Chanel Reimagined Its Iconic No. 5 Scent in a Way That Millennials Will Love
In my decade as a beauty editor, the only item my mother ever asked me to gift her with was a bottle of Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere. And so, I have associated the fragrance as, well, a "mum scent." Don't get me wrong, all of the previously existing versions of the iconic perfume (there are four: Eau Premiere, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, and Parfum) are gorgeous. And if you wear them, know that I'm a fan. But there was never one that quite spoke to me.
That is, until I was introduced to Chanel No. 5's cooler cousin, L'Eau. Trust me when I say that the new fragrance is anything but fussy. The dried-down notes are clean, and the floral notes are feathery.
Chanel No. 5 L'Eau and I met in the most heavenly situation: the South of France. I was invited on a global Chanel press trip in May, during which editors from around the world came together to celebrate this major launch.
The stunning crystal bottle was waiting for me in my hotel room. I spritzed the citrus-floral scent on my body and immediately knew it was mine. In many ways, fragrance is the most personal beauty item you can own. While you can't see the makeup you wear on your face all day, you can smell the perfume you choose. It's with you when you snuggle up to your SO, it heats up on your skin when you exercise, and you catch a whiff of it when there's a breeze. That's why it's so important to love your signature scent and feel a connection with it.
To ensure my budding relationship with Chanel No. 5 L'Eau would be a long-lasting one, I wore it through my trip (even to bed!). I used the power of scent as a tool to remember both the monumental and quiet moments. L'Eau joined me as I walked along the rocky Cote D'Azure shoreline, accompanied me as I sipped Champagne at a chichi dinner, and joined me for a mind-numbing bath. In just a few days, it felt like it belonged to me.
But perhaps the most important event in our courtship was when I wore it to visit the Mul family farm in Grasse (this was kind of like "meeting the parents"). The Mul farm is the sustainable field where Chanel has been harvesting plants for its fragrances since 1987! My task was to help pick the blooming centifolias (a hot-pink flower also known as the May rose) for L'Eau. I also toured the factory where the essential-oil-extraction process happens. Seeing craftmanship and labor that goes into making each small bottle of scented liquid made me appreciate it even more.
I also met with Olivier Polge, the perfumer behind my new obsession. When it comes to the house of Chanel and fragrance, he is the ultimate expert. The charming French perfumer follows his father Jacques Polge's footsteps (Jacques originally introduced Chanel to the Muls in the '80s!).
Olivier has been working with a team on this contemporary scent for about a year, as it takes a full 386 days to harvest all of the key ingredients. "In January, we collect all the citruses, in March we get the orange flower, and in May, the roses," he explained.
The influence behind L'Eau is an obvious one. "Well, for Chanel No. 5 L'eau the inspiration was Chanel No. 5," Olivier said. "It's a simple way to say it but somehow true." In order to keep the essence of the original fragrance, Oliver started from a place of "romance" — the flowers. You'll find key South of France Spring florals in the heart notes: jasmine, May rose, and ylang ylang. He calls this the DNA of any Chanel No. 5.
Citrus defines the top notes with an intoxicating combination of lemon, mandarin, bergamot, and orange. But the showstopper is the base note: cedarwood. And it's a brand-new component for the No. 5 brand.
"No. 5 is really based on sandalwood and vetiver, which are very creamy," he explained. "Cedarwood is a dry, mature, vibrant sensation, which [allows those] notes to be much more free and dynamic, as opposed to opulent and dressed up." And yes, "Cedarwood is in the sexy part, definitely."
This idea of a more casual, contemporary version of No. 5 was a thread throughout our conversation. When asked what L'Eau smells like to him, he responded, "Like No. 5 in a very unexpected way. A lot of people have an opinion or impression of Chanel No. 5, and I would love for them to be surprised. You have to smell it and not have a preconceived idea. Maybe your memory of the fragrance is that it's very dressed up. Very structured. [L'Eau is] a more spontaneous scent."
The significance behind the name, L'Eau (which means "water"), also expresses this idea. "L'eau evokes the freshness, creativity, and purity," he affirmed. This simplicity extends to the cleanness of the actual scent and minimalism of the bottle, which seems to be made for Instagram flat lays and chic vanity shots.
He offered me one more sage piece of advice — where to wear it. "If it's a spray, I prefer the neck, because it's [where the] warmth of your vein is," he noted. "Gabrielle Chanel said, 'You should put fragrance where you like to be kissed.' It's better."
Before you run out and buy L'Eau this September (sign up for the waiting list here), and then mist it all over your neck (because Coco said so!), keep reading to learn how Chanel's newest No. 5 is actually made from start to finish.