Boy Chanel by Chanel (2016)

Neutral

The Les Exclusifs de Chanel range breaks down into re-releases of obscure classics, and more-recent conceptual pieces too narrow in design for mass production (hence the premium charge), with this being a case of the latter. The idea for Les Exclusifs Boy Chanel (2016) is interesting on paper: A true gender-neutral fougère fragrance in the classic vein made to meet modern tolerances and standards. Creative director Christopher Sheldrake gave up his gig at Serge Lutens to dedicate himself with Chanel, and assist the transition between father Jacques Polge and son Oliver Polge as house perfumer, so this is also a collaborative exercise between the junior Polge and Sheldrake. The execution is immaculate if a little boring, so methodically balancing the fougère accord between classic style, modern appeal, and gender neutrality as to create the olfactive equivalent of an academic study of the fougère classification, but it is very well-made. I can tell by some of the reactions to my sample when shared in public, and the reviews written before mine, that introduction to Boy is often love or hate at first sniff, and I partly think that has to due with cultural hard wiring towards the familiar fougère accord combined with the deliberately ambiguous composition of the scent itself.

The scent of Boy opens with a sweet and full lavender with lemon, grapefruit, and neroli. The opening is very redolent like a classic dandy fragrance, but lacks any spice or bitter greens associated with a proper gentleman’s fougère, asserting the genderless theme. The coumarin and oakmoss usually found in the base of older fougères has been moved to the heart here, which is a clever trick that both dodges IFRA-imposed limitations and prevents the dry down from reducing to those notes like most masculine-market examples of the genre. Rose and geranium pair up to surround the relocated base-notes-turned-heart-notes to bring back that lovely Victorian dandy countenance, until the scent settles into the real base. Vanilla and sandalwood offer a barbershop vibe while heliotrope and musk bring the scent back to center, almost like Dana Canoe (1936) and Dana Ambush (1955) playing tug-of-war with the finish. Wear time is all day but sillage is only moderate, with a warmth and sweetness that keeps Boy from seeing use in the hottest of days, but Chanel has other fougère options like Platinum Égoïste (1993) for that. I’d say this is too dressy for casual use, but office or day time romance should be fine. Like all Les Exclusifs, there is a $200 75ml bottle and a $350 200ml bottle, leaving very little wiggle room between “like it” and “love it” sizes so to speak.

Boy Chanel is a fine fougère with a playful name to match its slightly-irreverent design, but with its performance in the price range it inhabits, may seem like a bit of a spruce goose compared to similar compositions selling for one-tenth the cost and having little to no noticeable downgrade in quality. Stuff like Caron’s Number 3 / Le 3ème Homme / The Third Man (1985) or Lalique Pour Homme [Lion] (1997) are remarkably similar and the former nearly as unisex in tone. Additionally, scents like Parfums MDCI Invasion Barbare (2005), Roja Parfums Danger Pour Homme, (2011) or Creed Viking (2017) may seem subjectively better for somebody looking to spend around the same amount of cash it takes to nab a Chanel Les Exclusifs selection, and get the added prestigious distinction of wearing a fragrance that is marketed with the intent of trying to “smell expensive”, since that matters more than folks will admit when buying in this price tier. I give it a nod for quality craftsmanship, but the realm which Boy Chanel inhabits and the style it exhibits clash with one another in my opinion (like so many niche fougères), making this best for collectors wanting to complete the line, and passable if not able to be secured for a substantial discount. Solid Neutral.

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