We Celebrate 100 Years of Chanel No 5! ~ Fragrantica




Chanel No 5 was my first real perfume. I bought it when I was eighteen because I wanted to have the most famous perfume. I could afford a mini bottle of 5ml with eau de toilette. I loved it before I even smelled it because I loved the rumors and stories, the beautiful women who advertised it, the bottle, the stopper, and even the price I couldn’t afford because The Perfume had to be expensive. With this readiness to fall in love with the perfume, the fragrance itself wasn’t that important. I was about to have 5ml of a legend, and I was ready to appreciate anything, but I loved its one-of-a-kind fragrance I couldn’t even describe. I love it still. It hasn’t changed since then, and I don’t care about better vintage versions of Chanel No 5, because it isn’t about the fragrance for me.





There are so many stories that surround Chanel No 5 that I feel it’s apt to add our own personal ones to the legendary ones that are already there in the public consciousness. Many of us associate the famous fragrance with people in our lives, and I’m no different. For my mother, Chanel No 5 was one of a handful of perfumes that represented beauty, escape, fantasy — a small spoonful of elegance that lifted her away from a world that wasn’t particularly easy for her when she was a young woman. Her first bottle of Chanel No 5 was an eau de toilette that she received as a factory second because the sprayer didn’t work exactly right — she worked at this same factory for a short while. You can imagine what a treasure this was for her, in earlier days when perfumes were far harder to obtain, and were treated with such reverence.

It was quite meaningful to buy my mother perfume when I was older and making money of my own. Buying her a new bottle of Chanel No 5 was an occasion met with many smiles and memories. It holds just as many memories for me now. I wonder how many of us thrilled a bit inside when we walked into a department store, smelled this magical fragrance of rose, ylang-ylang, iris, lily-of-the-valley, aldehyde and oakmoss? Did we enjoy it as much as the people we gave it to? I earnestly believe so. I recall with crystalline precision the feeling of cold air around Christmas, holding a thick card sprayed with Chanel No 5 in my overcoat pocket, walking with a shopping bag in hand and feeling that everything looked a bit brighter. Maybe this is the same sensation that my mother felt when she could indulge in perfume during long work days. For so many of us, we still feel the unmistakable thrill of expectation that Chanel No 5 summons to our senses. It is a perfume of the future, the next day, when things will improve and all will be right with the world.





Remember when we were young and our parents might’ve tried to share something with us but we never listened? Only to find out one day we were in the midst of discovering that very thing by our own willingness and loving it? It is the case with Chanel No 5 and me. I vividly remember that my father brought home a bottle of No 5 EDP among many other duty-free shop souvenirs from a business trip, and he failed to convince me to take the perfume. Then some magical combination happened a few years later! It includes digging into the life of a popular Chinese and English novelist, Eileen Chang (张爱玲), and stumbling upon the legendary story of her leaving a bottle of Chanel No 5 to her University of California research assistant to say ‘Thank you’; discovering Fragrantica in 2007 when curious about perfume notes; and seeing a Chanel miniature parfum set (including No 5, No 19, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, and Allure) for the holiday season.

Then voilà! I was ready and more than just eager to welcome my first ever bottles of Chanel into my life. I was just starting to fall down the perfumista rabbit hole back then, and was already lost at sea in the department stores permeated with various floral-fruity-shampoo-y scents. No 5’s bright aldehyde and its sandalwood, animalic soapy scent is like a classic violin instantly smashing autotuned pop music. A juxtaposition of intellectually stimulating and comforting, No 5 has been shining like a lighthouse in the perfumed sea to me. It has an allure of encouraging you to get close to discover, to venture away to explore, and always reassuring you with its classic elegance that there’s a certain kind of comfort and style you can fall back to.





My experience with Chanel No 5 comes from a passion that has nothing to do with perfumery, but with cinema. I’ve always loved classy cinema from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Between Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn always attracted me not for her acting but for her beauty and sensuality. During my life, I always wanted to know more about Marilyn and I looked for everything related to her behavior and tastes in movies, magazines, reports, interviews and biographies. Until I came across the declaration that she only used a few drops of Chanel No 5 before going to bed and that was it.

I found that amazing. I already knew the perfume, but I had never classified it as a lewd or sensual perfume. I thought of it as a great French perfume and nothing more. After this statement, I started looking for the whole story behind the construction of Chanel No 5, and I could see that the biggest intention of the perfume was to smell the woman, to be abstractly floral and sexy without being obvious, using what was most expensive and modern at the time to reach this formula of luxury and glamour. From then on, I never lacked a bottle of Chanel No 5 in the collection and none of its versions.





