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Happy 100th Birthday, dear Number Five!
Not the EdP, but "The fragrance" is 100 years old today, on Cinco de Mayo, the 5th in the 5th. Time that I also give my 50 cents to it:
The most famous fragrance of all time; the perfume Marilyn Monroe wore to bed (and nothing else, as she erotically implied), the legend that is in seemingly eternal competition with another Guerlain fragrance I hold in high esteem, Shalimar, even though the two bear little resemblance, but both are sold virtually by the minute somewhere in the world, the forerunner of all aldehyde-heavy women's waters, which despite a few minor reformulations is still the same, has an anniversary. Has a limited edition been spotted anywhere - despite permanent lockdown and the like - to mark the anniversary or some form of tribute? At least not from me...
I took but today on the occasion of this special day my old EdP to take it again in detail under the magnifying glass / nose and in view of the fact that the fragrance is quite officially absolutely timeless to illuminate.
What makes it so chic, so ageless, so perpetually wearable?
I'll tell you: I have no idea.
When it was chosen by Gabrielle-Coco on 5.5.1921 to be bottled and offered for sale, it was still shockingly new and different for that time. Aldehyde overdose! Madame Chanel was not rather fond of the shocking, she had the screaming (shocking) pink bags, which her competitor Elsa Schiaparelli from around the corner in Paris in her trademark color gave to customers, replaced by Coco's own, discreet, should someone who carried one with him, Chanel decided to buy, it is said.
But Coco was simply ahead of her time in many ways. The No. 5 clones soon flooded the market, and some still hold up: Arpege, Tosca, Sortilege...
The soapy opener is at least neither Emeraude, nor Shalimar, both of which tend towards the oriental. In the 80s, a new variant was born, the EdP, which is designed slightly differently, but still very clean in its opening:
Sauberfrau and Fräulein Rührmichnichtan, both in the beige Twinset, can put it on reassuringly without leaning too far out or being mistaken for audacious.
The 80s No. 5 in the EdP version is THE daytime wear go-to signature scent for me.
Aldehydes are clearly soapy there from the start, but become faded and powdery. The development gains warmer notes, amber and soft sandalwood add radiance, it becomes rosier with time but still powdery creamy. The sweetness is kept in check, not gourmand, but floral-vanilla.
The shelf life is enormous, especially for this price (which is relative, because in the 90s I once saw a report about the margins in the fragrance business, explained by the example of No.5: manufacturing costs about 1.90 DM, VK about 80 DM. But the name costs extra), compared with the Chanel Exclusives a Pappenstiel.
It is simply so: When in doubt, wear No. 5.
You just can't go wrong with it.
On the next 100 years!