Chanel Coromandel Les Exclusifs : Perfume Review

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Coro

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

“I’ve loved Chinese screens since I was eighteen years old. I nearly fainted with joy when, entering a Chinese shop, I saw a Coromandel for the first time. Screens were the first thing I bought,” said Coco Chanel in one of her interviews, as quoted by Claude Delay in Chanel Solitaire, 1983, p.12.) The dark lacquered wood of Coromandel screens with their unique luminescence was the main impression of those who visited her apartment at 31 rue Cambon in Paris. Their unique blend of opulence and austerity, of dark sheen and bright gold embellishments was the inspiration for the fragrance of the same name from Les Exclusifs collection: Chanel Coromandel.

Having decided to build the composition on patchouli, perfumer Christopher Sheldrake emphasizes Chanel’s fascination with the exotic—the Indian Coromandel Coast was the site of trade in Chinese goods and Indian wares, including patchouli. The camphorous woody character of this leafy plant is so complex that it lends itself to numerous variations. In Coromandel, it is taken into a dark, luscious direction, someplace between the fun fair exuberance of Thierry Mugler Angel and the dusky bitterness of Serge Lutens Borneo 1834. Like other Chanel fragrances, it is above all elegant and refined, with a beautiful and rich sillage.

The notes of green pine needles introduce the resinous darkness of patchouli. Its musty and earthy qualities are toned down considerably, while the sweet woody facets are played up in the base of Coromandel. Rose and jasmine appear as delicate brushstrokes, making the composition both lighter and more complex. The velvety oriental base has a similar baroque flair to that of Chanel Coco, but the emphasis is on woods and incense. Treated this way, patchouli appears as warm and spicy, hinting at its chocolate liqueur-like richness.

When I was testing Jean Paul Gaultier’s new masculine fragrance Kokorico last week, I was immediately inspired to revisit Coromandel. The treatment of woods as simultaneously dry and gourmand  is very intriguing, and I would add, polarizing, because it does not fit within our expectations. Although marketed as a feminine fragrance, Coromandel would suit men who like oriental blends. If on the other hand, Coromandel is too bitter of a morsel for you, try Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady or Agent Provocateur where the emphasis is on floral notes at the expense of woods.

Chanel Coromandel features notes of jasmine, patchouli, woody notes, amber, benzoin, and frankincense. It is a part of Les Exclusifs collection that also includes Jersey, Beige, Sycomore, No 22, Gardénia, Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, 28 La Pausa, Bel Respiro, No. 18, and Eau de Cologne. It is available in the Eau de Toilette concentration from Chanel boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman. 2.5oz, $110; 6.8oz, $210.

 

Sample: my own acquisition

Image: red flower on Coromandel screen via wikipedia.com

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29 Comments

  • Strawberry Blonde: This sounds quite exquisite. I hope I get a chance to try it.

    Nic x November 21, 2011 at 4:40am Reply

  • rosarita: This ranks high on my top 20 list. Thanks for the beautiful review. November 21, 2011 at 7:57am Reply

  • Victoria: Mine too! It is such a great composition–a woody fragrance, with a gourmand twist.

    I noticed though that it is a love or hate perfume. November 21, 2011 at 11:27am Reply

  • Victoria: I hope so too. It is worthwhile to explore it. November 21, 2011 at 11:34am Reply

  • axum: I admire Coromandel, but I can’t honestly say I enjoy it… On the other hand I adore Sycomore! Lovely and informative review, as always – thank you. November 21, 2011 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sycomore is another elegant, distinctive woody fragrance. Despite the fact that there are so many vetiver blends out there, it still stands out. November 21, 2011 at 2:19pm Reply

  • minette: of all things, coromandel smells like shalimar on me! i love it, but it’s such a strong reference to shalimar that i didn’t feel the need for a huge bottle. but now that they have the “normal” size bottles, i might feel different about it!

    a saleswoman at NM wears this when she goes dancing, and she says all the men go absolutely nuts over it, and her! she’s a real texan – big hair, big accent, and very sweet. this suits her very well. November 21, 2011 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Bulldoggirl: I’m not a fan of most of the Exclusifs. They all seem either one note (iris, gardenia, vetiver), or overly aldyhedic to the point that they become like white noise for the nose. But Coromandel is a real stand out. I get so many different impressions from it: it’s like standing downwind of a university-area head shop located next door to a bakery. In a pine forest. November 21, 2011 at 5:04pm Reply