They say Chanel No 5 is the ultimate classic and they know a thing or two when they say it. Even though reportedly — and I can vouch for this in my private consultations — it does very poorly in blind tests, it is nothing short of a legend, and the care that Chanel took to preserve its myth is testament to the pedestal on which it’s placed by the industry: le monstre sacré, like they say about opera singers. And No 5 is definitely operatic, especially in the current Eau de Parfum version, which was introduced in the decade of excess, in the 1980s.

Thankfully, my own experience as a teenager was tied to the lighter Eau de Toilette. It was my aunt that gave it to me, as a gift for my birthday when I was in high school, studying French and classical piano. Maybe that connection was not lost on her, since this classical perfume is considered the ne plus ultra of French sophistication. Or maybe it was what she actually said while offering it to me, “Every girl alive should own it at some point.” I was very young and hadn’t quite grasped the meaning of her words. It implied a sense of history, of heritage too, of sharing secret knowledge, of a rite of passage. It stuck with me, that line. The musky embrace and the narcotic floralcy of the ylang in its scent was what got to me when wearing it — that clean and sensuous aura of it. It opened up a vista of possibilities, as I was enamoured with perfumes even then, although more invested in the “in” fragrances of my own era. It allowed me the porthole through which I could scavenge vintages and older glamorous fragrant monuments, well before retro came into fashion. I’m grateful to her, and to her insight into Chanel No 5. Although it’s not my go-to fragrance, I always keep several bottles of different iterations in my perfume cabinet for when I want to feel like I’m part of history, too. Long may it live!


Photos of 100th anniversary editions by Elena Knezevic



Chanel No 5: Ask For The Moon – Holiday Editions 2021

CHANEL No 5: Contemporary History in Faces – Chanel No 5 Movies from the perspective of an actor and an artistic director

Chanel No 5: What Makes It What It Is? – A chemist’s point of view

Chanel No 5 – EVOLUTION OF THE BOTTLE – How the Chanel No 5 bottle changed through the years

5 INTERPRETATIONS OF Chanel No 5 – The five versions of Chanel No 5 that the brand produces now

Chanel No 5 and No 5 L’Eau: A Breakthough – The lightest interpretation of No 5





Marilyn Monroe, Bob Beerman, 1953



Ali MacGraw photographed by Jérome Ducrot
for CHANEL N°5 advertising campaign in 1966



Lauren Hutton photographed
by Richard Avedon for CHANEL N°5 advertising campaign in 1968.
Courtesy The Richard Avedon Foundation



Catherine Deneuve photographed by Richard Avedon
for the advertising campaign N°5 of CHANEL in 1972, USA



Carole Bouquet photographed by Michel Comte
for the advertising campaign N°5 of CHANEL, 1987



Nicole Kidman photographed by Patrick Demarchelier
for the advertising campaign N°5 of CHANEL, 2006



Marion Cotillard photographed by Steven Meisel
for the advertising campaign N°5 of CHANEL, 2020

Ad pictures: Chanel press information

News Comments

Write your comment



I was so touched by John Biebel’s words: ” It is a perfume of the future, the next day, when things will improve and all will be right with the world.” Yes, I think many of us can relate to that feeling. Thank you for reminding me of it, John.


Toy Boy


I wish I could try the very first edition of no 5. People say it’s the EDT being the closest one, but I’m pretty sure they’re still very different. Vintage parfume had quality we don’t see anymore. But I must say my favorite current edition of no 5 is the EDP. It’s the deepest and most beautiful no 5 out there for me. I’m a dude and it’s on my shelf :)


Fantastic post, many thanks. I especially enjoyed John’s reflections on the delight that gifting the fragrance can bring, as much as wearing it. Chanel No 19 is my favourite Chanel (favourite fragrance of all) and that is not going to change but I do own No 5 in several formats including vintage. I never feel it complements me the way No 19 does but I love it for its glamour and romance.

To all those who love to claim that the only thing keeping No 5 alive is its marketing: yes, the marketing has never been anything less than brilliant (except for that baffling and embarrassing Brad Pitt interlude). But the fragrance itself is spectacularly good. It just is. Especially as Chanel has worked so hard to maintain the quality in a very tough regulatory environment. I think it might have been Tanya Sanchez who, in referring to No 5, said that clever marketing might be enough to get you to buy a product once, but not repeatedly if it’s not actually very good.


