Unsatisfactory engagements… Coco Noir by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

“For Chrissake don’t put your elbows on the bar!”

Chrissy catches the articulations of Claire’s arms in the palms of her hands, cupping them centimetres from the sticky surface below, just before they make contact.

“That counter’s as tacky as fly paper” she says.

“And you’ve no idea who or what’s been on it.”

Claire is crestfallen to have been interrupted in mid-performance of her favourite expression of exasperation: elbows plonked onto whatever object, table, shelf, bed, bar, presents itself before her; face flopped into tulip-ed hands, fringe forward, eyes wide, lashes fluttering occasionally.

It is a look she fancies gives her the air of a gamine sixties pop starlet: a singing Twiggy or the English Francoise Hardy.

Sadly this is a delusion she has carried around at least the last two decades, for in reality she began by looking like a petulant schoolgirl protesting to be allowed stay out an hour later and now resembles a prematurely ageing trophy wife angling for a new kitchen.

Chrissy crosses herself for harbouring such malevolent, ungenerous thoughts, even if they are a good deal more than half true.

“Why the hell are we meeting here anyway?” moans Claire in an upwardly inflected whine that is the aural equivalent of the recently aborted head-flop.

Intended to be youthful insouciance all charming and cool, it is plain irritating and anachronistic on a woman of nearly forty.

“Can mannerisms be described as mutton dressed as lamb?” Chrissy wonders to herself.

Why are they here?

Claire is pre-occupied, as ever, with her phone: tweeting or texting or mailing or participating in whatever new activity she’s found this week and finds preferable to actually engaging with the world, the person, in front of her.

Why are they here, in this creepy basement Soho bar, near where they used to work together a dozen years ago?

Why does this place still exist with its outmoded list of once chic twists on classic cocktails, its black décor lacquered with human sweat, spilt drinks, tears, broken emotions and other human secretions?

Why are they still friends?

Outside it’s Spring.


Bright, too-white-to-be-Summer sunshine is illuminating pretty girls in this seasons stand out colour coats and encouraging advertising boys who have been working on their bodies all Winter in gyms to roll up sleeves and remove jackets to show hard curves under fitted shirts.

In here it is perpetual Autumn. A twilight world where overgrown adolescents pretend after a youth they are not yet prepared to admit they have lost.

Lost boys and girls listening to music from seventeen or more years ago, sipping sugary solutions that were once edgy and are now no more than safe.

Freelancers playing hooky from careers that never truly came into being. Well dressed, almost well paid, just comfortable enough to be prepared to ignore to pain: things just aren’t everything they’d hoped for.

Things aren’t anything like they’d hoped for.

Why are they here?

“She’s here!”

Claire, sees her first, rises from her stool and snaps Samantha on her phone as she descends the stairs.

They all air kiss.

“I’ll post it” she says referring to the image on the glowing screen.

“After I’ve done some work on it, of course.”

Chrissy just feels sick as they order three dirty martinis and get ready to talk about old times.

Coco Noir by Chanel is a truly pathetic perfume.

Worse than that, it is a downright depressing smell.

Devoid of ambition, imagination, flair, flamboyance, elan, emotion, wit, style or substance it is a cynical, puerile, joyless piece of olfactory junk.

This is a lowest common denominator fragrance by numbers.

To offer a description is almost to flatter it.

Linear and, in terms of projection, strong.

It lasts a long, long time.

Sweet, cheap, fruity, patchouli, plastic balsamic with cellophane bagged spices.

References abound to other past ‘triumphs’ from the House of Chanel, all post No. 19, of course.

Yet they are in-jokes, self-parodies almost, painful self-inflicted pastiches.

Really, why did they bother?

Can’t Chanel do any better?

When did they last do any better in the mainstream?

Not a happy experience, and to my mind no pleasure, guilty or otherwise at all, The Dandy genuinely couldn’t wait to get it off my skin.

That said, after a short break for ho-hum reasons, it is so very good to be back again.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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22 responses to “Unsatisfactory engagements… Coco Noir by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Lilybelle

    Hello again, Mr. Dandy! I am so in agreement with you on that one. I would rather wear no perfume at all than that one. I presume it has sold well (?). It is all they’re created to do anyway, and Chanel should certainly know that end of things.

    • Dearest Lily
      Hello once more.
      What a relief to be returned to perfumeland.
      Yes, apparently Coco Noir has been very popular, yet I found it almost unbearable. Then, when I was forced to think about it, it made me by turns angry and quite deflated. Angry that such a cynical, cobbled together, obvious piece of trash should be retailing for the price and deflated because it would seem that is what people want.
      The packaging is beautiful and the advertising excellent. But am I alone in thinking perfume should be about the smell?
      I agree entirely: I’d rather go without scent than wear this!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Lilybelle

        No, you are certainly not alone in thinking perfume should be about the smell. You must put that one ^^ completely out of your mind. On to better things. 😉

      • Dearest Lily
        Yes, to better things, I think a joyful Springtime review may be in order before I dip my toe into the unhappy well of guilty pleasures once more… for even the good ones leave one feeling a little ‘soiled’.
        *He winks*
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Is this scent the result of market research? It sounds dreadful. I don’t know what made me think of it, but did you see “The Great Gatsby”? Wait, I know what triggered that question, it was your bit about “devoid of…”

    • Dearest V
      You have the perfect cinematic cipher for this scent just there! I was trying to remember the last over-inflated example of high-gloss utter emptiness that irked me so considerably and yes, I think it probably was TGG (though I do think perhaps that book is unfilmable).
      Plus I have personal reasons to dislike one of the stars, but we shan’t go into that here….
      Coco Noir is no doubt the result of perfume design by committee and my goodness does it smell.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • A ha! I thought the same thing of that movie, never have I seen a film where the point of the book was so utterly lost. And you’re right. It may unfilmable. Story by committee + smell by committee = yuck!

