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domingo, 17 de janeiro de 2016

Jean Couturier Coriandre – Edgy and Timeless Since 1973

by: Miguel Matos

Jean Couturier's name was introduced to the world within the context of high fashion in 1945, but soon became better known to the perfume industry. In the 1960's he was involved in the creation of such classic icons as Y and Rive Gauche for Yves Saint Laurent Parfums of which he was a founder. This is interesting as I think these two perfumes had elements that would become the secret of his success in fragrance ten years later. His wife, Jacqueline “Jacky” Couturier, was becoming a talented perfumer in Grasse, and in 1972 when she offered to create a new perfume for him of her own composition, Coriandre, he decided to found his own perfume house. This was how a family business began. A business that no longer belongs to the same blood lineage but keeps the spirit of the founders. Coriandre is still the axis around which the name Jean Couturier spins. This unforgettable fragrance reflects the personality of Jacqueline, daughter and grand-daughter of perfumers. She grew up in Grasse, the cradle of French perfumery and by the time she invented the formula of Coriandre she was working for several brands, creating fragrances in anonymity.
Jean and Jacqueline Couturier
In the 1960's and 70's it was very rare to see a woman become a perfumer, but she managed to succeed and I think even the great Germaine Cellier, another genious pioneer female perfumer, would have been very fond of Coriandre had she smelled it.
“In Coriandre, I wanted to find the olfactive emotions of my youth : the subtle and delicate perfume of my mother, and the captivating scents of the campaign in Grasse”. - Jacqueline Couturier
Coriandre, French for Coriander or Cilantro, is indeed a very common plant in the Mediterranean landscape and appears frequently in Mediterranean cuisine. But there's much more to it. According to the brand, “The essence gently spicy, develops the woody touch of Patchouli, Vetiver and Oak Moss and brings out the harmony of Jasmine, Rose and Ylang-Ylang. The sharpness of this scent made from 119 components constitutes a first-class perfume”. I, for one, firmly corroborate this statement even after some reformulations due to IFRA restrictions. Today Coriandre is still a one-of-a-kind scent, unmistakeably green and fresh with a naughty dose of funk, as modern and edgy as the day it was created.
43 years later, Coriandre is still sold, even at low prices and maybe sometimes on the lower shelves of perfume shops. You may even find it at online outlets or under the counters. After different acquisitions, the French company VAG acquired the Couturier brand six years ago. At that time the brand had been neglected by the previous owners. VAG repackaged Coriandre, changing minor details like the quality of the cap and sprayer. The formula was also changed one more time because of IFRA. “It took six months to reformulate it but the formula is currently being reworked in order to elevate the quality of the product. I am ready to raise the price if necessary, because I have too much respect for this perfume”, says Anthony Gambirasio, VAG's CEO. According to him, in France, Coriandre is now number 40 in terms of sell out, which is not bad at all.
Even though most people know Coriandre in Eau de Toilette version, there is also an Eau de Parfum and Parfum de Toilette, which are harder to find. And there is also the Parfum edition. Oh and the flanker Eau de Coriandre. “So what are the differences between all these versions?”, the fans are asking now. Well, my dear readers here is your humble servant at your service. I shall tell you with pleasure and devotion, for this is also a question I had and felt the urge to get in touch with VAG to clear up this subject.
First of all, EDT has a concentration of 7% essence, whereas EDP is increased to reach 12%. Parfum de Toilette is concentrated in 9% and was first created in the 1990's as a purely commercial maneuvre. “When I started production for Jean Couturier I had many demands from the USA for a new product and that's why we came up with the Eau de Parfum (2012). It's a reinterpretation of Coriandre with more rose in the heart, but the base remains the same. It's really not that far from the original”, says Gambirasio.
Finally, there is also Coriandre in extrait de parfum concentration. It comes in a small bottle that is not so pretty. Regarding the less known and only flanker, Eau de Coriandre, it was made to capitalize on the Coriandre brand, but going in a different direction, having almost nothing in commom with the pillar fragrance. It's a citrusy fresh scent that was born as a strategic sales move. After all, if the strategy was to be more commercial, it failed. It's not really easy to wear and again a bit masculine, which, by the way, makes it so interesting and almost niche-like.
