Perfumery can be, at times, a very curious thing. In its early days, modern perfumes consisted primarily of soliflores -fragrances that focus on a particular note usually a flower, or colognes filled with citrus, herbs, and neroli. Eventually more complex perfumes were developed which explored the possibility of composing scents that represent something completely abstract: something new, intriguing and never done before. This resulted in the birth of countless unique formulas, bigger and better than their isolated components.
Even nowadays, most releases consist of the olfactory result of the development of an idea, on occasions reflected on the name of the product and, if you find an ingredient mentioned in the name itself, you can be sure that that particular element is the central part of the composition. Jasmin oud? I bet it smells mostly of jasmine and oud. Lemon of wherever? Logically, it will smell of lemons. Nevertheless, there are a couple of fragrances with a somewhat misleading name. Couturier’s Coriandre is one of those.
Jean Couturier was a French fashion designer from the 40s and 50s, but he is mostly remembered for his perfume business. Coriandre was released in 1973 and was composed by his wife Jacqueline Couturier who belonged to a family of perfumers from Grasse. The name means coriander in French. Coriander is a spice produced from the seeds of the coriander plant. Yes, cilantro seeds to be precise, but they have a different aroma profile than that from the leaves. The seeds have an orangey, lemony, spicy and slightly soapy smell.
From a contemporary perspective, one would think that a perfume named Coriandre smells entirely of coriander spice, but this is not the case. Coriandre is a floral chypre, and to be completely accurate, it’s a rose chypre. The spicy aroma of coriander seeds is ever present, but it acts more as a constant accent rather than the main player. The queen in this symphony is the rose.
Coriandre starts with the slightly spicy and citrusy coriander note fortified with bergamot, along with angelica root and aldehydes. A subtle orange blossom functions as a transitional ingredient opening the doors for the floral heart. It quickly evolves into a powdery rose with a dash of jasmine. I have noted that the jasmine here has a reduced indolic content, avoiding any carnality and emphasizing hedione instead, for improved projection I guess.
Geranium adds a green quality that reminds me of rose leaves. Ylang ylang and lily of the valley are appreciable but you will have to consciously look for them. Iris pops up very faintly as an intermediary element between the heart notes and the base comprised of tree moss, woody patchouli and vetiver, with hints of sandalwood and musk. Civet is mentioned quite frequently but my nose cannot discern it to be honest.
The base is rather dry but approachable. I detect a subtle and, should I say, healthy dose of vanilla that helps to balance the recurrent dryness. The moss in Coriandre is not exactly oakmoss, at least in current formulations, but tree moss instead (evernia furfuracea) which is another species of lichen that grows on conifer trees, imparting a phenolic quality to its extract.
As a whole, Coriandre is a lovely rose chypre with fresh and green nuances along with a continuous but soft spicy character. The addition of coriander was a brilliant way to make it interesting. The perfume straddles the line dividing seriousness and playfulness, making it perfect for both mature and young people. It is persistent and has a good sillage that is never suffocating. At times, you would believe that it has faded but the scent reappears when you least expect it.
Coriandre has been reformulated on numerous oportunities and people report that the current formula is nowhere near as substantial as vintage ones. To be fair, the contemporary version is as recognizable as the older ones and, leaving the whole reformulation topic aside, it is a great perfume that anyone can enjoy, for a great price too. I am grateful that it has survived the test of time. I don’t reach for it very often but when I do, I take pleasure in it.
House: Jean Couturier
Concentration: Eau de toilette
Nose: Jacqueline Couturier
Release Year: 1973
Category: Rose chypre
Reviewed Batch: circa 2017
From personal colletion.