Coriandre by Jean Couturier first piqued my interest when I read Susan Irvine's description of it: "fit for a red headed Raymond Chandler heroine". Which means I sorta came late to it, considering Irvine was quoted saying it in her 2000 book. Perfume Shrine has long worshipped at the altar of film noir heroines and their universe and this was like a bowl of cream in front of a hungry kitten: irresistible!
Trying it out on my own skin after years of loving chypre fragrances I was struck by its discretion. Subtle and refined, it didn't speak of the femme fatale so much, but of a patchouli and geranium wreath around roses of a dark red hue, an elegant missile of indoors denotation. Contrary to its name, Coriandre doesn't predominantly smell of coriander (which has a herbaceous scent reminiscent of sweet oranges, lightly spicy), although there is discernible spiciness to it that does not recall the culinary. The green pong of angelica makes it dry and somehow young despite appearances to the contrary.
Coriandre comes in a bottle topped by a green malachite-looking cap, beautifully veined, an image reflected in the packaging. The 1990s slogan was stressing its classy demeanor: Habillez-vous "boutique", parfumez-vous "Couturier" (A playful wordplay on the designer's name, roughly translated as "Dress High Street, but perfume yourself haute couture). Another publicity from the 1970s extolled its mysterious freshness: "all the scents of the evening and already the freshness of the night". And then there is the typically French, typically mischievous -on so many levels- advertisement I have put at the top of this fragrance review, a woman sitting on a chair with her shirt ripped off at the shoulder, tagged "Coriandre, the perfume which makes you question the value of civilization". [whoah? pretty racy, eh?]
If I were head of their advertising department today I'd suggest they stress its uniqueness in a sea of Armanis, Flowerbombs and DKNYs. Little known, but contrary to many classic chypre perfumes's aesthetic not "old fashioned smelling" enough to deter a younger clientele, although it certainly doesn't do any favors to those raised on candy floss scents. This is exactly why I'm including it in my Underrated Perfume Day feature on PerfumeShrine, a regular column highlighting little known but worthwhile fragrances which are still in production, so if you're taking notes, take a note now.
Coriandre by Jean Couturier has been a little surgically enhanced compared to the 1973 vintage (this happened in 1993, circulating as Parfum de toilette), but it didn't involve a complete face-lift which is good news to its acolytes. Consider yourself honored and not humbled to be included in the latter. If you like the original Agent Provocateur eau de parfum in the pink ostrich egg bottle, you have good chances of finding a good companion in Couturier's Coriandre.
Available from newsparfums.com and other etailers for reasonable prices. Careful, there is also Eau de Coriandre, a different scent, not just a different concentration, from 1996.
Official fragrance notes for Coriandre:
Top: Coriander, Aldehydes, Angelica, Bergamot, Orange blossom
Middle: Rose, Geranium, Jasmine, Orris, Ylang Ylang, Lily
Base: Patchouli, Sandal, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Civet