Discovering More About Chanel No. 5


A week ago, I received an invitation in the post from Chanel to discover the story behind No 5, their most iconic and famous product. Mention Chanel and inevitably No 5 comes to mind. People may not be as familiar with the brand’s other fragrances but I’ll bet everyone knows No 5.

The discovery session would be presented by Chanel’s fragrance specialist, Bibi Choo. I thought I saw quite a long list of names when I signed up for this session at their Pavilion counter but in the end, only 6 participants including myself turned up. There were 3 sessions per day from 29 October – 4 November at their promo area in Bintang Circle, Pavilion.

This is a timeless and legendary fragrance which design has changed little since the bottle was redesigned in 1924. The bottle remains the same since 1924 while the stopper has been modified several times. No 5 is 91 years old (created in 1920) which is why I can say it’s timeless. There are more than 80 ingredients in No 5.

Firstly, I learned that there are huge bottles of No 5 available. Forget about 100ml size, the one in the image above is 225ml, they also have 400ml and 900ml which has to be pre-ordered but of course, who would have 900ml bottles of fragrance at their counter or even in their store room? The Beauty Advisor who told me about the bigger sizes said that customers who purchased the bigger bottles would keep them for display purposes. Seems a shame to me. If I had the 900ml bottle, I’d be smelling of No 5 24/7. You’ wouldn’t smell any other fragrance on me all year or maybe it’ll last 2 years.

The second thing I learned was that there are 4 different No 5, each with the same core ingredients but with a little variation :

  • No 5 Parfum Les Grands Extraits which is obviously the most concentrated and luxurious No 5 available. It’s so condensed that you just dab a little onto skin using the jewel-cut cabochon stopper. Key ingredients are Grasse jasmine which is 17x more expensive than jasmine from other regions, neroli and May Rose (only harvested in May).
  • No 5 Eau de Toilette signature ingredient is sandalwood.
  • No 5 Eau de Parfum signature ingredient is vanilla bourbon.
  • No 5 Eau Premiere has ylang ylang, the scent here has been reworked to make it more translucent and lighter.

So interesting! I am much enlightened today with regard to No 5 and can appreciate it even more now. I guess most of you are aware of how the fragrance got its name but I’ll reiterate anyway for those who aren’t. The perfurmer, Ernest Beaux prepared ten glass vials for Chanel’s inspection. Numbered 1–5 then 20–24, each group a variation of the compound. Chanel chose vial No 5 and the rest is history as they say.

Chanel said later, “that is what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman”.

While waiting for the other participants to arrive, I was right in front of the video featuring Brad Pitt. The video was on a non-stop loop so much so I have almost memorised everything he said in the ad. I can’t get his words out of my head!