No. 18 Eau de Parfum fragrance notes

    • Ambrette seed, Iris, Rose, Floral notes, Fruits, Woods

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Latest Reviews of No. 18 Eau de Parfum

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With No. 18 EDP, Jacques Polge elevates and expands ambrette through highlighting its fruity facets, mostly that of Williams pear; vegetal hues; nutty, animalic undertones. The seeds of ambrette seed (Abelmoschus moschatus), resembling tiny nautilus shells with grooves, release an oil when crushed that smells incredible among naturals, and is also quite expensive in both oil and absolute form due to low yield and the many pitfalls to its cultivation. Jean-Claude Ellena has a great section on ambrette in his Atlas of Perfumed Botany. I highly recommend seeking it out if you want to dive deeper into natural botanical materials used in perfumery. So, here's the question: is there a lot of real ambrette in No.18. I am inclined to believe that there's probably more of it here than in most commercial perfumes claiming its appearance that are in the market, at least that is what my own nose tells me. I trust my nose nowadays—at least most of the time.

The top notes most feel like the skin and flesh of pears, with perhaps a bit of cassis and a handful of red fruits. At one point, it has the aroma of Belle de Brillet, a liqueur flavored with Williams pear in a Brillet cognac. Then highlights of rose enter the scene, dewy, glistening, allowing the ambrette to bloom further. This eventually yields to that baby's head tenderness that ambrette imparts, especially when it is combined with none other than orris (Chanel, after all) and this is pièce de résistance of No. 18, when these two coalesce into a your-skin-but-better creamy muskiness. A gorgeous wear and one of the truest ambrette fragrances I've experienced in the market; dare I say, a reference ambrette. It's one from the Les Exclusifs collection that is deserving of more acclaim.
16th March 2023
I find No 18 in the edp beautiful. It seems a bit toned down compared to the edt. The quirky eau-de-vie opening note of the edt seems to have been softened and shortened and while that note does not last as long as in the edt, the ambrette note kicks in sooner and lasts longer. As a result the edp feels a bit more conventional, less “artistic.” At the same time, for me it's a bit easier to wear and I am loving it.
30th May 2021

No.18 EDP retains it's odd place in the Chanel lineup.
What it lacks is the magical Faux Sandalwood Rose compound developed by Polge in the 80's.
A new balanced generic wood compound is less ethereal and provides a heavier, sweeter amber canvas.
A better fit with the tastes of a contemporary Feminine audience.
I wear the EDP when I need to keep my feet on the ground. When I need to take flight and explore the universe only No.18 EDT will do.
27th February 2021
Now this is an odd little number if I do say so myself. The story goes that this eau de parfum was conceived in 1997 for distribution in Chanel's boutique at 18 Place Vendôme, then re-conceived in 2007 as an eau de toilette for release as part of the Les Exclusifs line, then re-orchestrated a third time as an eau de parfum based on the eau de toilette version in 2016, all by Jacques Polge. The point of No. 18 (2016) is to be "perfume jewelry" reminiscent of the 18 Place Vendôme boutique after which it's named, but the reality of it is No. 18 is fragrance born of the constant re-envisioning that was Jacques Polge's hallmark as house perfumer for Chanel. Here's the thinking: Chanel Bois des Îles (1926) was an aldehyde perfume by Ernest Beaux focused on rose, sandalwood, vetiver, and musk ambrette. Jacques Polge wanted to make a masculine counterpart which lead to Bois Noir (1987), a fragrance that replaced aldehydes with citrus and banned musk ambrette with natural ambrette seed tones. This was brightened and slightly sweetened into Égoïste (1990) for a mass release, then various concentrations thereof followed. Polge obviously kept tinkering and pared down the formula even further, resulting in what we now have in No. 18: a feminine based on a masculine, based on another masculine, based on an old feminine by a previous house perfumer, full-circle.

Once you get passed the dizzying intertextuality No. 18 has with other past Chanels, you can get down to what it is: an elegantly simple representation of ambrette, rose, and iris. The entire musk mallow flower from which ambrette seed is derived is on display with No. 18, being dewy and green at first sniff, with traces of green tea in the opening, and a certain oily aspect to the opening, carried aloft by just a puff of bergamot. The iris and the rose comes next, the latter combining with the ambrette to give a huge connection to modern Égoïste, but made a bit more gentle with the iris. Égoïste already smelled rather unisex to my nose, and so does No. 18, especially since iris flower has been appearing more in masculines in place of the orris root component of the plant after the turn of the 21st century. There is supposedly a fruit note according to the published pyramid, but all I get after the heart is musk, and Polge's synthetic sandalwood compound that sees use in all modern iterations of Chanel perfumes calling for sandalwood. No vetiver, no detectable oakmoss, no oriental overtones like Bois des Îles, Bois Noir, or Égoïste. As a simple floral musk interpretation of the famed Chanel/Polge damask rose/sandalwood accord, No. 18 does exceptionally well, but is too fleeting for its price, with maybe 6 hours total performance coupled with close sillage. No. 18 also feels fairly context-neutral as well.

