mercredi 10 septembre 2008

Beige, the New Chanel Exclusive (Or How a Neutral Colour Can Become Indecent)


I’ve been putty in Jacques Polge’s hands ever since Chanel launched the Exclusives. Their poised, cultured, eminently French tone ; their low-key, subtle tweaks on genres and materials ; their utter refusal of flash ; the way they reference the Chanel olfactory heritage without stuttering the classics… With its wrist-licking lushness, Beige has recently joined the collection, and my list of favourites (along with 31 rue Cambon, N°18 and the Eau de Cologne).


By now, most perfumistas know that Beige was one of a series of three 1940 Chanels (along with Rouge and Bleu), meant to evoke the red, white and blue French flag, the colours of Chanel’s last collection before shutting down her couture house in 1939. Several commenters have griped about the drabness of the name : but after all, Gabrielle Chanel was the woman who dressed all women in neutrals, instantly outmoding Paul Poiret’s Orientalist colour-fest – though in fact, several of her 20s and 30s designs were quite colourful…


But if the new Beige were a colour, I would definitely see it as cream, the cream of a tight-grained skin. Its sensuousness is mature and knowing: it speaks in the confident tones of a well-bred brunette with a few drops of exotic blood, rather than the giddy, candy-pink soprano trills of Gardénia or the snow-queen assertiveness of N°22.


Beige opens with the coconutty, buttery frangipani blossom, cut through with a double, contrasting counterpoint of bitter sap and discreetly indolic honey – the latter creates the effect of sunkissed skin, the former is no doubt the freesia. Like the listed hawthorn – a licorice, almond and honey-tinged floral reminiscent of heliotrope – the freesia is a synthetic rendition (the essence of hawthorn and freesia can’t be extracted). This is probably what gives Beige the « man-made » quality Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things notices in her impeccable review… I think I also detect an unlisted, very Chanel ylang-ylang note, and some white musk in the base.


Beige has quite a decent amount of indecently lush sillage and is fairly tenacious, especially compared to other Exclusives (yes, Bel Respiro and 28 La Pausa, I’m looking at you). Seven hours into wearing it, it’s still wafting up and it feels as sexy as a nude breast under a cashmere teeshirt. Beige cashmere, of course.
Update, September 15th 2008: After having smelled Beige with Octavian of 1000fragrances, he attracted my attention to a muguet note, big as a house, so huge and obvious that I missed it (how could I?). It was clearly placed there to air out the more tropical accords. He also pointed out that there was sandalwood in the base. So there. Just hand me the decongestant.


Image: Marion Morehouse in a Chanel gown by Edward Steichen (1925), courtesy of the Candace Dwan Gallery.

24 commentaires:

  1. Love the concept (although the name is sort of lutensean) and your review, I 'm on my way to Bergdorf & Goodman! Will report my impressions of that new Chanel tonight or tomorrow...

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  2. Just as I am about to write this one off as another "big white floral" that I do not need, you have captivated me with your review!

    Like you, No. 18 and 31 Rue Cambon are my favorites of the line so far, so I guess I will be a sucker for Beige, too.

    Now I can't wait to see what Bleu and Rouge will smell like.

    By the way, I love reading your entries and am relieved that you are back "on-line"!

    Hugs!

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  3. Emmanuella, I wouldn't say the name is Lutensian inasmuch as Chanel did Beige, Rouge and Bleu seventy years ago... I'm looking forward to your impressions. I hope my review wasn't misleading -- I'm just a sucker for creamy florals. This one isn't mind-bogglingly original but it's impeccably done.

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  4. Violetnoir,
    Thanks for the compliments. It's good to be back! Beige is incredibly different from 31 and 18, less unique perhaps, but a most welcome addition to the line. As for Rouge and Bleu, their possible re-issue is only a matter of speculation for the time being: it seems logical, though.
    What I would like to see is another bygone Chanel, Cynique. It would sort of go with Egoïste.

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  5. Yes, I agree with you that a release of a new Rouge or Bleu fragrance is sheer speculation at best, but one can dream!

    You have piqued my curiosity. What was Chanel Cynique, a unique name indeed? (Sorry, I am so corny, I could not resist!)

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  6. Violetnoir, if truth be told, I have no idea. Even Octavian's extraordinarily well-informed blog 1000fragrances yields no clue. I just love the name!

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  7. Welcome back, D. What a nice review -- it quite tempts me to try this out. Will have to see if my local Saks actually got this.

    I can't wait to hear your impressions of the museum in Barcelona.

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  8. Jarvis, I believe for the moment it's only available at Saks Fifth Avenue New York. The actual launch, if I've understood, is in October.
    The perfume museum was a bit of a letdown, I'm afraid. And my pics are awful: I would've needed a tripod and a stool. But more later.

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  9. Uhoh, I had a feeling it might be. (I.e. the museum might not be all that...) Sorry to hear that.

