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An olfactive journey through the Les Exclusifs de CHANEL collection

Inside CHANEL Beauty's Parfumeur Masterclass in Sydney; an olfactive journey through 12 of the Les Exclusifs de CHANEL scents.

Beauty has always been a particularly sensory pursuit – tactile creams and oils that luxuriate the skin; spritzes and popping lids that delight the ears. But is there any sensory experience more holistic and emotional than that of smell? How easily the scent of jasmine or a hint of honey might bring us back to a moment, a place, a person, a sensation.

It's upon this notion that CHANEL Beauty have founded their Les Exclusifs collection – a  capsule of 19 fragrances designed to whisk you away to the sights, sounds and incantatory moments that have punctuated the storied history of the House and the life of its eponymous leading lady, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel.

In the heart of Sydney on Thursday, the Maison took us on an olfactive journey of 12 of the Les Exclusifs de CHANEL scents, welcoming guests to their Parfumeur Masterclass for a full sensory immersion.

Our journey started in the roaring 20s, a decade that gave birth to the Maison and its first fragrances under French-Russian chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux. The N°22 Eau de Parfum, born out of its namesake year (1922), was the first to be experienced – a symphony of mysterious and non-distinct florals and aldehyde that deviated from the single-floral fragrances worn by women of the time. Inspired by the same revolutionary spirit that characterised N°5, it was one of the very first to be unveiled by the House more than a century ago.

Similarly groundbreaking was BOIS DES ISLES, a pioneering scent that was one of the first to offer women a woody fragrance through a combination of creamy, milky sandalwood and sensual Tonka bean notes. It paved the way for some of the Maison's later fragrances like SYCAMORE, which marries deeply rooted vetiver with bourbon vanilla from Madagascar.

 

And close to Gabrielle Chanel's heart lie GARDENIA, LE LION and BOY; a trio of fragrances that encapsulate three of her greatest loves: botany, astrology and Boy Capel.

GARDENIA, a fragrant homage to her love for the unscented Camelia (the emblem of the House), was launched in 1925. Notoriously the flower doesn't lend itself to traditional extraction methods, so had to be recreated meticulously by Chanel and Beaux using orange blossom, tuberose and jasmine.

"Born under the sign of the Leo" as she often so remarked, Chanel's LE LION is an ode to her superstitious nature and composed of fragrant lemon and bergamot from Sicily and Calabria. It's a distillation of the prideful, carnal spirit of the lion.

And finally, BOY, an olfactive reimagining of her love story with English polo player Boy Capel; a scent that blends masculine and feminine through geranium, white musk and heliotrope to recreate "the touch of a man on a woman's skin". It is, perhaps, the ultimate olfactory soulmate.

 

Some of the House's newer fragrances were also on the Masterclass itinerary – like the collection's newest member COMÈTE. The 19th to join the ranks, COMÈTE is an optimistic scent that channels Chanel's astrological passions through sparkly and powdery cherry blossom and grass iris – regal ingredients intended to evoke the sensation of stardust.

And then there's JERSEY, unveiled in 2011 by the House's at-the-time Head Perfumer Jacques Polge. It's an aromatic lavender (a scent often reserved for more masculine fragrances), with notes of white musk and vanilla. Named for the suppled jersey fabric Chanel introduced to womenswear in her day, it's the ultimate evocation of the smooth, comfortable and feminine.

 

To round out our experience, we were invited through a maze of Les Exclusifs, each nestled into their own exhibition that drew inspiration from their notes, emotive qualities and backstories.

It was a final chance to fully immerse ourselves in the story of each scent, to get lost in the moments that have built the House, and the pioneering designer in whose image it was made.

 


The full Les Exclusifs de CHANEL scents are available in stores and online at CHANEL's website.

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