But if you're looking for the bracing freshness of Vent Vert, the cool as a cucumber Chanel No. 19, or the aridness of Bandit, you're going to want to take a shower after putting this one on. Refreshing, it is not.
The florals bloom initially, aided by aldehydes, but no sooner do they arrive than they are accompanied by the dank herbiness of coriander, which almost smells like dried fenugreek, an herb used in Persian cooking. Coriandre gets a little soft, soapy and woody in the end, but its primary note, musky and dusky in a cooking-herb-in-an-ethnic-market way, never leaves.
I happened upon an ad that sums up the eccentric chypre well: "Subtilement tenace" (subtly tenacious). Coriandre is indeed subtly tenacious, not only in sillage (this thing goes on and on for ages), but in its effect on your imagination.
I've been wearing it on and off for a week, and although being busy has kept me from writing about it, so has my need to process exactly how I feel about it. (The following notes are from Susan Irvine's perfume guide courtesy of Now Smell This.)Top notes: coriander, angelica, orange blossom, aldehydes
Heart notes: rose, geranium, jasmine, orris, lily, ylang ylang
Base notes: patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, sandalwood, civet and musk
Like downtown artsy types who get invited to ritzy parties to provide some edge, stink notes are usually hidden in the background of perfumes where they lurk around and provide depth and interest to more acceptable florals and fruits. (Examples: the civet in Shalimar and the cumin in one of the Femme reformulations.) But to give a perfume a musky, musty and dank herb the starring role? Pretty brazen.
I've had my whiff of perfumes with animalic notes, as well as crazy perfumes like Secretions Magnifique (which smells like blood and semen) and CB I Hate Perfume's Old Fur Coat (which smells exactly like its name advertises). Coriandre is up there in the category of "wonderfully weird" perfumes whose purpose is not to make you smell like a bed of flowers.
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.