I was excited about trying it, and sprayed more liberally than I am wont to do, thinking that it would be a light scent that would need the three spritzes I gave my wrist.

no-5-leauAt first sniff, it was recognizably a light, citrusy version of No. 5, with the aldehydes damped to barely-there levels. (Which is fine; I was expecting any new version of No. 5 to be updated in this way.) As the minutes passed, the beautiful mix of florals that is the heart of No. 5 came up and the citrus receded, and it was even prettier. Lighter weight than Eau Premiere, and less rosy, it was more light-hearted and, probably, more wearable for many people.

Half an hour later, the florals were faint and there was an undeniable savor of white musk in place of the attractive woody-rosy-musk drydown of Eau Premiere. Two hours after first spritz, there was white musk, period.

Instead of No. 5’s glorious rose-jasmine-ylang-iris-sandalwood-skin musk, instead of the luminous and lovely Eau Premiere version, L’Eau smells mostly of… laundry. The first 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much you put on, are really beautiful, a cheerful lighthearted summer-sundressy No. 5 being all friendly, and then? Dryer sheets in attack mode. GAH.

dryer-sheetsNow listen up. I don’t mind white musk per se; a lot of other reviewers hate it with a passion I don’t share. If it’s the only noticeable note grounding an otherwise-lovely floral, and it starts disappearing into my skin shortly after the florals recede, leaving very little drydown, I’m okay with that.

No, really, I am. Witness my fondness for Chanel’s own 1932, a sparkly citrus-jasmine-iris that ends in musk. (I just bought a decant of the soon-to-be-rolled out EdP version of the Les Exclusifs collection, having recently drained my 5ml decant of the original EdT. See? I don’t hate it when Chanel uses musk in a light floral.) I didn’t like No. 19’s flanker, Poudre, because it stripped out all the Amazonian qualities of the original and made her a Stepford Wife, all her individuality gone. But Poudre is not awful taken on its own merits; in fact, when I think of it as “a greener take on Prada Infusion d’Iris,” I find it cool and calming and very pleasant.

See, I don’t really mind a Chanel frag ending in musk… unless the musk comes across as vapid. And in this case, I think it does. Chanel could very well have sent No. 5 L’Eau in the same direction as No. 19 Poudre: musk, yes, but a nice woody or skinlike one shaped with iris, vetiver, and tonka, a cool smooth drydown very poised, groomed, and collected. Chanel-like. Instead, they gave us a laundromat.

Lasting power on me is about as expected with a light eau or cologne: 3 hours with one generous spritz on each wrist, a little over 4 hours if I follow the Annick Goutal spray-until-wet protocol. Sillage is soft to moderate, again depending on amount applied. I have no complaints for either. I am less happy, however, that the last two hours of L’Eau are so laden with clean, cottony, boring, dull white musk.

No. 5 L’Eau still smells enough like No. 5 that I’m encouraged. There’s no froot, no sugar, very little vanilla. It’s not a disaster. It doesn’t stink. Chanel could have screwed it up in a bazillion different ways. It pays homage without smelling overtly retro, and as such, might convince some young things with disposable income to spend it on Chanel fragrance. Being other than she is, she were unhandsome.

But there’s that laundromat. … and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.

Sigh.

Other reviews of Chanel L’Eau (all from people who liked it better than I did):
Victoria at Bois de Jasmin
Persolaise
Angela at Now Smell This
Gail at Ca Fleure Bon
The Candy Perfume Boy

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Top 20 Bestselling Fragrances of 2011, or, They do still sell Shalimar here, don’t they?

It’s Ari’s fault. Again. 😉  I have jumped on Scents of Self’s Clever Bandwagon to do some reviews of the Best-Selling Fragrances of 2011 in the US (see Victoria’s original post on the matter at Bois de Jasmin).

 

Top 20 Bestselling Women's Fragrances of 2011 in the US, image from Scents of Self

Ari sees this as an anti-perfume-snobbery move, becoming further acquainted with the bestsellers, lest she suddenly be capable only of buying niche fragrances no one else has never heard of, and which are only available for purchase in person in Belgium on the alternate Wednesday of months ending in R, after one has purchased an option to buy well beforehand, and Lord help you if you leave that option ticket stuck to your fridge with a magnet before you leave the house.

