Chanel : Les Exclusifs – Coromandel

Created by : Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake

Date : 2007

Genre : Patchouli amber

Concentration : eau de toilette

After being addicted to Coriandre for a couple of weeks, I decided to try some diversion therapy and my magic closet did not disappoint.  I remembered having worn and loving Coromandel so I gave the patchouli-centric marvel another try and it seduced me once again.

Now, you must know that I have two friends who wear straight up patchouli and I really don’t like it.  I don’t know where they buy it and I haven’t asked them but it smells like some kind of headshop essential oil.  A former friend used to mix it in with his shower gel so that it really reeked when he got close to me.  Thankfully, we were only friends and our get-togethers were mostly restaurant affairs where he sat across the table from me so I could eat without the patchouli.

In contrast, Coromandel couldn’t be more beautiful.  Its perfectly calibrated amber heart of vanilla, musk, benzoin and frankincense is topped off with a gorgeous patchouli veneer that stays fresh and interesting for several hours.  There are moments at the beginning when the vanilla sings slightly out of tune but the patchouli seems to keep everything in check and the sweetness subsides almost as quickly as you notice it.

My eau de toilette lasts me all day long and I NEVER tire of it.

If you are looking for a bottle of Coromandel, Chanel has strangely retired all the eau de toilette concentrations of their Exclusifs line and are offering Coromandel only as an eau de parfum.  I don’t know how much it has changed to the original, mine dates back to circa 2010, but it is certainly worth a try.

When Coco Chanel first saw a Chinese coromandel she thought she would “faint of happiness” and so she decorated her apartment above the 31 rue Cambon atelier with several coromandels.  What a lovely way to live!


From Coco Chanel’s apartment.

Serge Lutens : Ambre Sultan – guest review by Mario

The amber stone, not the accord.

The amber stone, not the accord. (click to enlarge)

Created by : Christopher Sheldrake

Date : 1993

Genre : Herbal amber

Concentration : eau de toilette

I was very happy that Normand asked me to review Ambre Sultan. It was my first experience with any Serge Lutens fragrance and I was very curious to experience this prestigious house.

After the spray, I was very disappointed with the smell of the fragrance, as it reminded me of a very old-fashioned snobby ambery concoction that a duchess might wear to the opera. Luckily, this first impression lasted only a few minutes before I got into the soul of this incredible fragrance.

Ambre Sultan is an amber in the rough, images of dust and soil went through my head. Although the amber accord and amber gems are two different things, AS is as far from the highly-polished gem of the same name as it can be! What I got from Ambre Sultan was much more the wood resin as it comes out of the tree… before it is polished by nature or by man into the gems used in jewellery today.

Ambre Sultan is very smoky and not unlike vetiver in that way. It is also herbal (it lists oregano as one of the main notes). It reminds one of dried oregano leaves. I was also surprised how natural this smoky-ambery fragrance smells… as to the smokiness and the herbs. If you like Sycomore, you will certainly be interested in this.

The amber is present throughout the day but I could not tell if I preferred the smoke or the amber as both gave me more pleasure than I expected. It was a long-lasting journey. At the end, the smoke dissipated to let a beautiful vanilla-amber impression that I stayed on my skin until I went to bed.

Serge Lutens : À La Nuit

Created by : Christopher Sheldrake

Date : 2000

Genre : Jasmine soliflore

Concentration : Eau de parfum

“This is not perfume,” I said to a friend about À La Nuit.  It was an off-handed comment made for effect but as I said those words I had a flashback to 1979… way back to a lecture on Modern Art and Concepts by the late Professor W. Judkins at McGill University.  Professor Judkins was a Harvard-trained art historian who had taught at Harvard and Radcliffe and who almost single-handedly started up the Art History Department at the University.

“Next slide please,” Professor Judkins said with a gravelly voice to his assistant in the projection room.  A Canaletto painting of Venice flashed up on the screen.  I leaned over to whisper to a classmate, “So beautiful… this is great art.”

“THIS IS NOT ART,” Professor Judkins emphasized word by word.  “It’s nothing but a lovely postcard meant to be purchased by the rich during their Grand Tour of Europe.  Where is the interpretation?  Where is the abstraction?  The art part of painting lies in its abstraction.”  I was horrified.  But more than 30 years later while testing À La Nuit, I understood what he was saying.

À La Nuit is a soliflore which means it attempts to reproduce the scent of one flower… jasmine, in this case.  It doesn’t develop much over time and, in that sense, it is not unlike an essential oil.  It smells flat and uninspired but for what it’s meant to do, it does it well.  If you absolutely love the smell of jasmine and you don’t want to go to a headshop to pick up some jasmine essential oil (at a fraction of the cost), well then you’ll love it.  I’m not a fan because I prefer my perfumes to be more complex and to evolve over time.  All this reminds me of Edmond Roudnitska and what he did with Diorissimo.  He did not give us a straight up lily of the valley.  He interpreted and embellished it.  And that is why Diorissimo is infinitely more interesting than say, Yardley’s Lily of the Valley.  But for those on a limited budget who like the smell of muguet… well, the latter is still pretty good.

So if À La Nuit is so boring why is it part of my collection?  I wanted it as a reference scent to calibrate my nose when I’m looking for jasmine notes in other perfumes… but I’ll never wear it.

And so my flippant comment was exactly that… not very well thought out and a little unfair.  Of course À La Nuit is a perfume.  But, is it art?  I don’t know.  Probably not.

By the way, if anyone out there has any Canaletto “postcards” cluttering up your walls, please feel free to send them my way.  I’ll gladly pay for the shipping.

Have a nice week everyone!

Image : The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute (1730) by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto)

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