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  10. What a lovely, sexy review. I am quite ready to be standing next to you as this wafts from beneath your sweater. Can't wait to see whether or not it suits this particular brunette with a few drops of exotic blood. ;)

    And yes, Polge got me, too. The Exclusifs were my gateway to the original Chanels. I do everything backwards in perfume...

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  11. Jarvis, it was actually a bottle collector's heaven and I don't regret going!

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  12. Alyssa, I'm glad that sexy vibe got through, though unfortunately, I don't own a beige cashmere teeshirt, and I definitely need some support! ;-)
    Glad we share a love of Polge's compositions. Of course, Christopher Sheldrake surely must take partial credit for the newest ones (with all my Lutens AND Exclusives, this surely makes him the most represented perfumer in my contemporary collection).

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  13. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par son auteur.

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  14. carmencanada, I didn 't realise Chanel Beige is a reedition (never heard of it before), I wonder if this is a reochestration or something similar to the original Beige. So I went to Bergdorf & Goodman for nothing, it was getting late and I didn 't have time to go to Saks. I 'll try to go today, the Chanel SA at B&G told me they have it at Saks which totally sucks actually because today B&G are having a special $25.00 off on fragrances with purchases over $100.00!

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  15. Emmanuella, it's not really a reedition, in that it's got nothing to do with the original except the name (see Octavian's blog for the notes of the original trio). I'm sorry you had to trek to BG for nothing, by the time I realized it was only at Saks it was too late to answer!

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  16. I've always wondered what Chanel's Ivoire must have smelled like...but I'm guessing that one won't be coming back (in name) any time soon, merci a Balmain.

    My fave from the LE's is definitely Bel Respiro. It IS the essence of spring. I haven't tried it on in a while cuz I thought it was too feminine, but next year, I might go for it, if they aren't $500 by then.

    I've seen a few (maybe 2 or 3) bottles of another old Chanel, Le Jasmin, that seems like another likely candidate for a reedition. Oh, to work at Chanel...

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  17. Billy, I'm afraid you will also find Beige too feminine, though I would be very curious to smell it on male skin...
    Chanel seems to have a policy of taking old names to redo entirely new fragrances, rather than attempting to reproduce the original formulas. So far, with Sycomore and Beige, I can't complain, not knowing what the originals smell like, and loving the new ones.
    I adore Bel Respiro too: it comes near to the original Vent Vert at one point. But I'm afraid its lasting power is dismal on me: after five minutes, it's gone! :-(

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  18. carmencanada, finally went to Saks this afternoon, they were promoting Beige at the Chanel counter but the hordes of tourists didn't seem to show much interest in the Exclusifs line. I asked if I could test it and the lady SA sprayed some all over me like it was a cheap cologne, I thought that was funny but that was really nice because right now the sillage is so beautiful. My first impressions were "bitter fruity floral", then it was more "liqueur de banane" finally the drydown is the best of all stages, the most sophisticated part, less cool, a tad bit warmer and luxurious Chanel restraint style of course.

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  19. All good things must come to an end, had to take a shower getting ready for bed but all the way in the drydown I noticed a warmer note of beeswax emerging, something more lutensean than Chanel but not as oriental of course, maybe Chris Sheldrake 's own touch?

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  20. Emmanuella, the honey/beeswax note might indeed have been carried over from the Lutensian palette: we'll never know!
    As for the fruity, banana liqueur quality, I didn't read it like that at all (it translated as frangipani flower), but I can definitely see how it could be perceived that way.

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  21. carmencanada, I admit I have no idea what frangipanier flower is, I 'm getting some sort of exotic banana fruit concoction. But here 's my "morning after" impressions LOL (just left my Beige review on MUA):

    Beige starts off rather like a "cool bitter fruity floral", it then settles into a gently "liqueur de banane" drydown which sets a perfect stage for a more tranquil sophisticated phase, a tad bit warmer with beeswax emerging and pure luxurious classy Chanel restraint style. Beige is one of the most exciting and well executed Chanel Exclusifs fragrance (Cuir de Russie being the only "Exclusifs" masterpiece fragrance) but I wish it were creamier like a "chou à la crème" instead of taking the exotic fruity floral direction.

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  22. Lovely review, Emmanuella. I don't get too much fruity, as I said, but this is definitely a great Exclusif and if it is fruity floral, then it could reconcile me with the family...

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  23. I love to read all the disparate impressions of perfumes. I have been resniffing this one and reading everyone's reviews as I prepare my own review. I really liked your take on it, Denyse. The breast in cashmere tshirt -- I bet this would sell better with that tag line. I am really glad you have a perfume blog. Have I mentioned that?

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  24. Hi Cait! Merci beaucoup!
    I've been following the reactions on various blogs and fora and I think I may be the only one to find this so sensual -- in most opinions, it's "too polite" and "too classic", though at least one commenter has found a pissy note in the honey base. I still think it's smoldering underneath that well-bred façade. Can't wait to read your take!

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