Coriandre remains, just like every great scent, a bit polarizing. Even the most famous perfume critics are not in agreement about it. Barbara Herman loves it to the point of being surprised by such prominence of coriander in the composition: “(…) to give a musky, musty, and dank herb the starring role in a perfume? Pretty brazen.” She also adds the fact that the use of coriander in this perfume was somehow innovative: “So many '60s and '70s perfumes happily amped up the patchouli, musk and amber in perfumes, recalling faraway lands and head shops. What's wonderful about Coriandre is that it seems to participate in this self-exoticization — but with a cooking herb! It goes to show that so much of the enjoyment of perfume is aesthetic and intellectual, because I really love Coriandre without liking it.”
On the other hand, Luca Turin dislikes it so much that he only gave it one star in his review, saying “The structure is unforgettable though crude: huge damascenone rose materials, with their fluorescent fruity brightness, plus a patchouli-centered chypre base, pleasantly grassy and woody.” He also ends up finding that the new reformulation “smells like a spray deodorant for guys who don't care.” Just take this with a grain of salt, like you should always do with all Luca's reviews. As for me, I love it.
Coriandre Eau de Toilette
This is one of my signature scents and I seem to crave for it whenever I feel like wearing an enveloping, sophisticated and comfortable fresh perfume in the summer time with a touch of dirt. On my skin it truly unfolds in hot days. I love the way it starts with clear and fizzy aldehydes like champagne bubbles, lifting everything up and giving energy to florals and herbs. It's uplifting and very elegant and it is the perfect prelude to what follows: a burst of green leaves with an unquestionable spicy facet. Yes, coriander is there from beginning to end in a way I have never seen before in fragrances, except for Double You's Norvege, which renders it in an exagerated tone, making it a failure and looking more like a dressing sauce than a perfume.
Coriander in Coriandre is balanced with a strong pairing of lily of the valley and rose. Lily of the valley goes well with coriander because of the freshness and green character and rose brings a contrast, removing the culinary aspect from this big dose of herbs. The citrusy tone of orange blossom also helps the balance. Actually this is a formula that depends on the contrasts. If you take away just one of the ingredients the whole thing should be an awful mess.
Jasmine makes a bridge between greens and florals, providing also a link to the carnal base of strong patchouli, musk and civet. Geranium is another helper to the transitions between spicy and floral notes. The evolution from top to bottom is seamless and smooth with no gaps. Seems like Jacqueline Couturier must have been very cerebral when creating this meticulous blend. My brain registers this as a very calming and velvety freshness evolving into a sensual comfortable end, always marking a point of elegance with wit and strong personality. Yes, this is not a fragrance for everyone. Coriandre choses you, not the other way around.
When I wear Coriandre Eau de Toilette I always feel reassured, centered and stimulated at the same time. It somehow makes me calm but energized. And it keeps my interest alive because I can smell it for hours, slowly unfolding from sprakle to green to earthy and warm. It is a perfect chypre, and I understand that better after smelling Coty's founding fragrance Chypre at the Osmothèque in Paris. I was surprised to see that it had a lot of warmth and dirt inside, playing with the most spicy and fresh top of bergamot.
I have never smelled vintage Coriandre and I am guessing that oakmoss should have played a much more significant role in the first versions, making it stronger and with a fuller body. However, I suspect that even if I smelled it, I would still prefer the modern one, for I can feel the earthyness and warm green notes of oakmoss, but just enough to envelop everything up in a damp forest environment. There is a dampness, a moist feeling with Coriandre which contributes to the well being sensation it gives me.
