A while back on my blog I ranted on about how I thought Chanel no. 5 was a thing of the past and that its image was the only thing keeping sales up. When it comes to Coco Chanel and her flankers, however, this is not the case. I currently have four COCOs in my collection, all in EDP form. Are they all good? Read on.
COCO Eau de Parfum
The diva that is Coco Chanel EDP is a spicy amber fragrance launched back in 1984, when Annie Lennox sang of George Orwell and I had an orange buzz cut and wore safety pins in my ears. Karl Lagerfield had just stepped into the house of Chanel prior to this launch, so clearly it was a sign of great things to come for the brand. Clearly different times, though, bar the fear of big brother. This scent was created by the infamous Jacques Polge. While it might also be formulated in a more classic style that some might deem dated, this is one I actually wear.
- Bulgarian rose, coriander, peach, jasmine, Mandarin orange
- cloves, rose, orange blossom, mimosa, clover
- amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, civet, opoponax, vanilla, labdanum
I am certain that this has undergone reformulations since the eighties. Certainly, the civet you see in the note list is currently there only in synthetic form, if at all. This is the heavier, oriental, woody grande dame of the Coco’s. It’s deep, intense, ambery, spicy, and not overflowing with fruits or florals at all, aside perhaps from the rose. There are fruits and florals, but the juice and petals become a mashed compote in this blend.
Coco Chanel is classy, classic, and old-school. It’s a quality perfume but is probably not for those who default to more flirty, modern, lighter, and simpler concoctions. The reason for this is because all the fruit, florals, and spices that you’d also find in more up-to-date hits are combined with a lot of resins, like the opoponax and labdanum. There is also a leathery, balsamic quality to this scent, along with an animalic bite.
But still, it’s a floriental. It’s not on the list, but I get a sweet and tropical frangipani vibe from this scent, sprinkled with lots of powder and then pelted with juicy plums that somehow rather gently explode on impact, infusing the air with particles of power.
There are no aldehydes listed, but this thing is bright, sparkly, billowy, bracing, and perfumy at first spritz, so do practice restraint if you lean toward trigger heavy tendencies. Rest assured that should first spray overwhelm you, it does eventually calm down into some kind of wonderful – romantically rosy, incense-y mid notes and a warm and cozy dry down. The sillage is demure and enticing, too; not loud and proud. There are some nose-twitching spices in here, but they are not as dense, smoldering, and brick-heavy as YSL’s original Opium of the same era, but you will feel the cloves.
Of course, this thing is indeed unisexy. If I were a man, though, FYI, I’d probably lean toward the EDT version of this scent, as it’s a little leaner, less plush if you will.
Although I am a lady of the 80s myself and no spring chicken, I prefer a more updated approach to perfumery, but one cannot deny the beauty of this plushy lush perfume. And interestingly, I prefer this original to the Mademoiselle versions below.
COCO Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum
Coco Mademoiselle is supposedly one of the best-selling fragrances of all time. Personally, I think if this is true, it is mostly because of the brilliant marketing and advertising (like Kiera Knightly in commercials) and the established iconic brand. This perfume was the 2008 winner of the FiFi Best National Advertising Campaign, and has continued to do well since. Coco Mademoiselle is an amber floral fragrance that was launched in 2001, and this nose is Chanel’s in-house perfumer Jacques Polge.
- orange, Mandarin orange, bergamot, orange blossom
- Turkish rose, jasmine, mimosa, ylang-ylang
- patchouli, white musk, vanilla, vetiver, tonka bean, opoponax
This scent is not as “old-school” as the classic COCO, but I think it’s still mature. There is an ozonic sparkly freshness at the start, but after that, I do get a lot of soap. It’s a lovely, clean and crisp, unique-smelling and expensive citrus soapiness, yes – but honestly, smelling soapy-clean has never been one of my perfume goals. I cannot really detect the jasmine and rose, but that could be because it’s so well-blended. I do feel there are a lot of aroma-chemicals, which is common in all perfumery these days, not just the mass-produced stuff from Chanel. There is some soft and fresh peachy muskiness which is perhaps the origin of the soap vibe. The soap and the patchouli in the base are what set it complete apart from the original COCO. If COCO Mademoiselle is supposed to be a flanker, it is not, and instead is taking advantage of Coco’s name. How brazenly tawdry. That’s very tacky of you, Mademoiselle!
The patchouli in the dry down is damp, earthy, and sweet metallic. It’s not my favorite type of patchouli if I am honest. I think Coromandel has that same metallic undertone, too. It doesn’t smell bad at all, but Coco Mademoiselle just does not contain the wow factor for me. I am neither a fan of the soapiness nor of this particular type of patchouli. COCO Mademoiselle doesn’t make me feel sophisticated or elegant or luxurious, and the presentation leads me into believing that it should. But to be clear, it’s still classic French perfumery, and obviously this scent does make many people starry-eyed. It’s a beautifully blended, happy fragrance and is a modern, feminine classic that appeals to a wide range of ages. It’s too beautiful for me to say it’s generic, though. It’s just simply not to my taste.
