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.
Actually, I don't find Beige cold at all, just very, very well-behaved, but to me, the sensuousness is there: a slightly tropical strain, simmering under the frangipani-honey accord.
I agree it's a conservative fragrance in the line of Sycomore, which somehow suits the Exclusives line. It's kind of restful to go back to well-made classics every once in a while, and I have been reaching for that bottle quite a lot.
I read your review this morning while puzzling over why I can't work up any strong feelings about Beige either way (for anyone who missed it):
It just doesn't do anything for me, in fact, it reminds me of no. 19 in that respect: on paper, I ought to love it, but in real life I just don't. Agree w/ the concept of “restful to go back to well-made classics” though.
I've tried all the Excusifs, and so far, Sycomore was the only one that was full-bottle-worthy for me. I have decants of all the rest.
As for Beige, it smells like lovely expensive shampoo. I've tried it numerous times, and it just doesn't “wow” me at all. IF it came in a smaller, more manageable size, say 50 ml, I might consider it, but at the current size/price point, I have to say ” no thank you”.
I'm sure it's great with the right chemistry – but just too linear and boring for my taste.
I take my hat off to it for managing to be sweet and fruity (to start with at least) yet refined and, as you say, “relentlessly elegant”. This is quite a rare and arresting combination, which in itself makes Beige stand out for me! As I said on an earlier thread about Beige, it is silky smooth like an “unrumpled teddy”. Osmanthe Yunnan comes to mind in terms of that sort of feel, also 31 rue Cambon and Roja Dove Scandal. I think silky smoothness is another admirable attribute, especially for anyone whose throat catches on powder.
Whoever came up with the name is a genius, I think. It suits the fragrance perfectly: restrained, classy. But also, not *me* in the slightest!
I was very excited about Beige – hey, it's a colour that suits me – but your comment about being puzzled why you don't have strong feelings for it is exactly what I feel myself. It's tasteful, elegant and classy; nothing offends me, but I can't get interested in it one way or the other. I'm with you on liking Sycomore – it also has that restrained feel, so I guess each Exclusif either hits the spot dead on, or misses it just as neatly. None of the Exclusifs apart from Sycomore have done it for me. But I'm thinking Beige will do well with the kind of customer who likes the Chanel brand, but isn't actually keen on perfume.
I believe 'beig'e refers to a classic color combination of red, navy and beige. I do recall there was a vintage Beige perfume as well. May sound silly, but it is a “Blonde” perfume. Lovely, patrician, iconic. METAPHORICALLY. Doris Day, Gwneth Paltrow vs. Sophia Lore, Salma Hayek.
Yep, I just couldn't find the love within myself either, Robin. It's well done, but not nearly as exciting, or even interesting, as say No. 22 is to me. And, I agree with you that it reminded me of one of the core numbered fragrances, maybe No. 22 the most.
Oh well…So far, No. 18 and 31 Rue Cambon are the only ones I love, but I'd like to see the latter in a parfum before I shell out the ducats.
Charlotte, I always wish everything came in smaller sizes, but if it ever came true, my perfume collection would probably be more out of control than it is. I'd own Sycomore & 28 La Pausa, that's for sure, and Bel Respiro too, and probably 31 Rue Cambon. So in my case it's just as well they're all in 200 ml.
It is an admirable perfume, that I'd agree with, and it really is beautiful. I just don't need any.
Fragrantfoodie, agree, it's a perfect name for the scent.
The reviews and comments for this one have been so much fun to follow!
I loved Beige, to my shock and surprise. It is easily the one I wish would fall out of the sky into my arms (because I won't be buying it!), I totally agree with your comparison to the classic numbered Chanels. I also found it warm rather than cool. It is not “me” at all, but something in there enchants me. I've used up my small sample and definitely need a larger decant. After that we'll see! I almost never manage to finish even a decant. Finally bought a bottle of Idole after killing off a small sample spray and a larger decant…
Then maybe they'll do Red & Navy next.
