Photos: Chanel Sycomore

The Chanel Les Exclusifs series, released in 2007, was originally only available in Chanel boutiques and at Chanel counters in department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus (hence the “Les Exclusifs” monkier), but with market forces the way they now are (i.e. horrible), Chanel has made its entire Les Exclusifs series available online.

I took a brief test spin of the Chanel Sycomore almost a year ago, and this is what I said about it then: “The name Sycomore can be ascribed to three different types of tree — the Middle Eastern/Northern African fig tree, the European maple and the North American plane tree, but as far as references are concerned, I would say that Chanel Sycomore leans in the direction of the Middle East fig, with its incense-smoke undertone, layers of dry grasses and the faint, pulpy fruit notes peering from around the edges.”

But now that the Les Exclusifs series is available for internet order, I decided to take the plunge and order one of the honkin’ 200ml bottles for a closer examination of the packaging and the scent itself.

First, the packaging:

Chanel Sycomore

Karl Lagerfeld is famous for his disapproval of luxury goods for sale on the internet, believing that it cheapens the brand by removing the products from the carefully calculated luxury experience of the boutique environment. Well, there was definitely a lot of thought put into the packaging for the Les Exclusifs. When my box showed up at my doorstep, I felt like I was getting something special:

Chanel Sycomore

I’ve made much more significant luxury brand purchases that weren’t packaged nearly as nice:

Chanel Sycomore

And now we take the ribbon off . . . slowly, slowly:

Chanel Sycomore

The black box itself is beautiful, especially for being, well, a mere box. I’ve had limited edition, exclusive fragrances show up in the mail in banged-up boxes that looked like they’d been through hell and back. This Chanel box? Not a scratch, dent, scrape or mark. I don’t know how they did it, but it’s obvious that the Chanel brand has a lot of experience in getting goods from point A to point B in pristine condition.

So let’s open it up:

Chanel Sycomore

A box within a box, but this one is the reverse in design, predominantly white with black accents. Again, solidly constructed and well thought out. Let’s open it, shall we?

Chanel Sycomore

The bottle itself is what you would call honkin’ — 200ml is a serious amount of juice, and when I showed it to the BF, he said, “Holy Cow! That’s a big bottle!” He was also very impressed by the clean lines and the heft of the glass. He said it reminded him a bit of the old chemist bottles, but modernized:

Chanel Sycomore

The cap is magnetized so that it easily snaps on and stays put, and the magnets appear to be polarized so that the cap automatically adjusts to where the CC logo is aligned properly to the angle of the bottle itself, then clicks into place. Again, terrific attention to detail, and a clear example of how Chanel uses its design history and financial resources to separate itself from other luxury brands.

Chanel Sycomore

Wait, I lost my train of thought. That’s easy to do when there’s bottles to fondle and white tissue paper and silk ribbons to roll around in. Oh oh oh! The fragrance! But can we just look at the bottle once more? Just once? Puh-leeeeze?

Chanel Sycomore

Okay, great. Thanks. Now we can move on — the fragrance itself is a light interpretation of vetiver — smoky and kind of musky/musty, but sheer. I ordinarily use a light hand when applying fragrance, but it takes a solid 10 to 12 pumps on the nozzle to get an appropriate amount of Sycomore into the air and onto the skin. It’s not a huge vapor-trail monster, either, staying very close to the skin, sending up intermittent wafts of toasted sweetness followed quickly by wafts of salt and woody smoke.

The Non-Blonde offered initial praise, but then stated that it goes swampy on her skin (though she loves it on her husband), so Sycomore might strike a good number of people as masculine or maybe just a bit too deep and earthen for their taste.

But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its female fans — Marie-Helene at The Scented Salamander writes: “Sycomore is a beautiful, even stunning wood and incense composition that manages to awaken the combined evocative powers of vetiver and whirling incense, their decidedly exotic association in this case, while offering itself at the same time as an oh!-so-French study in ideals of understated refinement and elegance.”

Chanel Sycomore

Main fragrance notes for Sycomore are listed as: vetiver, sandalwood, cypress, juniper and pink pepper. If you’ve always been curious about vetiver as a perfume material, but have found most other vetivers to be too strong or too dirty for your taste, Sycomore is likely the delicate, smoky vetiver you’ve been waiting for.

But make sure you spray plenty of it on. I initially thought Sycomore might go swa
mpy (i.e. salty and wet grass) on me, as well, but its swirling sweet smoke and wooded nature revealed itself once I applied with a generous hand.

A link to the full set of my Chanel Sycomore photos can be found here: Chanel Sycomore at Nathan’s Flickr page.

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