Note: Please understand that this website is not affiliated with the Chanel company in any way, it is only a reference page for collectors and those who have enjoyed the Chanel fragrances.

The goal of this website is to show the present owners of the Chanel company how much we miss the discontinued classics and hopefully, if they see that there is enough interest and demand, they will bring back the perfume!

Please leave a comment below (for example: of why you liked the perfume, describe the scent, time period or age you wore it, who gave it to you or what occasion, any specific memories), who knows, perhaps someone from the company might see it.

Looking to Buy Vintage Fragrances?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chanel No. 5 by Chanel c1921

Chanel No. 5: Created for Christmas, 1921, and presented as a limited edition of only 100 flacons as a gift to Chanel's best customers. It was released for public for sale in the middle part of the year in 1922. Ernest Beaux composed this exquisite perfume using the newly invented aldehydes.

Note: Some info is from Wikipedia and a 2007 issue of Perfumer & Flavorist.

The Beginning:

The creation and conception of this exceptional perfume is surrounded by many legends, to which Coco Chanel and Ernest Beaux contributed themselves considerably:

According to one of these, the 0.6% overdose of the aldehyde accord should be due to a mixing error of Beaux’s assistant, who dosed the aldehydes in pure instead of 10% dilution. However, taking into consideration the perfect balance of the rose–jasmine accord with the aldehyde complex, this seems rather unlikely.

According to another, reported by Constantin Weriguine, a student of Ernest Beaux, the composition was inspired by Beaux's military station on the Kola Peninsula during the Russian Civil War 1917–19, with the intention to capture the scent of extreme freshness of the northern lakes under the midnight sun. However, Beaux himself has already used aldehydes in 1913 in the related Bouquet de Catherine, which had been inspired by Robert Bienaimé's big success Quelques Fleurs (Houbigant, 1912).

Beaux’s perfumer colleagues Jean Carles and Edmond Roudnitska reported, which is that Chanel Nº 5 was in fact a remake of Beaux’s Bouquet de Catherine (Buket Ekaterina) and Rallet Nº 1, respectively

Ernest Beaux had his first big success in 1912 with the Bouquet de Napoleon, a floral accentuated eau de Cologne. A female counterpart was to follow on the occasion of the tercentenary of the rise of the Romanov dynasty: The Bouquet de Catherine, an homage to Catherine the Great. 

To this purpose, Beaux was studying Quelques Fleurs (Houbigant, 1912), a recent successful launch, in which Robert Bienaimé had used synthetic aldehydes for the first time . As gas chromatographs had not been invented yet, there was no other possibility for Beaux than to find out by trial and error, which aldehyde Bienaimé had used and at what level. So Beaux started experimenting with a 1:1:1 complex of the novel aldehydes C-10/C-11/C-12, upon which he discovered that these purged the fattiness of the natural rose and jasmine oils. He consequently incessantly increased the level of the aldehydes and the jasmine–rose accord of Quelques Fleurs. 

The result of these studies was launched in Moscow in 1913 as the Bouquet de Catherine by A. Rallet & Co., the biggest Russian perfume house and purveyor to the courts of Imperial Russia. The success of the Bouquet de Catherine was far from spectacular, and since the German descent of Catherine the Great was held responsible for that, the scent was renamed Rallet Nº 1 at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Due to the difficult economic circumstances at war time, and the October revolution Rallet Nº 1 was however not more successful than the Bouquet de Catherine.

At the end of 1919, Beaux arrived as one of the last former employees of Rallet at Chiris in La Bocca, France, which had bought Rallet earlier. To adapt his perfumery formulae to the raw materials available there and the current price situation, Beaux continued his work on Rallet Nº 1. This was how the series of adaptation trials originated, from which Coco Chanel would later choose the vial named Nº 5.

Edmond Roudnitska also claimed that Chiris offered Rallet No.1  to Coco Chanel. In addition, Marcel Carles, the son of Jean Caries and one-time director of Roure's perfumery school, reported that his father had confirmed to him that Chanel No. 5 was developed from Rallet No. 1.

