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

Paris by Yves Saint Laurent (1983)

Paris (1983) is Yves Saint Laurent’s homage to Paris (also known as the City of Lights) and the Parisians that he loved. The use of the name was controversial, as there was another perfume named Paris by François Coty in 1922.


A 1980s ad for Yves Saint Laurent Paris (Image Source: Bois de Jasmin)


Sophia Grojsman, the perfumer behind the rosy perfume Paris, was oddly influenced by Guerlain’s Après L’Ondée, a fragrance in which roses did not have a significant role. With the incorporation of damascones (a group of aroma chemicals derived from Bulgarian rose) into a creamy violet note from Après L’Ondée, the modern perfume was created. This fragrance begins with mimosa, geranium, mayflower, juniper, bergamot and hawthorn. The rosy heart is then revealed, consisting of violet, Damascus rose and May rose, on a powdery floral base of iris, musk, amber and sandalwood.


Saint Laurent wanted to capture the sparkle of the City of Light in the Paris bottle. Alain de Mourgues designed the bottle, expressing the sensuality of the perfume through its round shape and the lights of Paris through its many facets. Saint Laurent said a stopper should be used “to add richness to the bottle”. A diamond dress button was chosen to complete the design of the gold-colored stopper for the original parfum bottle. The black stopper of the eau de toilette bottle is dressed with a pink button.


Paris Eau de Toilette (Source: Parfum de Pub)


In accompaniment to the perfume, Saint Laurent wrote a poem dedicated to the City of Lights, ending with the words, “Because I love you. My Paris.”




Perfume Legends by Michael Edwards, p. 199-203

The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove, p. 170

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