Sycomore is restrained. For that matter, so were Bel Respiro & 28 La Pausa. Maybe none of them strike me as this cold though? I don't know.
R, No. 18 is another I need to revisit, I never could make up my mind about it the first time. IIRC, it was more exciting than Beige.
M, you've suprised me — wouldn't have pegged you as someone who'd love Beige.
And it's so funny, Idole seems from another age…so many niche release since then! I'd like to have a bottle of that myself.
It's definitely conservative like you say, although quite pretty. Like I had written:
“If Chanel aimed at providing an instantly approachable, modern and restrained fragrance, they have undoubtedly succeeded. Much like Infusion d'Iris, with its feminine flounces coupled with masculine sparsness, Beige will appeal to women and men alike, floral-lovers as well as floral-haters and will prove to be a best-seller. Personally I would have liked if it included the black toe of the Chanel shoes that provides the arresting counterpoint.”
Then again, in Les Exclusifs there needed to be one slightly sweet, “easy”, non-iris focused fragrance and this one was it (I am not counting Gardenia in there….). I'd rather have Sycomore myself and I see that makes two of us.
Will be interesting to see what they do next, and if they continue to do 2 a year.
I really like Beige (I'm wearing it today). I find it perfect for this time of year. But, as Violetnoir mentioned above, the drydown on me is indistinguishable from No. 22, which I don't care for because it is so astringent. I also love Sycomore because of that wonderful, dry woods scent, almost like you've been sitting in front of a campfire.
I just bought a bottle of Idole for my brother's birthday – at his request, I should add. That's not one to buy a person as a surprise gift, haha!
That pace reminds me of Lutens, doesn't it ?
Sycomore is my vote for the first that needs to be released in 50 ml
No, I suppose it isn't! But I'd take one
I'm surprised to learn how well Sycomore is liked – for me, it smells great but it seems the least interesting of the Les Exclusifs – but the one that I really like is Coromandel, which practically comes with its own sledgehammer. Not for the faint of heart. I think you're right about Beige's similarity to No. 22, and also that the honey sets it apart without overpowering. I like Beige very much and if a rich, handsome man offered to buy it for me I would not say no. Thanks for the review!
I would agree it isn't a terribly interesting scent — nice vetivers have been done before. I'm not a fan of Coromandel, but agree it's more interesting than Sycomore, as is Rue Cambon. I just like Sycomore, even if it isn't so terribly interesting
I'm rather curious about Beige. I think it may be the honey note in it for some odd reason. And probably because I'm disappointed that none of the Chanels work on me, except for Coco Mademoiselle and even then only on certain days. Alas! No Saks, Nordstroms, or Chanel stores around me. God just doesn't want me smelling like Chanel.
If you're willing to spend $$, you can order samples at The Perfumed Court.
From the double $ signs, you had me worried that it'd cost me an arm and a leg for a sample! $3.00 isn't too terrible for samples. I might just have to order a sample.
Oh, sorry! Just meant $$ = money, didn't mean LOTs of money
I bought a bottle of Beige based on a one-time trial at Saks this fall, and I have to say that I have really loved it as an elegant daytime fragrance. I get the honey, and some of the white flowers (probably freesia, since I don't know that I could recognize hawthorne–I have a small tree on my property, and will have to go and sniff when spring comes!), but the dry down on me is definitely more on the woody and powdery side. It isn't a really strong scent, but it does last in a subtle way. I have never been able to wear white florals, which tend to go very sweet on my skin, but this one does not. I also don't get much fruit with it, which these days is a rarity. On the whole, this one will get a fair amount of use from me.
Meant to add–you can buy this from Saks, or you can call Bergdorf Goodman in NYC and order it over the phone. Not the online BG catalog, has to be the store. They are very helpful about it. I ordered Sycomore this way, and it came promptly with a nice note from the saleswoman!
Glad you found a floral you can love, that's great! Enjoy your bottle.