Basenotes : the canary in the coal mine

A good friend who knows A LOT about perfume has been lamenting the disappearance of basenotes in perfumery for some time now.  I had never paid much attention to it however my epiphany happened recently with my latest purchase, Chanel No. 5 parfum.

I bought the extract because I didn’t want to take any chances and I wanted to splurge on pure luxury.  I figured it was a safe bet and for the most part, it was.  However, a couple of things were noticeable… or not.  Chanel No. 5 seems to have lost its fizzy, champagne-like aldehydic topnotes and the basenotes seem to have been cut short.  The heart is still there and still gorgeous but the dramatic opening and luxurious ending is gone.  What was left on my skin was nothing more than some powdery notes and a decomposed version of the jasmine-rose-ylang heart.  Even the sandalwood seems to have been reduced.

And so, reformulations are still front and centre and for the most part we are being robbed of the masterpieces that we have enjoyed collectively for over 100 years.  It’s depressing.

On a lighter note, though, some reformulations are better to my nose.  I actually prefer the current Givenchy III eau de toilette to a vintage early-90s bottle that I own.  The green notes are sharper and the powdery note has been withdrawn.  So, sometimes, reformulations are actually a good thing but it still makes me fearful for the future of Chanel No. 5.

If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage version… hang onto it.  It has more value now than it ever has.  And, of course, enjoy it when you wear it.

If anyone has had any luck with an oil or cream that I can layer Chanel No. 5 to restore it to its former glory, I’d love to hear about it.  Maybe the musc-scented Mugler body cream?  And, perhaps, the Chanel No. 5 eau première to help me restore the top notes?  Thanks in advance.

I’ll be back next week with a perfume review.

P.S. I love this mixed media image of Chanel No. 5 by Daniel Janda.



Leave a comment


  1. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  October 29, 2017

    That’s too bad, Normand, about the lack of notes at various levels, seemingly leaving only the middle. Sorry, I can’t think of anything to bolster up the weak aspects except if you could get your hands on some vintage No5 products.

    I think you’re right about the aldehydes as well as the base notes. Last couple of times I bought No5 (it was edt), along with the lack of base notes I did not notice the famous aldehydes so much and they seem to be out of favour in today’s perfumery in general. Aldehydics used to be a notable perfume category (and my favourite) but I can’t think of any recent aldehydic launches, can you?

    • I can remember a couple of years back, bloggers raving about the Chanel No. 5 bath oil but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it here. I was wondering if that might restore some of the notes.

      If recent launches are using aldehydes, the perfume manufacturers are certainly not promoting them! Maybe they’ve gotten expensive. New releases are so 2-dimensional I find.

      I’m going to try the Mugler body cream if I can get a sample. The Chanel Exclusifs Body Cream didn’t seem to make a difference.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Andrea

     /  November 2, 2017

    It’s very interesting to read about reformulation and their results. I hope Chanel can slow down on the changes.

    • If anyone can slow it down, Chanel can… however I’m afraid that they are under the same pressures as all the other perfume manufacturers to reduce costs in order to increase profit.

    • FiveoaksBouquet

       /  November 2, 2017

      For the longest time Chanel has held out and been able to maintain the integrity of their fragrances but I now see (smell) signs that even they are having difficulty making substitutions that retain the signature notes of a given scent.

  3. Ton analyse et tes commentaires sont vraiment intéressants. J’apprends des choses et la longueur de l’article est parfaite. Bon choix d’image. Mais dis-moi, combien de Chanel no.5 as-tu? 😉

  1. Recent Chanel No. 5 parfum versus 1980s version | The Perfume Chronicles

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