Tag Archives: Chanel Coromandel

Chanel Les Exclusifs 31 Rue Cambon: Missing That Je Ne Sais Quoi

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31 Rue Cambon  is named after Chanel’s four storey building, purchased by Gabrielle “CoCo” Chanel herself and which remains today, the site of Gabrielle’s apartment, and the main Paris branch of Chanel.

ImageImmediately, the stakes are high. Named after the Mothership? This better be good. And it is. But great? Not so much.

For one thing, I find this very subtle. My skin seems to swallow it up whole instantly. You may have more luck. Secondly, this strikes me as an odd sort of melange.  It’s definitely a chypre, and it has lovely woody notes, but then clean, citrussy bergamot shows up, along with my old nemesis, Miss Carrot herself- iris. I often have problems with iris, but not with her cousin violet. I find iris dry and cardboard like, with an earthy rooty scent. I don’t always dislike it, but I can often spot it very soon into a fragrance these days, like a fussy eater who can spot a pea in a Shepherd’s Pie (I do that too).

One very wise reviewer on Fragrantica says that Rue Cambon needs and lacks Oakmoss. I think he has a point. It is neither a chypre, nor woody, nor citrus, but somehow all three, without ending up as a green note scent. Frankly it baffled me, and didn’t stay around long enough for me to know it properly.

The jury’s out on Rue Cambon.  I must confess to not loving all of the Les Exclusifs range (I haven’t tried them all yet, to be fair). Whilst I would bite your arm off for a full bottle of Coromandel, I would feel far more “meh” about a full bottle of Rue Cambon. It’s not badly made,  of course, and I know it would smell wonderful on the right wrist or neck, but those wrists and neck do not belong me, regrettably.

In my beloved Wales there is a lovely Welshism which sums up Rue Cambon for me:

“And there it was, gone!”

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Thierry Mugler Angel: The Marmite of Perfumes

angel naomi Non UK readers may be unaware that Marmite spread has a love/hate ad campaign. There’s no middle ground. You either love Marmite or you hate it. Thierry Mugler Angel is the same.  Angel’s critics are as vehement as its fans.  In the perfume industry however, it is regarded as a masterpiece.  Even hard to please Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez gave it five stars in Perfumes The Guide.

In 2007, Angel was the recipient of the FiFi Hall of Fame Award, an accolade not given lightly. Sales show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Its creator, Olivier Cresp, will be remembered more for Angel than he will for the rest of his illustrious back catalogue, which is outstanding even without the success of Angel.

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So why the hate? Well, it’s strong. It’s uncompromising. It doesn’t disappear after ten minutes and it has sillage that could floor a man at twenty paces. It is a Gourmand Patchouli of all things i.e spiky but chocolately. Caramel and Vanilla with prickles. Gourmand smells alongside Patchouli confuse my palate and make me feel like I am eating perfume or snorting food. Sensory confusion is not my thing. (I will  make an exception for Coromandel, see my earlier review)

So why the love? See above: strong, uncompromising, doesn’t disappear after ten minutes… Some people say that Angel trod the path for the popularity of Gourmands. In fact, Fragrantica lists no fewer than 24 notes for Angel, including Bergamot, Peach, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Melon, Roses and Blackberries- not one of which I angel flashcould detect.

When I first tried it shortly after its debut in 1992 (in the Harrods Perfume Hall no less, get me!), the displays were huge. It was the Next Big Thing. Jerry Hall, model du jour in ’92, made it her signature scent and mentioned it in all her interviews.  Everybody wanted it. Every magazine carried the ads for it.

I tried it on my wrist and walked away to consider it. What did I get? Chocolate and… Talc? Cologne? In hindsight I know it was Patchouli but did not identify it back then as a 22 year old.

I tried again a few months later: Chocolate and Caramel. I tried again no less than twenty years later. It still made me smell as if I had just finished my shift on the production line in a Thornton’s Chocolate Factory.  Big thumbs down.  And yet I regularly walk through clouds of this in pubs, on High Streets and in restaurants. I can recognise it from a mile off. Millions of women love Angel, but I’m not one of them. My husband, on smelling this, grimaced and said “Eurgh, that’s what the train smells like in the morning”.

There comes a time in life when you realise that you are outnumbered by the number of people who disagree with you and so it may well be you who is in the wrong.  However, in fragrance, as I have said before, there is no right or wrong, only your response. So my response is not wrong- I cannot bear this!  The vast cohorts of Angel fans tells me that others see this rather differently.  Its success, and the admiration of its peers, tell me that its apologists are not wrong either.   As for me: well, I don’t “get” Angel.  It’s as if the joke’s on me

angel smallIf you love this, good luck to you. If you don’t, that’s OK too.  However, I have yet to meet anyone who stands in the No Mans Land between the two camps and just says “it’s not bad, I wear it sometimes, it’s OK”.  And that, my fragrant friends, is why I call it Marmite. I would never, ever spend money on a bottle of  Thierry Mugler Angel.  And for every woman like me, there is another who swears by it and who would never, ever let herself run out of it.

EDIT: Since writing this I have become secretly obsessed with Angel and wear little samples of it around the house.  We’re definitely on flirtation terms now.  Never say never.

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834: Heavenly Darkness

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834  is a dark smoky fragrance  that took me back in time more vividly than any photo. Back in the 80s when I was just a slip of a girl (cough), I used to go to an indoor market in a nearby town and visit a fabulous Indian stall. I’d buy floaty skirts with mirrors and sequins, joss sticks and neat, raw patchouli oil. Spraying Borneo 1834 took me back into that moment where I was younger and had all my dreams before me, thinking I would float through life in my swishy skirts and silver bangles with nary a care. However, the joss sticks and the Patchouli oil cleaned up their act, got an education and drove back into town in a Bentley before I could recognise them in this beautifully crafted perfume.

Borneo 1834 is all about the Patchouli and takes its name from the year when Patchouli first stood up and took a bow as the new stranger in town. Created by the prolific Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens, it smells like it should be dark brown or purple, like a spell. With a note of Camphor and Bonfire smoke, my husband’s first reaction when I squirted him unawares was “ isn’t this that Cowboy one from the other night?” He’s getting good at this.  It does indeed smell similar to Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer. However, Borneo 1834 is quieter, and has more incense, whereas Lonestar is earthier and bolder.

On first spraying Borneo 1834, there is a blast of bitter dark chocolate and cherries which thankfully goes away, leaving just a faint vapour trail. What’s left is delicious woody Patchouli with a hint of Cardoman and White Flowers. The old Patchouli oil I recall in the 80s was cheap, and harsh, but rich, oily and pungent.  Borneo has taken all the rough edges off it and just left the smooth woodiness, retaining the oily richness. Many liken it to Chanel Les Exclusifs Coromandel. Having smelled both, I can see why: there are definite similarities.

Currently available on Amazon for £81.60 for 50ml, Borneo 1834 is not cheap, but still cheaper than Coromandel, which  is even pricier.

Borneo 1834. I think I love you.

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