Thursday, 28 February 2013

Does No. 5 Contain Bionic Moss?


Yesterday, during my interview with Talk Radio Europe, I was asked about the implications of the proposed anti-allergen legislation which received media attention last year. This led to a brief chat about the reformulation of certain classics, including, of course, No 5. And as it happens, last night, I was at a Chanel event in London, so I brought up the subject there too.

It would seem the brand's official line is that they're way ahead of the legislators. They've come up with a new variation of a moss material (pictured above) which, according to them, will satisfy both No 5 fans and the anti-allergen lobby. The substance - which they're simply calling 'reconstructed moss' - has been created using the sort of wizardry with which many regular perfume-blog readers will be familiar: the offending molecules in the natural ingredient were identified, removed and replaced with safe components.

I was able to smell the stuff, both on a blotter and on my skin. I confess I found its oakmoss-iness convincing, but we're talking about a quick sniff here, not a scientific evaluation. And the substance's odour is one thing. The way it interacts with other materials is something else entirely.

Who knows, maybe this new creation will turn out to be some kind of wonder-juice. But I'd suggest that its appearance at Chanel launches raises more questions than it answers. Is moss the only component of No 5 which would be affected by the proposed legislation? What's being done to 'protect' the other scents in the range? And if the R&D folks at the brand have spent so much time developing this stuff, does that mean they're pretty certain that the new laws will be passed?

Watch this space.

Persolaise.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting about this! I adore No. 5 and have a vintage bottle that my mother had when she was a teen, and it was one of the first few perfumes I tried before really diving headfirst into this hobby.

    I'm glad that they are upfront about the fact that they have to reformulate and that they are at least trying to preserve the integrity of the fragrance. Lord knows Chanel has definitely changed from its original formula from the 1920s given the removal of many "dangerous" ingredients - the question I'd like to pose, however, is: at what point does Chanel No. 5 cease to be Chanel No. 5? When it's no longer recognisable? When it loses its "oak-mossiness"? The question might border on the metaphysical, but then again, I'm a Philosophy student - welcome to Philosophy of Scent!

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    1. That is indeed a philosophical question. We lovers of Chanel No. 5 may cease to recognize the perfume being produced one day, but Chanel will never stop making a perfume called No. 5, no matter how completely the formula and smell may change. There will always be new noses that have never tried it, and for them, it will be the only No. 5. I'm hanging on the the last few drops of my c.2007 extrait.

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    2. Joshuaang, wouldn't it be great to travel to various points in the last 90 years and smell No 5. Perhaps we'd discover that it stopped being No 5 quite some time ago...

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    3. Krista, I couldn't agree with you more. And I think hoarding is probably a very good idea at this stage!

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    4. This seems to reflect what Thierry Wasser said about if Guerlain classics were made again in their original formulas, if people would recognize and still like it.
      Sometimes i wonder that we think about fragrance reformulations but never think that we as humans end being 'reformulated' too over our lifes...

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    5. Rick, yes, the 'reformulation' caused by life probably has a larger effect on our tastes than we acknowledge.

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  2. Now the prospect of a genuinely passable oakmoss analogue is an exciting one - it could lead to a (re)transformation in perfumery.One only has to consider what changes in iris and oud notes did to the market to realise the potential impact...
    As for No. 5, well surely its more than a concept than a scent anymore - No.5 will smell like No.5 to every successive generation regardless of the exact composition, no?

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

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    1. Perfumed Dandy, I think I get what you're saying, but I'm not sure I entirely agree. No 5 has been recognisable for as long as I've known it (ie nearly 30 years)... so if it changed drastically, then no, it wouldn't be No 5 to me any more.

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  3. Are the bottles all the ingredients that goes inside Chanel No 5?

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    1. Rick, no, I should've explained. They're just a little Chanel kit of a few key perfumery ingredients.

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