Chanel Chance




Over the winter holidays, I put in a handful of days at Scent Bar in Los Angeles in what they billed as a "residency", a fancy way to say "Saturday girl". Whatever, this Saturday girl was in her happy place: playing with all the perfume and confabulating with the customers. (By and large, fumeheads are an intriguing bunch whose inquiring minds and multidisciplinary backgrounds turn Scent Bar into an instant salon.)

A young Russian couple came in, and the husband let it be known that he wanted to ease his wife into niche. I asked the wife what she already wore and loved, and the answer was Chanel Chance. Easy-peasy, I thought, as I moved toward the fruity-floral shelf and began to select a few options.

Clocking the "fruity-floral" sign, lady protested, "Oh, I don't like flowery perfumes!" "But..." I began, bemused, "Chance is all about jasmine..."

This is a scenario frequently encountered with people seeking my advice on finding a new perfume. They are absolutely certain they despise patchouli, even though it turns out to be in all the fumes they love. Or they can only wear fresh scents, with "fresh" curiously defined as cotton candy and berries.

And a vociferously-stated aversion to florals is a popular stance. I remember once helping a "flowerphobic" friend find a new scent, and was stumped when she rejected all of my proffered woods, spices, herbs, citrus, musk, and marine blends. Fed up, she began randomly huffing bottles from the perfume counter.

"Now this is something I like!" she announced triumphantly, holding a bottle out to me. I sniffed. It was a huge gardenia tuberose.

Sometimes, the miscommunication is solved by a renegotiation of scent definitions, finding a terminology we can all agree on. Other times, it's a matter of opening our minds -- and nostrils -- to a new way of looking (smelling) at things. But back to the Chance-loving lady. I handed her bottles, she sniffed, and we allowed her nose to follow the perfume breadcrumbs to her new favorite fragrance. Which wasn't a fruity floral. It was Lubin Black Jade, a beguiling spicy oriental. There are flowers, yes (rose and jasmine), but the overall effect is subtly steered by incense.

It just goes to show you: perfume profiling never fails to surprise -- both the profiler, and the profilee.

Chance is available from Chanel.com and Buy.com.


Looking for a fragrance recommendation? Visit Fume Finder: the Katie Puckrik Smells fragrance app.

38 comments:

  1. I have discovered that many times I've been calling notes by the wrong name! And then insisting that I was right and the rest of the world was wrong.

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    1. "insisting that I was right and the rest of the world was wrong."

      That's my problem with everything.

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    2. I defend your right to be wrong.

      SoS

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  2. I hear you Katie, I loved Chance when it was first released, repurchsed it at least 3 times But to this day I clinch for the word "fruity" to me orange is not fruit it is citrus, strawberry & melon are Fruit!! Hessa

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    1. A rose is a rose is a rose, but a fruit is not always a fruit is not always a fruit.

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    2. Don't forget that Newtons are fruit and cake.

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    3. Perception is reality. And I prefer to perceive cake.

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    4. Don't forget that a tomato is a fruit.
      But I wouldn't want to wear a tomato perfume.

      SoS

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  3. What fun to be the Saturday Girl at Scent Bar. Too bad the gig is up because I am coming down to L.A. in April and Scent Bar is on my hit list! I just adore your reviews Katie even with something so accessible and middle of the road as Chance you give it fair shake of the perfume bottle. Lovely story to about the Chance Lady too!

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    1. It would have been great to meet you, Lanier! You will have such a WEEEEEEEEE! time sniffing your way through Scent Bar, though, and the enablers who work there are fine people.

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    2. I love a good perfume enabler!

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  4. Oh to be a Saturday girl at Scent Bar!! My dream Saturday job, I reckon... How is Roderigo the perfume dog these days, though? He is suspiciously quiet of late. I miss his sage, knowing, furry face. Justineantonia xoxo

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    1. Justineantonia - "his sage, knowing, furry face" cracked me up. I'm not so sure about "sage", but Rodrigo is certainly knowing when it comes to chicken availability.

      He seems to have retired from the screen, nothing intentional. It turns out I'm more of a show-off than he is.

