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.