Olivier Polge's profile at Chanel continues to rise. A few months ago, the guardians of the double-C logo released his first sole-authored creation, Misia, but that was part of the Exclusifs range, which meant it wasn't granted a wide release. Now, his work has been allowed to enter the main collection, albeit in the form of a flanker: the third follow up to Chance, one of the house's bestsellers in North America. Perhaps the next creation we receive from him will be a fully-fledged, all-new feminine scent (isn't it high time the brand gave us one?) but until then, we have to make do with the flanker, sub-titled Eau Vive.
In terms of Chanel's scented portfolio, Chance has occupied a curious position. The original from 2002 started off as a fruity patchouli (an idea that was marginally more novel 13 years ago than it is now) but has since moved closer to the territory of sheer, woody compositions, each one introducing a slightly different twist of citrus. Eau Vive continues the pattern and takes grapefruit as its particular focus. The presentation of the fruit is surprisingly endearing and convincing for a mainstream release. You don't get the near-holographic sparkle and fizz that you'd expect from a more daring, non-high-street piece of work, but given that Polge is aiming for a general audience, he has allowed his fruit to display commendable bite and verve. The floral mid-section is pretty too: a translucent, well-groomed jasmine, tangentially reminiscent of Calice Becker's J'Adore for Dior. And the conclusion is as one would expect: clean, freshly-planed woods (I always get a lot of cedar from Chance and its minions) with support from a well-scrubbed patchouli.
In other words, it fulfils what I suspect were Chanel's intentions (ie it is attractive, non-confrontational, well-constructed, diffusive and long-lasting) without fulfilling the hopes of most scentusiasts (ie it isn't innovative, original or especially memorable). If that sounds like damning with faint praise then I would ramp up my enthusiasm by saying that Eau Vive is probably the liveliest member of the Chance trio, which is entirely apt, considering its name. But all this is skirting around the real issue, which is that we want to find out what Polge will create as his first bona fide new perfume. I hope his masters won't keep us waiting too long.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Chanel in 2015.]