Garden Angel – Review: Chanel Bel Respiro

Bel Respiro was the name of Gabrielle Chanel’s chic country house outside Paris, also nicknamed Noix de Coco (coconut), in a play on her own nickname.

Bel Respiro, the fragrance, is part of the Les Exclusifs Collection. It was actually the very first I ever tried and it was love at first sniff. So why did I wait so long to review it?

It has one major flaw, as do others from the line I adore (most notably 28 La Pausa), it is as evanescent, as ephemeral, as diaphanous, as fleeting, wispy and transient as an angel. It smells like one too, and that is why I love it. And love is all that matters in the end, however fleeting it may be. Some loves are not forever, but we are still glad having experienced them.

Bel Respiro was released along with its colleagues in 2006, notes include crushed leaves, rosemary, thyme, rose, lilac, hyacinth, green tea, aromatic grasses, myrrh and leather.

One cannot fail but notice the kinship to other green Chanel creations, namely Cristalle and N°19, but Bel Respiro is an almost transparently green colored scent (olfactorily speaking), the galbanum is there, but softly, softly, only whispering its presence. The green of Bel Respiro is more herbal, more natural, less lady-like and contrived. It evokes images in nature rather than a woman, like N°19 does for me.

In its heart Bel Respiro becomes more floral, without losing sight of the green though. A soft bouquet of lilac, rose and hyacinth, underscored with a little herbal spiciness, finally gives way to a base of green grass on soft leather. Soft being the operative word throughout.

In its defense I must say that Bel Respiro is hard to experience in full from a sample vial (I have a mini), but is one of those “must spray” perfumes. I did just that, went into the Chanel boutique and doused myself in Bel Respiro from head to toe and swanned out again, beatific smile on my face, quivering at my own audacity underneath. The things I do for the sake of blogging… (the swanning part is also not easily done while pushing a stroller containing a somewhat dirty 15 month old complete with his snack and propensity to chuck pieces of banana around, they were sure glad to see me go.)

Bel Respiro is a wonderful, beautiful perfume, refreshing and cooling in summer, lifting your spirits in winter. It is elegant, but fresh, refined but happy.

And if you are prepared to use copious amounts of it (that is what the huge vats are for, if you have the cash to spare) it is perfect. If you want to make your mini last through the years, it is not going to work well for you.

Bel Respiro is certainly angelic, an Angel surrounded by green leaves, grass, dew. My garden angel (pun fully intended).

I sometimes dream of walking into the Chanel boutique, banana-throwing toddler plus rollerskating child in tow and buying each and every perfume of Les Exclusifs I want, some even in the big bottle. Somehow that daydream is about revenge as much as it is about perfume. 😉

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44 Responses to Garden Angel – Review: Chanel Bel Respiro

  1. Tara says:

    Considering I do indeed own three of those huge vats I’m sorry to say I haven’t tried Bel Respire or Biege, largely because of LT’s reviews I think. Well thanks to your lovely review I will be sure to put that right with BR. Love the image of the garden angel and a base of green grass on soft leather has me very interested. Oh, and well done on the swanning at Chanel!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh, which vats do you have? (I’d guess Bois des Iles, La Pausa and Coromandel?) The more I know about perfume the less I go with LT’s reviews, they are great and fun to read, but are just as subjective as anyone else’s. Perfume is mostly a subjective art, you can say something impartially about quality, but taste is personal to the max, LT’s just as much as yours or mine. 🙂 Knowing that we like many similar things, I would give BR another chance.

      • Tara says:

        Actually, I own Bois des Iles (of course!), Cuir de Russie and 31 Rue Cambon. How are you getting on with 31RC these days? I can’t believe you don’t love it considering it’s mostly iris and amber!

        You are so right about LT’s reviews, they are too easy to treat as Gospel, particularly in the early days I’m much, MUCH more influenced by perfume blogs these days – largely yours! – than The Guide. Bel Respiro is now a must-try.

        • Olfactoria says:

          Well, I got one right at least, lol! 😉

          Strangely I did not get along with 31RC at all, which is why you got my mini, I didn’t know you had a big bottle already. 🙂

          I am flattered of course, but (insert disclaimer here). 😉

          • Tara says:

            Well the fact that I love 31 RC and you don’t just goes to prove how subjective perfume is, lol!

          • Olfactoria says:

            And the fact that my opinion about it can change any day, is further proof that appreciating perfume is neither objective nor static. 🙂

          • Marla says:

            I loved 31RC, but it didn’t suit me, felt very heavy and a little too masculine for me. I’ve smelled it on others and it really is gorgeous, but like you, I never really went for it myself.

          • Olfactoria says:

            We are on the scent-twin trail here once more, M! 🙂

  2. I haven’t tried Bel Respiro but I have tried briefly several of the other Les Exclusifs. I once commented that they all have one thing in common: the make me smile. They are soft, silky, flowing. When you say this is an angelic fragrance I immediately connect with you and I have to say that what Les Exclusifs are is the smell of kisses. Not passionate kisses but caring, loving, tender kisses.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Oh, how beautifully put! The Exclusifs are indeed a wonderful range. Hardly one I don’t like among them, although I could do with a stronger concentration for some. You inspired me to wear another one from the line tonight, I’ll indulge in the soft kiss of a great perfume. 🙂

  3. Vanessa says:

    I like Bel Respiro a lot, and also have one of those 4ml Chanel minis that are so hard to make free with. I haven’t done the in-store sloshing experiment, even without banana-throwing toddler in tow, but will give it a go next time I am passing one of their lofty establishments. The mini I got in a swap, I might add – the Chanel Boutiques always deny they have any samples. I once scored a mini of Beige in Sloane Street and to this day it beats me how I managed to charm them into it!