Coco Noir


I so loved reading these personal stories! Thank you for sharing them and putting a gentle smile on my face as I experienced your memories too.

Sublime Eau de Parfum


I bought my 1st and last bottle of Chanel #5 in the late 90’s because of my fondness of Marilyn Monroe. I wanted to smell just like her but I’m sorry it just never clicked w/ me and I finally threw my bottle away last year. I will give Chanel props for being good at marketing their products but I have never found any of their perfume to be to my taste. Coco Mademoiselle is even more repulsive and I so wanted to love that because I am a huge fan of Keira Knightley. The commercials they show on TV w/ her advertising the perfume are beautifully done. I think a lot of people fall for the myth, the legend that is Chanel, they sell more than just a perfume, they sell dreams. I have to say I have fallen in love w/ Coco Chanel’s rival Jean Patou. Patou perfumes are more to my taste, in my opinion they lack the harshness that I have always smelled in Chanel fragrances. Smell is subjective but as Elena said above Chanel #5 doesn’t do all that well in blind tests so do people buy the perfume or the myth?


I think my comment is going to get more than one users angry, but every nose is different, isn’t? That’s way there are thousands of fragrance around, instead if half a dozen . I know that n°5 is more about the simbol and the status quo it represents, than the scent itself, but unfortunately, truth is that I can’t stand the smell at all . And its fame is not enough for me to pass over this repulsion. I don’t like old school animalic scents at all and, as this is not enough, Chanel’saldeydhes react horribly with my skin so that the smell like ehm ….public Toilet. Apologizes to every Chanel’s fan. Moreover, I have several childhood memories of ehm …. Mature (kitsch) ladies using half a bottle at once even in the midst of summer, suffocating every poir soul in the range of 20m (yeah, that’s a great sillage indeed) with their heavy clouds of n°5. To be honest, nowadays it is not as frequent as 20-25yrs smelling n°5 (sometimes it occurs too, and always on over 70 women, at least in my experience), and I hope that, regardless Chanel promo campaign for 100th celebratuins, things are going to remain the same. Sorry Chanel, I’m not particular entusiastic at the idea to smell again n°5 with the same frequency I smell, to make an example with a very famous scent, chloe. So, the only celebration I can do for n°5 is recognizing the history it represents as well as its indiscussed quality (it is not necessary to love a fragrance to recognize this).

Rose Alexandrie


The packaging is made of thick paper. When you open it, it doesn’t close all the way, but you keep both sides together by the rubberband with the Chanel logo, good to take with you, if you are willing to carry 100 ml bottle. I like the packaging, it is fun. It doesn’t look cheap, but it is not luxurious either. I carry perfumes around the house in those fun boxes, I like to look at them while working ;o)))


She ran into the restaurant, sprayed it on her friends, and said (generalizing) “we all get to be wild cats.”
Mystères du Château de Dé

Miss Dior Esprit de Parfum

Mystères du Château de Dé

Chanel No 5 EDP dates to 1986. The nose is Jacques Polge. It’s about 35 years old. Not 100.

Most people refer to the EDP when talking about “Chanel No. 5 Parfum”, but it is not the No 5 fragrance with a direct connection to 1921.

The EDT and the Parfum are directly related to 1921. Just saying.


Aqua Allegoria Flora Cherrysia (Sakura Collection 2020)


There must be something special for a fragrance to last 100 years and still be sold. I love reading your impressions and experiences with No.5. I can’t relate to these much, because it has never been one of my favorite scents.

No.5 is one of my mother’s most loved scents. I think it’s very elegant and feminine, it has the sophistication of a lost golden era… but sadly there is something too stiff and boring about it, I can’t wear it myself, it has also been copied by so many hygiene products like soaps and lotions…that when you smell No.5 it’s just hard not to think this smells just like fancy soap!

I wonder if it is true that most recent editions or reformulations have made the scent less lasting on the skin. The price is still chanel’s standards but not the quality?

To the people who love this scent, congratulations! it must be wonderful to have a scent that you adore and know that won’t be discontinued any time soon. I wish my most beloved scents could stay available for 100 years! but again, there must be something about No.5 that sadly, my most favorite scents didn’t have.


Baccarat Rouge 540


It is so beautiful this special package !😍
To me n°5 is a wonderful frag but I have to confess I struggled at first to get used, when I did sniff first time, I did not see anything special, it was a strange smell… but sundely
I Tryed again and so.. become a joy.
I would like Chanel created a number SEVEN .. I just like this number and I think could be something disruptive about 5. 😍

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