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Launched: 1996, relaunched 2009
I'm a great admirer of Donna Karan fragrance creations made in the nineties and early noughties such as the signature Donna Karan (1992), the legendary Chaos (1996) and Black Cashmere (2002). Sadly becoming increasingly hard to find and with rumours of discontinuation in past years, it was to my great joy to see these exquisite numbers re-appear as part of the exclusive Essence range in 2009. So just when I thought I'd never be able to own the original Chaos, I found a huge full bottle of the new edition on ebay for half price.
Gone is the original, awkward-looking clear slanted bottle of Chaos that didn't at all represent the scent in my opinion. Just like the rest of the Essence range, the new edition comes in a heavy, tall, black cylindrical bottle that has a silver label on front; simple, classic, but expensive-looking and worthy of the contents inside.
Top notes: coriander, chamomile
Entirly skipping the top notes listed above, Chaos opens with warm, spicy and woody saffron to my nose blended with fine quality spices, that are really hard to pin-point exactly, so chaotic they are at first (hence the name I guess!). I immediately get a non-sweet but rich and aromatic oriental feel, similar to the unisex opening of Black Cashmere.
There's a main difference however. While Black Cashmere opens with assertive woods and strong spices, Chaos is the polar opposite: its spices and woods are soft and refined, like a whisper but certainly present. This phase lasted for approximately for half an hour as finally the heart took over.
Heart notes: carnation, cinnamon, saffron
An even softer, more rounded, balanced, spicy but now creamier heart wore very nicely for 5 - 6 hours. Its noticeable, but gentle projection reminded me of the heart of my beloved and discontinued Fendi Theorema. A deeper, darker and less sweet Theorema-like cinnamon note mixed with a leading note of exotic spices, mainly composed of cloves (from the carnation) on a bed of balsamic and resinous gentle tea-like aroma, somewhat like hot, spiced black tea that lent a very natural and calming effect to the fragrance.
The overall effect is a relatively non-sweet, moderately dark, woody and aromatic fragrance. On days I find Chaos a bit dark, before wearing it, I shower with a home-made shower gel with added essential oils of sweet orange, peppermint, lavender and myrtle and this blend seems to sweeten and brighten the composition and bringing out more its Theorema side.
Base notes: sandalwood, musk
For the final phase, Chaos was a changer. Leaving behind practically all spices, I dare say it turned into one of the most beautiful sandalwood blends I've ever smelled in a commercial release. I'm very picky about sandalwood as the majority of perfumes - except from the biggest and most re-nowned perfume houses - contain synthetic sandalwood as it is so rare and expensive.
Chaos didn't have the real, sometimes sharp, sometimes raspy essential oil itself. Real sandalwood was there but it was blended with musk. Normally, I try to stay away from synthetic musk, it reminds me of cheap and mainstream scents and fabric conditioner where it's used with abandon.
But here's a twist. The musk in Chaos lifted and lightened the sandalwood, giving the woody aspects a smooth feel you could almost touch. Like raw, unpolished but entirely smooth wood. On top of that, the musk also lent a clean and surprisingly warm feel without spoiling the woody character of sandalwood so it conjured up images of clean clothes drying near the fireplace on a plank of wood. If this image was the very intention of the perfumer, well-done! The woody-musky base stayed on for about 3 - 4 hours.
In composition and aromas, Chaos sits somewhere between Black Cashmere and Theorema but it is also a class on its own. Out of the three, and contrary to its name, I find Chaos to be extremely calm, collected and gentle while still having lots of personality and character. To wear Black Cashmere and its dominant cedar and nutmeg combo I really have to be in the mood for dark woods and spices, on the other hand, Theorema can sometimes be too dessert-sweet to pull it off everyday unless it's a special occasion.
Chaos represents the perfect balance between sweet and non-sweet, powerful and gently smooth oriental-spicy aromas that are so sophisticated and masterfully blended that at times I cannot help but marvel at the perfumer's work. The real, natural essences truly shine in Chaos and there's no wonder it probably wasn't selling at all well and finally delegated to the exclusive range where it truly belongs.
Chaos certainly smells anything but mainstream, in spite of the fact it was released in the nineties. It goes to show some real fragrances did exist back then. I recommend Chaos for lovers of natural, oriental essences of woods and spices with just the right sweetness and addition of musk to make for a warm, womanly and inviting fragrance for the wearer and for those around. An absolute joy to wear in the winter season and will be donning it around Christmas as well without a doubt!
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Available now in selected department stores such as John Lewis, House of Fraser or Harrods retailing at £58 / 100ml Eau de Parfum
Thanks for reading.
©powered by lillybee also posted on ciao.co.uk