Chanel No 5 review in English

Since I started posting my photos on instagram I get more and more questions about translating my reviews into English. Today I am happy to present to you a sample of what I usually do.

The review was translated by my lovely and talented friend Krystyna Chodorowska.

According to a legend, the composition of the legendary Five was born out of coincidence.

In 1920, on the French Riviera, Ernest Beaux, a citizen of Russia, a former White Army soldier, who'd fought the Bolsheviks in defense of the declining tsarat, a friend of archduke Dmitri Pavlovich, a well-known patron of European parlors, was introduced to the great Coco Chanel.

For Coco, who was just planning to introduce her own scent to the market, meeting the former perfume maker for the Romanov dynasty was like a dream come true. For Ernest Beaux, who had been trying to use synthetics in perfumes for years (the experiment, which gave the world, among others, Quelque Fleurs made for Houbigant), cooperation with the famous fashion dictator, engaged in promoting modern, revolutionary female image was a great chance to create a unique, no-holds-barred composition, using synthetics ingredients like they'd never been used before.

However... Legend says, that it wasn't supposed to be that revolutionary.

In the late spring of 1921 Beaux presented the designer with ten scent samples, numbered from 1 to 5 and from 20 to 25, and she immediately pointed to the weirdest one.
Only after tests had been run, Beaux learned that the “No 5” sample had probably been corrupted by a laboratory worker, who used a 100 percent aldehyde extract instead of a 10 percent solution. As a result, the sample contained ten times more aldehydes than Beaux intended.
It turns out, that was just what eccentric, fiery Chanel needed! An unbelievable, expansive fragrance, which she described as “women's fragrance which smells like a woman”.

How is this “smell of a woman” perceived by women 90 years later?

A woman who doesn't wear perfume
has no future

All right. Maybe I'm not the best example of what you'd call a “normal woman”. Maybe my preferences aren't a reliable index of “femininity”, understood as a general idea. But I can personally guarantee that I am, in fact, a woman. And as a woman and a person who looks for uniqueness and character in perfume, I have to admit that Chanel No 5 left a big impression on me. One, however, that differs dramatically from the experience of the reviewers quoted in my lastpost.

The first note is sharp, characteristic. Modern, cocky aldehyde notes act like an olfactory alarm clock. They wake up the senses, leave you on alert, rudely informing you that something is about to happen – something you cannot miss.

The presence of citronellal is emphasized by a unique, dry citrus accent. On the other hand, the citrus-y opening is deformed, mutated by the addition of an ethereal synthetic. She shoots, she scores. I'm on attention.

The other note mocks the first. Creamy, rich, thick like honey and velvet-smooth flowery notes against the ethereal background seem even more rich, almost narcotic. Two chords with a completely different texture - they do not interlace, but infiltrate each other, creating an entirely new entity. It's like gazing at the sun through a metal sieve.

However, we can only appreciate Chanel No 5's true beauty when we close our eyes, tired from looking straight at the brilliant sun; when we get used to the smell and the fragrance blossoms on warm skin. That's when vanillin comes out – half-sweet, half-synthetic, a smell I usually cannot stand. But here, combined with the dry, leathery bergamot orange and jasmine, warm like melted wax, it shines like never before – it's rebellious. As if Coco is saying: “Women are soft and sweet, but not as soft and sweet as you think”.

There are notes of ambergris, a trace of resin, a lot of sensual sandalwood, usually associated with the feminine element. Among those erotic, shadowy notes we finally discover a rose hidden in the very center of the fragrance. So dark, so sensual that it becomes shameless. So shameless, that it becomes sinless.

Because Five is meant for women who are not bound by sin.
First it shows disdain for social expectations, traditions and superstitions. Then it presents a fleeting alternative – beauty, unbound and unlimited. Finally it leads us into temptation, lures us with a vision of sensual pleasures.

It's beyond conventions, beyond narrowly understood morality, beyond the limits into which we're constantly pressed by the opinions of average people. It's like a woman who rejects norms and rules, only to create her own. And if we can accept them, we might come face to face with a being that is beautiful and warm, strong and gentle at the same time.

