No. 19 on the 19th

vintage No. 19 ad

It’s that time of year again. I know Chanel has decided to commemorate Coco’s birthday with the release of Gabrielle this year. Still, I don’t think there’s a better way to mark the 19th of August than by wearing her own fragrance, No. 19 itself.

I’ve written about the EdT here before and it’s still my favorite formulation. I also own a bottle of the EdP. And I’ve recently acquired a 14 ml bottle of the parfum after finally taking the plunge into the world of fragrances on ebay. This particular little parfum came to me completely sealed and in the original Chanel double box. I was curious about the authenticity but, when I broke the seal and smelled the parfum, I was sure. The nose can tell, and I feel like No. 19 is a difficult one to fake. (Though it’s always possible someone mixed a bit of real No. 19 in with a fake concoction.)

The parfum opens with an intense galbanum note, with just a hint of tangy bergamot. The galbanum is much more rich here than the EdT. It transitions to an earthy, powdery texture but that green galbanum is still there. It’s funny, I find the parfum more powdery than No. 19 Poudre. There’s some real warmth to the parfum, too. The EdT is all shimmering, cold, and green galbanum to me. A touch of warmth starts to creep into the parfum with the earthy orris. And I believe there is some true oakmoss in my formulation (or at least closer to real oakmoss than anything we’ve gotten recently). It seeps through the composition like ink, green and slightly damp.

I find this is a true parfum, and by that I mean it’s very potent (you don’t need to apply much) but at the same time, it’s a smooth composition. It wears close to the skin, and it won’t overwhelm your senses like a powerhouse. When I wear No. 19 in any form, it envelops me in a mist that’s almost like a fairy world. It invites me to this green grassy world, delicate florals dancing in the background, and with that mossy undercurrent snaking through all the while.

There is always something wistfully sad about No. 19 in any of its formulations. Maybe it comes from knowing the history, knowing that this was Coco’s personal fragrance and that it was the last Chanel fragrance to be released during her lifetime. I think it has to do with something integral to the composition, too. A lot of people describe this scent as “arrogant.” Perhaps it is. That green galbanum is the star note, so bitter and cold. I think what people miss is that No. 19 has some real emotion to it, and that it’s seductive in its own way. Particularly with the parfum, there’s a juxtaposition of cold and warmth that’s beautifully magnetic. Maybe it’s not sexy. Maybe it’s not flirty and fun. But it’s Chanel through and through.



Much Ado About the Duke by Penhaligon’s

the duke penhaligons

Notes: rose, leather, gin, pepper, and woody notes.

Penhaligon’s launched their Portraits collection in 2016, and you can tell right away that it’s a little bit different from their regular line. The gorgeous bottles with the gold design caps are showstoppers (the Clandestine Clara peacock cap is my favorite). Penhaligon’s clearly envision their Portraits fragrances as characters. It’s a really clever idea, giving a fragrance a backstory. And you can tell the Penhaligon’s team had fun putting this together. The backstory they’ve given to the Duke here is quite lively. He is married to the Duchess Rose (the Coveted Duchess Rose, another one of their fragrance Portraits) but the rumor is that their marriage has never been consummated because our Duke does not prefer women. It’s fitting, then, that Much Ado About the Duke is a truly unisex scent. This is a rose that can be worn by anyone, no matter your preference.

In reading reviews of Much Ado About the Duke, I’ve seen several people mention that this is a liner fragrance. I can see where they’re coming from. There isn’t a typical opening stage, followed by the heart notes, and leading to the base with this composition. And the rose is certainly always present. I’ve nearly used my sample up already trying to test this one out, and what I’ve concluded is that this is a circular composition. The rose is the constant. The other notes revolve around it, weaving in and out as they please, and circling back again. And it’s never in quite the same order.

The first time I tested the Duke, the gin note stood out right away. The scent was a fizzy, sparkling rose. It was like wearing a rosewater-infused gin & tonic. It was pretty fabulous. I thought my skin chemistry must have changed drastically because my next wearing of the Duke was all about the deeper notes, the leather and the woody notes. The rose was dry and subtle, more of a background player. My wearing of it today has brought out a dry rose once again, and a crackling black pepper note mixed with the woody notes.

It can be frustrating smelling a scent as changeable as this one. It’s also terribly addictive. I keep wanting to test it again to see what will come through this time. The one flaw here is that the wear time can fluctuate with the notes. When the lighter, more playful gin and black pepper notes are dominant, the Duke wears more like an EdT. When the woody notes are dominant, I can still smell this on my wrists as I’m getting into bed for the night. I don’t mind the notes playing a hide and seek game, but I do want more consistent longevity.

There is always some element of playing a game when putting on a perfume. How will this smell on my skin today? What notes will be more prominent? The Duke takes this game to an extreme. Perhaps it’s just my skin chemistry wreaking utter havoc. But this sort of game does seem fitting for the Duke and the backstory Penhaligon’s have given him. I’ll have to sample more from the Portraits collection to see what kind of wear I get and how they compare. This composition does stand on its own though. The Duke himself is rather magnificent. You just have to be ready to play the game.


I ordered my sample of the Duke from Luckyscent

The image is from Luckyscent and the list of notes is from Fragrantica.