When I was in graduate school in the early 70's, I took care of two crazy cats whose owners had gone to France on vacation. They brought me back a French thank-you gift, a bottle of Chanel N°19. It was such a luxury for a graduate student. Even better, I loved it!
I can't believe that I might have used the full bottle, but I can't find it. When a pack rat can't find a bottle of perfume, you know it has to be gone or buried where it doesn't belong (maybe in a box of books that made multiple moves with me?). If I still had that bottle, I could compare it to the newer, reformulated versions of N°19 - an activity I would find fascinating. Maybe I should go search the basement.
According to basenotes, the original had top notes of galbanum, bergamot, neroli, and hyacinth; middle notes of rose, orris, jasmine, narcissus, muguet, and ylang-ylang; and base notes of musk, sandal, oakmoss, leather, and cedarwood. My memories tell me it was a bright, fresh, zippy, direct green floral with a soft, powdery dry-down. At the time, more sophisticated analysis was the last thing on my mind. I was concentrating on my studies (and I was glad to be relieved of those crazy cats).
When I learned that Chanel would be introducing a new, supposedly more modern version, called N°19 Poudré ($85 or $115), I was delighted. I started haunting Chanel counters and stumbled on a tester bottle at Saks Fifth Avenue. Every time I stopped by that store, I sprayed. So, I had a few nice opportunities to test it before I got my own bottle.
It launched on August 19, Coco Chanel's birthday. Locally in the DC area, it is exclusive to Saks until October. I purchased mine from Loyd Cassler at Chevy Chase last Friday. I've worn it all weekend, and I'm delighted with it.
A few of us have chatted on Twitter about N°19 Poudré. There's a lot of interest. Because I can't get my hands on my original N°19, I will concentrate on my impressions of the new fragrance, with only a few recollections from those deep recesses of memory that a classic scent can summon.
N°19 Poudré is a powdery green floral that is far softer than the original. It is extremely pretty, but definitely less assertive. It's balanced, comfortable and easy to wear, and the iris dominates the other floral ingredients, like the jasmine. It's like a little sister to the original - in a good way, one that I think may attract a new audience.
The perfumer who created it, Jacques Polge, told WWD that it contains new, interesting musks. Poudre also said that iris rhizome, the central note in the new fragrance, is hard to source and can be affected, like many natural ingredients, by soil, climate, and the long, labor-intensive process that yields the oil. Chanel grew its own irises, Iris pallida and Iris germanica, in Grasse, France and combined old-time perfumery with new technology in producing N°19 Poudré. I think they succeeded in creating one of the prettiest iris fragrances I've tried in a long time.
The notes of N°19 Poudré include iris, neroli, galbanum, jasmine, white musk, vetiver, and tonka bean. There may be other notes. I've compiled these by reading many other blogs. Forget the notes, and what you'll sense is a fresh, soft, powdery, and very pretty floral. It's actually far less "modern" than the marketing had led me to expect. I find it old fashioned in an endearing way.
There is a beautiful and informative short film about N°19 Poudré and its development at Chanel's Web site. Anyone interested in this beautiful fragrance should watch it. You can purchase N°19 Poudré at Chanel or at Saks. In October, it will be available at all Chanel counters.
Photo at top courtesy of Chanel; old print in public domain; iris photo courtesy of blogger-index.com