N°18 is surely the most unusual and daring among the Les Exclusifs fragrances. While the others are mostly wonderful, they are not exactly groundbreaking in their conception, but excellent examples of certain styles (e.g. The Fresh Green One: Bel Respiro, The Classic Aldehydic Floral: N°22, The Tender Iris Perfume: 28 La Pausa, The Floral Leather: Cuir de Russie, The Classic Cologne: Eau de Cologne, The Not Really Exotic White Floral: Gardénia, The Woody Scent: Sycomore, The Patchouli: Coromandel and so on).
N°18 on the other hand is not a perfume you would expect from Chanel. It features ambrette seed, a vegetal musk derived from the musk mallow (Hibiscus abelmoschus).
N°18 was created in 2007 by Jacques Polge and includes notes of ambrette seed, rose and iris.
N°18 opens with a startling blast of the most un-perfumey smell imaginable (for Chanel standards, we are not talking wild and weird here, this is not Christopher Brosius or EldO after all), but the opening of N°18 is nothing if not memorable and unusual. Like a cold, and earthy combination of green leaves and rooty vegetables (carrots? parsnips?), it warms up and sweetens in a few minutes and the iris inherits the rootiness, but adds a warmer, powdery aspect to the mix.
Above this earthy mix lies a beautiful, pink rose, soft and gauzy, translucent and ethereal.
As it develops a soft fruity note appears making N°18 more feminine. The musky drydown is powdery, rosy and has a tender feel to it. The entire perfume is soft and somehow quiet in feel.
N°18 stays rather close to the skin and its longevity, although better than 28 La Pausa’s, is not very impressive unfortunately.
Although I said it is Chanel’s most unusual perfume, it manages also to be quintessentially Chanel-esque in its inherent elegance and understatement.
N°18 always behaves well, although not one of many, it knows how to fit in. It is quiet, refined, elegant and flawlessy pretty.
I can’t help but admire this perfume for it is able to bridge the gap between conservative and creative, between classic and modern, between fitting in and standing out.
N°18 is like no other perfume, but it is no rebel. An individualist among perfumes, N°18 does it her way, without offending anyone.
There is something to be learned here…