As perfumes evolve there are always some relics of the past that stay the same, perfumes that defy trends and fashion and remain in production for decades. I am not talking about legendary perfumes that have become the gold standard of their genre. I am not talking about the cult fragrances. This is a tribute to all those cheap perfumes that are well in their 40’s and are found dirt cheap in discount stores all over the world, selling at ridiculous prices. Prices so low that even if you come across them and you recognize the name on the box as a once “hot” item, you never consider buying it because how can something so cheap smell good…? Well, it can! And this is the reason it is still out there! Suffering reformulations but managing to please its loyal customers even to this day. If it is not fashionable but it is still in production after 40 years, there must be a very good reason for it!
Coriandre was released in the 70’s by Jean Couturier and was created by his wife Jaqueline, who came from a family of perfumers and was trained in Grasee herself. It was the first perfume of the house and was created to capture the scent of Jaqueline’s youth. No one really knows what Jaqueline’s youth was like but if her creation managed to capture it, she must have led an exciting life. It must have had its bitter moments, like the opening of Coriandre, bitter green and commanding. But eventually Jaqueline must have survived the difficulties, emerging strong and self assured. She was probably a warm person, as the smell coriander seeds suggests, the unspicier of all spices. Fruity, orangy, creamy and cool. After all the things she went through, Jaqueline reached a state of calm happiness, the kind of happiness that radiates from geranium leaves. earthy and sweet, and meets with roses, ripe and purple. She had her feet firmly on the ground, a ground that smelled like autumn patchouli. She had known passion and love and lust and love again, the long lasting kind. She could still remember her wild days when she was composing this fragrance, the roaring 60’s. A time when a new freedom was being conquered. A time when the phrase “I have a wonderful idea! Let’s have sex!” was a reality and not a provocation. She distilled the memories of those days and transformed them into a rich, salty post-coital patchouli accord. The scent of clean lover’s skin, soaked in sweat and pleasure. The scent of a warm armpit, an arm resting above the head in a relaxed and satiated gesture. Jaqueline had enjoyed these moments to the fullest. She wasn’t missing them when she composed Coriandre because she was full of her warm memories but also full of love in her current life. Full of creativity and hopes.
Coriandre still exists and exudes the creator’s satiated, round, fruitful sensuality. It has the form of a chypre and despite – or even because of – its sexual tension, it is not forbiddingly feminine. The musty skin accord reminds me of Tom Ford White Patchouli, a perfume that I have always found very rude, salty and intrusive. Coriandre is like an acoustic cover version of White Patchouli’s hard rock. Its uniqueness lies in the addition of a green layer, exactly what the malachite cap of the boittle suggests. This green lustre is even more prominent in the eau de parfum version. Researching this perfume I was amused by the fact that my personal interpretation of it seems to be an amalgamation of a beautifully done blind sniff of Coriandre by Berlin based fashion designer Isabelle Underberg at Scentury and the original ad campaign from the 70’s which I found at Perfumeshrine. The caption reads: “Le parfum qui fait s’interroger sur la valeur du civilisation“. The perfume thtat makes you question your beliefs on the value of civilisation. It took me some time to see anything more than a matronly version of Grace Kelly sitting stiff on a chair. Then I noticed her right sleeve hanging torn from her shoulder. For me this is the sexiest, most provocative and most subversive ad campaign ever created.
Notes from Parfumo: Aldehydes, Angelica, Bergamot, Coriander, Orange blossom, Geranium, Iris, Jasmine, Rose, Ylang-ylang, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver
Notes from my nose: Coriander seeds, Geranium, Patchouli, Green leaves, Post coital armpit