Pas De Deux – Review: Chanel N°22

When little ignorant me tried N°22 along with several other members of the Les Exclusifs line a good while back, I thought, well that is just like N°5, so what is the fuss? But when N°22 started to develop into a base full of surprise and incense, I was quickly hooked.

Ernest Beaux created Chanel No. 22 in 1922, a year after N°5 and the same year yet another Chanel, No. 55, was released. The notes are aldehydes, white roses, jasmine, tuberose, lily of the valley, lilac, orange flower, orchid, ylang ylang, vanilla, incense and vetiver.

I don’t care for aldehyde-heavy perfumes most of the time, and also in the case of N°22, I prefer it when the sparkling show of dazzle and glamour the aldehydes bring, is over an hour into weartime. Then the real show begins.

N°22 for me, is a smooth and dignified pas de deux of incense and white flowers. The two dance slowly and with studied perfection, never losing eye contact, always moving in perfect synchronisation.

N°22 symbolizes elegance and refinement, but a considerable amount of warmth and sensuality is added by the incense that N°5 lacks. N°5 remains colder, more aloof and more reserved in contrast to this languid sister.

N°22 is by no means a relaxed perfume though, it demands that you are worthy of wearing it. Straighten up, wear your best dress, put every hair in place and smile. But when the evening is over, N°22 is there to put up its feet along with you. I prefer the drydown of course, but there is a time and a place for the controlled beauty of N°22.
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42 Responses to Pas De Deux – Review: Chanel N°22

  1. Undina says:

    I’m so pleased to read this review! I’m not too familiar with No.22 yet, I tested it only twice so far but I liked it and I had exactly the same experience as you described: I liked it much more “over an hour into wearing”. I will be wearing it again soon to figure out if I need more than just a sample.
    Do you need/already have more?

    • Olfactoria says:

      I have two 4ml minis and I’m absolutely content with them for the foreseeable future. There are so many perfumes I love to wear from the first minute, those minis should suffice.

  2. kassinator says:

    I agree that the aldehyde in number 22 is much easier to wear than in number 5. I still wouldn’t own a full bottle of 22, but I can appreciate its beauty. I have difficulty with even that much with number 5, but I keep trying!
    I happened upon this post, but I really came over to leave a link. I’ve written a little post about my favorite blogs I’m ready. Your blog is included. I know I haven’t been visiting here long, but I love how you write about fragrance!


    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi again,
      22 is like 5’s sister, not in the limelight, not the famous one, but she sure is pretty (if not even prettier). 😉

      Thank you for the link and the mention in your post! I will take a look on those beauty blogs you feature, they look very interesting.

      P.S.: you can put your blog’s URL directly in the comment mask, then your name is linked to your blog and WordPress spam filters won’t mistake your comment for spam as they are wont to do when there are links in a comment.

      • kassinator says:

        Sorry I am taking a while to figure all of the in’s and out’s of wordpress out. What do you mean by comment mask?
        Also I just recommended your blog to a local perfume boutique in our city. She was very excited to check it out. 🙂

      • arxsyn says:

        Yep the two definitely share the same dna. The younger sister, having been sidelined and outshone by the more famous one, is clearly over compensating
        because 22 is the the equivalent of an atomic aldehydic bomb in the chanel world.

        The victims, are the poor flowers. Fallout of soft powder and smoke is inevitable. An intense sweet woody smell with animalic tone appears surrounded by soap

  3. Charles says:

    Being a lover of Chanels Les Exclusifs line, I had the same reaction to No. 22 – it just did
    not compute. Cuir de Russie is my all time favorite, but I will go back to No. 22 and try
    again – awaiting the one hour mark and the start of the show! Thanks for the details in this review.

  4. tara says:

    My Mum just loves No.22. The soap factor is too much for me but she loves it. I haven’t given it enough time for the incense to come through, I must admit. Like you, I feel there are too many perfumes that I enjoy from the start. Like the idea of white flowers and incense though. I bet the vintage is something else

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’d love to smell the vintage one day.

      The drydown is worth revisiting No22.

    • deeHowe says:

      I have this problem too, not wanting to wait out that first hour! But Matt likes it, and has occasionally requested that I wear it… Apparently it smells good on my skin, even if I crinkle my nose at it wafting up at me 😉

      • Olfactoria says:

        Matt is an aldehyde fiend (aldeho, to borrow from Mals 😉 ) it seems. Does he wear it too or does he prefer it on you? I believe you smell pretty good in almost anything. 🙂

        • deeHowe says:

          Hahaha, yes! Matt is a total AldeHo! But no, I don’t think he’s worn no. 22 himself, but probably because sorting through the little stack of similar looking bottles is more trouble than reaching into his shelf where all the bottles are familiar. I think that if I bought him a bottle of it, he’d probably wear it daily. Hmmm… That might actually make an excellent birthday present! 🙂

          I don’t know that I smell good in everything… But I do think maybe a little of your magic has worn off on me 😉

  5. Nina says:

    Love No 22! And No 5… No 22 isn’t quite as it used to be when available as an EdP. My sample from 7 yrs ago is a bit deeper and richer – more of that incense-y dry down and less soap. But still gorgeous nonetheless! I am a huge aldehyde fan, so they both have a special place in my heart.

