Chanel : Coco

Created by : Jacques Polge

Date : 1984

Genre : Floral amber

Concentration : eau de parfum

Coco was created in 1984 by the man who is still at the creative helm of Chanel perfumes today, Jacques Polge, and it was the first perfume created after Gabrielle Chanel’s death in 1971.  This classic amber has a symphonic floral heart and as balanced symphonic florals go anyone would be hard-pressed to pick out its individual notes of Bulgarian rose, mimosa and jasmine.  However Coco is also very spicy and one can smell a cool clove note among the bouquet.  You see… Yves Saint Laurent’s blockbuster, Opium (1977), had introduced spices bigtime, especially clove, and Coco was very much influenced by its competitor.

Mr. Polge describes Coco as “baroque” because of its inspiration, Chanel’s apartment with its coromandel screens and gilt mirrors.  Perfume taxonomist Michael Edwards classifies it as a “classic soft oriental” but I can see why Jacques Polge prefers baroque, although not an actual category.  Coco is dense, layered and luscious… a symphonic floral, laced with spicy clove on a quality amber base.

Really great perfumes leave you wondering at all stages of their development which stage you love best.  Coco is top-down genius right down to its  warm, inviting and spicy amber drydown which could easily be tweaked into a whole new perfume on its own.

I love Coco with its lush floral flourishes.  The materials feel A-1 and being vintage Chanel, the longevity and sillage are there.  For those who fear rose-scented perfumes, don’t worry about this one.  This is not your grandmother’s drugstore rose water by any means.  As for men wearing it… go ahead, guys… just go easy on the atomizer.

Now I know we all want to remember the 60s and forget the 80s.  As cruel fate would have it, we remember the 80s all too well… the big hair… the shoulder pads… Alexis Carrington… while the cool-and-hip 60s are just a blur.  So let’s end this post with one last look (on this blog anyway) at the fashion of Dynasty.

Thanks to Coco and a few others of that era, it wasn’t all bad.

Top image : The Union of Earth and Water (c. 1618) by Peter Paul Rubens 

Bottom image : The cast of Dynasty (1981 to 1989)

Leave a comment


  1. Eric

     /  April 4, 2011

    I don’t know why but I have had the worst “craving” of 80’s powerhouse scents lately. Forget the young girls handing Cartier Eau de Lune scent strips at Sephora Champs Elysees during my recent trip to Paris. It is the Ysatis and Xeryus I wanted to smell!
    Perhaps it was because of the fashionable aesthetics of Paris where I saw all those return to the Eighties fashions with the pleated pants and the shoulder pads. Done with a modernist twist though: Instead of the slouchy gabardine pleated pants of my youth, the new ones are very slim and tailored in modern textiles coated with a resin.
    Coco was the scent of my mother between 1984 and 1989 and I associate that era with my adolescent crises, the first crushes and my angst about going to college and the future in general. Reagan and Gorbatshev were big then and the Berlin Wall ended up falling at the end. So did the Powerhouse scents!
    My most vivid memory of an 80’s powerhouse scent is associated with a hideous jacket I owned and that looked like a Members Only. I left at my best friend’s Charles house one day. A month later, his mother drove over and brought it back to us. Only she had kept it in her own closet and it smelled so strong of tuberose, berries and sandalwood that I ended up sniffing it continuously and enjoying that scent.
    My nose was not as sophisticated and I certainly was not a big perfume fan back then. So the scent eventually faded and the jacket got donated.
    But that lingering scent… What a strong memory it was. I wanted to experience it again lately!
    I found myself reaching back to it on my trip to Paris and I bought a brand new unopened sealed vintage bottle of it.
    It was none else than Dior’s POISON Esprit de Parfum in the bottle with the string and stopper housed in a heavy hexagone shaped green moire’ cardboard box.
    It cost me a small fortune but I think it was well worth it.
    I have dabbed it on my wrists and gone to sleep for the last couple of nights and I can’t get enough of that scent.
    It is totally unwearable outside as many people would probably get offended by its strength and association to memories of that era.
    But I have been sleepng like a baby since and I don’t think it’s the jet lag and the continuous walking in Paris!

    • I don’t find Poison all that bad. It seems to have gotten a bad reputation… but I’ve never actually worn it so I’d rather reserve judgement until I’ve tested it. Thanks for the story and the report from Paris.


  2. Eric

     /  April 4, 2011

    You will need to review the staple of perfumery named “Poison” some day.
    There are very few fragrances that marked an era or actually turned a design house upside down catapulting a perfume into a household name. Chanel 5, YSL Opium, Angel to name a few.
    But Poison marked the mid 80s like no one other. The controversy the name Opium created in puritanical America in 1977 is only equaled by the controversy the scent of Poison created in 1985.
    It was so polarizing and extreme everybody reacted to it. It became an obsession to a discerning minority and a headache in a bottle to the majority.
    I read testimonials about couples who stated that their child was conceived the evening she first wore Poison! I also read that restaurants in New York put up signs asking patrons not to smoke and not to wear Poison.
    What should we believe?
    All those Dior flankers (Pure, Midnight, Hypnotic) were created to bank on a name that started in stardom and ended in infamy while going along with newer trends in perfumery and tastes.
    But now with the return to 80s fougeres and the revival of 80s fashions in an in-your-face kinda way, I can sense a desire to return to scents similar to the original Poison.
    The new IFRA regulations would never allow the Esprit De Parfum I recently scored a bottle of. Le labo Oud and Patchouli are just examples of such aspirations.
    Let me know when you’re ready to succumb to the real power…

  3. Hi Normand, I adore perfumes but because I develop an allergic reaction to some of them, I need to sample properly before I buy – which is also perfect to see how the smell develops on me over time, but not so good with snooty saleswomen that don’t understand that perfumes change on the skin over hours… Anyhow, my latest perfume search was today, and as soon as I tried Chanel Coco Eau de Parfum, I knew that not only was this the one, but this was the smell I’ve been hoping for for a long time. Love! I had never tried it before thinking that it might smell off on me for some reason.
    Hours later it still smells wonderful… and no red rash yet. 🙂 I’ll be getting it soon.

    • Hi!

      Thanks for writing! I love those big, complex, floral fragrances of the 80s! I wore Coco for a few weeks in a row when I reviewed it. This is French perfume at its best! And Sofia, if you do break out and you really LOVE Coco, why not spray the fragrance on fabric instead of skin.

      As for snooty saleswomen… don’t get me started!



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