How Its Made: The Iconic Chanel No. 5

Arguably the most iconic perfume in the world, Coco Chanel No 5 has been a household name for nearly a century.  Coco Chanel was an innovator in her fashion designs, and a trailblazer in the world of perfume as well.  If you are intrigued by this world famous perfume, read on to learn more about the making of Chanel No 5 as well as the Chanel No 5 ingredients.

Coco’s Idea


How Its Made: The Iconic Chanel No. 5


Created by Gabrielle Chanel in 1921 to be the ultimate symbol of luxurious simplicity, N°5 has since become more than a fragrance. It is an olfactory heritage: an idea of femininity, a masterpiece of chic, passed on from generation to generation.


Up to this point in history, women preferred to wear fragrances based on the scent of a single garden flower.  Society associated fragrances with multiple scents or that included musks and jasmine with prostitutes or courtesans.  Coco Chanel believed the world was ready for a change.  She envisioned a fragrance that would epitomize the liberated woman of the 1920s.  She wanted to create a scent that smelled fresh and clean, perhaps drawing upon her childhood as the daughter of a French laundry woman.

To change the world of perfume, Chanel would need to change the way perfumes were made.  Traditionally perfumers made fresh smelling fragrances using citrus like orange, bergamot, and also lemon. These scents, however, wear off quickly.  Chemists had success creating artificial scents that lasted much longer, but perfumers were hesitant to try them.  Chanel’s lover introduced her to Ernest Beaux, a perfumer who was daring enough to experiment with these new chemicals and the Chanel No 5 ingredients that were needed.

Ernest Beaux’s Happy Accident: Coco Chanel No 5 Ingredients


When Gabrielle Chanel created N°5 Parfum with perfumer Ernest Beaux in 1921, she launched a revolution in a bottle. It was the first of its kind — ground-breaking for Beaux’s innovative use of aldehydes, or synthetic components which add layers of complexity, making N°5 shockingly modern in an era of single-note scents.


Beaux experimented with aldehydes, chemicals which will amp up the fragrance in any perfume.  He worked for months to create 10 samples for Chanel to choose from.  In one of those samples, his team had accidentally added far too much aldehyde.  Instead of adding a ten percent dilution of aldehyde, Beaux’s assistant mistakenly added a much higher dose to that sample.  When Chanel smelled the ten different samples, she chose sample number five — the sample with the extra dose of aldehyde.

The extra bright scent of the fifth sample may not have been the only reason Chanel chose that perfume.  Some aldehydes actually smell strongly like soap!

Coco Chanel No 5 Signature Scent


An ever-changing fragrance with no single dominant note, N°5 boasts the incredible power of being able to be interpreted differently based on the wearer, thus revealing each woman’s uniqueness.


Beaux worked for years in Grasse, France, and the environment played heavily in the creation of Coco Chanel No 5.  The formula for a bottle of No 5 contains no less than 80 ingredients.  The top notes of Chanel No 5 ingredients feature a strong dose of ylang-ylang and also neroli.  Under these top notes, the jasmine of May roses of Beaux’s home of Grasse come through.  In fact, each 30ml bottle of Chanel No 5 contains 1,000 jasmine flowers and 12 May roses.  The base notes of the perfume feature a combination of sandalwood, boubon vetiver and also vanilla.

The Iconic Bottle



How Its Made: The Iconic Chanel No. 5 ingredients
Photo courtesy of Chanel


Designed in 1921 by Gabrielle Chanel herself, the simple lines and incredibly plain white label of The Classic Bottle were as surprising as the fragrance. The chiseled stopper, cut like a diamond, was inspired by the geometry of the Place Vendôme that Gabrielle could gaze at from the balcony of her room at the Ritz in Paris.


The Coco Chanel No 5 bottle design was also a departure from traditional perfume bottles. She modeled the design on both the rectangular beveled lines of men’s toiletry bottles and on classic whiskey decanters.  She also wanted to the bottle made from expensive, delicate glass.  This original bottle design has not changed much over the years.  The design is so iconic that famed artist Andy Warhol depicted its classic shape in a series of screenprints for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

So have you ever owned a bottle of Coco Chanel No 5? Let us know in the comments below.  Did you know the story behind the Chanel No 5 ingredients? We love to get the story behind some of these modern-day icons. Can’t get enough of Chanel?  See the history of the Chanel Flap Bag as well.

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How Its Made: The Iconic Chanel No. 5