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    2. Though, in fairness to Roderigo, once you know where the good perfume is to be found and where the roast chicken is to had, what more does man or beast need to know?
      I found out today that there is Frederic Malle boutique opening near me at the start of April. I suspect you may be the only person more excited by this than me. I may design an advent calendar in readiness. :) Justineantonia xoxo

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    3. Too funny, a perfume advent calendar! And now I'm with you: Rodrigo is sage after all.

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  5. "even with something so accessible and middle of the road as Chance you give it fair shake of the perfume bottle."

    Yep. Katie is silly and fun and humorous, but displays maturity by giving everything an honest try. I always feel like she's being objective.

    Just watched the L'Agent review for the 50th time. I may have some blind buying in my future.

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    1. Any maturity displayed is unintentional.

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  6. What a funny story about that Russian lady! I'm glad that she found a new favorite in the end.

    I find that it takes a long time to get the hang of any kind of descriptive language. For a while, I worked in a wine shop/bar. Once I had a customer come in who wanted a big, thick, jammy wine that smelled like grass and wasn't tannic at all. For me, that meant some Franken-wine! It took patience to figure out exactly what he wanted, but the important thing was that he was happy.

    ps. it turns out what he wanted was the most popular wine :-)

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    1. I love wine, but I don't have the fluency in that area that I do in perfume, so I feel for your customer's clumsiness. I realize I just don't know what kinds of variations and possibilities there are with wine - I just "know what I like." Usually I just ask for the waiter's recommendation, since I really know one grape from another. An area of study I'm keen to pursue...

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  7. I know a few people for whom Chance is their favourite scent, and my face always falls when I hear that, because it is as you say, so very safe - and hey, I like safe as a rule. I get the spiky woollen wisps you speak of and that scratchiness does bother me texturally I must say. Scentwise, I get more of a melange of iris and hyacinth as well as the musk - that's if I can detect anything beyond non-specific safeness all the way through - and of course it is noted for not having the usual three stage development.

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    1. ARrghh! Hyacinth!! That flower is a megaphone of smell. It's just TOO MUCH!

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  8. Yes. Yes, Katie. As an "ex-flowerphobe" (what am I typing?), I associated flowers with a headache and a pedestrian line-up of fragrances. The "fruity-floral" was the enemy no. 1, followed by enemy no. 2--the "aldehydic" floral. That gradually changed and I slowly moved away from the incense and the patchouli-amber to finally enjoy wearing a fruity floral--Chanel 18. I can't get enough of Chanel 18 and my only complaint is that it disappears all too soon! (In order to achieve satisfaction I am required to soak several cotton balls and securely place them in my cleavage and sometimes socks.) It doesn't stop at Chanel 18, an apparently harmless "gateway floral": I also shamelessly spritz Pleasures, Fracas, a la Nuit, Chanel No. 5, and Quelques Fleurs. Basically, I think it just takes experimentation and curiosity to overcome one's dislike of certain notes.

    --Guin

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    1. Experimentation leads to lots of good cocktail stories.

      But wait - solemn, austere Chanel 18 is a fruity floral? I need to resmell with that headset clamped on.

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    2. The fruity floral component in Chanel 18 is soft and airbrushed and balanced with ambrette (according to the note list). To me it smells like woody shampoo with pickles, which sounds awful, but it ends up being elegant, and yes, austere. It's a difficult fragrance to describe, but I defiantly smell flowers and fruit. I guess my fruit detector is turned up to 11? Let me know what you think about it when you resniff.

      Yes experimentation does lead to good cocktail stories--sometimes fruit is involved.

      --Guin

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    3. Rose absolute has both fruity and floral facets so I guess No.18 is a fruity-floral, as that is what No.18 primarily is. Guin, I like your take on it.

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    4. I'm really cranking out the typos this week: "defiantly" should be "definitely".

      Anonymous--I really wasn't detecting roses before you mentioned it, but now Chanel 18 is a giant, juicy rose (with pickles or olives).

      The power of suggestion!

