Coco Avant Numero Cinq?

Sem_Chanel_1919Yesterday I was in New York and of course I stopped off at the Plaza.

Well, I suppose there is no “of course” about this, as I had planned all along to stop at the Plaza  specifically so that I could go and sniff the perfumes at the Krigler kiosk there, but these are my vagaries and it is enough that my family puts up with them. They had already “put up” with stopping at Federic Malle’s on Madison. (“What’s this?” “Le Parfum de Therese.” “Okey-dokey, why is it here?” “Because a famous perfumer composed it for his wife.” “Um, OK, so why’s it here?” “Because he’s dead now and so is she, and the family decided it could be marketed.” “OK, so if it’s for Therese, why do the rest of you want it?” ”Mom, why are there, like, booths in there?” “For the perfume.” “Oh…That’s creepy.”)

By the time we had gotten to Krigler’s, I didn’t expect the rest of the family to be on the ball anymore after two museums and a heavy lunch, so it was a surprise when my husband picked up a fact from the SA that I hadn’t heard.

I was walking away with two perfumes on my wrists, Dolce Tuberose and Pleasure Gardenia, when a propos de rien, he remarked that the SA said Coco Chanel used to wear the gardenia perfume before she had No 5 composed for her own company.

Now since old Coco was one of those female avatars of style that the rest of us find so hard to ignore, I was impressed by this information, the more so, as I know Krigler set up operations on the French Riviera in 1909, having sniffed trouble in the winds after the 1905 riots in St Petersburg and closed up his shops in Russia. It’s conceivable that Coco walked into their establishment and wore one of their perfumes; in fact it, may be likely, as Pleasure Gardenia smells rather like Chanel’s Gardenia, afterwards composed by Ernest Beaux, a perfume that is only incidentally gardenia-ish, but which is pretty and likeable despite that, no matter that it has been badly reviewed.  I cannot help wondering if Pleasure Gardenia is not the model for Chanel’s Gardenia, and I cannot help liking it.

Kriglers are sweet and feature a Jazz Age buzz that might come from champagne re-fermented near Long Island sound.  They are uniformly cheerful and well made, with more than the average number of good quality materials in the mix, and a judicious use of synthetics.  I should know as these days cheapo ingredients give me a monster headache and there was nary a one from Krigler.

They trade, as Creed does, on their celebrity clients.  Hemingway wore America One, and Audrey Hepburn wore English Promenade, and Fitzgerald himself wore…Lieber Gustav. And, to hear this SA tell it, Coco wore Pleasure Gardenia.  I don’t know the truth of this, but Coco seems to have liked a white flower perfume (what is No5, after all, but white flowers and aldehydesl?) I am not surprised that she should have had a gardenia  perfume in the line-up at Chanel, either she liked them or else she soon found that American women like them (me too).

As for the scent it has gardenia top notes then settles into a sweet slightly green mimosa floral, and at the end indulges in a sophisticated animalic note and that gardenia note all over again, but this is five hours later on my skin.  Krigler gets kudos for being more sophisticated and more lasting than I would have suspected and having a persistently cheerful quality to it, like the sound of distant laughter.

Well, I’m not sure I would want to go to one of Gatsby’s parties, but I would like to smell of something that recalls the 1920’s. That’s when bathtub gin, and individuality, and modern Romanticism began.

Is that a nightingale singing on the lawn?

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15 thoughts on “Coco Avant Numero Cinq?

  1. I have yet to smell any Kriglers, though I hear good things about them. There’s a rose one, I’m thinking… and maybe a tuberose that has a licorice tinge to it? Those are the ones I remember.


    • The rose one is Manhattan Rose and someone on Fragrantica says it smells like Tea Rose, so why pay the Krigler price?

      Don’t know, but Dolce Tuberose which I did sniff is sweet, and interesting being an accord between tuberose and heliotrope which ends up reminding me of high quality Halva. You know the sesame candy from the Middle East? That stuff. It’s weirdly charming, and evolved very prettily on my skin. The other great charmer was the aforementioned Pleasure Gardenia-offbeat name but a winner. It smells like there is some kind of incense in the mix-oppopanax maybe?

      You should come to NYC, we could go on a sniff-extravaganza!

    • There is nothing like Manhattan in early Fall or else in Spring. You can skip it at other times of the year, but not at those times. So I know exactly what you mean. I can imagine you loving the classic French movie series in Central Park!

      As for me, I have to go in and smell a little diesel exhaust and uncollected garbage and the Hudson every once in a while.

  2. ‘Like the sound of distant laughter’. I like that idea very much.
    Thanks for the post. Krigler not a brand I can sample without going to a lot of expense so I’ve never bothered. And the way they trade on celebrity culture is more than silly, it’s tiresome (I think). Still, I’m glad to hear that Krigler’s perfumes are well made, as I had filed them in my own mind along with the pre-Duchafour Penhaligon fragrances (not that I have smelled many): perfumes for rich boring people who invariably believe that if a product is expensive it must be good. Not so, it seems! I really need to deal with my prejudices. :)

    • You’re quite right about the silliness of celebrity endorsements, or connections, or whatever they are, but a brand has to differentiate itself somehow, and this is how Krigler has done it.

      Of all the ones I smelled, Lovely Patchouli, Pleasure Gardenia, and Lieber Gustav were the standouts, and I have not gotten around to Sparkling Diamond. They strike me as daytime perfumes, if you know what I mean, able to go out and about with you, and with the exception of Lovely Patchouli Night, not too exotic for errands. My only disappointment was Audrey Hepburn’s fav English Promenade. It was harsh smelling I thought.

      • They do sound nice. Fragrances that work hard for you, in other words, rather than checking in when they (not you) feel the occasion is right.

  3. Lovely Patchouli is the Krigler that really rang my chimes. Now I would like to try that gardenia the next time I swing by the Plaza (she said as if it were an everyday occurrence!).

    • That Patchouli is another wonderful one. Tried it again the other day and it was just as handsome as I remembered, the dry down also very attractive, with something in it that reminds me of lilacs.

      I remember both of us liking it at Sniffapalooza last year. As a matter of fact, LP was the only perfume I really recall from that jaunt (out of how many we smelled that day?) and I wrote it up.

  4. Am deeply intrigued about Pleasure Gardenia now, and if it is good enough for Coco Chanel herself, nuff said. The name makes me think of ‘Pleasure Gardens’, but I may be muddling ‘Pleasure Beach’ and ‘Winter Gardens’ – both places in Blackpool that I doubt Coco would have frequented!

    • Pleasure Gardenia, whether or not it would go to Blackpool, which I doubt, is a really venerable perfume. It turns out to be the first of the Kriglers, dating back to 1879 which makes it older than Fougere Royale and Jicky.
      As a perfume, the scent smells… different. Not like something you would find now at Bloomingdales or even Liberty’s, but like something made to an older template. The closest comparative I can think of, is Vraie Blond the ELdO, but PG is much more natural smelling and is utterly without the strident synthetic notes. Call it the first cousin of VB and No22. Does that help at all? No, I’ve probably just confused you even more.

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