The base for Chanel No 5 is a crown of the revolution, a picture of femininity painted with loving pathos and loving naturalism.
You say it's impossible? And do you remember how Dali painted Gala?

As children of our times, we do not fully appreciate this revolution in a bottle. The Five's composition of notes, their specific harmonies, their provocative expression found many imitators, and for years they became the canon for women's perfume. They became routine.

And it's a shame, because it's not an image every woman can fit. Even for Marilyn Monroe, who made Beaux's composition famous by confessing that she slept dressed only in Chanel No 5, this perfume seems too modern. Monroe, no matter how beautiful and talented, could not break out of her mold, get out of the box in which popular culture put her, until she suffocated inside.

I will only say this: both creators of Five had balls.
Coincidence or not, choosing and manufacturing something so weird and unique required them to not only transcend stereotypes, but also show courage and a sense of mission, a need to change the world around and shape people's preferences, instead of just humoring them. Where are those revolutionaries, iconoclasts, pipette artists now?

Yes, I know. They're lurking in niche.

Launched in 1921
The nose behind this fragrance is Ernest Beaux

Top notes: neroli, ylang-ylang, bergamot, amalfi lemon and aldehydes
Middle notes: iris, jasmine, orris root, rose and lily-of-the-valley
Base notes: vetiver, musk, sandalwood, patchouli, oak moss, amber, vanille and civetta.

Ilustrations to the text:
1. Ernest Beaux
2,4,5 & 6. Coco Chanel
3. A Chanel No.5 poster with Catherine Deneuve
7. Salvador Dali "Gala"
8. Marilyn Monroe with a Chanel No.5 bottle


  1. Bardzo mi się podoba, że napisałaś tekst po angielsku, bo akurat od niedawna boli mnie to, że mój angielski odpływa w niebyt i fajnie by było coś poczytać po angielsku, ale pytanie co - coś fajnego co mnie ciekawi. a tu taka niespodzianka u Ciebie. Dziękuję za wpis i proszę o więcej w tym pięknym języku.

  2. Jako anglistka z wykształcenia, wyspecjalizowana w kulturze zresztą, mogę napisać jedynie: thumbs up! ;) Fajnie, że większa część świata będzie mogła poznać i zrozumieć Twoją piękną recenzję.

  3. Chylę czoła! :) I poproszę o więcej.
    Wspaniale, że zdecydowałaś się na ten krok i mam nadzieję, że 5-ka będzie wstępem do takiej serii wpisów. I muszę koniecznie dodać. Czyta Cię Ciebie smakowicie. O, to jest właściwe określenie :)
    I śmiało dodawaj zdjęcia swojego autorstwa.

  4. Cooo..?!? Mieszkałem w Anglii trzy lata, mając wcześniej kontakt tylko z językiem Niemieckim z którego zresztą i tak już niewiele pamiętam choć polubiłem po czasie, mimo to nie potrafię odebrać kompletnie tej recenzji do tego jakby specyficzna magia SoS gdzieś mi prysnęła. Może powinienem się podszkolić bo pewnie i tak mi się to przyda ale póki co nie przebrnąłem...więc doczytałem zbyt ułomnie by móc się cieszyć razem z Tobą, a szkoda . Mam nadzieję że tak cię jednorazowo wzięło, eksperymentalnie lub uznałaś że w tym języku w pełni oddasz swoją wizję. Chyba jestem w szoku i być może nie wiem co piszę ;)

    1. No właśnie! To samo miałam napisać. Po angielsku jest jakoś tak bardziej sucho i nie czytam jednym tchem :)

  5. Cu-do-wnie. Brilliant!
    W końcu będzie można podziwiać Twoje recenzje bardziej globalnie, chociaż odzwierciedlić Twój styl pisania w obcym języku na pewno nie jest łatwą sztuką. Udało się!
    Piątki nie lubię, ale szanuję i doceniam.
    Czekam na więcej! Zdjęć i recenzji.


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