Being marketed to women willing to spend premium coin, No. 18 might be the answer for ladies in love with Égoïste but unwilling to cross the gender marketing lines to wear it (guys are more often a stickler about gender, but aren't always the only ones afraid to play with perfumes outside their marketing lane). Otherwise, this is just a lighter, puffier, shinier, and muskier presentation of the same accord as Égoïste to my nose, and that's not meant to be an insult. Guys who own Égoïste might find No. 18 a tad redundant unless they're total Chanel fanboys or looking for a warm weather alternative, especially at the $200-$350 price tag being asked for a 2.5 or 6.8 ounce bottle, respectively. Performance-per-dollar doesn't make this worth the price for me, but I'll stay a neutral vote and give it a thumbs up because it is very well-constructed and elegant to a fault, like most Chanel creations under Jaques Polge. Ambrette is also rarely the focus of a perfume since musk mallow faded from popularity and the demise of synthetic musk ambrette otherwise made the accord scarce, so Chanel gets kudos for that little bit of quirk too. The original 2007 EdT is an altogether different and stranger beast, however. Soft-spoken but well-done. Thumbs up.
13th December 2018
The sample of No. 18 edt I have does not smell like Egoiste to me, but this edp version does.

No. 18 edp smells like a big improvement on No. 18 edt. It smells like an Egoiste flanker, although it's fairly light - maybe "Egoiste Summer."

This is another edp, as with Bel Respiro, that doesn't last as long as the edt did. It's not a big difference, but the edt of No. 18 holds on a little longer as a skin scent.
19th October 2018
Does it overstate the obvious to say that a Chanel perfume sparkles? The apocryphal stories of G. Chanel resisting scents that would cause a woman to smell simply floral seem to have continued to influence the contemporary additions to Chanel's line. 21st century Chanel isn't often well regarded among connoisseurs' conversations–a nostalgia for older formulations pervades. But here's the thing: from my vantage, Chanel is fundamentally modern as a philosophy. The fashion, even biographical details of its initiator, eschew attachment, process loss, and revel in the aggressively new (think of Chanel's dispensing of busts and bustles, of her collaboration with the Ballets Russe). I opt to hold IFRA restrictions, reformulations, and even the seemingly greedy expansions of designer brands more as ‘signs of the times' than grounds for the dystopian-point-of-no-return anxieties that color the analyses of more recently released Chanel fragrances. Read perfume as the temporal material that it is, with the semiotic ascriptions it might carry.

So No. 18 has some sparkle to it. It opens with worldly, metropolitan synthetics and aldehydes, closely followed by the cool-headed iris that Chanel cultivates in its own fields in Grasse. Chanel's iris proceeds gracefully through most of the perfumes designed for the house. No. 18 dresses up this plush, chilly iris with ambrette seed, one of those fascinating ingredients (originally harvested from plants, often synthesized nowadays) that somehow smells both of skin and soap. An enchanting ‘white musk' quality pervades No. 18's opening. The modernism of the fragrance is its floralcy in an age of metal machines, its skin softness in ages of war, its artifice and chemistry with tenderness and heart.

No. 18 gradually sweetens on my skin, with the initially sharp intensity of its rose developing into something more unctuous and powdery. More than any other quality, the offhanded fruitiness that emerges marks the scent with the time when it was designed. My review is neutral not because there's anything particularly out of balance in No. 18, but because it lacks the assertiveness of its ingenious sisters, and ultimately seems mostly a remix of some of the most appealing, offbeat qualities of others in the line. It never dons the vintage cosmetics drag that 2016's Misia conjures, nor shimmers as much as several versions of Bois des Iles do; it shares some underlying rhythms with Nos. 5 and 19, but without the self-possession and oddity that only time and imitations have naturalized in those masterpieces. No. 18 is, by contrast, a procession of many of Chanel's most iconic accords, combined at very comfortable volumes. It behaves well as a sweetened skin scent, but its sparkle only lasts a fraction of its duration on my wrist. It's unsettling how it reveals the continuity that might be inferred between Nietzsche and Nordstrom. It offers the mainstream consumer an expensive simulacra of Chanel iconoclasm softened into an intentionally quotidian fixture of modern life.
30th August 2018