Chanel No 19 is, judging by its lack of mainstream lovin’, one of the less fashionable Chanels. In my local Perfume Shop and just about every beauty counter I have visited, it’s rarely on display and you often have to ask for the under the counter tester. I am wearing the EDT today as my local Perfume Shop didn’t have an EDP tester. Meanwhile, its more popular sister, Coco Mademoiselle, will go home with many a stranger every day. Chanel No 19 is like the brainy girl at the sidelines, and nobody realises how beautiful she is until she takes her glasses off and lets down her hair. I always say give her a chance.
Chanel No 19 opens like a good old fashioned chypre. It could almost be used as a blueprint. It wasn’t until recently in fact that I realised how much the opening of Chanel no 19 has in common with my dear chum Balmain Jolie Madame. It must be the combination of Leather and Oakmoss and the way in which these two notes seem to make the spring like florals blend seamlessly into a woody powderiness rather than a high pitched shriek that floral scents can often end up as.
Chanel No 19 has two distinct phases to my nose. Firstly, you get a blast of not-quite aldehydes as all the ingredients seem to have a lively dance of Powder, Leather, Bergamot and Galbanum (which reminds me of my beloved Chanel Cristalle) before they all settle down for the day. The second phase is the unmistakable and long lasting phase of Galbanum (which never leaves), Powder, Leather and Vetiver with Rose and Hyacinth standing by the whole time like beautiful sentinels. The flowers seem to change shifts on an hourly basis, for an hour the Rose comes through, then next its the Hyacinth, they they change over again…
I could happily wear this for decades, in all seasons, at all times of day and never get bored of it. It’s a white soapy powder (like old fashioned cold cream soap)with a sweetness that only comes from a florist, and not from sugar. You know that smell you get as all the flower petals and stems give off that botanical tang in flower shops? That. Round it all off with Woody Moss and Vetiver, powder it’s nose- and you have Chanel No 19.
I could recognise Chanel No 19 on anyone instantly, but sadly I rarely experience this. My friend Catherine first got me interested in this in the mid 1990s as she said it was the only perfume she could wear that suited her. I tried it out of curiosity and liked it, but stuck by my Cristalle. Years later, my tastes have changed and my goodness, do I love No 19!
On one hand I want people to buy it so it never gets discontinued (very capricious, perfume houses), but on the other hand, I want it to remain the unfashionable sister so that I will smell unique when I get my mitts on a bottle. (It will be mine. Oh yes) Chanel No 19 may not be the popular girl, but I will be her friend forever.