Point well taken. I know that when I look at my favorite favorites, a good number of them are niche and still others are no longer available in the version that I prefer. (vintage Chanel No. 19, in the leathery old EdT, anyone? Discontinued Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur? 1974 Coty Emeraude parfum de toilette?) Hardly any of them are available at my local mall – local, pish, it’s 18 miles from my house and it takes half an hour to drive there.
Here's another shot of Hamburger!
I don’t think we’re in that much danger of becoming terrible snobs, sneering at Estee Lauder, as we are of overlooking something good at the most mainstream of mainstream perfumery outlets. Will I still love Amouage after this experiment? I’m sure I will. But I also notice that even after wearing Amouage or F. Malle fragrances, Jovan Musk for Women still smells good to me, too. Sure, it’s a little downmarket, like grabbing a burger after spending the week eating chef-cooked meals, but that doesn’t mean the burger can’t be awesome. Besides which, if I only bought Lyric, Memoir, Carnal Flower and Iris Poudre, I’d be broke. (I only have decants, y’all.) Continue reading Top 20 Bestselling Fragrances of 2011, or, They do still sell Shalimar here, don’t they?

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Perfume Review: Chanel 31 Rue Cambon

This fragrance, frequently deemed the most striking and original of the six “Les Exclusifs de Chanel” released in 2007, has been reviewed by many, many perfume bloggers… but not by me. Robin at Now Smell This reviewed it in the context of the Exclusifs collection; Victoria at Bois de Jasmin reviewed it as a stand-alone. Denyse at Grain de Musc reviewed it as reminding her of Great Chypres We Have Known, several in succession (and so, famously, did Tania Sanchez in Perfumes: The Guide, in a small difference of opinion from Luca Turin). Recently, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am reviewed it as fulfilling a brief that simply said “elegance” and “the most Chanel of all the Chanels.”

Looks like it’s my turn. I’m reviewing it from the perspective of having heard that 31 RC, as I’ll call it, was “good,” and as a newbie to perfume, I should try it. Dear Daisy sent me a sample, and I had to agree: it is good. Shortly thereafter I got in on a bottle split, and own a sadly-depleted 10ml decant.*  Incidentally, the Les Exclusifs were originally only available in 200ml bottles, selling at about $210, but have recently been made available in 75ml bottles, at $110.

31 Rue Cambon, named for the apartment which Coco Chanel kept Much has been made of 31 RC being the “no-oakmoss chypre,” or the first “modern chypre.” I should probably mention that I’m not one of those people who throws tantrums about my chypres having their teeth pulled. (I know, I know, it hurts to lose the things you love, and if the use of rose in perfumes were suddenly restricted the way oakmoss has been, you’d better bet I’d be pitching seventeen kinds of hissy fit.) But then, I only love chypres if they are heavily floral, and I’m not all that bothered by less oakmoss. I’ve always said, if a fragrance has that bitter edge to it, even if it has less oakmoss than a “proper” chypre should, it’s a chypre in my book. If you’re a big fan of the bitter greenies like Bandit – or Diorella, even – 31 Rue Cambon will not seem like much of a chypre to you.

And in point of fact, it doesn’t seem like all that much of a chypre to me. I would classify it alongside Guerlain’s lovely (and discontinued, grrrr) Attrape-Coeur and my darling Teo Cabanel Alahine as a Floral Amber.

Notes for 31 Rue Cambon, cobbled from reviews and the Chanel website: bergamot, jasmine, iris, patchouli, labdanum. This is surely not a complete list; the fragrance is far more complex than that, and I suspect that the amber note is not straight-up labdanum but rather the Ambre 83 base that Luca Turin mentions as being the centerpiece of Attrape-Coeur. It is, however, a list that mentions every note discernible to me.   Some reviewers mention pepper, but I don’t pick up on it.

