No. 5 by Chanel (1921)

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel wanted to create “a woman’s perfume with a women’s scent” (Edwards, 2001), one that smelled unlike the soliflores that were fashionable at the time. She believed in the paradox that in order to have a natural scent, the perfume had to be made artificially. Chanel met the Russian perfumer Ernest Beaux through her lover, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. She enlisted Beaux to create some perfumes, including the aldehydic floral N˚ 5 that was created in 1920 and launched on 5th May the year after.


A Chanel N˚ 5 ad published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1937, in which Gabrielle Chanel promoted the perfume (Source: Chanel)

Beaux presented Chanel with his creations in two sets that were numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24. She chose the creation that was numbered 5 and named it N˚ 5 for it was her lucky number. Chanel was afraid that the formula would be easily replicated, so Beaux proposed making “the formula too expensive to imitate” (Edwards, 2001) and instructed him to do so. He began by increasing the level of jasmine absolute, the most expensive ingredient, causing the perfume to turn dark; thus he needed to find a producer to create a lighter-colored absolute and this in turn added to the cost. Furthermore, the additional jasmine softened the effect of aldehydes and consequently, he decided to boost the level of aldehydes.

Estella Warren, photographed by Jean-Paul Gorde, for the N˚ 5 Ad in 1999 (Source: Chanel)

Beaux used three aldehydes, which give a sparkle to the scent of the floral notes and are accompanied by top notes of ylang ylang and neroli. As the scent develops, it reveals notes of Grasse jasmine, Rose de Mai, iris and lily of the valley and a woody base of sandalwood, oakmoss, vetiver, musk, civet and vanilla.


There have been speculations that the overdose of aldehydes in N˚ 5 was a mistake. One of the stories claimed that Beaux’s assistant misunderstood instructions and added ten times the aldehyde amount that Beaux desired. Another states that it was Beaux himself who accidentally added too much of the aldehydes. However, it is extremely likely that Beaux was completely aware of what he was doing and did not made a mistake.


N˚ 5 Parfum Bottle (Source: Chanel)

Inspired by a toiletry bottle and with the belief that the perfume inside was much more significant than the bottle, Chanel designed the simple bottle that encased N˚ 5. The shape of the stopper was inspired by Place Vendôme. She supervised changes to the bottle shape until 1970 and also presented the idea that the box should act as an overcoat that protected and perfectly fitted the perfume bottle. Two rows of pearl-cotton thread are wrapped over a membrane around the neck of the bottle then sealed with wax.


From the simplicity of the bottle and its packaging to Beaux’s use of aldehydes, N˚ 5 was a modern fragrance for its time that has definitely become a timeless masterpiece.




The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove (2010), p. 102-103

Chanel Website

Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards (1996), p. 39-47

Scents and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman, p. 32

The Perfume Bible by Josephine Fairley and Lorna McKay (2014), p. 112

Thoughts #1: Chanel N˚ 5 Eau Première

Chanel N˚ 5 Eau Première



I only recently discovered the existence of Eau Première and got it without wearing it for more than five minutes (something I discourage but always do). Jacques Polge recreated the legendary Chanel N˚ 5 in 2008 to give the lighter and softer Eau Première, composed of a blend of aldehydes, ylang ylang, Rose de Mai, jasmine, vanilla and musk. Like the original, Eau Première reflects the scent of a floral bouquet.

I love all the different scents I could smell, from the aldehydes and delicate, powdery florals to the vanilla in the dry-down. After the fresh burst of aldehydes (I think there are also some citrusy notes) have been stripped away, the floral scent that develops smells somewhat like baby powder. The florals lasts for a couple of hours before the sweet vanilla scent is revealed, which lasts on my skin for many hours.

While I love the original, I think it would be a scent I can only wear when I’m more mature, so Eau Première is much more suitable for me now. I only wished aldehydes would linger on the skin a bit longer, but apart from that, I really enjoy this fragrance.

Joy by Jean Patou (1930)

Joy by Jean Patou was created by Jean Patou’s perfumer, Henri Alméras. It was first launched in 1930 as ‘the costliest perfume in the world’. Patou was looking to create an extravagant perfume; he instructed Alméras to “double the amount of ‘jus'” despite the fact that his perfumer had told him that it was too expensive to produce the fragrance commercially.


Vintage Ad for Joy (Source: Vintage Ad Browser)

This luxurious floral fragrance has a higher concentration of raw materials than many other fragrances and contains the precious essences of 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozens of Rose de Mai in every 30 milliliters of perfume. Aldehydes, greens, peach, and calyx make up the top notes and the heart of jasmine and rose is accompanied by ylang ylang, orris, orchid and lily of the valley. The base notes consist of sandalwood, musk and civet.

Joy Parfum Bottle (Source: David Jones)

Louis Süe had an architectural perspective, following the Golden Ratio when designing the bottle. A black and red flaconette was designed later in 1932 by Jean Patou, who took inspiration from an antique jade snuff bottle. Both glass bottles are finished with lustre and a gold cord tied around its neck.

Though no longer the costliest of perfumes in the world today, it continues to be a refined and luxurious fragrance.



Joy Flaconette (Source: Jean Patou)



Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards (1996), p. 69-73

The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove (2010), p. 110

The Perfume Bible by Josephine Fairley and Lorna McKay (2014), p. 128

Vintage Perfumes by Jan Moran (2015)

Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman (2013)

Diorissimo by Dior (1956)

Ad for Diorissimo in 1956 (Source: Fashioned by Love)

Diorissimo encapsulates the scent of Christian Dior’s lucky flower, the lily of the valley. Dior commissioned Edmond Roudnitska to create the perfume that was launched in 1956, two years after Dior’s Lily of the Valley line was presented.


