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Bombay Duck London

Chanel Jersey

When a little bird at Chanel (actually, they’re all little birds at Chanel) told The Scent Critic that their next fragrance launch was based around lavender and vanilla, I said a silent ‘hmmmm’.  Because lavender and vanilla aren’t natural bedfellows, in fragrance.  They don’t go together like a horse and carriage;  they go together like a horse and – well, a tricycle.  Or a pair of rollerskates.

But this is a Labradoodle of a fragrance, as it turns out.  Or a Cockapoo.  You know:  those dogs which are created by taking two fairly attractive breeds (for instance, labrador and poodle), and creating something altogether more cute and appealing.  (Though not a ‘dog person’ – The Scent Critic has plastic bag issues – I have been known to melt when encountering a Cockapoo on the end of a lead.)  Lavender on its own:  aromatic, but a touch antiseptic. Vanilla?  Great in an ice cream, or a sponge cake, but over-eager use in a fragrance sends it speeding in the direction of ickiness.  Together?  In über-nose Jacques Polge’s hands, at least, somewhat delicious.

It took me a few wears to really get my head round Jersey, nevertheless.  (And a few ‘Wow, you smell nice’-es, from friends and colleagues, which always helps.)  It’s crisp and clean at the start:  I really am trailing my fingers through a lavender bush, which obviously is the effect Polge was going for.  Now, classically, lavender is a masculine ingredient.  Or a Little Old Lady ingredient (familiar from brushing your lips against a favourite great-aunt’s slightly hirsute cheek, and getting a whiff of her Yardley).  But here, the herbal cleanliness mellows in just a few minutes, and Jersey becomes cloud-soft and cashmere-snuggly.

OK, I lie.  Jersey is soft like those microfibre socks and blankets which feel like swansdown, are spun from some earth-plundering petrochemical, no doubt – but which are (ssshhhh!) the guilty textile pleasure of many an otherwise soignée woman in my social circle…

In reality it’s intended, I’m sure, to be soft as jersey itself:  the fabric which Coco Chanel embraced in the early 1920s, taking it out of the underwear drawer – it was worn, by chaps, in vest form – and using it instead to create drape-y clothes which liberated women from whalebone corsetry in one French-seamed bound.  Why, the bottle I was sent – not sure if this is standard issue or Scent Critic privilege – actually came with its own drawstring jersey pouch.

The lavender, FYI – grown close to Montpellier – is apparently unusual in that it’s extracted in a ‘dry steam’ distillation, which doesn’t ‘cook’ the raw material in the usual way.  Is that why it has all the lightness, and none of the familiar antiseptic qualities?  Peut-être. (What I do know – having recently been privileged enough to be present at the Chanel jasmine harvest in Grasse – is that they’re obsessive about provenance.  Which is partly, of course, why Chanel is Chanel.)

Rose and jasmine give Jersey its necessary structure – the Little Black Dress ingredients in every fragrance – but the vanilla (and a touch of tonka bean) sweep in pretty smartish.  There’s an element of ‘baby’s head’ about it:  the nuzzleable quality of a freshly-bathed toddler.  Indeed I wouldn’t label Jersey as ‘sexy’, at all;  it’s comforting and soothing (in aromatherapeutic terms, vanilla and lavender are both calming), which probably make it just what the doctor ordered in a global financial meltdown.  (Although, like all the Les Exclusifs creations, Jersey’s exclusivity comes at a pretty hefty price.)

As I fossick around in my scent memories, the fragrance it most reminds me of is the original Tartine et Chocolate (from Givenchy):  originally marketed as a children’s scent, because of its subtle delicacy, but loved by grown-ups, and – just like Jersey – unfolding to a vanilla warmth, on the skin.  Were you so inclined, and despite the white musk whispers in the base, you could also safely spray Jersey on a 4-year-old.  (Not that you probably would, at this price, unless you happened to be wedded to a Russian oligarch).

Equally, it could be worn by a man, I’d say (though probably not the stevedore type), and would smell très elegant as he wafted around.  It doesn’t hang around for that long, to be totally honest, but I think it’s nice while it does.  That might sound like damning with faint praise, but I like both the bold Provençale lavender overture, and the pretty, powdery dry-down.  And I’ve found myself fairly compulsively re-spritzing, since Jersey landed on my desk, which probably speaks volumes.

Plus:  I really love it when perfumers, like dog breeders, break the rules.  Rule-breaking is a great Chanel tradition – why not make frocks out of vest fabric, or be first to try to balance lavender with vanilla? – and while this may not be the greatest scent creation of the 21st century, and not quite up there alongside Sycomore or 28 La Pausa in the roll-call of Chanel Les Exclusifs triumphs, Jersey deserves a rosette, for trying.

A black and white rosette, please.

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3 comments to Chanel Jersey

  • Nicola

    This one was not well received elsewhere in perfume blog world but I like it too. Not love, but like, and will probably break out my decant in the spring along with Hermes Brin de Reglisse.However, as much as I enjoyed your review, how about Caron’s Pour un Homme for pairing vanilla and lavender? That is one of my favourite men’s fragrances ever and there is something of it in by Kilian’s Taste of Heaven, also yummy.

  • Arxsyn

    When I sidled up to the Chanel counter I only gave this latest addition to their line a cursory sniff just from holding the bottle and smelling the atomizer as it was recently spritzed by someone other than myself… I was mildly bemused it smelled like the laundry Boost powders I regularly use: borax and washing soda. Only less harsh with flowers and slight a slightly sweet scent floating above it.

    I honestly think I can get the same effect if I put essential oils and artificial vanilla into my rinse water of my laundry cycle I could get the same effect! That’s why I didn’t bother to investigate any further by sprinting it on a card. Loathe the thought of perfume smelling like laundry. Granted, I like it better than the nauseating air freshener CHANCE, the worst offender is the eau version. Those are awful!

  • Mel

    I actually like this one from Chanel. Its unlike their usual strong scent. I love how this is soft and feminine. I didn’t like it at all in the beginning when I smelled it the first time but this fragrance grows on you after a while.

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