One day in 1977, a company called Jean Couturier released a floral chypre called Coriandre. Named after the coriander in the head note (which in the US is often called cilantro) the heart note was ROSE and was probably boosted by some new materials (the damascones and damascenones alpha and beta with which perfumers still work to this day) that altered and enlarged the perception of rose. The synthetics blew up the note like Pop art for the nose. All of a sudden rose took on the proportions of a Roy Lichtenstein comic strip.
Needless to say, it was a monster success. There was practically nowhere you couldn’t smell Coriandre in the late seventies.
It was, moreover, followed by a long parade of wannabes. The now hopelessly rare Norell II (Revlon), the original Missoni, Volcan d’Amour (DVF), Diva (Ungaro), Paloma Picasso (Picasso), Gucci III (Gucci), Sinan (Sinan), Revlon’s Maroc, Animale( de Lyon) and finally Lauder’s Knowing.
What they all produced however was that same green and then red tonality. Predictable as a long stemmed rose from a florists cooler. Green, and then red, and after a while, as such things will, the combination got old. People wanted something new and in the early nineties that was L’Eau d’Issey. The old red and green roses got pushed to the back of the cabinet.
Green notes over red roses were not unpleasant, though. It’s just that sometimes something new has to be brought to the old party; because this particular get together between herbs, roses and woods has been going on for centuries. It’s kind of an eternal coffee klatsch, and has always been popular. In every generation, predictably, there are a few people who love this smell that’s lush but dry, romantic but restrained, strong both in tenacity and rise, and also in the profile it projects of its wearer.
In recent years it’s re-emerged in Lutens cheeky tribute to the disco era Rose de Nuit. It’s also back in Pierre Guillaume’s Corps et Ames, a truncated cut to the chase color wheel crossover, still predicated on green and you guessed it …red.
Have any of the earlier Coriandre clones survived long enough to become classics? I don’t think Coriandre itself has. The last time I smelled it, the formula had been debased. The perfume didn’t have half the lift and drama that it did in its youth and these days I wouldn’t recommend Coriandre.
Better options are Ungaro’s Diva or else L’Arte di Gucci or possibly Paloma Picasso. Knowing, which is indeed a very good reliable perfume, does have the drawback of a synthetic smelling base that I think mars the composition. It might be better now to try the PG Corps et Ames instead, as this smells more modern. Either way though, don’t think you’re going to pass by anyone unnoticed, these are traffic light perfumes after all.
But then, some people want to stop traffic.