Chanel Egoiste, 1990


Perfumer Jacques Polge

A nice woody-fruity fragrance will be at least somewhat attractive to 90% of those who smell it. It is undemanding and hits the right buttons. It’s like a blooming flower. Who actively dislikes jasmine or rose? Egoiste skips pretty, though, and dives straight to drop-dead gorgeous. It is a neo-oriental that beat Serge Lutens Feminite du Bois to the fruity/cedary punch. Feminité du Bois has a radiant harmony. Egoiste, on the other hand, is a big diva-like melody with built-in backup singers.

Egoiste composes an accord that hits all the right tones we love about sandalwood—vanillic, creamy, fruity-sweet, at once rounded and sharp. I think Egoiste has survived since 1987 (Chanel Bois Noir, Egoiste’s first incarnation) fully intact, despite the sandalwood drought, because it emulates sandalwood the way Guerlain’s Nahema calls to mind a rose: by employing a superb chemical geometry to create an olfactory allusion of sandalwood using vanilla, musk, rosewood and god knows what other notes. The herbal touch completes the picture and creates a medicinal tone that keeps the sweet creaminess from crossing the line to toothaching.

Egoiste makes me wonder why designer men’s fragrances don’t strive for full-on beauty instead of tolerating the low expectation of skimpy, vernacular handsomeness as a goal.


(image Narcisse by Gyula Benczúr)

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