100 Years Of Chanel No5: The Anatomy Of A Classic

As Chanel No5 celebrates its centenary we deep dive into the perfume icon

chanel no 5

by Annie Vischer |
Updated on

100 years since its creation in 1921, no fragrance comes close to rivalling Chanel No5’s iconic legacy. As if being selected as Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s signature scent wasn’t enough, the perfume’s notoriety reached fever pitch when, in 1952, Marilyn Monroe told a wide-eyed interviewer that she wore ‘five drops of Chanel No5’ to bed... and nothing else. In the ’80s , Chanel No5 shone bright – literally – in Andy Warhol’s colourful pop-art screen prints and now, a century later, it’s still just as covetable as ever. So what exactly goes into that instantly recognisable bottle of liquid amber?

The Name

Lore has it that ‘No5’ represents the fifth sample perfumer Ernest Beau sent to Coco. Five is also the number that Gabrielle chose as her lucky charm. She even took to presenting her new fashion collections on 5 February and 5 August most years.

The Bottle

Gabrielle Chanel’s clean design has changed very little since the first mass-produced iteration that debuted in 1924 and rumours continue to circulate about the inspiration behind it. Some say the shape was influenced by the Charvet toiletry bottles Gabrielle’s lover, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, favoured. Others are adamant Gabrielle meant to mirror his favourite whisky decanter. Only one thing is certain: the bottle’s emerald-cut stopper was inspired by the shape of Paris’s Place Vendôme, which Gabrielle could admire from the balcony of her suite at the Hôtel Ritz Paris when she was in town.

A 30ml bottle of the No5 Extract contains 1,000 jasmine flowers and 12 May rose flowers, all grown in Grasse

The Scent

Chanel No5 was a radical fragrance in the 1920s. Gabrielle Chanel told Beaux she wanted ‘a fragrance that smells like a woman’ and rejected the traditional single- flower scents of the era (think rose or lily-of-the-valley) in favour of No5’s bouquet of 80 notes, including May rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang and sandalwood. This was modern perfumery in the making.

The Game-Changing Formula

Ernest Beaux’s use of aldehydes – which boost the zing of a scent – caused an olfactory revolution. In creating the blend, he paved the way for a new age of abstract perfumery.

The Notes

The intense floral bouquet of Chanel No5 Eau de Parfum contains a very specific blend of May rose and jasmine from Grasse, a small town on the French Riviera and the centre of French perfumery since the 17th century.

The Figures

A 30ml bottle of the No5 Extract contains 1,000 jasmine flowers and 12 May rose flowers, all grown in Grasse.

Shop: The Classic Chanel No5 Parfum Now


Chanel No5 Parfum Bottle - Grazia 2021

Chanel No5 Parfum1 of 1

Chanel No5 Parfum Bottle 30ml, £250

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