Les Exclusifs: Bel Respiro, No 18, & 28 La Pausa by Chanel {Perfume Review & Musings} {New Perfumes}


After having shared our impressions of the new line of Les Exclusifs by Chanel and reviewed 31, Rue Cambon while giving further impressions of the line, we are now completing the task of reviewing the remaining fragrances.

Bel Respiro was named after Coco Chanel's retreat in Garches, purchased in 1920 in the suburb of Paris. The designer herself preferred to dub it "Noix de Coco" (Coconut).

The fragrance starts with a soapy and green accord. It then sweetens up with light amber all the while keeping the suggestion of an armful of fresh leaves, herbs, and stems. Deeper ambergris undertones underline the now thicker forest-y accents as the mood gets slightly darker and shadowy with some discrete peppery touches to spice up the brew.

It is a short ode sung to the beauty of green herbaceous notes and the presence and sensuality of a woman. If you lean in close enough you will be able to smell the balmy woods scenting the nape of her neck after the wind has brushed her hair during her walk in an abstract green scenery where there are no or little flowers. The perfume is a new, stylistically economical take on such classics as Chanel no 19 and Vent Vert by Balmain and might remind American perfume wearers in particular of the very herbal verdancy of Private Collection by Estée Lauder.....

No 18 stands for 18, Place Vendôme, the address of the Chanel flagship jewelry store. It is based on ambrette seed (Hibiscus Abelmoschus) which has musky and ambery nuances as well as wine-like or brandy-like overtones. The beginning of the perfume makes me think of the initial stage of Hiris by Hermès which also contains iris and ambrette seed.The perfume opens on a slightly boozy and woody accord with unpredictable twists and turns. It is followed by a sumptious excursion into iris and feels as if one were suddenly gliding and skating on a frozen pond of icy and satiny orris sensations. The main accord of ambrette seed accented by iris is unusual gaining on in intensity overtime to the point of feeling a bit astringent. For some people it evokes the domestic sight of a jar of pickles.

One could certainly interpret the scent as having vinegar nuances. It is however more of a complex sensation juxtaposing a strongly aromatic vinegar (one can think of the old-fashioned scented vinegars of yore) with soft ivory-beige buttery undertones, hints of black rubber and secret fruity traces. It dries down to a beautiful unconventional woody accord that feels a bit raw and naked. The bottom note sheds the harsher nuances of the perfume and is delicately and subtly scented and quite seductive with a delicious understated earthy vanillic accord with balmy overtones. This is reported to be Jacques Polge's personal favorite amongst the new Les Exclusifs.

28, La Pausa is named after Chanel's French Riviera estate and pays homage to the irises that flourished on the property. The scent is based on Iris Pallida. The perfume unfolds on a delicious sweet powdery accord of iris with pastel undertones of light mauves and greys. The powderiness then takes on a certain gourmand quality evoking rice flour. A wisp of turpentine and a modernistic dash of rubber mixed with the smell of black old records make their entrance lest the scent would become too romantic. Accents of hot iron and of a tired breathless subway in a heaving city almost make you grind your teeth in inconfort. Iris has decided to relegate its classically beautiful satiny ball gown upstairs in the attic and to don a metallic Paco Rabanne outfit instead to emit all of its natural metal-like cold aromas. The bottom note is soft and herbaceous.

There is something in common in all the perfumes's bases that makes them feel "French", elegant, and evokes, for me in particular and as I already said in an earlier review, the equlibrium of smells hovering above the table at the end of a good meal attended by elegant company. Life is good and the perfumes seem to celebrate a sense of French hedonism.

The perfumes are not ultra persistent as they are eaux de toilette. In this sense, they correspond more to the European taste than the American one, as it seems that the lifestyle in Europe allows you for more time to have the pleasure of refreshing yourselves during the day.

Next, I shall review Coromandel and Eau de Cologne. 


Related Posts

9 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I'm coming back to this post to comment on No.18 which has had me perplexed for quite some time. I think I can place it better in my head now as something along the lines of Penhaligon's Harmatan Noir and Caron Nuit de Noel. I smell a spicy, dill-like note in those as well. By the way, I'm not sure I actually envisioned the domestic jar of pickles, but the scent of something sour definitely came to me when I smelled No.18. The Japanese have an extensive pickle culture...

  2. Oops--I don't know why the comment above posted anonymously but here I am again, testing No.18 trying to make sense of it. I'm getting more rose now and the sillage is actually very lovely and cool, a transparent scent without being aqueous. I'll be testing it for a long time to come--it's a fascinating creation.

  3. It is very interesting to see you studying this scent:)

  4. Happy New Year, dear Marie-Helene! I'm so sorry I made a mistake earlier--I meant to compare the strange spiciness to Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet, not Harmatan Noir as I'd written above.

    I'm fascinated by ambrette seed and rose right now, and No.18 has me questioning what ambrette musk is supposed to smell like.

  5. No.18 .... I tested it today, and it started quite ambery, but ended delicate sweet.. it can't put my finger on the scent, can you advise? .. but it is wonderful.
    ps: I laughed at your comment about your thoughts on why Chanel has made the new exclusive range in 200ml Toilette, cause Europeans have time to pamper! Quite funny.

    Cath, Sydney, Australia
  6. Hi ... can I ask about the Stravinsky / Chanel image. Is it public domain. I would like to use it in my music blog. Can I just say I find your site - which I came across while searching for just such an image - a fascinating glimpse into a world that will always be completely closed to me. Best wishes ... Fin

    Fin O'Suilleabhain
    • I believe this image is excerpted from Chanel and Her World by Edmonde Charles-Roux, so that would be the best source for the attribution. Thank you for your kind words. Music and perfume share many affinities in fact. Words like "symphonic", "harmonious", "notes" and "accords" are used very commonly to describe fragrances.

      Chant Wagner
  7. I've actually narrowed the Les Exclusifs to these three fragrance and trying to pick one from the bunch. Thanks for the review... I'm leaning towards No. 18 because it is really such an eccentric fragrance for me, I definitely detect a sour or dill scent but it is at the same time repulsing yet alluring. Can't figure out why!

    • No.18 is also my initial favorite from the Exclusifs line. I agree that it is strangely appealing. I would have to go back to try to understand better why I hit it off with it. Now, I also appreciate Coromandel very much.

      I recall reading somewhere that No.18 is incidentally Jacques Polge's favorite too.

      Chant Wagner

Leave a Comment