Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jean Couturier Coriandre: fragrance review & history

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!
via aromo.ru

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.

Jacqueline Couturier
Created in 1973 by Couturier's own wife Jacqueline, who was Grasse-trained and an heir to perfumers, Coriandre was the foundation on which the Couturier Parfums brand was established. Couturier wasn't a budding designer, on the contrary. Having began his career at Saint Laurent, he self-proclaims to have been involved in the development of both Y perfume and Rive Gauche fragrance. Whatever the story is, his wife has indeed worked in the fragrant sector, the daughter and grand-daughter of perfumers, one of the few women in this field at the time.

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.
via vagdistri.com

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


  1. I love series like this! I admit I am now very interested in this scent. I have always liked the idea of Agent Provocateur and even enjoy the smell of it but finally realized after multiple wearings of it that saffron jangles my nerves. I've had other saffron prominent perfumes jangle my nerves too.

  2. DRTVrMoi20:22

    This post brings back such wonderful memories for me. I was an exchange student in France when this was launched and it was the first fragrance I purchased for myself. I lovde the bottle and the scent made me feel like the french lady I longed to be. Thank you for the review of my dear friend.

  3. Laurels07:47

    On the "to try" list it goes. Thanks for the review.

  4. Jennifer,

    thanks for commenting, how are you?

    Yes, this is a saffron-free scent but it has that "idea" that AP has, it's less intense, but individual too. Not old fashioned either, so could fly in today's world without getting weird looks.

    Wonder why saffron has been such a nerve wracking experience for you. Maybe too bitterish. too "suede" like?

  5. D,

    now THAT is a wonderful recounting of why a scent should be special. Thank you! I bet it brings wonderful memories and you should always be stocked up with it. Thankfully it's not totally ruined, so you're fortunate.

  6. L,

    you're welcome. I'm looking forward to what you're going to think about it. ;-)

  7. Miss Heliotrope08:54

    List of things to check out is now taller than I am...

  8. annemarie09:10

    A late comment, but I'm a recent fan of Coriandre, especially in warm weather as an alternative to the citrus colognes of which I invariably tire towards the end of summer. Lovers of vintage tend to disparage the current formulation of Coriandre and indeed on skin it can be a bit harsh. The sillage is fantastic though. That ad is extraordinary isn't it? Thanks for a great review.

  9. C,

    ha, enabler, who me? :-P

  10. AM,

    excellent suggestion, as it does lend itself great to warm/hot weather. I find that citrus can become a bit "cliche" after a while even though I like it, being culturally immersed in it, sometimes one wants something different.

    The ad is really a remnant from a different era (I believe it's 1980s stuff? Not 100% sure). I can't imagine it flying today with women's rights in arms about suggestions of rape etc. (Come to think of it, it does give a shady and questionable subtext about accepting violence as part of "flirting"…)

  11. Anonymous19:56

    Delightful to read about one of my favorites for the past 20 years!

  12. It's delightful to see people have been loving this in secret for so long. Thanks for chiming in! :-)

  13. Elena, I got a sample of it, and it is really is wonderful. I think it may be of the first classic chypres that actually works quite nicely on me. Reminds me of family's ranch in the summer, there is something very high chapparel about it to me. Very evocative. Have you tried the pure parfum?

  14. Anonymous06:11

    Thanks for recommending Coriandre, a bottle of which I obtained for a reasonable cost and which I am now wearing. Oddly enough, this scent reminds me a bit of Annick Goutal's Charlotte. I have no idea where that comes from, as the two fragrances appear to have no notes in common! But I am new to fragrance and my nose is probably confused.

    Coriandre on me is a soft, feminine, and powdery fragrance with a sassy undertoe, and I'm enjoying my first encounter! Can't wait to see how it dries down over the course of a quiet evening.

  15. I adore Coriandre. More than two decades ago, I made a fragrance purchase at a pharmacy with a tendency to have short lived lines. I feel in love. The scent perfectly described walking amongst ferns in misty weather. I went back to the place as soon as I could to buy more but it was gone, never to return. This was before the internet. I had no way to track it down and, over time, I found the name. I came across an image of the packaging on the internet and joy of joys, recognised my lost love. Gems like Coriandre deserve a renaissance

  16. It had me at Coriandre.
    I'm buying right now.


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