digging (into) vintage: Chanel Cristalle, 1974

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Perfumer Henri Robert

The fruity chypre is my favorite genre and I have Cristalle to thank. When I first smelled Cristalle, years ago before I became a fumie, I didn’t really know anything about genres of fragrances or what made them what they were. It was 1982 and I was in college.  I wore Antaeus, Kouros, No 5, and Je Reviens. Powerhouse men’s 80s and lady-like floral aldehydes. When I tried Cristalle at some department store or other, I had no idea what to make of it. It’s as if this had dropped in from space. I can’t say I loved it, but it marked me.

When I smelled it again many years later I found it arrestingly gorgeous. It smelled just as it had the first time, but I had changed. I was ready for it. I know some find it off-putting (even many who like it) but I find it has just the right timbre, the perfect inflection. It is an odd, spare chord and might not be particularly harmonious in a feel-good, symphonic sense but it has a pristine tonality.

My only difficulty with it (as with both No 19 edt and Pour Monsieur) is duration. It has just a fraction more lasting power than an eau de cologne. Despite this, I love its evolution over time. It starts green, strong, astringent and then has a fairly quick transition to a mossy, melon-like floral like nothing else I’ve smelled. From this point it just sort of blows away, becoming a ghost of itself, but, for an hour or so, a recognizable one.



(image, Romy Schneider by Giancarlo Botti)


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