This review was difficult to write and here’s why: my first encounter with Chanel was at eighteen, years before I ever set foot in a boutique or even visited a city that had one. Instead, I would pore over the pages of Vogue each month, cutting out ads for clothes I couldn’t afford but would definitely be able to, soon. One day after too many hours spent gazing longingly at yet another Chanel tweed jacket, I wrote what could only be described as a fan letter to the brand and posted it to their Manhattan headquarters. Two weeks later, an elegant, black and cream envelope appeared in the mailbox of our modest family home. Inside was a handwritten note, thanking me for my kind words and expressing the hope of one day welcoming me to their boutique. It felt like a blessing from angels on high. Sadly, the note was lost when I packed up and moved across the Atlantic, but I have never forgotten the graciousness of that small gesture.
Twenty years later, there’s still a jacket-shaped hole in my wardrobe, but my love for Chanel remains steadfast. On the single occasion I’ve had to visit the Paris flagship, they treated me like a queen, even though I bought only a tiny flacon of Cuir de Russie – pocket change to some of their clients. I was escorted to a small private room, where I was offered tea while my purchase was wrapped, and payment taken discreetly. I stepped back onto the Rue Cambon with an irrepressible smile and a shopping bag tied prettily with white satin ribbon swinging from my wrist. I still have that bag somewhere.
Chanel, you see, have always made me feel special. In my heart of hearts, I know that this is a well-honed marketing technique, but my goodness did it work. I am loath to speak a word against them, and that’s why I had trouble reviewing Biarritz. We didn’t hit it off, but it didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, it’s charming. May I introduce you?
Chanel Les Eaux Paris-Biarritz (to address it by its full and proper name) is one of three fragrances in the newly released Les Eaux collection. Each eau de toilette is inspired by one of Mademoiselle’s favourite escapes – Deauville, Venise and our eternally chic seaside resort Biarritz. The website describes the scent as “pure air and energy…a refreshing trail like a splash of sea spray.” At the time, it was 31 degrees in London, and that sounded just the thing to jolt me out of my heatwave-induced stupor.
My parcel came beautifully wrapped. Of course it did. I spent half an hour taking pictures before I finally got around to smelling it. I couldn’t feel the sea spray I so longed for, but I glimpsed it just over the horizon. Biarritz is packed to bursting point with oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruit and bergamot, your full daily dose of vitamin C in each spray. It’s tangy and juicy, but the sharp edges are smoothed away with the gentlest lily-of-the-valley to ease you into the day. No rush. Savour this moment, because as with most citrus scents, it will be a fleeting encounter. This is not a flaw, but an invitation to be present in the here and now.
Biarritz is pleasant and I like it, but that’s as far as we’ll ever go. As with all things Chanel, it is well-crafted and luxurious, which is to say that it sits comfortably against your skin and asks only that you sit back and enjoy the view. There is nothing to startle or challenge. I can appreciate that, even if I’m not head-over-heels in love. But somewhere out there, there’s someone who will be. Maybe that someone is you.
You can purchase Chanel Les Eaux Paris – Biarritz 125ml, for £97 here.