Can I pick the winners? No, I most emphatically cannot. The success of Chloé's 2008 comeback fragrance, Chloé Eau de Parfum, took me totally by surprise — I had found the juice average at best. Granted, we all know that sometimes, the right generic but likable juice, in excellent packaging with engaging advertising, can sell very well indeed, but I did not find Chloé all that likable, in fact, I found it so unlikable and dull that I did not bother to review it.
After it did so well, I tried it several more times to see if I'd missed something. Nope. On this one, I stand firmly with Chandler Burr:
Not only is Chloé an uninteresting, clichéd floral — why are houses still launching saccharine, vaguely unidentifiable composite flowers? — it smells like a perfume masquerading as a fabric softener. What’s worse is that there are some good fabric softener scents out there; this smells cheap and slightly chemical.1
Perfumistas, by and large, seemed to agree — it has its fans, of course, but Chloé was never the darling of the perfume blogs. I confess I skipped the newer concentrations (they later did an Eau de Toilette and an Eau de Parfum Intense), and I further confess that the newest iteration, L'Eau de Chloé, got my attention mostly because of the pretty pale green color scheme, although it's also true that the brand's 2010 offering, Love, Chloe, convinced me that Chloé might in fact make some fragrances I might like.
As it turns out, I don't like L'Eau de Chloé nearly as well as Love, Chloé. I do like it far better than the original Chloé, though, and I will not be at all surprised if L'Eau de Chloé wins over a few perfumistas.
Perfumer Michel Almairac (yes, he also did the 2008 Chloé Eau de Parfum) reportedly replaced the original's rose note with a 22% concentration of rosewater, and the scent's opening is supposed to evoke frozen lemonade. And yes, the opening is lemon-y, although to my nose, it's something more like what a grapefruit-lemon-lime Skittles Sour might smell like — an energetic burst of tart citrus, flat rather than sparkling, and aiming for fun over realism — if it was accompanied by a garnish of crushed greenery. It's got a nice kick to it in the early stages, and should do well to attract snap-purchase decisions at the fragrance counters.
The heart is sheer florals, still slightly green, only slightly rose-ish, over a dry, summery, modern chypre base (read: patchouli cleaned nearly beyond recognition plus some pale woods). It's nice enough — it doesn't, like the original, remind me of a cleaning product — but it's not exactly bursting with personality once the fun of the top notes fades away. That's the modern way, of course; it's perfectly office- and elevator-friendly, will presumably wear nicely even in hot weather, and has decent lasting power for an Eau de Toilette.
I wore L'Eau de Chloé next to Chanel's Cristalle Eau Verte, another greenish citrus-y modern chypre. Just out of the gate, the two vie for attention, but after 30 minutes, both fragrances have settled down into safe-for-work status. After 60 minutes, I prefer the Cristalle Eau Verte — the Chloé is still hanging on, but it's comparatively bland next to the creamy florals in the Cristalle, and I'm tempted to reapply for another burst of citrus. After 120 minutes, I did give the Chloé a little boost, still, after yet another hour had passed the Chanel won out.2
Verdict: L'Eau de Chloé is nicely done, and definitely worth a try. But I liked it best the first time I tried it, and less each time after that — it's just a little too well-behaved for my taste.
Chloé L'Eau de Chloé is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette and in matching body products.
1. Read the rest of Burr's review at Scent Notes | Chloé by Chloé at the New York Times.
2. Mind you, I picked that Chanel only because it seemed vaguely related to the Chloé — it is not a favorite of mine. Next to what I think of as the "real" Cristalle (and a perfect old-school summer citrus chypre), the original Cristalle Eau de Toilette, both Cristalle Eau Verte and L'Eau de Chloé strike me as unforgivably flat and uninspired.