I had the honor of decording a pre 1950s vintage No 5 parfum a few days ago, that I bought online from an estate sell. It arrived in excellent condition, still wax sealed with an inner box as well as the outer box. Neither boxes were in 100% mint condition but still had only very little wear for a consumer product that’s almost 70 years old! The picture above and those that follow are all pictures of said bottle and boxes. The pictures were taken by the seller, I only saved them from the original listing.
Of course I was reluctant to cut the cord, I’ll be honest. I’m sure most perfumistas that know the value here would also be hesitant or at least have second thoughts lol. These vintages only go up in value over time if they remain sealed and properly stored and are becoming more and more rare, naturally, as time goes on. But I knew that I would lose sleep at night if I didn’t know what this juice smelled like lol. So I took the plunge and cut the cord… Very carefully!
I should have tried to cut around the wax logo seal to preserve it though but I completely forgot it was wax, thinking it was plastic- duh me, so it crumbled to pieces when I pulled on the cut end. Oh well, maybe I’ll remember that if there ever is a next time.
The stopper was a little bit difficult to open and break the 67 year old natural seal that had formed but I didn’t have to freeze it or apply too much pressure thankfully. A bit of working back and forth got it unstopped after a few goes.
On initial application, the top notes were very familiar. I immediately recognized that signature opening. Only this was VERY heavy on the ylang. I bought a ylang-ylang essential oil several years ago and wore it as a soliflore to train my nose to recognize the note individually and this vintage No 5 is FULL of it. My current formula of No 5 parfum definitely has ylang in it, but it wears much more abstract and is not quite so obvious as it is in this vintage. It’s also less sweet than my current formula and the juice is darker.
Once the top dried away it became almost unrecognizable and was definitely not the Chanel No 5 that I know. It is so very different that I am almost at a loss for words to describe it. It’s not the pristine floral aldehyde I’ve become so familiar with. No, this is very animalic and much dirtier. My current formula is sparkling and almost soapy it’s so clean. But this older formula has a skanky musk in the base that I can only surmise is REAL civit. Ooh la la!
The juice is not off in any way, surprisingly. Though it does smell aged, it doesn’t smell turned or spoiled at all. It’s just very clearly a different formula. A more original formula that I look forward to getting to know better.
I will be adding an addendum to this review at some point after further testing but right now I am thrilled to have gotten an opportunity to buy and experience such an early version of this iconic fragrance. And while the current formula is still very much what Chanel No 5 always was, it has still been through a transformation and is not exactly the same as it was originally created. I feel super lucky to be able to own what is quite possibly one of the last bottles actually created, hands on, by Earnest Beaux before he retired from Chanel in 1954.