  • Dionne: Mmmm, Coromandel. I’ve been wearing it a lot lately and almost used up my small decant, so it’s numero uno on the Christmas list. It’s definitely my favorite patchouli fragrance, as every time I’ve done a wrist-to-wrist comparison with another patch frag, its smoothness wins me over. November 21, 2011 at 6:02pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: I can appreciate Coromandel fornits elegance but prefer to smell it on others.
    Portrait of a lady is more to my liking, not forgetting of course rue Cambon and
    Bois des Iles now that the wheather is cooling towards winter. November 22, 2011 at 3:05am Reply

  • Victoria: I see some Shalimar elements, but I do not find them that similar. I guess, it is the character that is most similar–that lush, sumptuous darkness. November 22, 2011 at 1:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have nearly all Exclusifs, either in decants or full bottles, but over time, I have been wearing La Pausa, 31 rue Cambon and Coromandel the most. Bel Respiro is something I hardly ever touch. November 22, 2011 at 1:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: You put your finger on the very quality that I love about it–smoothness. It still has some of the dark and earthy patchouli facets, but it is so smooth and elegant. November 22, 2011 at 1:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love Portrait of a Lady too. One of the best in its genre! November 22, 2011 at 1:28pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Patchouli can be difficult. It’s either exotic, sensual and alluring or smells like a fusty head shop. I trust Chanel; I’ll give it a whiff the next time I cruise through the boutique. I usually whiff ‘Gardenia’ among the exlcusives; I like its soft airiness, but this sounds compelling for a cool fall afternoon. November 22, 2011 at 5:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: You should definitely smell it, Lynn! November 23, 2011 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Sherryn: coromandel is worth it! on to my second bottle already.
    it will exude a fragrance of a special kind when it melts into your skin. April 22, 2012 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Daisy: I adore it! I actually tend to like it in warm and cooler weather. When I first tried it, I walked around downtown wondering why the city smelled really good all of a sudden.

    Took me a while to figure out that was me 🙂

    That’s when you know 🙂

    Thank you for the history in the review as well. I knew about the screens, but not about the Indian Coast! July 29, 2012 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a coincidence to see your comment on this review! I bought a bottle of Coromandel just this Saturday and was wearing it all weekend long. I agree, whenever I smell it, it takes me a while to figure out that this beautiful scent is coming off my skin. July 30, 2012 at 3:58am Reply

      • Daisy: Oooh! A full bottle! That is very exciting 🙂

        I was just thinking that when I finish, I might treat myself to a bottle of Coromandel. I’ve been working my way through a decant and falling more in love each time I wear it.

        I haven’t completely made a decision yet; there are so many good things to smell and my wishlist is getting long! But a new bottle of something beautiful is something to look forward to 🙂 July 30, 2012 at 12:05pm Reply

  • Marianne: Also in my top 20 but not for every day use… great for a walk in the woods. Always noticed by people. Perfect for both men and women, I wish my husband wore it. October 6, 2013 at 10:17am Reply

  • Melissa: I, too, get a total Shalimar vibe. However, Shalimar smells (on/to me) nothing like the reviews say, so maybe anosmia has taken over here? What a shame.

    Testing my last (and first) tiny bit of Coromandel now, and I must say the pine shocked me. It’s softening now, so let’s see..

    Lovely review as always. April 11, 2014 at 10:42am Reply

    • Victoria: The piney-dry notes of Coromandel come as such surprise, but in the end, that’s the part I love. April 11, 2014 at 2:02pm Reply

  • mickee: I’m a guy and I own Portrait of a lady. would it be redundant if I get Coromandel? September 3, 2014 at 3:06am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t think so, because Coromandel is very much about patchouli, sandalwood, with a hint of chocolate. It has the same dark woody character as Malle, but they don’t smell alike. September 3, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

  • Karen: Just fell head-over-heels for Coromandel after receiving a beautiful sample Monday at Saks. Bought a bottle and had fun today sniffing and trying on ones I normally wouldn’t have gone for. Now I’m afraid I have to start saving my pennies for 31Rue Cambon!

    Apparently I’m now becoming an elegant Chanel fragrance fiend! Oops I mean fan! September 18, 2015 at 1:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 Enjoy it! Coromandel is one of the most interesting treatments of patchouli, and it has everything–character, sillage, presence and a story. September 18, 2015 at 2:04pm Reply

      • Karen: It’s so interesting to me because straight patchouli oil makes me physically queasy – so when I discovered that it’s in most of my favorite fragrances I was surprised, but it goes to show you what blending and mixing can do to bring out the beautiful qualities of a material.

        The SA was so generous with his time and information, it was a very enjoyable experience. At the scent counter which has ceramic cylinders infused with the fragrances, I was able to smell all the different extraits, EDP, EdC and EdT for each fragrance. September 18, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: This is such a great idea. Different concentrations vary so much, even to the point that even if you don’t like one, you might enjoy the others.

          Patchouli oil is one strong material! 🙂 September 19, 2015 at 8:32am Reply

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