Year Book and Buyer's Guide, 1956:
"It was not until some years later that a celebrated Parisian perfumer made on the basis of the aldehyde C11 the perfume "Rallet 1," which was subsequently known as "Chanel No. 5," and became very widely appreciated, as everyone knows."

Initially, however, Coco Chanel disapproved of perfumes and in her days with Etienne Balsan in Royallieu was reported to have said: "Women perfume themselves only to hide bad smells."  Like pearls and lace, perfumes may have suggested to her the status of a kept woman, and so she did not compete with her fashion designer-rival Paul Poiret when he launched his Parfums de Rosine in 1911, which were the first designer fragrances on the market.

However, things changed with her new lover, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, who introduced Ernest Beaux to her, and prior to that probably also the Bouquet de Catherine, which Dmitri′s sister was using.   In the late summer of 1920, Coco and Dimitri met with Ernest Beaux on a trip to Cannes, and asked him to create some scents for her spring showings of summer dresses, and with that request, they visited his laboratory, where he showed his creations to them.

The Name:

Originally intended only as a Christmas present to her best clients and limited to 100 flacons, Coco Chanel chose the vial labeled Nº 5 from the two series of Rallet Nº 1 adaptations that Beaux presented her, and that were labeled 1–5 and 20–24, respectively. When Beaux asked her how she would name the perfume, she replied: "I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th month, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck – therefore, I will name it Nº 5."

From the 1960 book, In My Fashion, the author Bettina Ballard explains Chanel:
"About perfume she says, "Spray it on wherever you expect to be—kissed - any woman who goes to excess in perfuming herself has no future because she will only offend her friends and admirers.“ She concocted Chanel No. 5 when she was trying to recover in the south of France in the twenties from the accidental death of Boy Capel. A maker of flower essences at Grasse let her make her own mixture. When she tester her fifth attempt, she picked up the plain bottle in which she had mixed it, wrote a number 5 in her own hand and said “Now I will sell this.” and she did, all over the world."

The Final Composition:

Her intention in launching the scent was to give women a perfume with the scent of a woman rather than the scent of a flower bouquet. "I want to give women an artificial perfume," said Chanel. "Yes, I really do mean artificial, like a dress, something that has been made. I don't want any rose or lily of the valley, I want a perfume that is a composition." 

Although aldehyde C-12 MNA (2-methylundecanal) had been used by Robert Bienaimé in Quelques Fleurs (Houbigant, 1912), and synthetics were introduced to perfumery by Paul Parquet in 1882 with his famous use of coumarin in Fougère Royale (Houbigant), Chanel Nº 5 became famous for its overdose in synthetic perfumery raw materials, the aldehydes in the top note.

"Beaux used the best materials he had at his disposal at the time," says Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge, "but he said that the impression was that there was too much at the bottom of the bottle and that it lacked lift." 

Already in his first adaptation trials of the Bouquet de Catherine, which Beaux showed to Chanel, the content of real Bulgarian and French rose essences and Grasse jasmine absolute had been reduced, since the perfume would have become unaffordable otherwise. He achieved this with the help of the commercial jasmine base Jasmophore and an own rose base Rose E.B. (E.B. for Ernest Beaux). The floral accord is enhanced with hawthorn, lily of the valley, Madagascan ylang ylang and jonquil from Holland.

The flowery-floral heart is nuanced by the incorporation of ionone (Iralia), powdery-voluminous violet odorants that take up and extend the orris theme. Spicy accents of cassie and isoeugenol introduce liveliness and lead into the base of the composition. 

Unusual for the base of a feminine fragrance is its vetiver note (Javanese quality), which constitutes a masculine counterpoint at the beginning of the base note. This is a signature of Beaux which is absent in Quelques Fleurs. This woody note is nuanced by sandalwood and patchouli oil. Vanillin, coumarin and styrax lead the way to a distinctly sensual musk complex that dominates the final scene of the composition and consisted in the original of 1921 of genuine musk, ambergris and civet infusion in an interplay with the nitro musks Musk Ketone and Musk Ambrette that are beguiled by traces of oak moss and cinnamon bark. Since for instance genuine musk has been banned from perfumery use to prevent the extinction of the species, and since nitro musks were limited in use due to their photo-toxicity  the formula of Chanel Nº 5 was constantly adapted for security norms. 