Now that I’ve gotten the “to chypre or not to chypre” discussion out of the way, what’s 31 RC actually like? It starts off with bright citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot, with just a tiny hint of bitter-green, and for just a moment or two I think of Chanel Cristalle, that classic citrus chypre (which, for the record, I do not love). After the first five minutes, I’m already smelling amber underneath the citrus. It’s the same rich, plush-but-not-too-sweet amber note that you get with those other floral- amber fragrances I already mentioned, and which I also smell in Mitsouko (another chypre I don’t love). 31 Rue Cambon seems to slide effortlessly from citrus into jasmine, and from there into gorgeous satiny iris, but everything always underpinned with the soft amber. There is a bare hint of patchouli in the base, but – thank goodness – it’s the aged, green/herbal kind, and merely a suggestion anyway, not enough to bludgeon me. The fragrance is seamless in its transitions, and even after the citrus and jasmine are gone, they have left an impression on my brain, so that even the far drydown carries with it a suggestion of the way 31 RC smelled from the beginning.

The entire scent is a perfect model of elegance – clean lines, nothing sticking out, nothing overemphasized. It’s not the crisp elegance of a perfectly-pressed white blouse or the stern perfection of a tight chignon with not a hair out of place, however. It’s far more comfortable and effortless than crisp and restrained, and it imparts a graceful, smiling demeanor. When I wear it, I feel rich – and, somehow, nicer.

31 RC is thick, like a full chord, and yet somehow airy and weightless. This is a quality it seems to share with Chanel No. 5 – it’s lushly sensual, and at the same time it is never too much. The seamlessness, the tactile satin effect, make it very easy to wear despite its fullness.

The one quibble I have with 31 RC is the same one that most people have with it: it’s a little too light. Chanel needs a parfum concentration of this. I keep seeing the prediction that they’re working on a parfum and it’ll be released any moment, but we’re now four years (almost five!) into the life of this scent, and there is no parfum available, nor any definite announcement of one coming to the market. Which makes me wonder if the balance goes off somehow when you try to strengthen the mixture. This makes me a little sad: I love Bois des Iles, too, but it’s so fleeting that the Les Exclusifs EdT just frustrates me. Knowing that the parfum is available, even if I can’t afford it, makes me feel a little better. 31 Rue Cambon does have a slightly stronger presence than Bois des Iles, and it does last for close to four hours on me, twice as long as BdI, but I have to snorfle my wrist to smell it for that last hour.

That said, I still think 31 RC is wonderful. “Distilled elegance” sounds about right to me as a short descriptor. I think I’m always going to want to have a small amount on hand, for wear when I feel I might need a reminder that I’m a worthy human being.

A few other reviews, besides the ones linked in the first paragraph (and I do mean a few – there are dozens more!):  Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things calls 31RC “austere, yet opulent,” and I’d agree wholeheartedly.  Dane at Pere de PierreAbigail at ISTIAThe Non-BlondeFor the Love of Perfume1000 Scents.  

* Here’s some further information on bottle splits (scroll down into the post), in case you’re not familiar with this wonderful opportunity for owning small amounts of full bottles you can’t afford. In my case, there are a lot of scents I’d love to own, but can’t swing $200 a pop; sometimes I don’t even want a whole bottle, and 5 or 10 ml is the perfect amount. Splits are the way to go, if possible. Robin at NST has more information, too.

Image of 31 Rue Cambon bottle from Fragrantica.  Image of Coco Chanel and Suzy Parker ca. 1957 from The Recessionista.

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Fragrance Throwdown: Chanel Bois des Iles vs. Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois

Bois des Iles, originally released in 1926, has for decades been The Reference Sandalwood fragrance, and is still a favorite of many perfume fans.  Robin at Now Smell This calls it “the epitome of understated elegance.”  Victoria at Bois de Jasmin calls it “beautiful from any perspective.”  Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things calls it “miraculous, smooth, soft, infinitely wearable.”  Tania Sanchez, in Perfumes: The Guide, calls it “timeless” and “basically perfect.”  She describes the Chanel scents as “a series of Little Black Dresses,” and Bois des Iles as “the one in cashmere.”    

