After finishing In Search of Lost Time, I spent several weeks reading nothing but my old children’s books and fashion and travel magazines. Sometimes, following days of eating rich and spicy foods, all I crave is a sliced cucumber or tomato drizzled with rice vinegar. As hot weather arrives, I like to pour on Eaux de Cologne and let their sparkly, invigorating notes “cleanse” my sense of smell of its winter residue of incense, amber, vanilla and leather perfumes.
We all (most of us) like, and need, variety in our lives — and in our rotation of perfumes. I could never wear only “natural” fragrances or rely on one perfume house for my perfume ‘needs’. I can’t stick with one genre of scent: say, vetivers, ambers or chypres. BUT: I didn’t think my need for change would ever take me into the blue-bleu world of marine-sport fragrances….
Bleu de Chanel is Chanel’s “first major male fragrance since 2004’s Allure Homme Sport and its first men’s master brand since 1990’s Egoïste.”* Even though Bleu de Chanel is not geared to a particular demographic/age-group, Chanel hopes this fragrance will broaden its appeal with young men. Bleu de Chanel was created by Chanel’s in-house perfumer Jacques Polge and it contains notes of citrus (bergamot, lemon, grapefruit), “deep blue sea” accord, peppermint, pink pepper, nutmeg, ginger, jasmine, cedar, vetiver, patchouli, labdanum and frankincense.
Chanel describes Bleu de Chanel as a “woody-aromatic” fragrance, but it definitely has (no matter its big-city-at-night/”dressy” ad campaign) a marine/sport vibe — and the marine nature of the perfume becomes more pronounced the longer I wear it.
Bleu de Chanel has been badly received by the online perfume community. Polge has been accused of sullying the Chanel name by gathering together in one perfume many elements of mainstream (read: banal, cheap, made-for-the-hoi polloi) men’s fragrances: a fresh/ozonic accord, AXE-like “personal hygiene” notes, simple-minded (and smelling) sport-y aromas. Throw me to the floor, hold me down, and make me guzzle vintage Chanel No. 5 till I morph into Catherine Deneuve, circa 1973, but at this point in my life, and in the realm of perfume creation, I could care less about the Chanel heritage, its “mystique” or exclusivity. Chanel is in business now, as it was when Coco Chanel was in charge, to make money…fragrance tastes change and what sells is preferred over what’s “artistic” or adventurous; anyway, niche perfume companies have picked up the slack when it comes to creating quirky and “soulful” perfumes. Let Chanel have its fresh, marine-sport fragrance for men.
Bleu de Chanel is not a “graphic” (and harsh) take on the ‘deep blue sea’; it’s a more impressionistic and diffuse interpretation of a marine-sport fragrance. In the opening and heart of Bleu de Chanel, the notes seem to move into each other’s space, bleed into one another in “watercolor” fashion — peppermint nudges grapefruit, mixing some green menthol into oily, yellow peel; flecks of grated nutmeg and ground pink pepper float on clear, ginger juice. What’s most interesting (to me) about Bleu de Chanel is the control Polge has over its ingredients and his ability to make the same “watercolor” (spontaneous-smelling) effects reappear with every application.
Bleu de Chanel goes on “cool” as it opens with strong bergamot-grapefruit and (non-medicinal) peppermint leaf notes. Bleu de Chanel's "temperature" starts to rise as nutmeg and ginger become apparent; the scent of peppercorns mixed with mild vetiver and a floral note (reminiscent of the jasmine in Christian Dior Eau Sauvage) adds even more warmth to the mid-phase of development. Though there is a smidgen of “freshness” one associates with marine and sport fragrances, there’s more complexity and better ingredients used in Bleu de Chanel than in your average water/sport perfume. For me, Bleu de Chanel conjures a summer beach — hot sand; sun-toasted skin; silky driftwood; baking stones; citronella (bugs, be gone!); and an evocative, slightly salty accord I’ll call “clean-dog-takes-a-dip-in-the-sea-and-then-suns-herself-dry.” The most traditional (formulaic) phase of Bleu de Chanel is its base, where citrus-y musk, pale cedar and a touch of incense ash (benzoin?) mix to produce a sweet talcy finale.
Bleu de Chanel is not a perfume to sample on paper (where it smells stunted and “sketchy”); it should be worn — and applied with a generous hand — to experience its subtle phases of development. Blue de Chanel has good lasting power and sillage, and to me, it smells more masculine than “unisex.” Of all the marine-sport fragrances I’ve sniffed over the years, Bleu de Chanel is one of my favorites and the only one I’ve considered buying for myself.
Bleu de Chanel Eau de Toilette comes in a heavy blue-gray bottle whose sides and top are a gorgeous sapphire color; the fragrance is available in 50 ($59) and 100 ($79) ml and also comes in 100 ml aftershave lotion ($50).
* via Women's Wear Daily, 7/16/2010.
Note: top left image is Blue No. 2 by Georgia O’Keeffe via Wikimedia Commons; bottom image of Peaches Zickler on Whidbey Island by Linda Findlay, used with photographer's permission.