Jean Couturier Coriandre: the perfume that makes you question the value of civilisation

Coriandre Couturier

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.

Jean Couturier CoriandreCoriandre 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 PerfumeshrineThe 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

Coriandre Couturier notes

Notes from my nose: Coriander seeds, Geranium, Patchouli, Green leaves, Post coital armpit

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

20 comments

  1. Lovely review about one of my favorite scents.

  2. Sitting here on a mid-Autumn Sunday wondering what to wear… and your post pops up in my email… and I have Coriandre by Jean Couturier and I think… yessss! Absolutely perfect for this beautiful, sunny but cool day (it is 16 degrees C.)

    Thanks for your great post and thanks for the backstory! I wasn’t aware.

    And only you could write this description… “rich, salty post-coital patchouli accord”.

    I absolutely enjoyed this review.

  3. pitbull friend

    What a wonderful review, Christos. I have a mini of this and must spend some more time with it now!

  4. Wonderful review – I loved Coriandre- afraid to try current formulation..

    • I have read only encouraging comments from people who are familiar with both older and new formulations. My review is based on the dirt cheap eau de toilette you can find nowadays. I have smelled the current eau de parfum however and I would say that it is greener and and sexier than the eau de toilette. It reminded me of the greenness of Bandit in a vague way.

  5. Brava to Jacqueline Couturier – and bravo to you, Christos, for writing such a spirited, generous and beautiful tribute to both her and to the perfume. Between the factual information about Jacqueline (the fact that she came from a line of perfumers and was trained in Grasse) and what you inferred about her life through this warm, intimate and audacious fragrance, I will remember this review and make it a point to try Coriandre.

    • I would say that this is definitely a perfume for autumn so do try and find this one. Between the photo from the ad campaign and the oozing sensuality of the scent I could not help but entertain my impression of Jaqueline

  6. Until today I haven’t heard either about this perfume or even about the brand. I’ll pay attention the next time I come across one of those places where they might sell Coriandre and will try it if I find it. I’m not sure if I’ll like it but I want to – that’s how good your review is.

    • I don’t know, Coriandre could be a European thing, but I think it’s one of those oldies but goodies mentioned by US bloggers as well. It has an old chypre feel to it but strangely it is also, fresh, casual and extremely intoxicating. Thank you so much for the thumbs up Undina

  7. Christina Karageorgou-Bastea

    An amazing text! What a great writer. I want to try the perfume, but most of all I want to keep reading you. Much love, C.

  8. Like Undina, I can’t believe I’ve never sampled this and will be on the lookout. Couldnt help but note the comparison to Bandit which I love and own in both the drier edt version and the rounder, rich pure parfum. What a great read for a sunday morning – thank you!

    • You’re welcome. It’s not a dead ringer for Bandit, but if you are looking for the similarities you should be on the lookout for the edp. There is also a pure parfum available but I haven’t tried it.

  9. Nice to hear again about the good ol’ Coriandre. Remembering the old 1970s release and comparing it with the modern one, I think there are too many differences…

    • In that case, not knowing the original only allows me to appreciate the current version. I imagine the edp version could be closer to the older version. It does smell very differently

  10. Pingback: Memory of Scent for Fragrance Daily: Grossmith Golden Chypre, like Mitsouko on antidepressants | Memory Of Scent

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