Monday, November 3, 2008

Review: CHANEL No. 22

It's interesting, how tastes change. In the 60s, Chanel No. 22 was advertised as the 'Perfume of Romance,' and the romance here seems rather more innocent than fatal, with images of young women as brides or otherwise tra-la-la-ing in spring.

I must admit, I did not appreciate No. 22 upon first acquaintance. That was about ten years ago but I very distinctly remember recoiling in disgust. Could there be a more aggressively powdery, virulent, and, well, perfumey perfume? At the time I knew nothing of the Perfume of Romance campaign but I'm sure I would have been nonplussed by its virginal vibe, despite the wedding-day association that white florals tend to have.

Even now, it does not strike me as particularly youthful or naive or, um, unspoiled -- nor do I think it would strike many people so these days. In fact, it seems to me definitely with-knowledge. There is a slight but sustained thread of incense [warmer in the current parfum; cooler in the current Les Exclusifs eau de toilette] that runs all the way from the bright, nose-tingling hit of citric/mandarin opening aldehydes, through the glorious profusion of flowers
[most prominent in the pre-Les Exclusifs eau de toilette], the classic rose-jasmine-ylang Chanel melange also present in No. 5 and added to it a soft, non-indolic orange blossom, tuberose, and a mass of beautiful white roses, and finally into the softly sweet, dusty, vaguely vanillic, and vetiver-tinged powdery finish. And this undercurrent of dark in a composition purportedly about 'purity' is genius.

When, finally, I recognized that for what it is (or what it seems to me), No. 22 changed my tastes. Year Zero. It is Rose White, quite grown up, and who underneath her white-suited impeccable tastefulness has a backbone and an impure thought.

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