It’s the most famous fragrance in the history of the world. Chanel No 5 holds a place in fashion and fragrance lore. It’s been worn by stars and celebrities, and its staying power is remarkable. Chanel No 5 is still alive and going strong nearly 100 years after it first appeared on shelves and inside glass casings.

But what does Chanel No 5 smell like? Its scent is a bit of a mystery. But, as you’ll see below, that mystery is by design.

Read on to learn just a little bit about the history of Chanel No 5, its ingredients and how you can get it today.


Chanel No 5’s Invention

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself charged perfumer Ernest Beaux with coming up with a new fragrance, something elegant and timeless. So Beaux went to work creating several samples for Coco to try. When she reviewed the samples, she chose the fifth one — and Chanel No 5 was born.

But there’s just a little bit more to the story. The number five was Coco’s lucky number, which may have influenced her decision. Also, Chanel No 5 debuted on May 5 of 1921. That’s right: It first appeared on the fifth day of the fifth month.


What Made Chanel No 5 Different?

Most perfumes of the time were very flowery. You might find a perfume that smelled like jasmine or rose. Coco wanted something that only smelled like itself. That is, she wanted a perfume that didn’t smell like a flower or something else in the real world — so that it would only evoke itself when smelled.

This is part of why so many people ask the question: What does Chanel No 5 smell like? The answer is that it is perfectly unique. Chanel No 5 truly smells like Chanel No 5, and it’s almost impossible to compare it to something else — and that was by design from the very beginning.


Chanel No 5’s Ingredients

Ernest Beaux

To ensure that Chanel No 5 smelled unique, Beaux used 80 ingredients. While the wearer may be able to pick up hints of sandalwood, vanilla, amber, iris, lemon, rose, jasmine and other scents, the composition of all 80 ingredients creates a unique and powerful fragrance that has achieved an identity all of its own — just as Coco wanted.

And here’s one last note about Ernest Beaux, the designer of Chanel No 5: He was born in Moscow, and he actually served as perfumer for Russian nobility before the Bolshevik Revolution. He glad to France after the Revolution, and he used his connections to royalty living in exile to get new projects in Western Europe — which led him to Chanel.


Chanel No 5’s Famous Advertising

The marketing of Chanel No 5 is just as impressive as the scent itself and the staying power it has enjoyed. The simple black-and-white box you buy Chanel No 5 in today is the same packing that was first used back when it debuted in 1921.

Coco Chanel herself starred in the first marketing materials, which first debuted in Harper’s Bazaar in 1937. Of course, celebrities like Marilyn Monroe (who famously said she wore only five drops of Chanel No 5 to bed) helped boost the fragrances profile and appeal through the years.

Today, almost 100 years after its debut, Chanel No 5 is still available and still one of the most popular fragrances in the world. You can get it, too. The remarkable scent can be yours for a perfectly reasonable price.


Final Thoughts on What Chanel No 5 Smells Like

As you might guess, not everyone loves Chanel No 5. Any popular product is going to have its rabid fans — and also its detractors. Some say that Chanel No 5 smells like baby powder. Others say that it reminds them of another place and time, and that it’s not a modern scent for a modern woman. Still, others might say it smells like everyday soap.

But Chanel No 5’s presence in the perfume world continues unmatched and unabated. Love it or hate it, it’s here and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Do you love Chanel No 5? Hate it? Either way, share your opinion in our comments section below, or you can always message us directly using our contact page.