  4. Vanessa says:

    PS Garden Angel is a pun after my own heart!! : – )

  5. Marla says:

    Bel Respiro is currently the only Chanel in my collection. I wore Cristalle as a teen, so I do like the resemblence. But Bel Respiro is more of a whisper than a STATEMENT; the original Cristalle really made itself known. Bel Respiro is more my style these days. Great review and illustrations!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Thank you, Marla!
      You are right, Cristalle is extremely heavy compared to BR and needs to be worn sparingly and with caution. I feel a bit too conspicuous when wearing it! 😉

  6. annemariec says:

    Yes, great review and illustraions, especially that rather sad, worn down angel. I find BR cold, really cold. Even at the height of summer I don’t wear it much. I agree it it needs to be applied lavishly.

    I once wrote a review of Dior’s Granville, named after Dior’s childhood home town. (How these prestige houses like to reach back into their history!) I ran with a little fantasy that that altough Granville, the town, could be rather a bleak place, there is warmth at the heart of the fragrance, just as I think there was warmth and love in the Dior family home.

    To me, Bel Respiro, the perfume, is cold, and in this fantasy of mine, that reflects a bit on Coco Chanel’s life. In my imaginings, Bel Respiro, the house, is cold too, lacking the warmth and genuine hospitlaity of a real home. People are glad to leave. Chanel herself struggled to find love, it seems. Perhaps she found it hard to love other people.

    Wearing Bel Respiro perfume reminds me of that experience you sometimes get on a sunny day, when you step inside some large old echoey building, and immediately feel the chill. It’s a great relief to step outside into the sunshine again.

    Just my imaginings. The fact that Bel Respiro has enough character to set them off suggests that it cannot be a failure as a perfume for me.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Your analogies are very interesting. and I totally agree that the fact that BR brings on so many fantasies and ideas makes it a good, an evocative perfume. and that is what we want, isn’t it?
      P.S. my Granville review going to be up on Friday, must re-read yours! 😉

  7. lady jane grey says:

    I love it that you always keep your sense of humor – LOL about the banana chucking 15 month old in the Vienna Chanel boutique…
    Bel Respiro is easy to love – it’s like a tender green caress by the wind. Unfortunately, it’s so fleeting as well. Still, one of my all-time favourites (it’s also one of the parfumes I couldn’t separate any of the notes, it melts in one lovely whole to me).

    • Olfactoria says:

      A tender caress by the wind – beautiful! Sadly it is true that is is gone again just as quickly. Again I wonder about the lasting power on someone who hates Bel Respiro, does it last the entire day on them?

      My sense of humor is hard won, believe me! 😉

  8. Eva says:

    I’m really eager to try Les Exclusifes, sadly I think it has to be abroad, don’t think they can be found even in the capital of Sweden, sigh.
    Do you have any tips for a perfume newbie about the best way to apply those tiny non-spray samples and actually get a real feel for the perfume? (Love, love the generous Andy Tauer spray samples!)

    • Olfactoria says:

      No Chanel Boutique in Stockholm? 😦

      I usually put everything I can into little spray vials, because I think there is a major difference between dabbing and spraying for most perfumes. I use my decanting supplies to transfer the fragrance. You can get vials and everything else you might want or need for decanting at Accessories for Fragrance in the US, which is where I order my supplies. Sadly there is no such online store in Europe, shipping is quick and not too expensive though.

  9. I agree. One doesn’t really experience Bel Respiro unless it has been sprayed. It’s a beauty but one that I don’t own 😦

  10. I tried Bel Respiro on my skin for the first time recently and was surprised by how much I liked it since it had never figured even on my ‘to-try list’..It is such a lovely, calm, and surprisingly comfortable scent..

  11. Undina says:

    I’m slowly making my way through the Collection: I like (and own a mini bottle of) Beige, I managed to get 4 (four!) free (!) samples at Nordstrom during my recent trip to Seattle (thanks to EauMG’s guidance I knew that this flagship store carried the line – they are much less intimidating than Chanel boutiques). But BR isn’t one of them. So it’ll be the next target.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Which ones did you get in Seattle?
      I have a mini of Beige as well, but I have not yet touched it. So many perfumes, so little time…

      • Undina says:

        Sorry, it took me so long to response: unfortunately, as I found out, the version that shows on iPad doesn’t allow nested replies, so I had to wait till I got to a regular PC.
        I got Bois des Iles, Coromandel, Cuir de Russie and N°22. I’m afraid I will end up liking more than I should for the sake of my wallet (sigh).

        • Olfactoria says:

          Ah, then you have some of the best ones! 🙂 P.S.: The iPad version has a link at the bottom saying View Standard Site. Press it and you can look at the regular website, comments and all.

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  18. Marie Shanahan says:

    I own Bel Respiro and must say that while I always liked it, it took me many months before I learned “how” to love it. But now I do. What is it? On me, it is an afternoon in a very antique/aristocratic country home. While in the study on a hot summers day, warm rays from the sun are heating the natural oils in the polished oak of the antiques, as well as the leather of the book bindings. Now, imagine that through that open window on this hot afternoon is a large, lemon tree – just outside that window. The lemon tree is filling the room with fragrance, but it’s actually “warring” with the leather and oak.

    That, for me, at least, is Bel Respiro. It’s not a young scent, but nor is it “dated.” It’s timeless, natural elegance is beautiful, but in an intelligent way – so enough that it’s actually “handsome” at stages. It’s not a flirty fragrance. I think it’s a fragrance for an over 40 women. The staying power on me is great. I will smell (slightly) of this stuff until I shower the next day. But I agree that it is a “quiet” perfume. Which I’m grateful for. I also have the Eau De Cologne. THAT stuff is “wide awake” LOL green! But I love that, too. 🙂

  19. Sonia Moreira says:

    Amo esse perfume

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