New Chanel Les Exclusifs: Le Lion

I’m lucky to have gotten my hands on some of this very early.

A new release from the house of Chanel, Le Lion is slated for release in the Middle East later this year and in other regions next year.
Le Lion is a creation of Olivier Polge, head perfumer at Chanel. Polge says it’s based on Gabrielle Chanel’s symbolic vision of a lion, rather than on the animal itself (eauxSILLAGE has an excellent writeup on the history and backstory).
However, I find it to be an olfactory picture that closely resembles the majesty of the animal itself.

I’ve always been fairly cool in attitude towards Chanel fragrances; having the opinion that most are excellently made but underwhelming and tame given the price point, with the exception of Cuir de Russie and some of the other Les Exclusifs range.
The standard Chanel ranges, such as the Allure line, have been utterly underwhelming. But we needn’t talk about them.
We’ll stick to Les Exclusifs.
And thankfully, Le Lion is both on the daring side and wonderful on the nose.

Initial Thoughts

What I find particularly interesting about Le Lion, after reading and hearing the thoughts of several other fragrance fanatics, is that the scent seems to act considerably differently from person to person. Portia, the author of the aforementioned article, was able to organise a split for the Aussie fragrance community and it is thanks to Portia that I was able to score some of this fantastic fragrance and write this piece.

What I get is different again to all of the people’s reactions listed in Portia’s piece.
For me, Le Lion is an animalic leathery fragrance.
As I said before, quite the olfactory picture of the animal itself.

Chanel Les Exclusifs Le Lion
Pic from City Perfume’s site.

Le Lion comes in the same style of bottle and label as the rest of the Les Exclusifs range.
It’s slated for release in 75mL and 200mL bottles.
If you’re lucky, you might still pick some up at City Perfume.

The Olfactory Notes

The official citation of fragrance notes is as follows:

Top: Lemon, Bergamot
Heart: Labdanum, Vanilla
Base: Sandalwood, Patchouli

That sounds like a fairly standard note pyramid these days, and it doesn’t really inspire much excitement on paper.
However, I didn’t bother to read these notes, so I didn’t go in with any expectations.
Applying a spritz of Le Lion to my skin reveals a fragrance that packs a punch. It’s strong stuff.
I find it quite linear, with little evolution, which is fine by me because I like what I smell from the outset.

And what I smell is animalic leathery goodness. I felt like a member of the Happy Valley Set on a hunting safari with one spritz, sans safari uniform and pith helmet.
It’s like being up close to a lion, with the musk of life, skin and at times a sharp jab to the nose that’s reminiscent of piss, but somehow in a completely good way. It’s distinctly refined despite the strong animalic undertones.
It’s a hell of a far cry from the tame, sweet, pleasant designer fragrances normally on the masculine market.
Le Lion feels like a blast back to times when perfumes regularly contained skanky natural animalic ingredients like civet and castoreum.


Longevity: 1/1

I sprayed this in the morning and its presence accompanied me to bed at night.

Projection: .8/1

Le Lion makes itself known, but it’s not quite a projection beast a la Amouage Interlude Man. I’m quite happy for this to be the case, as I think Le Lion could easily overwhelm others if it was any stronger.

Blend Quality: 1/1

The blend is simply wonderful. I need say no more.

Presentation: 1/1

The bottle exudes elegance. It’s minimalism in a fine package, feeling luxurious rather than sparse.

Personal Smell Score: 1/1

I find the scent enchanting, painting a clear olfactory picture, and it meshes well with my skin chemistry. Can’t fault that.

Total score: 4.8/5

What Would I Wear This With?

My favourite outfits to wear Le Lion with are those which have a casual tailored vibe to them. If I had a safari jacket on rotation, it’d be my number one pick.
However, tweeds, corduroys, chunky knitwear, denim and other textured fabrics are well at home here.
I also find myself regularly pairing this fragrance with outfits that feature my Barbour jacket.
I’m not sure whether Le Lion is going to play well with me during the warm season, but I’ll give it a try. If it does go well with heat, it’ll be a regular companion to my linens too.

I don’t personally think of it as a suit fragrance, but you could easily do so if you fancy it.

Concluding Thoughts

I must say I’m quite happy to have finally found a Chanel fragrance I really enjoy.
I’m looking forward to wearing plenty more of it.
Strong scents like this quickly become favourites of mine, so Le Lion joins my top shelf with others like Tom Ford’s Tobacco Oud, Histoires de Parfums 1740, Roja Dove’s Fetish and Parfum de la nuit II, and the classics Jicky and Shalimar by Guerlain.


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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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