Originally it consisted of exactly 31 perfumery ingredients (bases not broken down into individual components), though one can often read of over 80 or even 250 ingredients in women's magazines.

It begins with an aldehydic top, followed by an elegant floral heart, resting on  sensual feminine base.
  • Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, Grasse neroli, rosewood
  • Middle notes: Grasse jasmine, violet, orris, cassie, clove, Grasse rose de mai, hawthorn, lily of the valley, Madagascan ylang ylang and Dutch jonquil 
  • Base notes: ciste, cedar, Mysore sandalwood, amber, musk, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean, styrax, Bourbon vetiver, oakmoss, cinnamon bark, civet

The Launch:

Initially, it appears that only 100 flacons of Chanel No. 5 were produced, which Chanel graciously presented to her best customers as a Christmas gift in 1921. After several customers had asked for further supply, Chanel decided to officially launch Chanel No. 5 in 1922. However, this launch was far from spectacular as she was faced with supply problems.

Author Michael Edwards says that the official launch of Chanel No. 5 was in 1922, after Chanel gave it as a present for Christmas in 1921. In her book, Christie Mayer Lefkowith says that the trademark date for No. 5 is January 1, 1921. When the customers who had been given the scent as present asked for further supply Chanel Nº 5 was officially launched in France in 1922. It wasn't until 1926 that it was introduced to the American public. 

A 1928 newspaper advertisements reads
"Just Unpacked - Chanel's New Perfumes! Chanel is one of those Paris designers who are autocratic about about the question of perfume. "It should not only match your mood, but your costume" she exclaims. And shows you what she means by inventing new fragrances, Magnolia, suits suits simply cut afternoon dress and ingenue expression. $12.50. And No. 5 suggests myrrh, hawthorn heaped with flower, roses of Oriental gardens , your most sophisticated gown and casual air, if you please! $22.50. No. 22, $22.50. Toilet water $6.00." 

"When Chanel No 5 was first created," says Jacques Polge, "it was very influential and many imitations were created, but those have now all disappeared, which means that No 5 seems more different than ever. I think that today, No 5 really is unique, and that is the most important thing, to create something that is unique. If there is one word I would use to describe it, it would be 'mystery'. It's a very mysterious fragrance, and that is a fine quality. A fragrance that lacks mystery is too obvious, it can never last very long."

The Flacon:

The famous signature flacon of today was designed in 1924 by Jean Helleu. Chanel, shared Jeanne Lanvin's preference for a distinctive "house style" bottle.

The original flacon was produced by Verreries Brosse in the image of a Charvet toiletry bottle belonging to the travel set owned by her lover and companion, Captain Arthur Boy Capel, who had died in a car accident in 1919. In her book, Christie Mayer Lefkowith says that the very first Chanel bottle was created by Julien Viard and also states that the Chanel perfume company was created in 1920.

To open the classic Chanel crystal parfum flacon, use the following tip provided by Parfums Chanel in 1963:
Remove cord and paper; with index finger as cushion, tap underneath sides of stopper lightly with glass object (glass on glass being the scientific method) while turning the bottle steadily between fingers, so that the stopper will be loosened evenly.

Concentrations & Ancillary Products:

Chanel Nº 5 was available as:
  • 1921 - Extrait (Parfum/Perfume)
  • 1924 - Eau de Toilette (splash)
  • 1924 - Face Powder
  • 1928 - 1937  - Eau de Toilette (Cube Bottle) in Gardenia, Ambre, Chypre, Rose, and Magnolia.
  • 1928 - 1937-  Eau de Toilette (Cylinder Bottle) in Jasmin and Bois Des Iles.
  • 1930 - Huile Tan Pour L'Ete/Tanning Oil
  • 1932 - Savon de Toilette/Soap
  • 1932 - Astringent pour L'Épiderme/Skin Tonic
  • 1932 - Creme de Beaute/Face Cream
  • 1937 - After Bath Powder
  • 1938 - Talc
  • 1938 - Dusting Powder
  • 1939 - Eau de Cologne (splash)
  • 1958 - Parfum Spray
  • 1958 - Spray Cologne
  • 1962 - Oil for the Bath/Bath oil/Huile de Bain
  • 1966 - After Bath Oil 
  • 1970 - The Voile Parfumée
  • 1971 - Body Lotion
  • 1971 - Eau de Chanel No. 5
  • 1986 - Eau de Parfum (splash)
  • 1995 - Voile Parfumé (the new version)
  • 1997 - Eau de Parfum Spray
  • 2005 - Sensual Elixir
  • 2007 - Eau Premiere
  • 2016 - Chanel No. 5 L'Eau