    • rosestrang

      Heehee, I watched that for the first time recently, like leftovers made into a complicated and horrible soup!

  3. Nena

    Oops… I actually really like this one, and picked my big bottle of it up from having it on layby since December. On me, it smells like the half-way point between Coco Mademoiselle and the original Coco.

    • Dearest Nena
      Never apologise! The Dandy’s not given to quoting Madonna, but her line ‘Poor is the man whose pleasure depends upon the permission of another’, is one of the wisest and most eloquent in pop music.
      Of course there’s no way of telling how this will work on someone’s skin and I can imagine that if it tilts towards Coco it could be a lighter sweeter version of that baroque wonder. Too light and sweet for me though and I still wish they’d done something new.
      I should also have mentioned that, being Chanel, it’s well made and the ingredients are of a high quality. But it left me wanting so much more.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Nena

        I promise I’ll make up for it when I go to Melbourne! Then I’ll have Portrait of a Lady and at least one Guerlain exclusive (although I can’t decide which ones I should test). I might even pop into the Chanel boutique to check out their exclusives.

    • Alice

      I quite like it too (confessed to this on mr dandy’s guilty pleasures forum a while back). The patchouli note is excellent, but I’d prefer it a little less sweet . I enjoyed it around Xmas, seemed t suit that period of bright decorations and rich food!
      Lovely to have you back, dear Dandy!

  4. rosestrang

    Oh dear, I was just about to unleash yet more vitriol on Coco Noir! But if folks enjoy it I’m happy for them. Truth be told though, I can’t stand any Chanels post 80s. I admire Coco, but doubt I could wear it now, I loathe Chance and ‘Allure’ (can’t bear to name it without quotation marks) and I’d better not say what I think about Coco Mademoiselle, and Coco Noir is basically Coco Mademoiselle with bells on. Oh dear, I’ve gone and unleashed vitriol anyway!
    Of the fudge/patchouli types the one I find bearable is Shalimar Parfum Initial, but only for half and hour while the iris lingers. Make it stop! I tried L’Ambre des Merveilles a few days ago and there was nothing marvelous about it, yet more fudge and patchouli. Why Hermes? Why?!
    Ok I’ll have a cup of tea and calm down now.
    Happy Spring Sir Dandy and everyone!

    • Dearest Rose
      I’m with you every step of the way, and hence my comments about Chanel ever doing better in the mainstream. It seems to me that since the great overabundant baroque masterpiece that is Coco they’ve nothing with their mainstream perfume offerings for women of any note whatsoever. Allure and Chance are just plain… well, this is a polite forums and I’ve not written scented letters on them yet so I should probably keep semi-silent.
      Shalimar Parfum Initial, which I have a scented letter to send on at some point, is a different matter. It is that rare thing, a venerable old house reaching out successfully to what it perceives to be the tastes of a ‘younger audience’ without being patronising or cheapening its own name, though one does wonder quite how many flankers of Shalimar the world needs.
      L’Ambre de Merveilles is such a let down after the salty almost organic original and so out of tune with what I thought they were trying to achieve with that ‘pillar’. Quite, as you say, inexplicable.
      A cup of tea for me too I think….
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. batkitty

    Yes, I couldn’t agree more about Coco Noir, it left me utterly depressed when I tried it. Dank, false, tired, I couldn’t believe what I was smelling compared to so many other Chanel loves. Ah well, they can’t all be winners, can they…..

    • Dearest Batkitty
      Dank! Now there’s the work, ‘A dank dive’. That’s just the kind of slightly hopeless place I was trying to conjure, and yes that sense of a friendship gone stale is the result of Chanel seeming to have let me down so many times of late. How can the house that gave us No. 5, No. 19, Cristalle and so many admirable Exclusifs produce this?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Cheryl

    Seems a bit like the perfume equivalent of Vogue’s Kimye cover.
    When I was a teenager, Vogue was Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy and Wilhelmina, F. Scott my author of choice and Shalimar, Mitsouko and No.19 my perfumes. Will never watch Baz Luhrmann’s mess and looking for vintage scents has become a necessity.
    Didn’t know I was living in ‘the good old days’.
    So glad you’re back, and many thanks for another treat.
    Lots of love,

  7. SallyM

    Ha! As I was reading about Chrissy and Claire, I was waiting with breath a-baited for that first but oh-so-telling punch line that I knew would cause me to guffaw aloud and you did not disappoint: “Coco Noir by Chanel is a truly pathetic perfume.” It so is!! I loathe both it and Coco Mademoiselle with a passion bordering on the manic. I can only imagine what was in the venerable heads (or noses) of Chanel when they launched these onto the unsuspecting public. In fact I have decided that the only good time to wear either would be during the zombie apocalypse for they alone would surely keep them at bay.

  8. “Devoid of ambition, imagination, flair, flamboyance, elan, emotion, wit, style or substance, it is a cynical, puerile, joyless piece of olfactory junk.”

    This is so beautiful that I felt compelled to read it to myself à haute voix!

    Thank you, Perfumed Dandy–I salute you! 😉


    absolutely dead on:
    “Sweet, cheap, fruity, patchouli, plastic balsamic with cellophane bagged spices.”

    I have tried it a while back as a friend (who’s worn coco for years) looked for a new “signature” scent (a concept that never quite resonated with me).
    here, really, “noir” is a talking name. black as in a black sheep of the family.

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