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The history of Chanel perfume

Everything you need to know about the maison's most famous fragrances...

Assortment of Chanel perfumes
Orin Carlin
Orin CarlinContent Writer
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Maison Chanel holds a special place in the hearts of perfume obsessives – that much is clear. 

Its inimitable founder Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel was not only keen to break boundaries in her design work, indeed her disruptive, forward-thinking spirit extended into the fragrance world. 

More than a century since the brand released its first composition, Chanel perfumes are still today perceived by many as the pinnacle of luxury scent.

READ: Chanel’s perfume is getting a glow up for 2023: Olivier Polge reveals the secrets behind the iconic fragrance

How we chose:

Chanel has created some truly momentous fragrances, and we've picked out some of the brand's standout scents based history, perception, notes and general buzz. All the perfumes have been tested by Hello! Fashion's resident beauty obsessive Orin Carlin to give you an insight into what they actually smell like.

Hello! Fashion shares the history behind some of Chanel's most iconic perfumes:


An olfactory icon, N°5 requires no introduction. Radical to the nth degree, its bottle design broke tradition with its clean lines and rounded corners. The scent is capped with an emerald-cut stopper – a shape reminiscent of the Place Vendôme, a sight visible from Gabrielle's Hôtel Ritz Paris suite balcony.

Created by Ernest Beaux in 1921, the scent revolutionised traditional approaches towards perfumery. Seeking "a woman’s fragrance that smells like a woman", Gabrielle bypassed the idea that a scent had to be wedded to the scent of a single flower. Instead, she requested "an artificial fragrance like a dress, something crafted", a composition that had been carefully designed. 

"I am a seamstress. I don’t want rose or lily-of-the-valley, I want a composed fragrance," she explained. Painstakingly superstitious, it is said that Gabrielle named the scent after the fifth sample that was presented to her, as she thought of the number five as her lucky charm.

N°5 Eau de Parfum 50ml - Chanel
N°5 Eau de Parfum 50ml - Chanel

Gloriously aldehydic, N°5 has a lovely powdery violet quality to it. Exuding magnetism, it is heady and intoxicating, but with a fresh line of jasmine running through to provide clarity.

MORE: The best wedding perfumes for chic brides

READ: Can a perfume make you fall in love?


Launched one year after N°5 in 1922, N°22 is a variation of its predecessor, possessing a splendidly smooth soapiness. It was part of the original line-up from which Gabrielle picked out N°5 as the brand's first perfume launch. 

N°22 Eau de Parfum - Chanel
N°22 Eau de Parfum 200ml - Chanel

An unctuous celebration of aldehydes, it has a similar white flower base, setting itself apart with rose, tuberose and a hint of lilac.

READ: Vintage Chanel handbags: 5 things to know before making your first purchase

RELATED: 5 iconic times Kate Middleton has worn Chanel


Directly inspired by the camellia flower, in 1925 Gardénia paid tribute to one of the maison's emblems. The camellia had always been present in Gabrielle's design work – worn in buttonholes, pinned to hat brims, and immortalised in jewellery – making it the perfect floral muse, despite it bearing no scent. 

Gardénia Eau de Parfum 75ml - Chanel
Gardénia Eau de Parfum 75ml - Chanel

Another of Ernest's many creations, Gardénia is fresh and luxurious, featuring accents of jasmine and orange blossom.

Bois des Iles

Created in 1928, Bois des Iles is warm and sensual, with an enchanting energy that is inspired by the heady frenzy of Roaring 20s jazz clubs. 

Bois Des Iles Eau de Parfum 75ml - Chanel
Bois Des Iles Eau de Parfum 75ml - Chanel

With notes of New Caledonia sandalwood, ylang-ylang and tonka bean, the scent has a gorgeous spiciness, evocative of undiscovered, remote lands.


The last fragrance launched and worn by Gabrielle Chanel, N°19 pays tribute to her birth date: 19 August 1883. Unfazed by protestations by those around her, in 1970 the brand's founder asked Henri Robert for a composition with a personality equal in strength to that of N°5. 

N°19 Eau de Parfum 100ml - Chanel
N°19 Eau de Parfum 100ml - Chanel

Fulfilling her request, he created a composition which blended the intensely verdant galbanum with soft, powdery notes of iris pallida upon a church-like woody backbone.


A decadent ambery composition created by Jacques Polge, Coco, launched in 1984, symbolises Gabrielle's multi-faceted outlook on life. Her propensity for all things baroque starkly contrasted her understated fashion designs. 

Coco Eau de Parfum 50ml - Chanel
Coco Eau de Parfum 50ml - Chanel

Opening with Sicilian Mandarin, the scent nods to her fascinating personality with sophisticated touches of clove and sandalwood.

Coco Mademoiselle 

Fresh and clear, the immensely popular Coco Mademoiselle was released in 2001 with the intention of reaching a younger audience. Keira Knightley was the face of the fragrance for many years. The scent has a certain duality to it, it's sparkly and bright on account of the citrus elements, but the base is creamy and comforting, composed of tonka bean and Bourbon vanilla.

Coco Mademoiselle Eau De Parfum 50ml - Chanel
Coco Mademoiselle Eau De Parfum 50ml - Chanel

Another of Jacques Polge's creations, orange and bergamot provide a juicy vibrancy, pairing beautifully with accords of rose and jasmine.


The first Chanel fragrance to be presented in a round bottle, Chance Eau de Toilette was introduced in 2003, again created by Jacques Polge. Paying tribute to Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's superstitious nature, the scent is inspired by the idea of fortune and unpredictability.

Chance Eau de Toilette 100ml - Chanel
Chance Eau de Toilette 100ml - Chanel

The scent is floral and delicate, with jasmine and hyacinth as its frontrunners, but these notes are complimented with an underlying pink pepper spiciness and an enticing gourmand core.

Gabrielle CHANEL 

As it goes, only Gabrielle's close friends had the privilege of referring to her by her nickname Coco, otherwise, the brand's founder was addressed as Mademoiselle by her seamstresses. 

Gabrielle CHANEL Eau de Parfum 50ml - Chanel
Gabrielle CHANEL Eau de Parfum 50ml - Chanel

Released in 2017, her namesake scent is crisp and floral, defined by jasmine and ylang ylang, with a citrus depth – thanks to orange blossom and a touch of grapefruit.

 Le Lion

Released in 2021, Le Lion (part of Chanel's Les Exclusifs collection) was directly inspired by Gabrielle's star sign. Exuding protective power, Chanel's majestic motif is alluded to via Olivier Polge's distinctive amber elixir. 

Le Lion Eau de Parfum 75ml - Chanel
Le Lion Eau de Parfum 75ml - Chanel

Creamy and lived-in, Le Lion owes its leathery earthiness to a beautiful blend of sandalwood, vanilla and raw patchouli – the olfactive equivalent of an illicit library romp.

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HELLO!'s selection is editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items our editors love and approve of. HELLO! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. To find out more visit our FAQ page.

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