Scented Interlude with Chanel No. 18
Call me 19. No. 19. Since the 70’s this has been my favorite Chanel. In 2006, 19 was my gateway fragrance to enter the world of first exploring, and then collecting fragrances. I traipsed through the House of Caron, traditional, white gloved and proper, was seduced by that scoundrel Serge Lutens, with his rich, indolent potions, and was captivated by the sometimes cerebral, sometimes not too serious Frederic Malle offerings. In eight years I have sampled literally hundreds of fragrances, from unique, boutique formulations of New Orleans’ Bourbon French Parfums to the creations of talented artisans like Ayala Moriel, Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studios and the underated Serena Ava Franco of Ava Luxe Parfums, to vintage incarnations of classics like Shalimar, Bandit and Opium. I’ve even had a number of one night stands with Angel. She’s so gorgeous on others; our encounters invariably end badly.
I keep returning home to the bitter and sweet juice of Chanel no. 19. That first bracing hit of green that pads softly, over long hours to a creamy sweet velvet mantle holds a subtle complexity that never bores and a solid familiarity that keeps me coming back for more. Often described as austere, aloof, cold or calculating, to me, 19 is none of these things: she just needs your time and patience to experience the unfolding of her beauty. If Angel slips into your lap, flinging her arms about your neck without introduction, 19 has a slower approach, she engages your brain and then your heart, in that order.
But this post was not meant to tout the praises of Chanel no. 19, but rather to nudge me out of the scent monogamy I find myself sinking into of late. I tend to enjoy the numbered Chanels: No. 5, especially in its parfum and eau de toilette versions, No. 22, which is sheer beauty in a bottle, No. 19, my decades spanning soulmate, and more recently, No. 18, the weird bird of the bunch.No. 18’s herbaceous top notes say “wood” , but not the dark ancient wood of a forest, nor the aged, aromatic wood of a spice casket. Instead, I get the impression of a vibrant bush with it’s branches reaching out into the sunlight. After about five minutes, a sweet, intense note emerges and I am reminded of white tea, lightly sweetened with honey. This contrast of dry herbs, foliage and sweet intensity relates No. 18 to the split personality of her cousin No. 19, but they are not otherwise similar. If No. 19 is green, No. 18 is a soft toasty gold, or the color of straw. The overall impression hearkens back to the days of the natural look, when girls went braless, wore lip gloss and straightened their hair with the household iron.
No. 18 imparts a feel of easy intimacy when, after about 30 minutes, I get an imaginary whiff of baked bread dressed in creamy butter with a dash of salt. I think that No. 18 is wonderful for both casual, everyday wear or out to a classical music performance. This fragrance offers you a sunlit golden ambiance without intrusive sillage. Why don’t I have a bottle in my collection? (yet) It seems, after all these years, that I find myself married, and nearly ( or currently?) monogamous to Chanel no. 19.
Images: my own from Asheville Botanical Gardens and High Line Park in NYC