Chanel Chance Eau Tendre

This smell is called Chanel Chance Eau Tendre Eau de Parfum. I’ve applied to it to my arm on three different days, and it does seem that there’s an element of *chance* in how it smells. The first time I tried it, it smelled bad! It also smelled like: patchouli, lily of the valley, orange zest, bathroom cleaner, leather bags, green leaves. That sounds nice, right? Yet somehow it was very, very bad. Something cloying ran through all those other smells and ruined it. One expects (I do, at least) that a perfume from Chanel will smell generic, but also good. No such luck.

The second time I smelled this, we (smell and I) got on slightly better. Again I smelled lily of the valley and an overall impression of non-fragrant flowers. A bouquet bought at a grocery store. Cool and fresh, from afar. Closer in, there’s something sweeter and warmer. The sweet thing is rather smooth and artificial, and a bit cloying. I certainly don’t like it. That cloying component is like scented laundry detergent, and I mean the smell as it’s poured into the washer, not the smell of freshly washed clothing. After an hour, the intensity and specificity faded and it just smelled like a Macy’s perfume counter. 

In my third smelling session, I was bored. But then – it began to smell more and more like spring. At first, I got the sweet, misty smell of spring flowers – hyacinths, daffodils, tulips.  The smell of a warm, damp morning where the ground is steaming up, or a lily-filled house at Easter, with the windows open. I smelled again, and that wet spring was gone, leaving only laundry detergent. To be more specific, it smelled like Arm & Hammer with OxiClean (I know because I bought this recently – I had a coupon so it only cost $1.97. It’s not my usual and I dislike it, because it makes me think of motels).

So maybe there is not so much chance involved, after all. It seems I consistently smell spring, the unpleasant parts of laundry detergent, and I generally think it smells boring. My best guess at an official notes breakdown would be: lily of the valley, fern, pepper, patchouli, white musk. Upon looking it up, it turns out I’m dead wrong. Chanel says this smells like jasmine and rose, with a hint of grapefruit and quince. So, there you have it: my nose is not All That. But I stand by what I wrote.

If I were to re-name this, I’m afraid I’d have to call it “April Disaster: Chained to the Laundry Vent.”


Review – Prada Candy Kiss

Saying ‘Prada Candy Kiss’ feels a lot like saying ‘my Maserati’ or ‘don’t worry, I made him sign a prenup’ – which is to say, surprisingly fun, glamorous, and silly – even funny. But that is not quite how this smells. That sounds juicy, and this smell is more powdery and comfy. I smell tootsie roll! And vanilla. And dryer sheets. There’s also a touch of grape, and cotton candy, and even a teensy bit of incense? This sort of smell is not usually my cup of tea, but I kinda like it! I just wish the dryer sheet part of the smell wasn’t so strong. 

This perfume is what’s called a ‘flanker,’ meaning it is a spin off of the original fragrance, ‘Prada Candy.’ There are a lot of flankers to Prada Candy. Not just Kiss, but also Gloss, Night, and Sugarpop. Truly, they are fun names. I’ll have to try the others someday. 

And though it’s a gorgeous name, I think that instead of ‘Prada Candy Kiss,’ they should call this ‘Pink Sweatpants’ or ‘My Chihuahua Ate My Homework’.


Review: Escentric Molecules ‘Molecule 01’

How things smell is contextual and suggestible. For example, if you give someone a vial of isovaleric and butyric acid and tell them it smells like parmesan cheese, they will believe you. And then if you give them that same vial and say it smells like vomit, they will, again, believe you. See study here.

Today’s perfume is by a brand called Escentric Molecules, and it’s called ‘Molecule 01’. I’m reviewing it because a friend wears it and asked for my thoughts (she is an excellent artist and you should check out her site,, where you can find her medieval/alien artwork and some excellent playlists). The salesperson told me that Molecule 01 doesn’t smell like anything; it just makes you smell more like you.

Disclaimer: this sample I have is very old – like four years old. 

Even at first application, it smells broken-in, like it’s been on the skin for at least an hour. The smell itself is evasive. I think I smell lilies? And pepper? Is it warm or cool? It certainly smells calm. I’m having trouble describing it, but I can tell you two things. One: it smells like opening a Vogue magazine. Two: wearing it, I feel like a glamorous robot.

It strikes me as a rather private fragrance. As in: “I’m wearing perfume, but I don’t want to be interpreted.” It’s the olfactory equivalent of keeping one’s face carefully neutral while waiting for a job interview to begin.

So does this perfume really make each wearer smell more like themselves? I put it on all three of my roommates and smelled them diligently. Yes, they all smell different. But of course they all smell different. And – to return to the way context affects perception – if the salesperson had told me it smelled like roses, would I be telling you that all three of my roommates smelled beautifully of rose? Maybe the marketing helps one pay attention not to the perfume, but to the person. I think that’s nice!

This smell is perfectly named, though. ‘Molecule 01’ – simple, and yet confusing.

P.S. I did some research: this perfume is made of one solitary chemical compound, called Iso E Super. The compound was first made in the 60s and has been used in smaller portions in many fragrances, but this was the first one to use it all by its lonesome. Fragrantica (the Wikipedia of perfume) says Iso E Super smells “dry, woody and cedarlike, with aspects of ambergris, vetiver and patchouli and a slight phenolic nuance. At the same time, it is amazingly transparent and neutral.”


Review: Le Labo – Neroli 36

The word ‘Neroli’ refers to an essential oil produced through steam distillation of the blossom of the bitter orange tree. Neroli smells citrusy, sharp, and herbal to me. If you want to smell it, try the essential oil section of a hippie grocery store. 

With a name like “Neroli 36’, I expected this perfume to smell like, well, neroli, but honestly it doesn’t. It smells soft and sweet, with a small punch of plastic. I smell sunscreen, playdough, tootsie roll, orange blossom. There’s even a bit of coconut in there, to my nose. I imagine this would make me nostalgic for my childhood if I’d grown up like the children in commercials do. A great big whiff of that connecticut corporate americana vibe – like the Draper family in Madmen, if they lived in the 2000s and quit smoking. 

I don’t like ‘Neroli 36’, but it’s still engaging to smell. Definitely poorly named. I’d call it ‘Suburbia Summer’ or ‘Beach Day with Babysitter’.