All differ slightly in their formulation, and only the Extrait Perfume contains rose oil and jasmine absolute from the Grasse region, and is sealed by hand in a method known as baudruchage. The Eau de Toilette and the Eau de Parfum differ also from one another not only in their concentration but also their formula, and are bottled and filled by machine. 

Drug and Cosmetic Industry - Volume 40 - Page 511, 1937:
"The Chanel gift package is an exquisite presentation of a crystal bottle in a satin jewel case, magnificent in its rich simplicity. It is a gift for all occasions."

A 1939 newspaper article in the Berkeley Daily Gazette reads: 
"We were pleased to discover that there is a recent arrival. Chanel's exquisite fragrances in the form of colognes is the thing to wear. And it's a mere suggestion of perfume, cologne's the thing to wear. And it's much more reasonable than perfume. A small bottle of Chanel's cologne in any of your favorite scents is $1.50. large size bottles $5.00. There's an awfully nice Chanel gift set too, cologne and talc in matching scents, beautifully boxed for $5.00."

The Wertheimer and Chanel Controversy:

At the time, Chanel was more focused on fashion, and it was the "little black dress," shown in her 1924 collection, that secured for all time her fame as a designer. The year 1924 also marked the turning point for Chanel's No. 5. Theophilus Bader had heard of Chanel and her perfume through his lover, couturier Madeleine Vionnet. Spotting an opportunity for his Galeries Lafayette and for Bourjois cosmetics, he introduced Chanel to his partner, Ernest Wertheimer.

In 1924, Pierre Wertheimer partnered Coco Chanel in her perfume business and founded Perfumes Chanel. He owned 70%, Coco owned 10%, and his friend Theophilus Bader 20%. Chanel initially agreed to owning such a small amount, since she was not famous at that time and her perfume business very small anyway.

Parfums Chanel would now take over the perfume business, introducing the signature cut-glass flacon that had been designed by Jean Helleu for the Wertheimer relaunch. In the same year, Beaux, who since 1922 had been representing his friend Eugene Charabot in Paris, became technical director for both Bourjois and Parfums Chanel. He would go on to create new masterpieces for the Wertheimer group including Cuir de Russie (1924), Gardénia (1925), Bois des iles (1926) for Parfums Chanel, and Soir de Paris (1929) and Kobako for Bourjois (1936). Chanel No. 22, first launched in 1922 (in limited quantity, and 1926 officially) and recently re-released as part of the Les Exclusifs de Chanel series (2007), also most likely originated from the Rallet No. 1 modifications developed between 1919 and 1921, and may indeed stem from the series numbered 20 to 24.

Beaux was hired as the chief perfumer of Perfumes Chanel, but his former employer Chiris was not happy to see him leave with the formula, and thus asked Vincent Roubert, who had replaced Beaux at Chiris, to make in 1926 and own adaptation if the Bouquet de Catherine, which actually was going back even to Rallet Perfumes. The result was L'Aimant (Coty, 1926), which initially indeed threatened the success of Chanel Nº 5. But even Coco Chanel was fighting her own perfume icon when she became more famous and felt taken advantage of by Bader and Wertheimer.

Thus, she launched with the help of Ernest Beaux in 1946 Mademoiselle Chanel Nº 1 in her own shops, in which the orris/violet accord was put to the fore replacing the aldehyde overdose of the original formula. In France she was prohibited by judicial action for counterfeiting from selling this perfume.