COCO Mademoiselle Intense Eau de Parfum
The intense version of Coco Mademoiselle was released in 2018 by Olivier Polge, Jacques’s son. When the word “intense” gets added to a perfume, I usually get excited because it often indicates more longevity, projection, and obviously, intensity. However, that is not quite what has happened with this flanker, at least not a lot. The DNA is the same, but what is different is basically more orange at the top and more sweetness in the heart with the intense version. I think the opening is also not as green and bright as the original, and is instead sweeter, creamier, and sexier. I personally prefer the dry down because somehow the patchouli is not as metallic.
- Sicilian orange, Calabrian bergamot, lemon
- rose, fruity notes, jasmine
- patchouli, tonka bean, Madagascar vanilla, white musk, labdanum
Now, while the patchouli is not as weird to me as in the original, I believe there is actually more of it in here, but any harshness is masked with tonka and vanillin. And there is more fruit. In keeping with the times, this is actually a fruitchouli, much like a lot of other scents on the market. It is also more linear; the structure doesn’t change as much over time. I think it has more warmth and depth and if you want your Coco Madamoiselle to work through colder months, get this one in addition to the more zesty summery original.
COCO Noir Eau de Parfum
And now we move into the juice in the sexy opaque black bottle. Coco Noir is an amber woody fragrance launched in 2012 and the perfumers are Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake.
- grapefruit, bergamot, orange
- rose, geranium, jasmine, narcissus, peach
- patchouli, sandalwood, olibanum, tonka bean, vanille, white musk, cloves, benzoin
Both the name and the bottling of this rendition of COCO would indicate that this is going to be deeper, darker, sexier, and more intense – perhaps something you would use for special occasions. Imagine my surprise, then, when this turned out to be more of a lighter, day-time scent. I wouldn’t say I was completely disappointed, but I will say, unequivocally, that my expectations were not met. The price tag and the beautiful bottle do seem to indicate that there is some extraordinary juice living in there, but sadly – no. I was anticipating that this fragrance would be richer and perhaps even gourmand-y, but no. It doesn’t even project much. As a skin scent it does, however, last quite a while, but trust me, there’s no beast in this bottle.
Do I dislike this, then? No. I rather like it in the same way that I like this version of the Petite Robe Noire. It’s grown up, sophisticated, and reminds me of home. Like my dad working on fixing something in his wee basement workshop. The room was filled old wood cabinets and there were often bins of sawdust shavings and tins of turpentine. We would store our huge stash of Christmas oranges in the staircase leading from his room to the garage, and when the door was ajar, that tangy and oddly warm citrus smell would waft right in. There was also a fridge and freezer in the room where mom’s baked goods would live… for a very short time. My dad was more of coffee drinker, but put a cuppa peach on the workbench and that would complete the setting.
There is an extrait version of this fragrance, too, launched a couple of years later, which is supposed to be smokier and more resinous, with more tonka and musk, and less patchouli than this. Maybe I would like that more because this one does have a noticeable bit of patch – it comes and goes… and I never say no to more smoke and resin.
Perfumer Jaques Polge says of this creation,
“For Coco Noir, I thought of Coco and of Coco Mademoiselle too, because it’s also part of the history. I wanted to continue exploring an entire esthetic range of CHANEL perfumery, a range that distinguishes itself from the Florals, one that is illustrated by Bois-des-Iles and Cuir de Russie. I took it up with Coco. It’s what I like to call the CHANEL Coromandel culture, what you see and feel in her apartment. The night vision of the ‘Orient that starts and ends in Venice’ imposed itself upon me and that is where I wanted to go.”
I like that he was on the same type of road as Bois-des-Iles, Cuir de Russie, and Coromandel with this fragrance. I like that it is rather unisex and a little spicy. And I like that Coco Noire is mature, but not quite as mature and old school as the original Coco EDP. I myself am not particularly a fan of florals, so generally speaking this type of fragrance is more up my alley. There notably no aldehydes in this either. Good. But not good enough. I still get a bit of a soapy floral in this, and it does not come close to the original Coco Chanel for me. It has a slight edge perhaps, but it is not noire.
OK, so here is my ranking of these four Coco’s.
- Top place goes to the original, which works well in fall and winter, I feel.
- Second goes to Coco Noir, which to me is an early fall scent.
- Third, surprisingly, is the original Coco Mademoiselle. I rate this higher because if I eliminate my aversion to the soapiness and metallic patchouli, I do feel this is the better and more unique blend. I would wear this in summer.
- Finally, is the Coco Mademoiselle intense, which I suppose could be your spring scent. To me, however, lovely as it is, I feel the fruitchoulification makes it a tad generic
If you have all four, you are set for a year of smelling lovely.
In my case, however, my two Mademoiselles are heading out of my collection. They are simply not for me. There is too much soap and patchouli in the original, and the intense can easily be replaced by some other generic crowd-pleasers I have in my collection. I’ll keep the grande dame, and as for Coco Noire, she just looks too darned good on my shelf to part with.