No. 19 was initially created by Henri Robert for Coco Chanel’s personal use. The name commemorates the date of her birthday, which is the 19th of August. No. 19 now exists in several different concentrations and versions: No. 19 poudré, the Eau de Toilette, the Eau de Parfum, and the Pure Parfum. Plus, there are still vintage bottles of it floating around. I ordered a small decant of the Eau de Toilette version. I’ve never had the opportunity to try a vintage sample of this one, and I’m sure it would smell quite different to my modern nose. But I have to say, I really enjoy this current EdT version.
I actually find No. 19 a bit difficult to describe. It’s a complex scent, and it doesn’t wear in a linear fashion. Notes seem to flit in and out at their will, circling back in just when you think they’ve disappeared for good. The opening is a blast of aldehydes followed by a very green galbanum note that sets the tone for the fragrance. I first tried No. 19 several years ago while exploring the Chanel counter, and I found this opening very off-putting at the time. It’s grown on me since then. But it’s true, this opening is extremely dry and green, and it can come off as too harsh if you’re not prepared for it.
Once the green opening settles in, I get a lush, spiced floral impression. It took me some time to parse out where this was coming from, but I think it’s the combination of a lush jasmine with a buttery iris, just before the powdery aspect of the iris comes into play. I also get a bit of leather threading its way through here, which may play up the spicy feeling on my skin. I really do not get much of the rose, which is fine as Chanel rose notes tend to be very subdued on me anyway. The powdery iris notes then become more pronounced, giving the overall composition a dry feeling similar to the opening again.
I’ve read people describing No. 19 as “cold” and “unemotional.” But I personally find it to be quite sensual. The recent Misia is far more cold to me and certainly more powdery. The way No. 19 wears may have something to do with it, as the sillage is moderate, which makes it a sophisticated choice for office wear. I myself have worn it out socially in the evenings as well, and enjoyed the little hints of green floral notes that waft up from time to time. I also like wearing it to bed, the powdery iris can be quite comforting. And it perfumes my sheets just enough so that it smells nice without being overwhelming.
The dry down is a sandalwood that almost reminds me of cedar because it feels so enriching, but it’s more on the dry side than an ultra-creamy sandalwood. I think there is still a touch of oakmoss in the current version, just a hint of an inky earthiness. Then the vetiver adds a final infusion of dry green notes to the composition. The last vestiges of the dry down fade just past the 5 hour mark, which is a decent amount of wear for an EdT concentration. If you’re planning to use this as your every day scent, you can definitely re-apply throughout the course of the day.
I’ve grown to love No. 19 over time. I have a small decant that I’m working my way through right now, and I’d love to someday own a bottle of it. I’ll work my way through some of the other versions, and hopefully be lucky enough to try some of the vintage juice, too. I think, even though the current formula is different from the original, No. 19 is still a perfume classic. It stands out from the “clean green” scents that have become so popular. It manages to smell very Chanel with the powedery iris note, and it exudes a certain je ne sais quoi French air.
The No. 19 EdT is available directly from Chanel’s website. You can also find it at the usual department stores: Neiman’s, Nordstrom, and Saks. Samples are available from The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasant, which is where I got my sample/decant.