Selling these perfumes in her shop was prohibited by judicial action for counterfeiting, but nothing prevented her from giving them away to her friends in New York at Saks Fifth Avenue and in Texas at Neiman Marcus. In 1946, she launched Mademoiselle Chanel No. 1. Chanel insisted that her lawyer give the new perfume to his wife. The critique came back: "It is super No. 5!" Ernest Beaux is said to have confirmed this impression.  Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Neiman Marcus in Texas kept distributing, and when customers reacted puzzled, Wertheimer gave in and raised Coco Chanel's share in the company.

In 1947, Wertheimer and Chanel made peace, and when Chanel wanted to resurrect her couture house, he even backed her up financially. When movie star Marilyn Monroe, asked in 1953 what she wore at night, famously replied, "Five drops of Nº 5." there was no stopping of the success of Chanel Nº 5 which continues till today. Certainly also the classical flacon made its contribution to the fame of the scent. It had been designed in 1924 by Jean Helleu, and is since 1959 on display in the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

The Wertheimer family still runs the Perfumes Chanel. The first advertisement shown on British TV's Channel 5 was for Chanel Nº 5.

Famous Patrons:

Besides Marilyn Monroe, famous spokesmodels for the fragrance have included Catherine Deneuve, Vanessa Paradis, Carole Bouquet, Estella Warren, and the Australian actress Nicole Kidman, who in 2004 appeared opposite Rodrigo Santoro in a Baz Luhrmann-directed/Mandy Walker-filmed multi-million dollar commercial entitled No. 5 The Film. In 2009, Audrey Tautou, who also portrayed Coco Chanel in "Coco Before Chanel" (original title Coco avant Chanel), became the spokesmodel for the perfume and appeared in the second short film for the fragrance. This short film, which was directed by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, was revealed on the 5th of May (5th of the 5th - in honour of Nº 5) on the Chanel website, 88 years to the day the fragrance was introduced.

Examples of Authentic Chanel Perfume Bottles and Ancillary Products:

Original 1921 Parfum Extrait Flacon

Original 1920s Parfum Extrait Flacons

Parfum Les Grands Extraits. Comes in 7.5 oz and 30 oz sizes only. The now and forever fragrance, in its rarest, most collectible form. With a very limited quantity available, the grand flaçon of N°5 is a treasure for the parfum connoisseur and fragrance collector alike. Its fabled heritage and abstract, eternally sensual bouquet are further elevated by this grand presentation — the classic faceted bottle, secured by means of baudruchage, a masterful sealing technique perfected by Chanel. A hand-assembled, artisan-crafted case protects and encloses the legendary scent. LES GRANDS EXTRAITS may be dabbed onto skin using the jewel-cut cabochon stopper or artfully displayed among a woman’s most cherished keepsakes.

Parfum comes in 1/4 oz, 1/2 oz and 1 oz sizes. The now and forever fragrance. The ultimate in femininity. The most powerful, concentrated and long-lasting form of fragrance; the fullest expression of the perfumer's art. The classic bottle signifies personal luxury and is an attractive addition to any dressing table.

Parfum Purse Spray. Comes in 0.25 oz size only. The now and forever fragrance in a chic purse presentation. This sleek black lacquer refillable spray is a modern version of the original N°5 purse spray, and goes everywhere in a flacon every bit as elegant and sophisticated as the fragrance itself — and as the woman who wears it.

Eau de Parfum Spray comes in 1.2 oz, 1.7 oz and 3.4 oz sizes only. The now and forever fragrance. The ultimate in femininity. An elegant, luxurious spray closest in strength and character to the parfum form. The sleek, portable signature bottle is perfect for the dressing table or travel.

Eau de Parfum Refillable Spray. Comes in 1.7 oz sizes only. Refills are also available in 1.7 oz. The now and forever fragrance. The ultimate in femininity. An elegant, luxurious spray closest in strength and character to the parfum form. The sleek, portable signature bottle is perfect for the dressing table or travel. Click HERE to purchase.

Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere. Comes in 1.35 oz, 2.5 oz and 5 oz only. A decidedly lighter, fresher, softer interpretation of N°5. . . a silky-smooth harmony of notes that reveals the delicate facet of the now and forever fragrance.

