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Coriandre – A wonderful green contradiction – August 5, 2016

Original 1973 Print ad for Coriandre - 

When the humidity makes it feel like 39C/102F, it’s hard to think. Or move without dripping. Cool and green is on the menu this week for just about everything, especially the morning and evening spritz.

It’s no secret that I love greens. Greens are the snooty babes of the perfume world, the femmes with big attitude, not beloved by shrinking violets. I own a lot of them. Check out these green DECANT PACKS in our Decant Store -  “Love our Greens” Galbanum Decant Pack, Note Series #8 – VETIVER, Note Series #18 - GRASS

The green I’ve been wearing the past few days is an oldie, a green chypre from 1973 which is cheerfully cheap and still available online – Coriandre by Jean Couturier. It’s a different kind of green, kind of edgy and slightly exotic, like the herb it’s named after.

Coriander is the seed from cilantro, the green grassy herb used since ancient times which is an integral part of modern Asian and Mexican cuisine. Millions of people around the globe, including myself, eat cilantro every day and think it’s fresh citrusy greenness is delicious, but due to the herb’s distinctive soapy musty aftertaste, cilantro is a love-it or hate-it kind of taste or scent.

Coriander, the seed, on the other hand, has a different taste and scent profile – a spicey nutty warmth layered over citrusy orange peel. When added to the top or heart of a fragrance, coriander adds depth and richness to other fruit, floral or spice notes. Coriandre, the fragrance, is a clever combination of the profiles of both the herb and the seed, which gives the scent a wonderful weirdness, a bold edgy twist that sets it apart from other green chypres of its era, like stark sophisticated Ma Griffe or sleek elegant Balmain de Balmain.

I don’t smell spices with the first spritz. Instead I get a big herbal sensation, a swirl of damp cut grass mixed with crushed geranium leaves and rose petals, very green, slightly sharp and musty but with the tender faint sweetness of distant florals. It smells exotic for the first few minutes, then as it dries down the spicy warmth of the coriander note emerges, mixed with hints of orange and lemon and the unique earthy green sensation of the opening. Not gourmand, not floral, this is definitely veering into a different green experience.

The heart of Coriandre is an elegant multi-colour floral bouquet woven with delicate patchouli and lightly sweetened with orange-blossom honey. The sensation is light and gauzy and natural-feeling - I imagine the scent of wildflowers in a cool sun-dappled forest. The base-notes build on this forest image as a refined accord of woods, moss and grass – sandalwood, oakmoss and vetiver – combines with soft musk to create a compelling dry-down which is much richer and funkier than what’s preceded it. The forest image expands to include the furry animals, the fragrant decay of forest floor, the powerful aphrodisiac scent of Nature. A scent that began fresh, sharp, and green ends as warm, aromatic, and funky in an extraordinary, almost comforting way.

Jean Couturier, according to Fragrantica, “worked with Yves Saint Laurent in the 60s, was one of the founders of YSL Parfums, “participating in the launch of Rive Gauche and Y, and he created Azzaro.”  His wife, Jacqueline Couturier, was the trained perfumer behind the corporate curtain, the real nose behind Coriandre.

Jacqueline created a beautifully balanced scent  which not only features the unusual coriander/cilantro note, but which is built on contradictions – sharp and light, floral and musty, green and funky, exotic and comforting. The formula was revised in 1993 which has diminished its original richness but has likely made Coriandre lighter and more wearable for most perfume lovers, including men. The dry-down is so deliciously nose-worthy, with a tenacious but well-mannered sillage.

Coriandre is like two fragrances in one bottle – one with cool refined elegance, the other with a warm inner heart. With a couple of spritzes, I can feel cool and refreshed, or warm and relaxed, which makes this green fragrance one I wear with extreme pleasure on very very hot or very cold days. 

Edgy, exotic, or wonderfully weird, I’d say that after all these years, Coriandre is still just plain wonderful.

Coriandre is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.