Take Cristalle. I used to think it was just a nice, crisp floral that was transparent like its name. Nothing more, nothing less. But its tart lemon, reserved florals, and velvety, sueded, mossy dry down gives it a subtle sophistication that belies its simplicity. After some time on my skin, it smells like the inside of a suede purse that someone spilled a citrusy perfume in. (Haarman & Reimer categorize it as a "fresh chypre.")
Top notes: Bergamot, Sicilian Lemon
Heart notes: Rosewood, hyacinth
Base notes: Oakmoss, vetiver
(Perfumer: Henri Robert)
I'm sure everyone says this, but Cristalle is a perfect summer scent, bursting with a green citrus at the beginning and settling down into something light but warm and spicy on your skin. It reminds me a lot of Diorella, but without the funky, garbagey fruit undertones; Cristalle is much dryer. Its vetiver gives it some olfactory texture, like scratched glass. In addition to oakmoss, the vetiver in Cristalle makes its dry down complex: woody, incensey, grassy.
You would think that a perfume as effervescent and crisp as Cristalle wouldn't be able to accrue associations or memories, but such is the nature of perfume that even the lightest perfumes, if worn at heavy times in one's life (in my case, early adolescence), may forever be weighed down or haunted by the past.
When I was in my awkward teens (13? 14?) a family friend in Paris who worked as a rep for Chanel got me Cristalle. Seems perfect for a teenage girl, right? Crisp, cheerful, chic-on-training-wheels. The only problem for me now is that as beautiful as I think Cristalle is, it feels slightly melancholy every time I wear it. Its crisp, almost neutral tone (emotionally) signifies a time in my life when I didn't know who I was, when I, too, was somehow neutral, yet to be written on.
But back to shop talk. Apparently, it's hard to find the eau de toilette Cristalle now (which I'm reviewing). In 1993, Jacques Polge created an eau de parfum Cristalle with heavier notes, including civet. (Here are the notes I found for it in my Haarman & Reimer guide: TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Basil, Cumin, Hyacinth, Peach HEART: Jasmine, melon, narcissus, cyclamen, lily of the valley, tangerine BASE: oakmoss, musk, civet, patchouli, sandalwood). I can't speak to that formula, but many commenters elsewhere say it is very different from the superior original.
My melancholoy adolescent associations notwithstanding, Cristalle is an austere beauty. I'm wearing it anyway.