“This” was Cristalle.
Cristalle surprises me sometimes because it seems to be as old as No. 5, although actually it only dates to 1977. I didn’t buy it, and never have, because there was something about it that did not quite sit with me. Possibly that was the abstraction. Chanel perfumes tend to be abstracts, the elegantly non representational scents of the perfume world. Or maybe the formula itself was a bit non-committal, but whatever the reason, Cristalle stayed in the shop.
Diorella, one of Edmond Roudnitska’s masterpieces, I never considered at all. To be fair, Diorella was everywhere in Italy in the early seventies when I was a girl, in much the same way that Eau de Hadrian was in the nineties, or Terre d’Hermes now, so that good as it was, you forgot about the fragrance, because everyone else already seemed to have adopted Diorella. Lately though, I have been re-visiting the fresh chypres. Cristalle seems different to me, the edt and the edp have been slightly different for a long time and I don’t know now if Chanel still sells both strengths? The edp if you are looking on Ebay was always rounder and more floral, and the edt was cast in the fresh chypre mold.
Supposedly, Diorella belongs to that period when Edmond Roudnitska had taken most of the gourmand notes out of his perfumes. He felt that perfumery had been growing too complex and that the food elements in fragrances had been making them more gustative than olfactory. More for noshing than smelling, and one does know what he meant, so no sugar, no musk, no vanilla in Diorella, just that chypre base with vetiver and a heart of jasmine- a lot of jasmine.
I already own another one of these fresh chypres in the form of Guerlain’s Philtre d’Amour, a very zingy citrus scent that pops you one, right in the eye, first thing in the morning. It is extremely bright, and just the thing to use if you have to get up and make a plane at 5a.m. otherwise it is almost aggressively citrus-sy and lasts forever. I can spritz it in the morning and still smell the stuff at six p.m. Diorella is no longer so lasting, although I can attest to its longevity back in the seventies. When Diorella like one of those all day lollipops you foolishly buy your kid in the airport, ended up all over everything and really went on all day. It was s triumph, technically, to get a citrus perfume to last so clearly so long. Philtre, clearly predicated on Diorella, is a technical triumph too, but Philtre is less elegant than Diorella.
Which brings me back to Cristalle. I didn’t care for the new version of a few years back, it’s classic Cristalle for me or nothing, but Cristalle is so strange, so wide awake at an hour when you know it should be asleep, trying hard to be a morning person when you know this scent really only prefers late hours. Cristalle is like that advertisement featuring a Vampire family, who have discovered granola bars, mornings…who knew? I shall stick with Philtre myself.
(For the record, that’s James Cagney and Jean Harlow with the grapefruit in The Public Enemy)