(Rose 1) – Red Light Green Light

(NOTE – As it’s February and gray, and boring, but a month that counter-intuitively contains Valentine’s Day, here are a dozen rose posts for winter weary readers.)

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.

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8 Responses to (Rose 1) – Red Light Green Light

  1. Pat Borow says:

    Paloma Picasso shows up a lot at TJ Maax, but word is that it has been hopelessly reformulated. The EDP and EDT I have, purchased 3 or so years ago, are still not bad, especially for around 14 bucks. The original perfume, in the white glass ring-shaped bottle, is almost impossible to find but the black plastic version is common. It’s good in summer, whereas “Knowing” is a bit much. I think this family of in-yo-face rose chypres owes a lot to Guerlain’s Nahema, too.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      It’s too bad about the Diva. I had assumed – naively- that it wasn’t too awful because they still sell Diva in my local branch of Neiman’s, or did last year.
      Nahema, which I wore briefly in the nineties, always smelled like a strong floriental to me, with a very prominent passion fruit note and a big hyacinth note which carried on a tug of war between them on my skin. Truth to tell, at the time I couldn’t smell rose under either of those big boys, though it was there in theory. I hadn’t thought of its connection to the Divas or Mon Parfums of this world, but they do share this sort of phosphorescence, something neon and non-organic, if you take my meaning. What reminds me of Diva very much on the other hand, is the Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit. It has it all, the rose, the honey, the woods and that disco ball lighting.

      • Blacknall Allen says:

        Oops! I should say Rose de Nuit reminds me of Diva as it was back in the day. By now the Lutens would be far better as an example of red/green rose chypres. Watering down doesn’t suit the genre.

  2. Pat Borow says:

    I think Nahema was the first to use damascones, which make more a simulacrum of rose than actual rose — bigger, louder, etc. I have some damascone and it really does do that! Knowing is, ahem, known for it. I have a tiny bit 80′s Diva perfume, the original formula, and it is much mellower, more “rosy,” than the others.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Nahema was an incredibly strange perfume. I remember the sillage it had, probably damascone inflated as you say. You could, in the late nineties, smell it halfway down the block. It was beautiful but not discreet. By the by, your damascone comment is intriguing, you make it sound like steroids for roses. Knowing I never could do, I smelled it too many places, but Diva I liked.

  3. Pingback: (Rose 10) – Rose on a Bender | aperfumeblog by Blacknall Allen

  4. Anthony says:

    Hi , You re roughly right, but thank you for the mention .

    Our company bought Parfums Jean Couturier Paris 3 years ago , we relased the EDT with the original formula made by Ms Jacky Couturier in the 70′s, it’s a hit in France , and we are launching an outstanding Eau de Parfum next month , with more than 120 natural ingredients .

    I’ll be happy to send you a sample .

    Kind regards, Anthony .

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      I’m glad to know that I didn’t get things wrong! Very glad to hear that Coriandre is back and I wonder if you have any plans to release their wonderful citrus chypre Eau Fraiche? That was another marvelous perfume and a great summer favorite of my sister’s. Oh and I will never say no to a sample. Thanks for reading.

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