Citrus Attacks

cagney citrusBack when I was a teenager and trying to find a first scent, my mother, who had gone with me on a shopping trip, said, “Oh, why don’t you just wear this?”

“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)

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14 thoughts on “Citrus Attacks

    • It’s still out there, in both the edp and the edt, so you have plenty of time. Though I only re-smelled Cristalle last year, and it had changed. The edt was lemony with an herbal note and the edp was orange-y with more jasmine and iris, and is relatively recent – from ’93- so it depends on personal taste which you prefer.

      Can’t remember if you are a Chanel person or not-they are so abstract expressionist to me- the Jackson Pollacks of the perfume world.

  1. Ahh, Jimmy Cagney… one imagines he would have been either a lot of fun in the bedroom, or entirely self-concerned.

    ANYWAY. I don’t care much for the citruses, much less the citrus chypres, just can’t enjoy them. I’m all, “Okay, yeah, citrus. Now go away already.” Which is odd, because when I choose scented soaps for the house I nearly always choose lemon or grapefruit or my favorite coconut-lime-verbena. It may be a matter of having, now, associated citrus with short-lived personal care products… or perhaps I just feel that a short burst of citrus is all I can take, and while it’s enjoyable for five minutes that’s all I need.

    I do like AA Pamplelune, very much so – but it is strongly floral. Cristalle I’ve never loved (though when I tried it a few years ago I recognized the early-mid-70s scent of my mother’s best friend). Philtre d’Amour bored me; I’ve never bothered to seek out Diorella.

    I know what you mean about Chanel being abstract – but it seems to me that perhaps it’s more abstract sculpture than it is Jackson Pollack, whose art I always find very… frenetic? Chanel can be very smooth on the surface and I find the classics calming.

    • About Philtre d’Amour being boring, I wonder which version did you sample? There was one released in a (frankly) cheesy test tube bottle. Then there was the Parisienne Bee bottle. Me, I bought the test tube, and there is a big difference. The bee bottle is Cristalle redone by Guerlain, and the test tube is a citrus knuckle sandwich right in the kisser. (hence the illustration).
      Chanel is maybe more abstract sculpture than abstract painting. The best do have a serenity to them. They are also growing rather reasonable these days, measured against the crazy prices of niche. I mean 85.00 for Cristalle? Not so bad. I did not like Cristalle Eau Vert though. Too chemical.

      • I suspect it was the bee bottle, because my sample came from Daisy (you know her, yes?), from a relatively recent purchase.

        My sweet daughter brought me, as I requested, a bottle of No. 19 edp from the Rome duty-free… it was only later that I realized that she’d picked up the Poudre version. Which I don’t like. Whooooops. Guess I didn’t make it clear that I did NOT want the Poudre, only the edp version of No. 19. Sigh. $95, plum wasted (unless I can sell it on Teh Bay, and then it will likely be $20 wasted).

        • OH NO! But she was so good to remember at all. It’s these monikers that get out of hand.

          You should be able to unload it. Eau Poudre was popular enough (didn’t get it myself) so there must be takers out there.

  2. Actually, it’s Mae Clarke who gets the grapefruit facial from Jimmy Cagney, not Jean Harlow (Clarke was not credited in the movie). Sorry, I’m an old-movie nerd.

    I can’t wear most citrus or chypre ‘fumes, and so never cared for Cristalle EDT. However, I received Cristalle EDP via a swap, and the more rounded floral quality (as opposed to the EDT’s sharpness) make it one of the few I can wear comfortably. It strikes me as an ideal “business” perfume, always in good taste, with a professional attitude, a perfect accessory for a power suit,

    • Knew something was wrong about that attribution! So I’ll change it, anyway I can’t imagine Jean taking a grapefruit in the face, she’d have gotten him right back, and a food fight would have followed.

      I think the Cristalle edp is the more wearable one. You have hit on the problem that surfaces with the Philtre too, namely sharpness. One can deal with it, and sometimes bracing is good, but Philtre takes a long time to settle down on skin, and honestly, by the time it finally does, I’m exhausted. It’s a travel perfume for me. Cristalle edp is definitely more versatile and more refined.

  3. I used to have a bottle of the edt and particularly loved it vs the fuller, more floral edp. In a moment of irrationality, I sold it to a man in Montreal and have been regretting the deal ever since. I do at least have a bit of a decant somewhere. Oh, and you are quite right to describe this as a ‘wide awake in the early morning’ scent, a time when I need all the help I can get! I also relate to Cristalle as a ‘kick ass business scent’, by which I mean ‘office’, not hanky panky. ;-)

    • You are the second vote for Cristalle as business scent, and think you’re quite right about that. If I had it, then that’s when I’d wear it.

      Don’t you loathe those ill considered sales? Did this myself once with Violette Precieuse, the earlier Caron one, and still grieve over it.

  4. With large bottles of Diorella and Eau de Givenchy already, I find it hard to justify Cristalle. And last summer I made things worse with an impulse purchase of Hermes’ Un Jardin sur le Nil! This coming summer I want to catch up with some of the summer Nicolais that I have not tried yet. So Cristalle is still at the bottom of my list. I would go for the EDT though, as the EDP has a note that reminds me of tobacco that I don’t care for (tho’ don’t hate either) but I agree is is probably more wearable. Cristalle au Vert is not worth mentioning.

    • Maybe for summer the edt of Cristalle would be better though than the flowery edp.

      I loved Eau de Givenchy and the old Puig Estivalia, and wore them both for a long while along with Eau de Hadrian, but am so stuck in with de Nicolais that they are all I wear in citruses now. Just bought old formula Eau d’Ete which I remember as being extremely light and musky on the finish. Weird summer for us here, so have worn either citruses or else Orientals. Will report back on the EdE!

  5. Funny, I was just reading a post about Ormande Woman, and I come here to read a post about a perfume that OJ Woman reminds me of – Cristalle. I enjoy Cristalle quite a bit, but for some reason I always used to think (before I was very familiar with it) that it was newer – the opposite of your reaction. I think I associated it with the bling-bling slang of the early 2000s. :) Which makes no sense, but there you have it.

    • Ormonde Woman is one I’ve never smelled. Thought it was supposed to be dark and forest like and sort of chypre-ish. But then Cristalle is a chypre, if a citrus one, so there you go.

      Cristalle seemed very classic to me, hence my thought that it was old, and it did always remind me of Diorella, so that probably explains my reaction. I’ve been wearing old de Nicolai Eau d’Ete another citrus scent, in its original formula, definitely in an early 2000′s argot, but so pretty, it is tonka beans all the way home. Yum.

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