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    5. The pickly bit is probably the iris. Iris sort of is the 'olive' of the perfumery world- doesn't really smell like anything else, and you probably won't have smelt it before, so it can take a while to acquire the taste. It's from the root of the flower, and many people identify it as carroty; I find it more radishy. If you smell Dior Homme (the original), you will probably be able to recognise it in that. You are developing very expensive tastes btw. lol

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    6. OK, Anonymous--I will definitely check out Dior Homme and report back. It sounds interesting; according to one review, it has a "leather and lipstick" vibe.

      --Guin

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    7. Reporting back: Unfortunately, the local department store does not carry Dior Homme. (I guess this is the price one pays for living in a small town.) Anyway, I decided to unearth some of my lipstick and give it a snort. I noticed that my lipstick is sweet and powdery, and yes, carrot-like; I'm assuming that this is due to iris. So, I returned to No. 18 and found the "lipstick" note and the rose note and also something else. Maybe the "ambrette"? There is something woody and almost acidic (pickles), especially during the first five minutes. Also, is that cumin that randomly surfaces? This stuff is a drug and a puzzle; my small decant is rapidly disappearing up my nose.

      Anyway, thank you, Anonymous, for sharing your thoughts.

      --Guin

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    8. Guin, your sniffing forensics are like some kind of mad scientist experiment! Keep it up!

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  9. I have never been afraid of florals. I simply CANNOT SHOVE ENOUGH FLOWERS IN MY NOSE GIVE ME MORE MORE MORE MORE.

    I recently became aware of an ancient Persian love story of madness and obsession called "Leila Manjun," and I believe it should be the basis for a perfume, which would be heavily floral.

    I don't understand how "fruit" equals attractiveness while "flowers," equals "dowdy."

    Essentially, flowers are the sexy parts of plants whereas fruit is the offspring. Which sounds better to you?

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    1. "Essentially, flowers are the sexy parts of plants whereas fruit is the offspring. Which sounds better to you?"

      This is the best thing I have read all week. Possibly all month.

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    2. Though it's not really correct: the seeds or stones in fruit are the 'offspring', and the fruit is really a continuation of the flower, which is why certain fruits smell like the type of flower from which they come (fruits from plants in the rose family have a rosey aspect for example). As such, I think the fruits as more the sexual organs of the plant reacting to have been fertilised and being in a state of reproduction. An interesting aspect to the fact that flowers are the sexual organs of plants is that that is the reason why so many people have allergies to flower pollen, because their immune systems are basically going into a hyperdrive at having alien's sperm enter their bodies.

      Although this is clearly not a problem for Nora. LOL.

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    3. I think even if I had an allergy to pollen I would ignore it and keep sniffing. Yes, I do believe I would.

      --Nora, too lazy to log in

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  10. Once upon a time and what feels like a hundred years ago, I worked at a perfume counter. This was my first introduction to the complexity and general wackiness of the vocabulary of scent. "I don't wear patchouli!" Buys Chanel Coco. "I only wear fresh, clean fragrances!" Buys Guerlain Insolence EDP.

    I learned to stick stuff under people's noses and never tell them what it was. It was the only way to break the barriers that for some reason people created for themselves.

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  11. Dear Katie

    The tuberose is a curious one, isn't it?
    I have known many people in their day protest that they didn't like flowers only to be bowled over by it - men surprisingly as frequently as women.

    I can only conclude that it being such a very unique note that it has an appeal all of its own that sits outside of the normal ranks of classification.

    That said, your point is well made, the lexicon of scentsualists is not that of the populace at large and we can't expect it to be. Our best powers of simultaneous translation must ever be on hand - along with the ubiquitous hand gesture to interpret what of fellow men and women like and actively dislike.

    I do so wish you were a Saturday girl at a store near me.

    Yours ever

    The Perfumed Dandy
    theperfumeddandy.com

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  12. Arrrgggh! I want this one so badly. Yours is the fourth review I am reading on this scent, and it is pushing me over the edge! :) Thank you for a beautiful review, as always.

    human pheromones by LuvEssentials

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  13. This perfume smells like sharpened pencils. UGH.

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