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Which Chanel No.5 to Buy

Everything You Want to Know About All 5 Chanel No.5 Fragrances

In the early 1920s, after Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel created tweed jackets and quilted bags we still love and use today, she created another timeless piece: the iconic Chanel No.5 fragrance. She worked alongside perfumer Ernest Beaux to concoct a scent that felt revolutionary at the time.

"When Gabrielle Chanel was thinking up No.5, she wanted a very constructed fragrance," explained Olivier Polge, a current perfumer for Chanel. "She didn't want one flower to stick out. At that time, they were creating fragrances that were called 'Jasmine from South of France' or 'Lily of the Valley,' and she wanted to go a bit against that by including a palette. She wanted it to have the spirit of her craftsmanship on it."

So instead of one main note like many of the other fragrances of her time, Coco's version was a true blend of florals and musks. The original No.5 breaks down like this: the top notes are Comoro ylang-ylang and aldehydes, the heart features May rose and jasmine from Grasse, and the base is a woody mix of sandalwood accord and Bourbon vanilla.

There are several theories as to where the name "No.5" came from. One is that Coco chose the fifth sample Ernest presented to her, while others say five was her lucky number or a nod to her astrology sign, Leo (the fifth of the zodiac).

No.5 certainly made a splash when it came to the media. In 1937, Coco became the ambassador for No.5, and she was photographed at her suite in the Ritz for a campaign published in Harper's Bazaar. Muses range from French actress Catherine Deneuve to Nicole Kidman and currently Gisele Bündchen.

Its fans included some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood history. In 1954, a journalist asked Marilyn Monroe what she wore to bed, and she responded, "Just a few drops of No.5." Then in the 1960s, Andy Warhol painted a series of nine silkscreens inspired by the bottle.

Throughout the years, No.5 has been reinterpreted and reimagined into new forms including an Eau de Toilette Spray, an Eau de Parfum Spray, and an Eau Première version. The theme has mostly been to make it lighter and airier, and this September, it will get its most modern update yet. Chanel will be launching No.5 L'Eau, which you can read all about (and even see how it's made in France!) here.

To help you navigate the world of No.5 and determine which one is best for you or perhaps a chic gift for someone else, we broke down the history and unique scent of each.

Chanel No.5 Parfum

Shop it: Chanel No.5 Parfum ($125-$325)

History: Perfumer Ernest Beaux created the now-iconic fragrance in 1921. Gabrielle instructed him to make a scent that was "a woman's fragrance that smells like women . . . I want to give women an artificial fragrance. I say artificial because it will be fabricated. I want a fragrance that is composed."

Scent: The original No.5 is the most potent and long-lasting version of it. Parfums typically have 15 to 40 percent fragrance oil, so diehards can enjoy smelling it from dawn to dusk.

Chanel No.5 Parfum
$125
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Chanel No.5 Eau de Toilette Spray

Shop it: Chanel No.5 Eau de Toilette Spray ($82-$107)

History: In 1924, Ernest created this spray version of No.5 dubbed Eau de Toilette.

Scent: The taller bottle of No.5 contains a formula that is a bit lighter and can be used as a full-body spray. It likely contains about 10 to 15 percent fragrance oil in it, and we recommend it as a Summer mist.

Chanel No.5 Eau de Toilette Spray
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Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum Spray

Shop it: Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum Spray ($100-$210)

History: In 1986, a new perfumer, Jacques Polge, crafted the Eau de Parfum iteration.

Scent: This is closest to the OG No.5, while being just a bit lighter. The fragrance oil composition is about 10 to 20 percent. Compared to its two sister scents (the classic and Eau de Toilette), it's the middleman. Goldilocks would say it's "juuuust right."

Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum Spray
$100
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Chanel No.5 Eau Première

Shop it: Chanel No.5 Eau Première ($100-$132)

History: In 2006, Jacques reinterpreted No.5 in a lighter way.

Scent: It's considered to be a bit more modern and airy, containing less aldehyde while paying homage to the authentic notes. It wears most similarly to the Eau de Parfum.

Chanel No.5 Eau Première
$100
Buy Now

Chanel No.5 L'Eau

Shop it: Chanel No.5 L'Eau (available in September 2016, preorder now, $100-$132)

History: In 2016, Olivier Polge (as in Jacques's son) revamped No.5 once again into a completely new fragrance, said to be the freshest of the group. After all, "l'eau" means water in French. The bottle is also clear and crisp looking.

Scent: Olivier stayed true to the DNA of No.5 — including the May rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang, while adding in more citrus elements (lemon, mandarin, bergamot, and orange) as well as a completely new note: creamy cedarwood. "A lot of people have an opinion or impression of Chanel No.5, and I would love for them to be surprised," he told us. "You have to smell it and not have a preconceived idea. Maybe your memory of the fragrance is that it's very dressed up. Very structured. [L'Eau is] a more spontaneous scent."

As POPSUGAR editors, we write about products that we independently select because we love them and think you’ll like them too. POPSUGAR often has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase of the products reviewed.

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