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How House of Chanel’s perfumer-creator reimagined the brand’s latest scent

How House of Chanel’s perfumer-creator reimagined the brand’s latest scent
Olivier Polge; image courtesy of Chanel

Through a unique blend of Grasse tuberose, jasmine, orange blossom and ylang-ylang, Olivier Polge created Gabrielle Chanel Essence, an opulent and floral addition to the House’s fragrance family.

In 2017, Olivier Polge, House of Chanel’s perfumer-creator, created Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum – a fragrance inspired by the resolute and passionate spirit of the brand’s founder and namesake, Gabrielle Chanel. For Polge, who succeeded his father, Jacques Polge, in 2015, as the French house’s nose, the release of the women’s scent in 2017 marked his first big fragrance launch for Chanel. Indeed, the maison only releases one fragrance every 10 to 15 years.

Gabrielle Chanel Eau De Parfum stands out: the fresh and feminine scent is a departure from more opulent fragrances; the bevelled square bottle is made with ultra-thin glass that allows the light to shine through and enhance the golden hue of the fragrance itself; and then, the name of the scent itself, which pays tribute to the fearless and independent character of Gabrielle Chanel, and a reference to the designer’s early life, before she was made famous for her bold and daring creations.

Yet, this year, Olivier Polge has reinvented Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum with the release of Gabrielle Chanel Essence, a scent that is said to be inspired by the true essence of Gabrielle Chanel’s intensity and individuality, which is reflected in a more opulent and creamier scent than its predecessor’s luminous and airy character.

“In the Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum, sparkling orange blossom already brought freshness, ylang-ylang radiance and femininity, jasmine intensity and tuberose creaminess. Retaining this same combination, Gabrielle Chanel Essence bestows a majestic role on tuberose, which is given a stronger presence and upheld by creamier notes to become more enveloping. Tuberose plays a key note and the headier trail sings in tune with greater intensity,” explains Polge.

In 2011, Chanel purchased the bulbs from the last tuberose producer in Grasse, a town located in the South of France on the French Riviera, and replanted them in a 2.5-hectare field to preserve the cultivation of the flower. “The French Riviera is an extraordinary place that combines a temperate climate, the perfect amount of sun and very fertile soil,” says Polge.

The Grasse tuberose, grown exclusively for Chanel, is extracted using a specific process and it is thanks to this process that the delicate star-shaped flower is stripped of its usual leather, waxy and green facets and softened to reveal a creamier, more enigmatic and headier scent. The harvesting of the tuberose is done daily from late August to early November and, as Polge explains, they have developed their own quality of tuberose in close collaboration with the Mul family, a long-time flower farming family who have worked the soil in Grasse since 1840.

The special extraction process has been honed over the years and enables them to cleanly capture the scent of the flower’s petal, “as if smelled in an open field”.

On the Mul family, Polge adds, “Working in partnership with Chanel for 32 years, but with ties to the House and my father Jacques Polge for much longer than that, this family based in Pégomas shares all of their agricultural knowledge with me. Our partnership provides a guarantee of the olfactory quality and the quantity of flowers required for the production of certain Chanel fragrances, as well as perfect control over the process from flower to fragrance.”

Still, Polge explains that tuberose is not an easy flower to work with and needs to be softened otherwise, like other soliflores – fragrances that focus on a single flower – in the fragrance industry, it can overpower the personality of the perfume.

To create the latest scent for Chanel, while keeping the focus on tuberose yet not letting this flower overwhelm the end result, the scent was softened by adding other flowers including jasmine, which plays a large role in the history of Chanel fragrances including the famous Chanel No. 5, orange blossom and ylang-ylang.

How does Gabrielle Chanel Essence differ from Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum? Polge explains that it retains the radiant facet of the original score but carries it into a creamier and more enveloping world. The citrus top notes have been softened to make way for a sweet, fruity and tangy scent of red berries. The Grasse tuberose conveys all the density of its velvety petals, and the trail has been intensified with more pronounced sandalwood, musk and vanilla.

“Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum is airy, as if dazzled by light, while Gabrielle Chanel Essence is more opulent, as if plunged into a nectar of flowers and bathed in a warmer light,” states Polge.

While lighter, fruitier fragrances work well in the day due to the fact that these scents are fresh and crisp, the heaviness and opulence of Gabrielle Chanel Essence along with the bold notes make it an enveloping scent for evening affairs.

The shape of the 50ml and 100ml Gabrielle Chanel Essence bottles remains the same; however, the shade of the fragrance reflects the more intense scent with a warmer, more golden hue, as opposed to the slightly lighter amber tones of the Gabrielle Chanel Eau de Parfum.

The creation of both the 2017 and 2019 Gabrielle Chanel fragrances illustrate the liberated woman who revolutionised an era with her visionary take on the world, fashion and beauty. These namesake scents personify the freedom to be unique.

“Even though there is something ‘pastel’ about this floral expression, the white flower loses nothing of its bold personality. In this respect, Gabrielle Chanel Essence is a fragrance for the self-confident woman,” says Polge. ML

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