The latest addition to CHANEL’s Les Exclusifs range is Le Lion de CHANEL, and I am completely smitten with everything about this fragrance. From the minimalist packaging, name, sublime scent, and all the symbolism behind its creation (more on that later), this jewel has quickly moved up the ranks to grab the top spot in my fragrance library.
Gabrielle Chanel in Venice, 1936 (credit: Vogue)
Inspiration: Le Lion from Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment, 31 rue Cambon, Paris (credit: CHANEL)
“I am a Leo, and like a lion, I use my claws to prevent people from doing me harm. But, believe me, I suffer more from scratching that being scratched” (Gabrielle Chanel)
Le Lion de CHANEL Eau de Parfum, Les Exclusifs (CAN $240.00/75 ml, 2.5 fl oz) | You might say that Gabrielle Chanel’s life was forged by a series of coincidences that featured a ‘lion’ prominently throughout. The 5th sign of the zodiac under which she was born (August 19, 1883), this giant feline would go on to become symbolic with luck for mademoiselle, and was referenced time and again in her works. It’s only fitting, then, that an animal as majestic as this finally has its very own fragrance in the pantheon of Les Exclusifs.
Also available in a 200 ml size (CAN $440.00)
Created by Olivier Polge, Perfumer-Creator for the House of CHANEL, he devoted the ‘spirit‘ of the fragrance to what the lion meant to Gabrielle, as opposed to an interpretation of the actual animal (which would totally not have worked … unless, to a female lion). To that end, he drew on the symbolic strength of the lion, but tamed it just enough via a veneer of sophistication. This iteration comes housed in a heavy glass bottle with classically simple lines, while the cap closes magnetically for added security. Interestingly, even the ‘juice’ appears to be lion-coloured and while that may not have been intentional, the feline-lover in me appreciates the colour choice.
- top notes: bergamot, lemon
- heart notes: labdanum, amber
- base notes: vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, musk
The fragrance opens up with a sparkling citrusy burst, which makes me think of the initial gold radiance of a sunset, but within a few minutes it begins to morph, deepening and taking on a sultrier tone. At this point, the amber starts to come through in an almost toasted caramel kind of way, the type that makes you want to savour every bit. Much like the aforementioned glorious sunset, the last phase of this fragrance is a complex layering of hues; swirling incense trails wafting through the creaminess of the vanilla, and all tethered by the earthiness of sandalwood and musk. Even the sillage (staying power) is impressive, with hints still peeking through many, many hours later.
Doing my research on Le Lion prior to actually testing it out, I read many comparing this to Guerlain’s Shalimar — primarily because of the latter fragrance’s iconic vanilla accord, but to me, that’s where the similarity ends. Others have also stated that this fragrance is rather similar to Cuir de Russie and Coromandel, both from Les Exclusifs as well and both absolutely outstanding in their own right, but I feel like that comparison might in all likelihood be because all three have a common ambery background. That said, Le Lion still stands unique amongst them.
I’ve said often enough that fragrance is incredibly subjective, with results dependant on one’s personal preferences. As someone who is highly ‘scent-sensitive’ — meaning certain notes can take me down with an instant migraine (not fun, let me tell you … and something that I’m happy to say did NOT occur here), I tend to stick with fragrance families that I know will work on me, namely: anything vanilla or incense-like, smoky, leathery, boozy notes, and/or scents grounded by earthy touches like sandalwood or resins such as myrrh. To say that Le Lion lives up to its name as well as everything I look for in a fragrance, would not be an understatement. In the end, I have a hunch that Mademoiselle would definitely have approved — and in all probability made this her signature scent as well.
Available at all CHANEL beauty counters
Kindly provided by CHANEL for my unbiased consideration