Such is the current pace of new fragrance launches that when I sat down to refresh my memory on the subject of Chanel's niche range, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, I was surprised to see that they debuted only last year. It feels like they've been around much longer than that, but when you consider that there have been something like 3 new fragrance launches a day since then, they're really rather old hat by now, aren't they?
When I reviewed 31 Rue Cambon last year, I noted that...
...first off, they are well done, each and every one of them. The materials are first rate, they are all wearable without being dull, and they are "worthy of the name of Chanel", whatever that means.
Still, I wished they'd done something a little more daring. Sycomore, which launched earlier this year, was another extremely well done (I'd like a bottle) but essentially conservative entry. Beige continues in the same vein and ups the ante: to my nose, it's the most Chanel-ish of the Exclusifs, and could stand with the numbered classics (5, 19 & 22) as a kind of primer on the core values of the Chanel brand.
Beige starts out perfume-y and strong; as it calms, it's first sunny and bright and spring-like, then lush and full, and it seems a nearly perfect fit with the ad copy, which promises "elegance and grace", a "bouquet of hawthorn, freesia and frangipani, with shimmering hints of honey" and a "stunning blend of white petals and yellow gold". It's mildly fruity and mildly sweet in the early stages, and the floral heart, while mostly abstract in character, still allows the wearer to make out strains of hawthorn and frangipani, and a stylised sort of freesia is especially strong in the first hour of wear.
The base is warmer and woodier, with a velvety but not quite powdery finish, and despite an increasingly strong honey note, it keeps the sweetness mostly under control. Still, Beige's elegance is unrelenting, and the promised "sensual outburst" never quite materializes. Marina at Perfume Smellin' Things called it "a cold, somewhat arrogant beauty", and that's perfectly put; even as Beige warms, it still feels like the perfume of an ice princess, perfectly coiffed, not entirely approachable. I'm duly impressed, but I've found it impossible to love.
Chanel Beige was developed by Chanel's house perfumer, Jacques Polge. It is available in 200 ml Eau de Toilette, and is currently exclusive to Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. It is expected to go into wider distribution later this year. For buying information, see the listing for Chanel under Perfume Houses.