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)

P&G : Old Spice Classic

Created by : Unknown

Date : 1938

Genre : Spicy oriental

Concentration : cologne

The SS America (1908), an Italian liner for Navigazione Generale Italiana, brought my grandparents and their two children from Naples to Ellis Island (New York) in 1923.  With them, the liner brought their traditions – incredible Italian cooking, the importance of family celebrations and the Italian tradition of men wearing fragrance.  The very first men’s cologne I ever smelled was from an empty bottle of Old Spice that my grandfather gave me.  Oddly, the bottle was not the iconic white bottle that we all know but one that was modeled after a Bavarian beer mug and it was painted silver so it must have been some kind of special edition.  I kept it for at least 10 years, occasionally removing the cap to smell what was a beautiful, clean manly fragrance.  It seemed like such an adult thing to do.  So grown-up!

And so when the Old Spice Man starting popping up on my screen, I ran out and bought a bottle of Old Spice Classic cologne.  At $14.65 Cdn. for a 125 ml. bottle, I figured… let’s have fun and test it.  The opening notes reminded me of the aftershave that my barber splashes on the back of my neck and if your barber owns a red, white and blue barber’s pole, you probably know what I’m talking about.  Old Spice Classic has a bracing and astringent opening kick to it with an orange, clove and cinammon accord that hints to something antiseptic.  The orange topnote is the most fleeting while the cinammon note lingers the longest.  The heart is vaguely floral which makes complete sense for the time it was created.  My colleagues at work couldn’t figure out whether it was a masculine or a feminine and that’s because today’s masculines are so hairy-knuckled and anchored in heavy woody notes that when we are presented with anything floral we immediately think of feminine fragrance.  The base is vanilla, musk and amber which places it squarely in the oriental family but it actually has an enduring lightness to it.  It seems to stay close to the skin and has outlasted several eau de toilettes that I own, so its lasting power is excellent for a cologne concentration, which is usually around 5% aromatic compounds.  Unfortunately, Old Spice Classic ends on a sweet musc and this is probably the part I like the least… but at this price, I’m not complaining.

Old Spice will never be in my top ten but if ever my collection went up in flames due to spontaneous perfume combustion and the white iconic bottle survived, I’d wear it happily for a week or two until I my insurance money kicked in to replace my stash.

Now… we’ve all seen that hilarious Old Spice commercial but, being a librarian, this parody grabbed my attention.


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