The smart thing to do after I received a sample of Chanel's new Cristalle Eau Verte would have been to have worn it for a few days on its own, and that was my plan. I haven't got that much will power apparently: within 5 minutes of spraying it on, I'd put the original 1974 Cristalle Eau de Toilette on my other hand, and pretty soon I'd put a dab of the 1993 Cristalle Eau de Parfum farther up my arm, and was busy comparing the three.
The new Cristalle Eau Verte, by Chanel perfumer Jacques Polge, promised to retain the “original honeysuckle accord” of Cristalle and to add magnolia (other notes: lemon, bergamot, neroli, jasmine, and abstract white flowers). There wasn't any reason to think it would have much to do with the earlier versions, and of course it doesn't. I don't know the sales figures for the 1974 Cristalle (a long-time favorite of mine) vs. the 1993 Eau de Parfum, but I would guess the Eau de Parfum is the bigger seller of the two, and that the original Eau de Toilette is no longer viable in the regulatory sense anyway, what with oakmoss and citrus being limited.1
Considered on its own merits, Chanel Eau Verte is quite nice. It starts green and fresh and crisp, in the way that perfumes are green and fresh and crisp lately — think Versace Versense or Bvlgari Omnia Green Jade; this is not the green and fresh and crisp of Cristalle Eau de Toilette. I was interested to read somewhere2 that Cristalle Eau Verte smelled more natural than Cristalle, because my reaction, once I'd smelled it, was the opposite: it's got that that "fresh breeze" and "fresh water" thing in the top notes that smells entirely synthetic to me, and that verges, most unfortunately, on the smell of dryer sheets or air freshener, whereas the original Cristalle still smells to me like things you can find in nature: citrus, herbs, moss, flowers. The green citrus opening of Eau Verte reminds me of 7Up and/or Fresca long after the bubbles have all evaporated — not a bad thing, necessarily, but not at all the same. It's lively, but it doesn't sparkle.
The freshness lasts well into the heart, which is more feminine, less crisp. Initially, magnolia seemed an odd choice for Cristalle, but it works beautifully with the lingering greenery — it's soft and slightly creamy, and you'll catch traces of the original floral notes from Cristalle. The base is pale, summer-y and entirely un-chypre-ish.
If you were a fan of Cristalle Eau de Toilette, or even the Eau de Parfum, don't bother trying the Eau Verte with that in mind. It's nicely done, but it isn't Cristalle and there's no point, I suppose, in crying over spilled milk. If you didn't like Cristalle — and not everyone did: "rotting swamp" was only one of several negative comments when I reviewed it — rest assured that this is an entirely modern perfume, clean and shower fresh, with no trace of moss (the likely culprit for "rotting swamp"), and there's no reason at all to think you won't like it. If you've never tried either of the first two variations on Cristalle, for heaven's sakes, don't do it now: ignorance is bliss (although for all I know, the originals have already been reformulated). As for me, I like it fine, and if I had a bottle I'd wear it quite happily. It's pretty, it's wearable, and as befits a Chanel, it smells classier than most of the "fresh and green" competition on the perfume counters at the moment. But wearing it next to Cristalle Eau de Toilette mostly served to remind me how much I adore Cristalle Eau de Toilette, and nice as it is, Cristalle Eau Verte isn't likely to replace it in my affections.
Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte is available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette Concentrée; it does not launch in the US until this summer, but can be purchased overseas now. The lasting power is pretty good — not entirely fabulous, but a far sight better than that of Cristalle Eau de Toilette.
1. You can skim through the articles under the IFRA tag if you're not familiar with recent regulatory issues.
2. As usual, I've entirely forgotten where. A blog, or maybe MakeupAlley? If I've stolen your words, do comment and take credit.