31 Rue Cambon is a mass of contradictions; modern yet timeless, spare yet luxurious, elegant yet relaxed, chypre yet without oakmoss. In my capsule Chanel perfume wardrobe, Bois des Iles is the little black dress, Cuir de Russie is the leather jacket and 31 Rue Cambon is the silk slip dress – others may not know I’m wearing it but I do and it feels great.
Part of Chanel’s Les Exclusifs, 31 Rue Cambon contains notes of bergamot, pepper, iris, jasmine, patchouli and labdanum. It is classified as a “modern chypre”, which seems to cover a multitude of very different perfumes now that real oakmoss is verboten. If you are usually wary of traditional chypres I would not let this put you off trying 31 Rue Cambon. It is not at all harsh or bitter. Conversely, if you are partial to the oakmoss-heavy chypres of old, you may be disappointed. The oakmoss “effect” is a soft mossiness which is woven through the composition as a whole.
31 Rue Cambon moves from cool and bright to warm and cozy as it develops. There is a very discernible progression. The opening is fresh and sparkling with citrus, iris and pepper. The heart is lightly floral and the labdanum that rises up from the base lends it an ambery warmth I quite often have a problem with the dry, earthy, scent of patchouli, but it is very much played down here.
While 31 Rue Cambon is not similar to Dior’s Bois d’Argent in its scent, it has the same diffuse feel. It has some powder and sweetness on my skin, but both are kept in check. Although it is a quiet fragrance that doesn’t project much, longevity is not at all bad. The gentle, floral amber dry down is drop dead gorgeous and it lasts, which is great for an EdT.
There are a few perfumes I can’t imagine being without and would replace if they ever ran out. 31 Rue Cambon is on this short list, because I wear it on a very regular basis. So much so that I think of it as my “default” perfume, the one I turn to when I don’t know what to wear or don’t want anything I have to think about too much. While this may sound like I am damning it with faint praise, it is quite the opposite; I’m saying 31 Rue Cambon is always perfect and never fails me. This is one of the highest compliments I can give.