The Champagne Refreshment of Chanel No. 22

Chanel No. 22 is part of Chanel’s les exclusifs line of fragrances available at Chanel Boutiques, $195 for a 200 ml bottle, last I knew.

Photo, top, is by famous fashion photographer Ellen von Unwerth and can be found various places on the Internet (I forget where I nabbed it from); photo of Chanel No. 22 bottle and box is from

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

November 24, 2010:

Like any other art form—music, literature, painting, drama—masterful perfumes have the ability to transport us: to spirit us away to exotic lands; to travel back in time to childhood or other eras of our past and reconnect us with the beloved ghosts of people, places and things we’ve left behind; or to teasingly seduce and send us on a sexual thrill ride.  But when you’ve been away too long to any of those places—or if life has worn you to such a frazzle that you find yourself adrift in a place where no such fantasy can reach you—there are also perfumes that

To read my most recent posts, return to Home Page

lead you back to yourself, that deliver you to your moorings.  These perfumes speak to some core part of you—they are often “classic” scents—and they agree with you in the same way that the distinctive olive-green sweater you’ve worn in various wardrobe combinations over the past three fall seasons agrees with you.  They represent you at your best, or at least the ideals you hold dear.

I’ve often thought I wouldn’t be myself if I were to go too many days without my black pearl earrings, my tailored slacks, and my pointy-toed, kitten-heeled mules.  I like comfort as much as the next person, but I start to feel sloppy if I spend too much time in shorts and t-shirts and casual sandals.  I’m a bit old-fashioned that way, and maybe that’s why the perfume that is the most me, that brings me back to myself when I’ve journeyed too far in the opposite direction, is Chanel No. 22.  It’s a bit old-fashioned, too, with its rather patrician demands: no slouching, no ostentatious displays of any kind—and did you remember to touch-up your lipstick?  But there is also, on the other side of that facet, a sparkle, a brilliancy, an acknowledgment that yes—check, check and check!—you’ve naturally taken care of these things, so let’s go enjoy a glass of champagne, shall we?

And wearing Chanel No. 22 is the olfactory equivalent of drinking champagne.  No. 22 starts off with a fizzy burst of aldehydes; fizzy in that they tickle the nose (and the cerebral cortex) much in the same way that champagne bubbles do.  There is a mineral quality to the aldehydes that gives the fragrance its forementioned patrician starch, and this element is rather long lasting on me; even when the aldehydes are greeted by the white-floral heart of the fragrance, they retain their mineral crispness, lending a brüt dryness to this champagne scent.

The floral notes commonly listed for Chanel No. 22 include white rose, jasmine, tuberose, lily of the valley, lilac, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, and orchid.  But whether all of these notes are still included in the fragrance (relaunched by Chanel in 2007 as part of their les exclusifs collection, which is the version I have), I cannot say, as I can't pick many of them out; the accord is very well blended and I’m certainly no nose.  What I do plainly detect is the soaring orange blossom, as well as an iris note that lends the fragrance a slightly powdery quality and a retro vibe.  While many white-floral perfumes exude an exotically lush and heady persona, this is not the case with Chanel No. 22.  To me, the white florals in No. 22 provide continued “lift” to the fragrance—an ethereal quality that is enhanced by incense notes that waft up from the fragrance’s base—as well as an air of glamour and refinement.

Hours later, No. 22 kicks off its high heels and sweetens up to its vanilla-and-woody base notes.  There is just the right amount of sweetness here to end the evening on: like discovering the sugar cube at the bottom of the flute of a champagne cocktail.  Like finding yourself again—your face looking back at you from the reflection on the glass, slightly tipsy and a bit more relaxed now, feeling thoroughly refreshed.