Eau de Toilette Splash. Comes in 3.4 oz size only. The ultimate in femininity. Lighter, more relaxed fragrance form is designed for lavish use all over the body.

Eau de Toilette Spray. Comes in 1.2 oz, 1.7 oz and 3.4 oz sizes. The now and forever fragrance in a dynamic, slender flaçon with an ingenious spray cap. Lighter, more relaxed rendition of the legendary N°5 can be used lavishly all over the body. Delicately light and softly sensual.

Eau de Toilette Refillable Spray. Comes in 1.7 oz and 2.5 oz. A 1.7 oz Refill is also available. The now and forever fragrance. The ultimate in femininity. The world's most treasured scent in a lighter, more relaxed fragrance form -- a refillable spray. Delicately light and softly sensual.


Chanel No. 5 Sensual Elixir. Comes in 1.7 oz size only. A voluptuous way of intensifying the fragrance experience. The fluid peach-coloured gel, captured in an elegant flaçon, takes the art of seductive pleasure to new levels of enjoyment. The ultimate indulgence, the effect is instantly captivating, soft and deeply fragranced.

Chanel No. 5 Body Lotion. Comes in 6.8 oz size only. Lightweight moisturizing lotion luxuriously perfumed with the now and forever fragrance of N°5. Softens, silkens and scents skin.

Body Satin Spray. Comes in 4.2 oz size only. Innovative dry-oil spray mists on to soften, smooth and scent skin with timeless N°5 fragrance. Emollient ingredients combine with the inimitable scent of N°5 for a silky, lustrous fragrance and feel. Moisturizing and skin-glistening effect leaves no greasy after feel.

Essential Bath Oils. Comes in 6.8 oz size only. Innovative oils scented with inimitable N°5 contain emollients, moisturizers and conditioners. Three pastel layers combine when shaken into a blend of pampering treatment that softens, hydrates, soothes and scents.

Velvet Milk Bath. Comes in 13.5 oz size only. Elevating the bathing ritual, the milky texture transforms into a rich, luxurious foam that envelops the body with the seductive fragrance of N°5. Softens, smooths and comforts the skin.

N°5 BATH GEL (6.8 FL. OZ.)

Bath Gel. Comes in 6.8 oz size only. Moisturizing and cleansing gel leaves skin lightly fragranced with the now and forever fragrance of N°5. Produces a rich, creamy foam that cleanses the skin gently, turning the bath or shower into a refreshing, relaxing environment.

N°5 BATH SOAP (150 g)

Bath Soap. Comes in 150g size only. Creamy, long-lasting, hard-milled soap with Vitamin E provides gentle cleansing action, as it helps soothe and protect skin. Leaves skin lightly scented with the now and forever fragrance of N°5. Gentle enough for the most delicate skin.

The Foaming Bath. This sensorial formula soothes the body with a luxurious lather, and leaves skin lightly scented with the now and forever fragrance. 6.8 oz.

The Cleansing Cream. This luxurious formula moisturizes and cleanses skin with a delicately scented, foaming lather. 6.8 oz.

Bath Soap.. The now and forever fragrance, presented in a luxurious soap. Infused with the timeless, feminine scent, the soap produces a creamy lather that leaves skin soft, smooth and subtly perfumed. 5.3 oz.

Velvet Body Cream. Comes in 150g size only. Rich, velvety cream glides on luxuriously to hydrate, soften and scent. Skin is deliciously smooth, irresistibly touchable and delicately fragranced.  

After Bath Powder. Silky powder absorbs moisture after a bath, leaving skin scented with inimitable N°5. Unique loose powder absorbs moisture for cooling comfort as it imparts a light, luminous finish, leaving skin soft, silky and scented. Contains Vitamin E and essential amino acids to protect from free radical and environmental damage.

The Hair Mist. Limited Edition. Subtly infused with the legendary scent of N°5, the sheer, weightless mist instantly absorbs into hair.

Intense Bath Oil. This indulgent form of the legendary fragrance elevates a woman’s bathing ritual with its unique and precious texture. A few drops, infused into warm water, create a soothing, velvety bath that envelops the body and stimulates the senses with the luxurious scent of N°5.

No comments:

Post a Comment