Maybe the written formula is the same (Chanel insists that the extract is the same) but the smell is not and it’s not the effect of the time. If the shape (to quote Roudnitska) is the same, the details are not, nor the time evolution. Both fragrances start different, after an hour they go in the same direction for a long time and in the end again they take 2 roads.
The first major difference is the animalic note. No5 vintage is animalic as any old, pre 50’s perfume used to be, while modern is not. There is almost a leather note, cuir de russie effect inside, which is not present in the modern version. This cuir note can be an effect from the civet, musc tincture (+nitromusk) + styrax+ jasmin/orris/cassie, but its presence is unmistakable and create what was often said about No5 – the smell of a woman. This is not true for the modern No5 which is more “artificial” without the depth often found in old perfumes.
The second main difference is the ylang. The modern extrait has a beautiful and very strong ylang-ylang Nosi bé note that is not so pushed in the old.
The vanilla. In the old one the depth of vanilla and the burnt, liqueur like (almost animalic) note of the natural tincture is of a tremendous beauty and complexity. The modern seems to focus more on the coumarine, almondy note.
The sandalwood. While in vintage sandalwood note is soft and tender, milky and gentle, combined with the orris, in the modern I am disturbed by a synthetic note (like Bacdanol or Sandalore), often present in fragrances from the 80’s.
The orris As I noticed last year and then in Rallet, the old Chanel has a distinct orris, powdery-buttery note that is not so obvious in the modern. You can smell the jasmine-orris effect while in the modern the ylang covers all that.
To conclude, the main differences are: animalic, ylang, vanilla, sandalwod, and orris. The modern seems a polished version and … modernized but the differences are obvious by contrast (otherwise it can be called the same perfume minus the animalic note).
The drydown of vintage No5 has an unmistakable beauty, soft, powdery, human that stays days on the blotter.
Why even the No5 extract smells different is not an easy subject.
I love both of them but still, I prefer the vintage No5. It has more life and history in it.
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art