Tuberose Series Part 3: Chloe

Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, vintage
(Please note that the currently-in-production scent called Chloe by Chloe is a completely different scent. Date released: 1975                     
Perfumer: IFF (Like that’s helpful. Sorry, that’s all I can find.)
Sample provenance: 1) a sample of vintage edt from friend’s bottle, 2) mini bottle parfum via ebay

Subcategory: Rich oriental-chypre base tuberose composition

Here’s our first Blast From the Past. Born when disco was hot, Chloe was quite popular for a few decades. There was a flanker, Chloe Narcisse, released in the early 1990’s, that smelled neither like original Chloe nor like narcissus, but was a fresh floral that seemed to me rather like having my back molars drilled. The original Chloe went out of production sometime before 2008, when Chloe Parfums revamped the fragrance in its entirety, from bottle to scent to esthetic. It is no longer a white floral, but a thin, hissy rose that smells as beige as the satin ribbon adorning the (admittedly pretty) bottle. I have yet to try Chloe edp Intense, which is described as a rose oriental – a category I have some fondness for – but it’s on my List. As usual, please forgive the lack of diacritical marks.

Luca Turin called the first Chloe a “big natural tuberose.” I had not smelled it for some time until digging up a sample in a swap and finding a little bottle for about $3 on ebay, but it was instantly recognizable.

Some review caveats:
1) We’re talking vintage here. Carefully kept or not, all vintage perfume is still vintage. It has, de facto, changed somewhat from the original scent. Some fragrances seem to suffer more from age or light/air exposure than others do; some may remain wearable and some may not. Some may be wearable once the degraded top notes wear off, which can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more. This particular scent, in both samples, seems to have survived the ravages of time fairly well. It is close to the color it should be; its top notes are fainter but have not turned unpleasant; it smells very similar to the one in my memory.

2) I wore Chloe for several years, beginning when I was about twelve and continuing through my first year of college. I liked it very much but did not love it; it was a gift. Also, it was perfume, and I wasn’t going to turn that down, whether I loved it or not. (It would have been considered wasteful of me to buy something else while my bottle was still good.) Ergo, I have a whole set of memories associated with Chloe. I’ll try to keep them out of the review. Also, one of The CEO’s old girlfriends used to wear it as well, so she’d pretty much ruined Chloe for me anyway as a personal scent. I’ll be passing this bottle on.

Well, Dr. Turin is right about Chloe being a big natural tuberose… and he was sort of wrong, in being a little too succinct in pointing out the confusion engendered by the “same name, different perfume” issue. Original Lagerfeld Chloe does contain a huge slug of tuberose, but I would not refer to it as “a tuberose”. (Sorry for the bait-and-switch there; I did say this would be a “tuberose and tuberose-dominated scents” series.)

I wanted to see how much my nose has developed, so I tested Chloe without looking up the notes. Here’s a transcription of my scribblings: “not tube soliflore, I didn’t remember it being that anyway… there is a honkin’ ton of orange blossom in this… and something lactonic – peach? But it’s not saying Mitsouko to me, so not lactonic peach. Some other lactone, it’s buttery-creamy… so maybe ylang… Jasmine too. Probably some other florals as well, this is a kitchen-sink floral thingy. Freesia? Lilac? Dunno, but it’s a fresh floral note in there with the indoles – maybe some muguet… Base reminds me of Ivoire, you see that with a lot of those 70’s florals being neither strictly chypre nor strictly oriental but very rich: sandalwood, moss, musk, vanilla. Could be other stuff in the base too…”

So then I checked with fragrantica to get the list of notes, and I’d give myself a C+ on diagnostics. I missed a bunch of things!

Notes for Chloe:
Top: aldehydes, honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang, hyacinth, lilac, coconut, bergamot, peach
Heart: jasmine, rose, narcissus, tuberose, carnation, orris root
Base: oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar, benzoin

I give myself credit for the orange blossom, ylang, lilac, and peach, as well as the jasmine and two-thirds of the base. I noticed the lactone but misidentified it (coconut, how did I miss that? Actually I still don’t smell it even when resniffing and looking for it, my brain just says, Lactone!). Also, I failed to pinpoint most of the florals. How did I not get narcissus, as much as I love that note? I said vanilla instead of benzoin (which does have a vanilla-ish creaminess), and missed the cedar entirely. I would swear that the aldehydes have been damaged in both samples, so that they’re not very perceptible. Then again, someone sensitive to them might be able to pick up the note.

Armed with list of notes, I smelled it again. Again, unless I concentrate very hard, I smell mostly tuberose+orange blossom, with some lactones and one of those rich 70’s bases. It is dense and rather perfumey. The florals are well-blended, and so is the base. This is a rich formula, to be sure, and it flows smoothly from one stage to another. Sillage is a lot quieter than you’d think it would be for a composition that probably saw its share of Studio 54, and even softer in the parfum. This fits with my experience wearing it for years – I’d have hated a sillage beast, but Chloe is relatively polite.

You know what Chloe really smells like? Vintage Arpege with more tuberose, and more light coming in through the windows. But it’s certainly not light by modern standards: it was getting very, very poor reviews from horrified younger Fragrantica members who tested it because they love the new Chloe. Even among its older fans, Chloe is regarded as being dated and perfumey. That would include me: there’s no way I’d wear this now, even if I didn’t have a history with it.

The Bottom Line :
Quality            B   Clearly there are natural materials in the vintage, and it’s smooth.
Grab-scale score    3
Short description     Tuberose-heavy lactonic floral; very dated.
Cost              $
Earns compliments:   Only from The CEO, and I expect that’s because he has pleasant memories associated with it.
Scent presence:        Average (2 healthy dabs last 4-5 hours), mild to moderate sillage.
Review Report:        Member reviews at fragranticaMember reviews at basenotes. (Sorry, the report is skimpy. Nobody wears this now.)

Top image is Chloe perfume from fragrantica.com.  Middle image is Tuberose 2 by cbcastro at flickr.  Bottom image is Orange blossom by VillaRhapsody by flickr.

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2 thoughts on “Tuberose Series Part 3: Chloe”

  1. I like the original Chloe, in the same way I like vintage clothing and jewellery and I do, occasionally, wear it, actually!

    I also absolutely adore the original perfume bottle, with the Calla lily stopper. 🙂

    It was at its most popular when I was a small child and so, naturally, it reminds me of my childhood; even though my mother hated it.

    I remember staring at the bottle, wistfully and saying I liked it, as we walked past a shop counter full of it, in the late ’70s, or early ’80s and my mother saying ‘Oh no, not Chloe!’ in a somewhat disgusted way!

    But, as I mentioned previously, I tend to turn fragrances horribly sour and she tended to turn fragrances sickly sweet; so, I suppose we were never really going to agree when it came to perfume?

  2. It is rather “vintage” and dated now – even though it’s nicely done and I wear vintage fragrances frequently, it’s mostly my personal history that keeps me from wearing it.

    I do think people’s skins differ – but even more so, their tastes do. My own mother is very fond of scents that smell like floral soap, and hates big sweet white florals (tuberose, gardenia), while I love tuberose scents and find the floral soap ones boring. Oh, well.

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