But I didn’t know any of that when I first smelled Bois des Iles, which was one of the first fragrances to captivate me when I began my sojourn into PerfumeLand.  I had started, you see, with a “Pick Four Chanel EdTs” sampler pack from The Perfumed Court.  I wanted to smell the classics first, and I knew No. 5 already, so I chose No. 19, No. 22, Cristalle, and Bois des Iles. 

I tried Cristalle first, and was not moved – except that I recognized the drydown as the smell of my mother’s best friend when I was a kid.  No. 19 came next, and I liked the topnotes, which I described to myself as “old-fashioned,” not really knowing what galbanum was.  Then I found that I had my wrist glued to my nose, and from then on we were best buds, No. 19 and me.  No. 22, which I’d identified from the notes as the one most likely to please me, was instead a sugar-bowl nightmare, with a powdery-crunchy texture that I disliked from the get-go.

Bois des Iles, from the first minute I put it on, was beautiful.  It reminded me a great deal of Mom’s No. 5, and then developed a texture so unusual and so lovely that in describing it to myself, I pulled up an old memory.

When I was fourteen, my family went to Florida on vacation.  We went to Disney World, and Daytona Beach, and Weeki Wachee Springs, and Fort Augustine, and we also went to Sea World.  My brother, then four, was fascinated with the shark tank, but the experience that stayed with me was petting the stingrays.  In a long but shallow pool, Sea World had several rays which had had their stings removed, and visitors were encouraged to pet the rays as they swam past.  The rays didn’t seem to mind all the hands, at times appearing to seek out a patting hand the way my cat will arch her back under a piece of furniture, so I stuck my hand into the water as a ray swam past.  It felt amazing – like wet velvet.  Like wet, living velvet, really, because I could feel the ray’s body flexing and arcing as it moved its propelling tail, and it was warmer than the water surrounding it.  My parents had to practically drag me away from the low pool so we could see the killer whale show, and I still wish I could go back and pet the rays again.

Bois des Iles feels like the texture of the ray: soft, velvety, warm, but with a solid, flexible frame underneath. 

So what does it smell like?  Well, as I mentioned, there are those aldehydes to begin with, much lighter than in No. 5, but with that sparkly-powdery-soapy brightness that says Proper Perfume to me.  As the aldehydic veil lifts, you notice the floral blend floating past, and it too is reminiscent of No. 5, with that rose-jasmine-ylang heart.  The florals always go by more quickly than I expect, and then we’re down into the deep heart-and-base that lasts a long time.  This, like Chanel says, actually does smell like gingerbread: a spicy warmth that’s just a bit sweet, with that wonderful bitter edge of molasses.  If you’re worried about the vanilla, fear not – it’s neither the sweet gourmand cupcakey kind nor Guerlain’s patented TarNilla, but rather, like really expensive vanilla extract behaves in a yellow cake, it gives the scent a roundness and depth without being identifiable as vanilla. BdI is definitely a Chanel, too – the identifying Chanel iris is present, noticeable mostly as that satiny texture that iris seems to give a fragrance, while itself disappearing, like the vanilla, into its surroundings.   And then there’s that sandalwood.

It’s beautiful, and nearly indescribable.  As it is, I can only come up with adjectives without really telling you what real sandalwood smells like: creamy, tangy-sweet, complex but in a completely natural way, floral yet astringent with a clean “bite.”  Once I’d smelled it here, I was then able to start picking it out of other fragrances – it seems particularly noticeable, and lovely, in vintage scents.  My 1960s Arpege extrait has an enormous quantity of sandalwood in it, and although it is accented differently in Arpege, with oakmoss, patchouli, amber and musk, it’s unmistakable.  I also have a small vintage bottle of Prince Matchabelli Stradivari, where the  top and heart notes have been irretrievably damaged by age, but the drydown is a stunning harmony of sandalwood and cedar. 

