Chanel 31 rue Cambon Eau de Toilette (2007) was part of the original 6 Les Exclusifs scents launched in eau de toilette by Chanel when they decided to enter the luxury/prestige/niche market. 31 rue Cambon is named after the original Chanel couture workshop, and is an original composition rather than a retooling of an Ernest Beaux composition from Chanel's early years (unlike some of the others in this initial collection of 6), but still exists in a classic floral chypre style that makes it feel far older than it may seem at first glance. What perhaps makes this unique among a plethora of similarly-styled mid-century floral chypres made across all market levels for decades is the inclusion of a black pepper opening in place of the usual blooming Chanel aldehydes, but that isn't enough to really call this a modernized or updated take on the chypre. I think what this is, at least for me, is a strange and artistic twist on a classic and otherwise slightly boring study in traditional perfumery, which may really make or break it in your eyes depending on where you sit with perfumers toying around with convention.
Black pepper isn't super apparent upon the initial spray of 31 rue Cambon Eau de Toilette, but it creeps up as bergamot, a mix of indolic jasmine, Damask rose, and ylang-ylang greet the nose. As with most academic floral chypres, the flowers take over for the citrus when the opening moments elapse, but this is around the time when the black pepper first assirts itself in the composition. Iris and a light patchouli come in later to make 31 rue Cambon more powdery fresh amd green, while labdanum, oakmoss, and a tiny bit of the Polge sandalwood note build out the woody chypre finish. By the end, the pepper is screaming over top of the chypre structure, which gives it an odd cold unfeeling nature that is the only real bit of perceived modernity in it, although not on the same levels of cold as the "boss bitch" Chanel Cristalle (1974) by the previous house perfumer Henri Robert. The original eau de toilettes are often cited as stronger than their EdP replacements, but I don't read much strength here in 31 rue Cambon, giving about 7 hours of wear at just medium projection, with most of that being from the pepper woody iris backbone. Best use is in casual situations for spring, summer, and early fall.
The next big question is, get this discontinued EdT or the newer EdP that replaced it? Well, usually I'd say the bite of real oakmoss in pre-2011 examples makes chypres better, or even before 2002 when there were no restrictions on the material whatsoever, but this is so light and so totally not about the oakmoss at all in the finish thanks to that dominant pepper and iris, that I think you might be okay with current EdP. On the bright side, it's likely to last longer even if sitting closer on the skin, but there are bound to be those who feel everything older is inarguably better than anything newer, so I'll let you decide into which rabbithole to toss your money. Either way, you're looking at a stiff retail price tag of several hundred dollars, or several hundred more for a rare vintage, so 31 rue Cambon is an expensive trip for the die-hard Chanel fans only. Chypre lovers will be glad to see Chanel can still make a decent example of the genre into the 21st century, but the Calvanist-level purists worshiping the old dames like Guerlain Mitsouko (1919) will find this an adulteration and are better off sticking to vintage specimens of Chanel No. 5 (1921) or Bois des Îles Parfum (1926). Thumbs up
I have sampled 31 Rue Cambon several times now, but I can never discover the delight that others seem to find here. I am one of the most rabid fans of Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles; they are simply two of the most beautiful things I've ever smelled, but, sadly, 31 Rue leaves me cold. I'm not sure if it is the strange/odd (almost cold) use of patchouli that I object to, or the overdose of indolic iris, but either way, I find this Chanel scent almost disturbing, and awkwardly sweet. I know that Luca loves scents that achieve pure "abstraction," but I tend to want to recognize at least some facet of what I am smelling, or to be able to connect a part of a fragrance with something with which I am familiar. Here, however, the combination of notes results in a scent that I would be forced to call merely "perfume-y." And, yes, I know that labelling a scent thusly is the first impulse of the novice-nosed.
This one is great, especially the opening and early stages, for my tastes. I think the accord I like is bergamot with slightly powdery florals, and it smells wonderfully, distinctly Chanel-esque. I get a similar blast of goodness from the opening of Chanel 1932 edt.
As this develops, it feels more feminine than unisex, to me, in a way that makes it something I don't feel comfortable wearing out and about, but I love sampling it once in a while for the beautiful opening.
This one is special, and it has taken me quite some time to put my thoughts on it into words.
I first encountered this as a sample I received with the purchase of a bottle of Cuir de Russie, which I fell madly in love with. On first smell, 31 Rue Cambon didn't wow me. I seem to remember finding it pleasant, but a tad "generic perfumey". I kept going back to the sample though, and that one sample led to a 10 ml decant, a 50 ml decant, all the way to a 200 ml bottle.
I would describe it as a very plush, iris-patchouli; soft in texture, but quite assertive in presence. Due to the luxurious Chanel treatment these main ingredients seem grounded, rather than earthy. It certainly registers as a chypre to me, but a warm one, if that makes sense, probably due to the vanilla. It also has a very classical vibe.
This is a scent that speaks to me on an emotional level. It has a warm, personal intimacy that I find hard to describe. The best way I know how is to liken it to holding a t shirt that has just been taken off by the man I love; the warmth and scent of his skin still clinging to the soft fabric.
It has been slowly creeping up the ranks of my most beloved scents ever. It is also the only scent that I have experienced an irrational fear of running out of, which is why I have snatched up a 200 ml EdT bottle before even smelling the EdP reformulation.