After the emotional ride that yesterday’s fragrance took me on, I felt like I needed something comforting. And I know I’m probably the only one in the world who finds Chanel No. 19, especially in its eau de toilette concentration ($90, Nordstrom) to be comforting when Tresor In Love feels like too much of a challenge, but I love this scent and the feeling of strength it gives me. It’s rare that I’d finish a bottle of perfume, much less the big 100ml/3.4ounce that is the only size Chanel offers in this one. I left behind the first bottle I’d had, when I moved to St. Croix, but the one I bought in 2012, I finished all the way to the bottom. I mean, even if you figure that I ended up giving away 1/4 of the second bottle in decants (which is possible–I think everyone should try it at some point) then according to Now Smell This, I’ve worn it at least 220 times in the past two years. I’m scraping together enough money to buy a third bottle, but right now all I have is a sample.
Chanel No. 19 was released in 1970, the year before Mlle. Chanel’s death, and hit stores the following year. There was a rumor for many years that this had been created long before and had been Chanel’s own personal fragrance, but it’s one of those things that can never be confirmed for sure. What’s verifiable is that the 19 stands for her birthday, August 19, a Leo like me. It was billed as “Audacious and assertive. Never conventional.”
No. 19 starts off with a sharp bite of cold galbanum, sharpened further by bergamot and sweetened slightly by neroli and hyacinth. It’s not a cuddly scent, by any means; the EDP may be fresh and green at the top, but the EDT carries a chill that commands attention. That galbanum opening bleeds over into the middle notes, pairing with dry orris root and iris, with a hint of a floral thing from rose, jasmine, narcissus, lily of the valley, and ylang-ylang (yeah, I had to look it up–the heart of this one is “galbanum and powdery iris/orris root with some florals,” and smelling it you’d never be able to pick up which ones) before drying down to a heart that’s mostly oakmoss, with identifiable notes of leather and vetiver, and traces of sandalwood, cedar, and musk.
Maybe in the EDP or pure parfum concentrations, where the galbanum isn’t nearly as strong and the rose note is more pronounced, I could see the “offbeat ingenue” that other reviewers have described, but to me, this is the scent of the ice queen who will eat you for breakfast. And sometimes, being HBIC (for those unfamiliar, that’s Head B**** In Charge) feels pretty damn good.
On me, “present but not leaving a cloud” means 3-4 sprays of No. 19. Being an eau de toilette, this doesn’t last as long as others, probably 4 hours or so, so if you’re going to wear it to work (which is where this one really shines), it’s worth filling a sample vial to reapply at lunch, or spraying it on your clothes instead of on skin. This has always been one of my absolute favorites, but I have to be fair in terms of the longevity and give it a 9 rather than the full 10.