Chanel No 19: I Bow Before Thee


Chanel No 19

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.

photo from Princess Mara Ruspoli print ad 1975
photo from Princess Mara Ruspoli print ad 1975

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.



13 thoughts on “Chanel No 19: I Bow Before Thee”

    1. Hi genevieve, I haven’t tried poudre but I think I’d like it. I didn’t used to like powdery notes in perfume until I had a chypre epiphany and now I can’t get enough!

  1. It’s funny, but this is another one where we both love it, IScent. 🙂
    This came close to becoming a signature scent for me for a while (yes, me! The woman with a bottle of perfume for every day of the month!). It is so delightfully strict and crisp – the absolute opposite of sloppy old me, but opposites attract. It always reminds me of perfectly crisp linen on a lovely summer’s day – fresh and cool and white and green. It’s that infuriating woman who manages to look elegant and perfectly poised at a wedding in a simple linen outfit and flats when everyone around her is sweating in complicated tailoring and trussed up in heels.

    1. Dearest Wordbird,

      Sometimes stuff you love repels me. Sometimes stuff I love repels you. Sometiems we meet in the middle. But always, always you smell great.

      This is anotehr we agree on, along with a couple of very good chypres. Once I was over the chypre fence, there was no getting rid of me. You have also given me scents to smell and allowed me to make my own mind up. Apres L’Ondee was a slow burner but I love it now. Iris and I eventually made peace over Prada and we agree on almost all the Tauers we know.

      However, we will never see eye to eye on Womanity!

      Chanel No 19 however, is an absolute corker. I totally agree with your metaphor about the immaculate wedding guest who barely broke a sweat about choosing her perfect and elegant outfit. It’s a bit like Kristin Scott Thomas. The perfect (English) Parisian with perfect poise who is equally at home in London and who always looks like she instinctively knows that classic is best. I bet she owns a bottle of No 19.

  2. You have made me want to try this – I’ve never tested it as I always thought it would be a bit cold for me. Great review and love the old ad as well – they look classy in a way that the modern ads never do.

    1. Thank you Megan, I really recommend a good all day test, wearing no other scent. It’s rather wonderful. PS Don’t you think Princess Mara could pass as Kate Moss’s Mum? Like a 70s version of Mossy!

    1. Hello Moira and welcome!

      That sounds like an amazing combo- Chanel No 19 and coffee! Yum!

      Thanks for dropping by.

      best wishes

  3. I really, really like this one, but it suffers from the same syndrome as Green Irish Tweed: it has a cheaper equivalent that smells just as green and interesting, at less than half the price. For GIT, it’s Cool Water. For No. 19, it’s Silences by Jacomo.

    1. Hi Bryan and thanks for dropping by. My favourite Creed Green Irish Tweed replacement is Coty’s Aspen. It’s utterly divine, available on Amazon and was only 3.99 about six months ago. I bought one for my husband so that I could borrow it. I do that a lot. Poor chap.

      best wishes

      PS- I am seeking out Jacomo Silences as I can’t splash out on No 19 yet.

      1. Aspen is definitely another great replacement for GIT! Only thing I find is it doesn’t last as long as CW or GIT, but it’s the cheapest of the three, so it’s no biggie. Curious to know what you’ll think of Silences.

      2. I can’t wait to get some Silences and will review as soon as it’s mine! Thanks for dropping by Bryan, you are most welcome.

Leave a Reply