I'm sure some of you may be aware that Chanel was about to release a new men's fragrance, one which is not in the stable of Allure flankers. This was discussed with much anticipation over on Basenotes for some months before its release. Initial reviews from bloggers have been disappointing, which disappointed me in turn, as I was really hoping for something good from Chanel after quite a few years since the last original mainstream release. However, I always reserve judgement until I try. Bleu de Chanel came into our stores in Tunbridge Wells this weekend and I tried it for the first time today. This is not going to be a detailed review of the fragrance, but is merely my first impression. To be honest, I'm not blown away by Bleu, but then again, I was never truly expecting to be. Honestly, I am not a perfume snob, but there is very little in current mainstream releases that is exciting me. At the same time, I hasten to add that Bleu is also not as bad as some people have made it out to be. If you are expecting the next Antaeus or Egoiste, then Bleu will probably fall short of the mark. If you are expecting the same old dross to be churned out, then Bleu might at least meet, or even exceed expectations, because despite being not very original, like most Chanel fragrances, they are at least using good quality ingredients and a decent perfumer in Jacque Polge.
Bleu, despite not being an Allure flanker, does in some respects, as Dimitri over on Sorcery of Scent pointed out, bear quite a few similarities to any of the Allure mens perfumes. However it is not a dead ringer and in the dry down especially, I think it is a bit more original. It is in the dry down that it nods more towards its early predecessors, in particular Pour Monsieur, but only very slightly. I'm in two minds over Bleu. On the one hand it does feel a bit generic and definitely falls squarely in the middle of mainstream and doesn't, in my opinion, add much to the genre. On the other hand, it smells fairly good and unless you are a rabid perfumista, like most of us are, I can see this selling well and making a bundle for the good folk at Chanel. I can definitely see the average man who buys a cologne once or twice a year being sold on Bleu by the sales assistants, no doubt. Perhaps this is damning with faint praise, but there you have it. I for one would love one of the big perfume houses to come out with something new, daring, and original and really push the boat out, but let's be realistic here - mainstream perfume is all about the sales and money these days (and perhaps always was, who knows?) and no one is going to be taking a major gamble when the market is currently so accepting of fairly generic output.
Another thing is certain - the Allure formula has worked wonders for Chanel and no wonder they've churned out a good few flankers. Allure back in the nineties set the new standard for modern mens perfumery, with its combo of citrus, woods, a bit of spice and musk. Think of almost all the releases since then, with the exception of the marine trend, and you will almost certainly find a formula that includes generic, slightly synthetic citrus, sweet cola-ish musk and that iso e super, slightly buzzy cedar accord. Boom, there you have it, whether it's YSL, Chanel, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, etc, etc. No wonder that these days, when I smell Allure, I immediately think "department store mens fragrance". In a way, it shows just how influential and groundbreaking Allure was at the time.
I'm going slightly off topic now, but on the subject of originality, which I know is subjective, I can think of only a handful of mens mainstream releases over the last 4-5 years that stand out for me - Dior Homme and Terre de Hermes spring to mind, as does Narciso Rodriguez. After that I am struggling. I'm sure there are more, but still...
A last word on Chanel. If I were to rank the mens line, my favourite is probably Antaeus, followed by Egoiste, which incidentally is almost impossible to find in the UK unless you order it online. A couple of years ago I asked a sales lady why it isn't stocked in the UK anymore and she said she was told that the UK mens market is not comfortable with spicy fragrances that feel more European in nature. That's a telling statement if there ever was one. After Egoiste would come Pour Monsieur, followed by Allure, Platinum Egoiste (which bears absolutely no resemblance to the original Egoiste at all, which itself is quite similar to Bois de Illes) and finally all the Allure flankers. I know Allure Homme Edition Blanche has its followers and I must admit it isn't bad at all.
So, a rambling post, for which I apologise, with very little actual analysis of Bleu de Chanel itself. Perhaps you should try it for yourself and see if it is any good.