Most of the writing I’ve done on here about Chanel has been focused on the Exclusifs de Chanel line (although I continue to love Chanel No. 19). I really haven’t touched on No. 5 in extrait form, the EdP, or even on Eau Premiere. No. 5 has long been a difficult fragrance for me to come to grips with. When I was first really becoming interested in the world of perfume, No. 5 seemed too intimidating to be wearable. More than that, it wasn’t really practical for every day wear during life as a student and starting out at my first jobs anyway. No. 5 seemed too iconic for me to even talk about. Well, with the current release of L’Eau, it’s time to finally come to terms with it.
One practical reason I haven’t gotten along with No. 5 over the years is that Chanel aldehydes give my skin chemistry some serious trouble. For instance, I thought I would love No. 22 but the opening doesn’t work at all for my skin. The same thing happens with No. 5 and, to a lesser extent, with Eau Premiere. In the case of Eau Premiere, I have to let the composition settle on my skin for about half an hour before I can start sniffing.
Luckily for me, the aldehydes in L’Eau are much more gentle on my skin chemistry and on my nose. The opening here is a bright burst of clean but yummy lemon. It reminds me of the San Pellegrino Limonata lemonade. There’s definitely a fizziness, and something like seltzer water with a metallic edge, as the aldehydes bounce around off the lemon and the neroli. L’Eau settles into a delicate lemon candy for the first hour or so. The composition is bright and sunny at this point, like mid-morning captured in a scent.
Since L’Eau is supposed to be such a light version of No. 5, I wasn’t sure that there would be much development in the composition, but fortunately there is. The ylang-ylang comes through to form the heart of L’Eau’s composition. The lemon candy transforms into a lemon bar with powdered sugar, until the powdered sugar melts away and the ylang-ylang is there as a soft yellow floral. The jasmine is entwined with the ylang-ylang, while the rose doesn’t come across at all to me.
The main thing I love about Eau Premiere is the sandalwood dry down. It’s creamy and almost edible, but still woody and gives such gorgeous depth to the composition. It made No. 5 wearable for me. The white musk here in L’Eau is a little less my style. I get mostly a powdery musk in the dry down which must be the orris root mixing with the white musk. Sadly I don’t sense any cedar. And, if anything, the vanilla comes across more in the heart of the composition with the ylang-ylang. Still, I’m impressed with the development of L’Eau. It’s not easy to coax real development out of such an airy, delicate fragrance but Olivier Polge manages it.
Overall verdict on L’Eau? It’s extremely well-edited and pretty. It does exactly what a flanker is supposed to do. It will never outshine the original, but it’s perfect for a younger demographic (which is clearly what Chanel wants, if the ads featuring Lily-Rose Depp are anything to go by). L’Eau is like a bright sunny morning. There’s some winking fun in there, too. L’Eau is the mimosa you order with breakfast while on vacation. Eau Premiere is the champagne cocktail before dinner. And the original? No. 5 is the grand vin de Bordeaux that you order with the main course.
No. 5 L’Eau is an Eau de Toilette concentration available in 35, 50, and 100 ml bottles. You can find it directly from Chanel (the website does state that the 35 ml size is limited edition).
*I received a bottle of L’Eau as gratis through work, however no one asked me to do this write-up. This is completely my own impression of L’Eau and of Chanel’s No. 5 offerings in general.