Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chanel No. 19 - EdT and EdP

Shining Iris

The iris just finished blooming around Toronto as I write this. Beautiful and regal flowers, in shades of purple fill the gardens. But the iris in perfume doesn't come from the flower; it's a precious natural material extracted from the roots of the iris plant. The irises used to create No. 19 are gown in Chanel's own fields in Grasse. They take three years to reach maturity and the roots must be dried for two years before they can be processed. It takes 10 tonnes of dried iris roots to produce one pound of iris butter, from which the the absolute is extracted for the perfume, making iris one of the most costly natural materials in perfume.

The resulting absolute doesn't smell purple. To me it smells cool and silvery grey shading to earthy, depending on the perfume.  It's a sophisticated, haunting and very unisex smell. Indeed, Chanel No. 19 is beautiful on a woman but would also make an excellent masculine.

According to an interview with Christopher Sheldrake in The Australian, "The original No.19 was created in the 70s. This was an era of the emancipation of women and for me this is the epitome of the spirit of Gabrielle Chanel. She was the ultimate rebel who refused to be categorised as the girly, pink flower type of girl. Chanel No.19 is a little bit like wearing trousers for a woman. It enhances the femininity."

No. 19 combines iris with a top note of bitter green galbanum,  and earthy vetiver with smooth leather in the base. Together they are smooth as a grey silk blouse under a tailored jacket. In shades of green grey and brown No. 19 reminds me of a walk on a cool, cloudy spring day. It's both urban and outdoorsy, masculine and feminine.

The EdT version of No. 19 is a sheer, silvery veil of iris and cool green galbanum on my skin.

The EdP version of No. 19 wasn't released until the 1980's and it has a slightly different take on the same notes. To me, it smells more brown or ochre in colour and is warmer. The EdP lasts longer and the dry down is a stronger woody/earthy smell.

I haven't tried the perfume "extrait" version yet, but I would like to before the new No. 19: Poudre flanker is released later this year. According to what I've read, the original 1970's version of No. 19 was created using a very high quality galbanum, from a source in Iran. After the Iran  hostage crisis, that source was no longer available and Chanel had to reformulate. What I wouldn't give to try the 1970's vintage!

House: Chanel
Notes: galbanum, neroli, bergamot, hyancinth, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris, vetiver, sandalwood, leather and musk.


  1. "silvery grey" is exactly right! great review. one of my favorite scents!

  2. My bottle just sprayed its last and I am thinking of replacing it, somehow it belongs to me, although I have so many perfumes now.
    Which concentration do you prefer?

  3. Great post. I love it when people compare the No 19 concentrations. I agree with your brown/ochre suggestion for the EDP. For me the EDT lifts my eyes to the sky and the breeze, while the EDP lowers them to the earth.

  4. Hi *jen, don't you just love synesthesia!?

  5. Hello Olfactoria. I was thinking of buying some too, which is why I did the comparison. I'm still not sure. The lighter EdT is great for day wear, but I loved the way that I can still smell the EdP on my wrist when I wake up the next morning - it has real lasting power. Maybe I should try the extrait before deciding. Even though it's more expensive, I love the tiney bottle because it won't take up much room in my perfume cabinet. You understand I'm sure.

  6. Howdy annemariec. I love your description, it's perfect. Consensus seems to be the EdT when I poll perfumistas, but I have always had a soft spot for perfumes that remind me of the earth.


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