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.
Nice to see you here again, Tara.
Recently when I read another positive review for this perfume, I realized that I haven’t tried it. When I thought about the reason I didn’t pay enough attention to it when I had a chance (I happen to go to Chanel boutiques only twice so I tried not all of the Exclusifs) I realized that 31 RC had fallen victim to my strange idiosyncrasy to perfume names that are addresses with numbers (34 Blvd St Germain from Diptyque, 24 Faubourg by Hermes, 28 la Pausa from Chanel – all these were ignored by me just because of their names and discovered by pure chance). What is peculiar about that – addresses without numbers (Champs-Élysées) or numbers without addresses (No 19, No 22) do not create the same problem for me.
Of course, now I want to try RC31. If I like it, I’ll feel really stupid 🙂
Sorry Undina, I forgot to hit reply, please see below.
Nice to see you up so early/late Undina!
I think we all have our little rational or irrational reasons for cutting down the huge amount of perfumes available to try out there. I often avoid perfumes with just numbers as names (aside from the Chanels). I’m glad you are now going to make an exception for 31RC. I’ll send you some along with Cuir de Russie – which I know you tried recently and liked. We’ll see if your idiosyncrasy was well-founded!
I want a silk slip dress perfume! 🙂
I don’t think I ever smelled 31 Rue Cambon because from what you wrote, I’m pretty sure I’d remember it. Although I do have to admit that I am extremely lousy with names so I could have forgotten.
In any case, you made me want to try it as soon as possible, and who know among the multitude of samples all over my place, I just might find one of this too.
Hi Ines, I’m glad the review inspired you, I do think it’s a must-try. Everyone needs a silk slip perfume! Please drop me an email if you can’t find a sample.
I’m a mad fan of fragrances- I would love to be able to have a ‘signature’ fragrance but there are so many out there that its just too hard to choose what I love best, so I end up buying way too many and only really wearing half a dozen or so. My most used fragrances have to be Chanel 28 La Pausa, Chanel Gardenia, Dior 1947, Chanel no 19, Amouage Honour and Valentino Original. I’m interested in trying more of the chanel exclusive fragrances, but the sales assistants seem reluctant to give out any samples'(or at least they say they dont have any). Silly really as thats how they will get more sales.
I want to try something new and gorgous – based on what i wear normally, what do you suggest? and how can I get a sample to see if it suits my skin?
You can buy samples from decanters such as Surrender to Chance and The Perfumed Court. From the perfumes you mention I think you might like Chanel No 22 (if you don’t mind a bit of soapiness), Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle (tuberose with coconut) and Prada’s Infusion d’Iris.
I hope you find something new to love!
I love this one, in winter especially, and totally agree about the “gentle, floral amber dry down” being “drop dead gorgeous”. That is my favourite part. The opening can come off a bit severe on me, a bit Chanel 19-ish, if you know what I mean, but it is only temporary. For a long time 31 RC was in my top three perfumes and it seems to have been elbowed out by some Johnny Come Lately loves. Time for a reunion!
Oh, and I absolutely love Undina’s idiosyncrasies, which are not surprising for a numbers person like her.
PS I found myself spelling “cosy” with a “z” yesterday for the first time – funny how things rub off!
Ah, Vanessa I didn’t know 31RC had been such a favourite of yours! That’s great. Pleased to hear it will now be making a come-back. I really like the opening because of the iris but I think a lot of people are put-off as it’s quite dry and chilly (not very cozy, ha ha!).
Perhaps OT could do a Monday question about our funny perfume idiosyncrasies, or about favourites forgotten because of Johnny Come Latelys!
About the Monday Question – feel free to take that on, my lovely co-blogger! 🙂
P.S. Sorry for the z in cozy, editorial decision. 😉
Will do B, I think it’ll be fun. Many thanks to Vanessa!
Thank you for renewing my interest in 31 RC. I had somehow written it off, but now I am really appreciating for the first time. It is my SotD today. 🙂
Very good to hear, B!
This is my favorites of the Exclusifs, along with Bel Respiro. Wonderful review of a complicated perfume that is eminently wearable, nevertheless!
Thanks! Bois des Iles is my favourite Exclusif but I wear 31RC more often.
You have inspired me to get better acquainted with Bel Respiro now.
Bizarre confession: I’m sensitive when I run, yet the thought of running without fragrance boggles my mind… so I have a short-list of treadmill frags, and 31RC is a top “treadmill” scent. Yeah, I’m fancy 😉
Well, it is an anytime, anywhere perfume but I never thought of it as a possible “top treadmill” scent! That has to prove its versatility, dee 🙂
Absolutely versatile! The beauty, the just-right sillage, and the perfectly smooth character work together to make an elegant force-field 🙂
“An elegant force-field” sounds perfect!
The other day I promissed to write a post about perfumes’ behavior under an extreme conditions (in my case it is Bekram yoga). You should do a post about your “treadmill” scents!
Tara, I quite agree with everything you wrote about 31 Rue Cambon — it’s an elegant and easy scent to wear. Wish my sample hadn’t run out! 😦 Your review has me craving it.
It’s good to hear that you feel the same way about 31RC, Suzanne. I hope you get some more soon!
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This fragrance is absolutely gorgeous! I’m wearing it today and you are right… it’s modern yet timeless and elegant yet relaxed
I’m glad you agree. 31RC somehow manages to tick all the boxes.
All I need is a flapper dress! 🙂
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