  6. susan says:

    I love No. 22! I have one of the new smaller Les Exclusifs bottles that I just recently purchased second-hand from Ari. Now, I’m an avowed aldehyde-lover, but No. 22 is one of my favorite aldehydes. I prefer it to No. 5; I think it’s just much more refined and more “me” than No. 5 is. I personally love the sparkling hour of aldehydes. 🙂 The incense drydown is also really gorgeous.

    I haven’t smelled the extrait but would love to. The extrait became available for purchase on the US Chanel website only recently.

  7. Sassa says:

    No 22 is currently in my top 5 list. I love the rush of the aldehydes as well as the incense. I recently received a sample of the parfum, and the throw is simply amazing, but the scent (to my novice nose) is not different enough to justify purchasing both the EDT and the parfum. This is one of the very few scents that I’ve not gotten tired of after a few wearings. It only gets better. Once you’ve made friends with it, you are friends for life.

  8. Dionne says:

    I remember the first time I tried No. 22. My initial impression was “no, not my thing, waaay too many aldehydes,” and then about 45 minutes later…… “Oh, wait. Oooooh. When am I going to remember not to make a decision about a perfume in the first 10 minutes?” I don’t feel the need for a bottle, but No. 22 is lovely.

  9. Suzanne says:

    Birgit, your review very much made my day: your description of 22’s interplay of white flowers and incence being like a pas-de-deux is **perfect**! (Sorry for the asterisks; I have never figured out how to do italics in commenting forums.)

    Though the aldehydydic top sometimes makes me feel like I’m going to sneeze, I still very much enjoy that part of No. 22. To me, it’s like having my nose tickled with champagne bubbles. But not everyone enjoys that sensation and how long it can last, so I completely understand how that stage can be a bit challenging. Thanks for writing such a lovely review of my favorite Chanel.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Suzanne, I’m very aware of the fact that you love No22 very much, so I was nervous what you’d say. Turns out your comment very much made *my* day! 🙂

  10. civava says:

    I don’t particulary like No.5 but I quite like No.22. Because it has stages of changes. My first toughts were just the same like yours. Then I just shut up.

  11. flittersniffer says:

    Like a number of other commenters, I have not allowed myself to get past the first hour. Well, to be truthful, I have tried it on card a few times, and not got past the first few minutes – the swoosh of aldehydes coupled with high levels of sweetness (to me then, maybe not to me now! : – ) ) put me off in the past. But I remember that I felt like that initially about Le Dix but came to love it in the end, so you never know. I do think I need to give this one more of a chance, and will do some time!

  12. As a general rule of thumb the Les Exclusifs and I do not get on. That said I am willing to make an exception for No 22, which you have so wonderfully described, it really is very special and takes No 5 to a whole new level of awesomeness.

    I’m a bit partial to showy florals mind, not that that’s at all obvious or anything… 😛

    • Olfactoria says:

      No, you keep a very low profile about that and if you hadn’t mentioned it now…

      22 should be very much your thing, all those aldehydes and white flowers.

  13. Natalie says:

    I am glad I read this! I am slowly working my way through the Exclusifs which I haven’t tried or haven’t worn much, and this morning I tried No. 22, and … total scrubber! Your comments about the drydown have inspired me to try it once more. I don’t think I will truly get along with it (it’s not my kind of thing), but after reading your review I at least want to give it a chance to develop.

    • Olfactoria says:

      That is interesting that it was a scrubber, yet you like Miriam, which is a total scrubber for me. I find the aldehydes in Miriam much more pronounced (and so bubbly, tickly they make my skin crawl).
      I’m glad you are trying 22 again. 🙂

  14. unseencenser says:

    Hmm. I can never decide based on reviews if I want to smell No. 22 or not. I will have to try this at Bergdorf Goodman sometime and see if I can remember it. I think I’ve smelled it before, but I’m not sure, and if I did I wasn’t able to remember how it differed from No. 5.

    I’m chalking you up in the “making me want to smell it” column.

    • Olfactoria says:

      That is lovely to hear: 🙂
      I wore it again yesterday evening and I love it a lot more than N°5, it is elegant but softer and somehow more “pliable”, not at all as aloof and cold as 5 can be.

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