Varanis Ridari's Review of Gabrielle by Chanel

It was only a matter of time before something like this appeared again in the Chanel catalog, as every so many decades they create a very nondescript fragrance from which a dozen flankers can spring, to keep the coffers full while they experiment with more daring perfumes, since the watershed success of something truly innovative like No. 5 (1921) was mostly accidental, and the market is too competitive some century later to allow for any "expensive mistakes". You can always tell when something is focus group created because there are always at least three perfumers on it, and sometimes four if we're talking Calvin Klein, but Chanel doesn't work that way since they employ in-house perfumers and not the big chem firms to design their smellies for them. In this instance, the only way to really have such a focus group is to bring in past and present perfumers alongside the creative director who himself is a perfumer, so this meant dragging former Chanel master perfumer Jacques Polge out of retirement to work alongside his son Olivier Polge (current master perfumer at Chanel) and Christopher Sheldrake to put three heads on what became Gabrielle Chanel (2017). Allure (1996) was the last truly abstract concept released to the main Chanel line, with the followup Allure Homme (1999), both being fragrances built around facets rather than a traditional note pyramid. Gabrielle takes a similar approach with it's "imaginary flower" concept, merging four flowers together into a single amalgam accord upon which the perfume is based, but it does have a traditional structure otherwise. Gabrielle is supposed to be happy, sweet, care-free, and to evoke a similar golden tone like the venerable No. 5, but with a youthful bounce that landmark scent does not possess. I'm not entirely sold on the concept of Gabrielle, especially knowing what I know about the history of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel herself, but I see where this stuff is coming from, at the very least.

What I get in the opening of Gabrielle is a scent that tries to be Chanel No. 5 without the aldehydes in terms of the golden plush tone, just softer and sweeter per the taste predilections of the time. Mandarin and grapefruit replace sharper citruses like bergamot, and a juicy blackcurrant which has become oh so trendy in the 2010's also shows up to blend down any harshness the grapefruit may have. A nice yellow ochre tone is given forth once the floral power chord of the heart appears, which is the real star of Gabrielle. Tuberose, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, and jasmine are said to be of what this accord consists, but the blending is immaculate as is the normal form for Jacques Polge, so this part was probably his touch to the perfume. Warm, happy, sweet, but also a bit bubbly and giggly compared to the confidence of No.5's golden floral melange, with no rose putting its foot down in the heart of the accord like with No. 5. The edges of these florals are very nondescript like a blurry image from a broken camera lens, leading into trademark "Polge sandalwood" compound in all of its creamy warm goodness. There is a bit of powder in the finish, just enough to earn the trust of a more mature person seeking this out, but the yellow musk and amber tone keep this squarely in the sweet palette of 21st century taste by the time of the drydown's finish. The whole experience feels like an amplified skin cream to me, with that same undefined smooth floral sweetness and sunny disposition of a summer-themed hand lotion from Bath & Body Works, just with a higher cut of ingredients quality. The smell of Gabrielle feels painfully like a base for layering or a platform for future flankers more than a unique composition to be worn alone, and I can tell is going to be a "Mousse de Sax" for a decade's worth of perfume. Still, this is pleasant, if uninspiring, and a bottle multiple generations in a single household could potentially share since it spreads like spilled yellow paint across the olfactive landscape it inhabits. Wear time is long as this is an EdP, but sillage is expectedly tight, because again, this is an EdP. I'd say this is a summer scent, but it is truthfully warm enough for spring or early fall too, and can be worn by any gender, since the golden happy glow it casts doesn't really impart any sexuality to my nose whatsoever.

The father and son Polge team along with Mr. Sheldrake have set about creating a financially secure future for Les Parfums Chanel with what will probably be the No. 5 of its time, created in accordance with outlook held within the slice of the perfume industry where Chanel sits at present, which is an altogether different slice than where it sat in 1921. The No. 5 of 2017 cannot be bold or daring, cannot be made from dozens of notes nor a large percentage of costly materials, and cannot challenge nor entice. The No. 5 of 2017 must be a cost-effective exercise in touching as many corners of taste within the largest pool of potential perfume wears as possible, while also avoid just as many corners if not more where people might find fault in some aspect of the perfume's design; there can be no animalic, no bitter greens, no heady spice, no note separation denoting natural or high-quality synthetic materials which may become restricted or too expensive in time, and it must be impossible to over-apply so it doesn't offend. Padding around kidgloves with smiley face stickers applied to each knuckle carrying the double-C Chanel logo, with enough smearing of the big picture that anything can be painted over top of it, ensuring potential new flankers until the next big blob perfume comes along. I don't find much interest in this because it feels sort of like an intentionally-unfinished scent with a hastily-composed paint-by-numbers top that just cuts to the chase so the hazy "imaginary flower" accord dominates, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see what they do with this line in the future. Gabrielle Chanel is to me, nothing like the young iteration of the woman it is named after and certainly indicative of House Chanel's direction throughout the 2010's, but I don't hate it, so I'll rate neutral for fairness since it is clear a lot of work went into this to make it pleasing to encounter.

  1. Varanis Ridari

    The Scented Devil From Seattle/Bellevue WA
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