As for the animalic aspect it has, some bloggers have said that they don't feel much of it. I do. And it is one of the elements that totally bewitches me. Again, the bridge of dirtyness from top coriander to bottom civet in contrast with all the cold aldehydes and the freshness of lily of the valley. It's a composition where all ends meet. The tension between the elements is concealed so it's not a tense scent. And this minuteness is what makes the development unfold without any paroxysm.
Coriandre Eau de Parfum
First of all, I have to tell you that all the versions of Coriandre are pretty close to each other, differing only in minor details and longevity. The Eau de Toilette is, in my opinion and on my skin, longer-lasting than the others, but that may differ from user to user, since this is a perfume that changes enormously depending on who is wearing it. The Eau de Parfum is more or less the same as I have said before, but the higher concentration makes the florals seem to be more prominent and the aldehydes are a little different (less fresh, more harsh). It starts greener and the flowers come to center stage holding hands with coriander. It may be a little more feminine and suitable for spring instead of summer but it also appears to be more temperamental.
The Eau de Parfum is not as calming as the Eau de Toilette, I think. Jasmine is more noticeable, whereas it stays almost indiscernible in the EDT. Regarding the list of notes, it smells more or less the same as in EDT with a bit softer drydown and less patchouli. I would say that this is a more nocturnal Coriandre, louder and more intense, not so perfectly balanced but more assertive. “Coriande’s identity is preserved by sublimating the fresh woody notes by a more powerful floral note. The accord of Spring Rose/Ylang Ylang is more open. Geranium remains sparkling but less heady for an immediate freshness. Thorough woody notes which give curvature and obstinacy to the trail are always the base of this perfume of character”, says Jean Couturier's press release. PDT is not the evil twin, but the troubled one. Note that the bottle is just slightly different since the cap is glossy instead of matte and the sprayer is silver instead of gold. Also the lettering on the bottle of EDT is gold and in the case of the EDP it is dark grey.
Coriandre Parfum de Toilette
The PDT version has a slighty less concentrated formula than the EDT and the notes don't change much either. It just seems easier to wear and it could be a good introduction to the line. No hard edges here, but the signature is absolutely recognizable. Green, fresh and funky, but just a little easier on the modern tastes. I love it too, but I have to say it is a bit simpler and it doesn't last that long. Patchouli is reduced to minimum doses.
All in all, changes are minor again. The bottle comes inside a green metal canister which I find beautiful, whith the lettering printed in the middle section between the body and the cap of the container. You can buy refills in separate.
Coriandre Extrait de Parfum Limited Edition
Well, I have to confess that I do not have this one and I only smelled it once. So I can only tell you it seemed to be respectful of the EDT formulation, but richer and a bit darker. More sophisticated and expensive-smelling. Besides that, I didn't find it too different and I still prefer the EDT.
Eau de Coriandre
And now for something completely different. The green becomes orange and not only in the colour of the packaging. Forget herbs, here it's all about fruits. This is such a happy fragrance. It explodes with refreshing uplifting citruses and the energy from mate tea. Galbanum gives it a zing in the opening before it relaxes into a fresh floral heart. This is not the typical contemporary fresh citrus and flowers perfume. It has something that reminds me of the experimental mainstream perfumes from the 90's. An acidity that may not be a crowd pleaser but makes it much more interesting. In my opinion it lacks the necessary commercial mundanity for it to sell well, but instead it is like a citrus cologne for niche lovers (well, without the expensive feeling or price tag). It smells clean and crisp, perfect for summer. It has an aquatic aspect provided by melon and pineapple but it is subtle. Usually I hate these notes and I am not bothered by them in Eau de Coriandre. Lily of the valley and tagetes are the main players in the heart, along with a smooth peach accord to keep it juicy. The drydown is a soft woody base with a touch of spice and that tartness always peeking. All in all, this is a typical unisex scent. Coriandre was pretty much unisex in my point of view and by today's standards, but this one is even less gender oriented.
So, here is an overall vision of the Coriandre line, in all its five lives. Tell me, have you smelled all of them? Which one do you prefer? And even if you dislike Coriandre. After smelling Eau de Coriandre, isn't it a nice surprise?

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