The Scent of a Classic: The Story Behind Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5 is a timeless classic. The perfume's name tells you everything you need to know about it: it was the fifth scent released by French businesswoman Coco Chanel.

It was launched in 1921, to be exact, at the height of Chanel's career. Being a revolutionary scent, it was different from anything else on the market. It became her best-selling perfume, and with good reason: its scent has become the quintessential symbol of luxury, refinement, and femininity.

How Was Chanel No.5 Conceptualized?

When Chanel planned to release her fifth scent, she wanted something unique from other fragrances. While most were made with a base note of castor oil, which people often compared to the smell of a "barbershop's bowl of lathered soap," Chanel wanted something minimalist and refined. 

She came up with the idea of using the French ingredient of ylang-ylang, the flowers of a tropical plant that had an elusive, "lily-like" scent, to create the scent of her new perfume. According to Chanel, her variation was "a woman's perfume, a perfume of a woman… It's one of the most expensive ingredients in perfumery."

The Creation of Chanel No.5

Chanel worked with Ernest Beaux, a perfumer from Grasse, who was considered a master of blending. Beaux took the unusual ingredient and transformed it into a modern perfume with a streamlined, minimalist scent.

It is said that Beaux's idea with Chanel No. 5 was "to make a perfume as simple and as elegant as a woman's dress." To create it, he utilized an innovative method to extract the scent from the ylang-ylang flower: he subjected it to pressure and then distilled its essence through a process of steam distillation. This method is still used today to create another one of their collaborative products: Chanel No. 19.

Before Chanel No.5 was even released back in 1921, there were almost no commercial perfume brands in the market. At the time, people made their own at home or purchased locally made fragrances from flower shops. Beaux's idea was to create one that could be mass-produced for the people. He had the brilliant idea of stripping any excess "flourishes" from the scent and using only the freshest, most concentrated ingredients to create it.

The Launch of the Perfume

Chanel No.5 was first launched at an exhibition in May 1921. It was so popular that it sold out within 15 minutes. A year later, it was made available to the general public. According to Chanel's marketing director, "Within a few weeks, every socialite in Paris seemed to be wearing Chanel No. 5." The product was such a massive success that by the time of Chanel's death in 1971, No. 5 had sold more than 25 million bottles.


Today, Chanel No. 5 is still one of the best-selling perfumes in the world. The perfume industry even selected it as the Best Fragrance of the 20th Century. Of course, everyone has their preferences and taste when it comes to their brand. However, Chanel's innovative scent still lingers to this very day, signifying its impact on generations of socialites.

The good news is that you do not even need to be a socialite to wear it. The scent transcends all walks of life, and it is sure to make a great impression on and off the runway.

If you are looking for more amazing scents inspired by the great Coco Chanel, look no further than our selections here at Alexandria Fragrances. We have a huge collection of fragrances, fit for the modern men and women with style! Check out our online store for more of our perfume collection and their prices.
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