Original Diorissimo Bottle (Source: The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove)



By developing a lily of the valley accord, which is blended with ylang ylang and rose, and base notes of jasmine and sandalwood, Roudnitska produced this soliflore. He made a remarkable achievement in creating the perfume without using oil from the lily of the valley, as it could not be extracted from nature.


Only sixty bottles of Diorissimo, originally designed and produced by Baccarat, were produced for the launch. A bouquet of gold-plated bronze flowers stoppered each hand-cut crystal bottle, which were completed with Dior’s signature pearls. Presently, a different perfume bottle is used, which is an homage to the Dior oval medallion. The bottle is completed with a hemispherical stopper and its neck is wrapped with silver threads by hand.


Current Bottle for Diorissimo Extract de Parfum (Source: Dior)




Diorissimo Extrait de Parfum, Dior website accessed July 12th 2017 (

Dior: The Perfumes, Text by Chandler Burr (2014), p. 90-94

The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove (2010), p. 137

Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards (1996), p. 111-114

Miss Dior by Dior (1947)

Miss Dior Perfume Amphora (Source: Fragrantica)


Christian Dior and his old friend, Serge Heftler-Louiche, agreed to create a chypré for the first Dior perfume; they commissioned Paul Vacher to create Miss Dior, which was launched in 1947. This fragrance is a green chypré floral with top notes of galbanum, a gardenia note of styrallyl acetate, clary sage and aldehydes. Jasmine, rose, iris, neroli, carnation, lily of the valley and narcissus make up the heart notes, while the base notes consist of patchouli, cistus labdanum, oakmoss, ambergris, sandalwood, vetiver and leather.


Miss Dior Extract de Parfum Bottle (Source: Dior)


Guerry Colas designed the crystal couture bottle that Baccarat produced. This parfum amphora represented New Look’s ‘petal’ lines, with its elegant curves and slender neck topped with a delicate stopper. Only two hundred and eighty-three bottles were produced in the first year and within the next three years, demand for the perfume grew, making it difficult for the bottle to be produced in large quantities. Consequently, Dior thought of redesigning the flacon, which Colas executed. The new square-shaped flacon featured frosted houndstooth checks and was completed with a bow.



Dior: The Perfumes, Text by Chandler Burr (2014), p. 29-30

The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove (2010), p. 127

Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards (1996), p. 99-103


Samsara by Guerlain (1989)

Ad for Samsara [1991] (Source: Parfum de Pub)

Samsara is a Sanskrit word referring to the “eternal rebirth” in the wheel of life. Guerlain’s Samsara was launched in 1989 – a century after Jicky was created. This perfume was revolutionary; for the first time, the House of Guerlain used a modern marketing approach in creating Samsara. This was also the first time perfumers outside the House were invited to present their creations for consideration and were competing against Jean-Paul Guerlain, whose creation was chosen.


Jean-Paul Guerlain created Samsara in 1985 for Decia de Powell, the woman he loved and who wore the fragrance for four years before it was launched. Jean-Paul took the opportunity to create the perfume for her, as she could not find a perfume that appealed to her. She liked jasmine and sandalwood, in particular, and these were the raw materials on which Samsara was based.


This woody oriental perfume opens with bergamot, before jasmine, narcissus, rose and ylang ylang dominate. Finally, the base notes are comprised of a harmony of sandalwood, vanilla, iris and tonic bean. Using newly discovered synthetic sandalwood notes, Jean-Paul was the first perfumer to push the levels of sandalwood to 30 per cent in the perfume structure; traditionally, perfumers used only 1-2 per cent.


The design of the Samsara bottle, created by Robert Granai, was inspired by a Cambodian dancer statue from the Musée Guimet. The bottle is red, one of the sacred colors in Buddhism, and is topped with stopper that signifies meditation through the shape of the Buddha’s closed eye.

Guerlain Samsara (Source: Fragrantica)



The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove (2010), p. 253-257

Guerlain Website (

Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards (1996), p. 173

Scents and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman

Mitsouko by Guerlain (1919)

Guerlain Mitsouko (Source: Guerlain)


Jacques Guerlain named the perfume Mitsouko, launched in 1919, after a heroine named Mitsouko in Claude Farrère’s novel, La Bataille (1919). The story was about the secret love affair between the young Mitsouko, who was a married to an admiral, and a young British naval attaché.


Mitsouko may have been inspired by François Coty’s Chypré de Coty, but the accords on which the two fragrances are based are different. Mitsouko is a fruity chypré with a characteristic peach note derived from a synthetic aroma chemical known as C-14 aldehyde. The top note of the fragrance is fresh bergamot, which gives way to uncover the heart of peach, jasmine and rose notes on a base of oakmoss, black pepper, vetiver, cedarwood and ambergris.


The design of the bottle for Mitsouko is shared with L’Heure Bleu (1912), both of which were designed by Raymond Guerlain. This was done deliberately for practical reasons, because the First World War had caused a short supply of bottles. It is known as the ‘Gendarme’ bottle owing to the resemblance of the stopper to the French policeman’s hat. Turned upside down, the stopper represents a heart.




Guerlain Website (

The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove (2010), p. 98

Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances by Michael Edwards (1996), p. 33-37

Scents and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman