Perfumer Olivier Polge
Chanel says Gabrielle is composed around four classic white flowers: tuberose, orange blossom, ylang ylang and jasmine. They call it, “the perfect white flower.” Olivier Polge has called Gabrielle “abstract”, an apparent allusion to Chanel’s monumental abstract floral, no 5. Abstraction implies veering away from duplicating a given scent and instead reimagining it. Gabrielle is abstract in that it doesn’t smell like any of these four flowers per se. In fact it doesn’t smell appreciably botanical. Despite the press release talking points describing the perfume’s flower as “imaginary” and “perfect”, Gabrielle is less an ideal flower than the mean average of a set of ‘floral’ notes.
Gabrielle is linear for the most part but it has an identifiable drydown. The perfume grows less specific as time passes, though not inadvertently. The drydown seems intentionally indistinct, recreating the risk-averse, bleary musky/woody finish found in many mainstream perfumes geared toward the young female perfume buyer. To its credit, though Gabrielle is a fruity floral it’s neither gourmand nor particularly sweet. A mildly acerbic twist runs through the perfume’s duration, cropping any nascent sweetness.
Gabrielle hits its marks and doesn’t flub its lines but it doesn’t inspire. A noncommittal floral mix leading to a fairly anonymous drydown gives Gabrielle a shapelessness that undercuts Polge’s efforts to create an ideal white flower. The composition seems specifically calibrated to create soft-focus haze and a dull shine. It’s a ho-hum vision of femininity from the house that produced challenging and powerful feminine perfumes like 19, Cristalle and Coco. I don’t doubt the expertise and technical proficiency involved in creating a perfume like Gabrielle. It performs precisely as intended and accomplishes its design goals but it reads as a collection of non-negatives. It’s attractive in that it’s not ugly. It’s appealing in that it’s not offensive. Again, this strategy seems deliberate. The most flankable perfumes tend to be those that don’t commit too strongly to any olfactory characteristics and I imagine it won’t be too long until Gabrielle Eau Fraiche, Gabrielle Eau Tendre and Gabrielle Edition Blanche hit the shelves.