Real sandalwood from the Mysore region in India has been overharvested, and although some quantities of oil from santalum album from a government-sponsored plantation in nearby Tamil Nadu are available, most perfumers have gone one of two routes in replacing it in their compositions.  Option 1 is synthetics.  Several aromachemicals which mimic sandalwood are available: Polysantol, Javanol, Sandalore, Ebanol, Sandela, probably some others.  However, the word is that none of these are excellent substitutes, just available ones.  (Guerlain Samsara is famous, or perhaps infamous, for its proportion of Polysantol.)  Option 2 is essential oil from real wood, produced somewhere else.  This option includes the aforementioned Tamil Nadu sandalwood, or essential oil produced from santalum austrocaledonii, a similar species, in Australia, Vanuatu, or New Caledonia.  Supposedly the New Caledonian and Vanuatuan sandalwood oil is very good, albeit lighter and a bit more astringent than traditional sandalwood.  The kind grown in Australia is more plentiful, and priced lower, than the island versions, [1] but it is brighter still, with more bite and less creaminess.  Option 3, of course, is a mixture of naturals and synthetics.

I have no way of knowing, of course, but if I had to guess, I might postulate that Chanel is still getting its hands on at least some of that Tamil Nadu sandalwood.  If anybody can afford it, it’s Chanel!  However, it’s possible that they’re supplementing with the Australian.  I notice that my decant of Bois des Iles, from the Les Exclusifs line, is clearly thinner than my original vial of BdI from TPC.  Even “sprayed wet,” it is hardly smellable from a yard away, and by the time the gingerbread accord shows up, I can only smell it by hoovering my arm. 

Other people have said that their LE version of BdI smells just fine to them.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe my decant was the first sprayed out of the bottle, and the alcohol had floated to the top.  Maybe that particular bottle, so kindly ordered from the Chanel boutique in Washington, DC, and so kindly split by hand by the Queen Enabler, Dear Daisy, was insufficiently macerated (see FlitterSniffer’s post here at Bonkers about Perfume, on how a coveted decant of Guerlain Plus Que Jamais was so different from the way that it ought to smell that even the SA acknowledged it).   My Les Exclusifs decant does have the right smell  – it’s just faint, as if it had been diluted by half.

For this review, I wore both my own decant of Les Exclusifs Bois des Iles, and an older sample of edt from The Perfumed Court.  The LE decant lasts about four hours, with the final two – my favorite part, of course – clinging very close to the skin.  The TPC sample lasts about five hours, and even dabbed from a vial, projects better and lingers longer.  A parfum version is available in Chanel boutiques and certain high-end outlets, but I have never smelled it.  (I should.)

Notes for BdI:  Aldehydes, jasmine, damask rose, ylang, bitter almond, gingerbread, iris, vanilla, sandalwood, tonka bean, vetiver.

Dear Daisy also sent me a sample of Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, saying, “You like Bois des Iles, right? Try this.”  And she’s quite correct – CdB, while not a dead ringer for BdI, is undeniably in the same vein, and could conceivably be labeled an homage to Bois des Iles.  Certainly perfumer Laurie Erickson has smelled Bois des Iles, and I’d betcha money she loves it.

Since my small vial of CdB was nearly exhausted, I ordered a larger sample from SSS recently in order to test for this review.  My padded envelope came in the mail, and the samples I’d ordered were further encased in a small plastic envelope – yet I could smell the Champagne de Bois the instant I opened the larger mailing envelope.  A tiny bit had leaked out of the spray vial, and it immediately perfumed the air. 

SSS fragrances are fairly concentrated, I’ve noticed before.  My favorites, Tabac Aurea and Velvet Rose, are so strong that one spray lasts for hours.  This is true for Champagne de Bois as well.  The SSS website notes that the fragrance concentration ranges from 20 to 24%, which makes all these scents essentially parfum strength.  (I nearly overdosed on Tabac Aurea once.  If you’re considering three sprays – well, take it from me, it’s a bad idea.  Seriously, don’t.)  A drop of CdB lasts about six hours on me, and when sprayed, eight to twelve hours. 

The fragrance starts with sparkly aldehydes, and something that reminds me of Andy Tauer’s distinctive mandarin note, up front, and a jasmine-spice bit shining through the aldehydes.  Although it’s not listed, I’d swear there was a tiny bit of rose in there, but just a tad.  I love clove and spicy notes, and I think I’d also say there was a bit of some other spice in there with the clove – cardamom, maybe? I don’t know.  It does feel more symphonic than clove alone, which can be a rather single-minded, Genghis Khan take-no-prisoners sort of accent.

Champagne de Bois has a lovely sandalwood focus as well.  I asked Laurie if she’d be willing to identify her source for sandalwood, and she was kind enough to tell me that she uses a blend of real sandalwood and synthetic.  It’s a very beautiful interpretation of sandalwood.  The amber, though, tends to take over toward the end, so that the last couple of hours are a little sweeter than I’d like.  

Notes for CdB: Aldehydes, jasmine, clove, sandalwood, labdanum, vetiver, amber.  (I keep wondering if this is a truncated list, simplified for the Sonoma Scent Studio website because it gives a good description of what’s prominent in the scent.  I’m smelling at least three things in there that aren’t listed (orange, rose and spices other than clove).  Which may of course be olfactory illusion, and if it is, that’s genius.)

For this review, I performed two serious, all-day, wrist-to-wrist comparisons.  The first time, I tried it with a drop of CdB from a sample vial on my left wrist and two drops of BdI from my TPC sample on my right.  The second test was two generous spritzes from my BdI decant on my left wrist and one small spritz, what I call a “squidge,” of CdB on my right.  There are strong similarities between the two, but a few distinct differences. 

Right from the start, CdB has lighter aldehydes, and that orange-citrus note I mentioned before, flowing very quickly into the jasmine and spice phase, while BdI spends a good 15 minutes in the aldehydic stage before changing.  The CEO actually prefers the topnotes of Bois des Iles, although I don’t myself, finding them a little soapy.  Once the jasmine-spice of Champagne de Bois has settled in, CdB is unusual and lovely, and my family seems to prefer it over BdI’s aldehyde-classic floral blend.  In fact, CdB stays in this lovely spicy-floral stage for quite some time, during which the rich wood-and-amber base begins to float up, creating a lovely spice market effect.  It’s beautiful and luxurious, and while I know some people like to wear CdB in the summer, it’s too rich for me in the heat. 

But during the drydown, as I mentioned before, the amber of CdB tends to take over and skew just a bit too sweet, while the “gingerbread” accord and sandalwood-iris of Bois des Iles becomes more and more wonderful.  Restrained – like having afternoon tea with only a single bite of gingerbread left on your dessert plate – but wonderful, subtle, elegant, with those sculpted Chanel cheekbones.  My daughter put it this way: “It smells deep.  And smooth.  I don’t know what it is, but it smells like a fall day.” 

So who wins?  I still don’t know.  (And I still think there’s something wrong with my Les Exclusifs Bois des Iles decant, which is considerably thinner and soapier than my pre-LE edt sample from The Perfumed Court.)  I really love the drydown of BdI – it is simply gorgeous, and so perfect that I can’t imagine any way to improve it, except maybe to have it last longer.  And CdB really gets too amber-sweet near the end of the ride.

But on balance, I get hours of spicy-woody goodness out of Champagne de Bois.  Hours! For cheap, too!  At the time of writing, you can buy a 200ml bottle of Les Exclusifs Bois de Iles for about $220, and a 15ml parfum for $160 – but a 30ml bottle of parfum-strength Champagne de Bois will set you back about $60.  I know it’s vulgar of me to throw cost per wear into the mix, but hey, I got limited Perfume Bucks.  If you’re giving me perfume for free, I’ll take a bottle of Bois des Iles parfum, thanks.  But that’s only because I can manage to snag some Champagne de Bois on my own. 

(Gee, another Fragrance Throwdown where I have to declare a winner on points, and it gets all nitpicky, because I like both scents… one of these days I’m going to do an Fragrance Throwdown review where one scent just flat-out kicks the other one’s butt.  Someday.  I promise.)


[1]From Perfume Shrine, Wikipedia, and Eden Botanicals.

Images of wrestlers, sting ray, and sandalwood sapling are from Wikimedia Commons.  Images of perfume bottles are from Fragrantica.
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