When the brand name “Chanel” gets tossed into the air, you might associate it words like classy, classic, chic minimalism, heritage, pearls, tweed, Gabrielle, the Classic Flap, the BOY bag, etc. But particularly when it comes to fragrance, the words and phrases I often associate with the brand are, sorry to say, boring, conventional, lackluster performance, risk-averse, formulaic, pricy AF. Chanel is these things in addition to being exceptionally beautiful and classy for the most part.
I know I lost a lot of love when I poo-pooed on number 5 in a previous review, but it is what it is. Wishy-washy, underwhelming, hoity-toity, happy-clappy, Chanel, you smell! Coromandel is different, though. Patchouli, frankincense, and benzoin with a white chocolate creaminess to it – delightfully hedonic stuff!
Coromandel is a fragrance from the Chanel Les Exclusifs collection – a group of fragrances that I rather appreciate, even though I would say the performance of those fragrances tends to disappoint. Coromandel is definitely above average for Chanel, though. My favorite in this pricy line is the vetiver-heavy Sycamore, which I have waxed lyrical about previously. Coromandel is an amber, woody, unisex, sensual, and very earthy and gourmand-y fragrance. It’s masterpiece-level, for sure – legendary: very classy, sophisticated, well-rounded, complex, and multi-faceted. (Coromandel, by the way, is the name for certain lacquered screens from China. Gabrielle was a big fan.) Jacques Polge is unsurprisingly the nose behind this creation.
- bitter orange, citrus, neroli,
- patchouli, orris root, rose, jasmine,
- benzoin, amber, olibanum, incense, woody notes, musk
Coromandel is a slightly aggressive, intense fragrance, so just one spray or two for this one, folks – and enjoy it in the air – in the sillage, on your clothes the next day. It’s rich, decadent, and opulent, but Mr. Polge has kept the signature of Chanel in the juice itself. Like many from the brand, this is refined, well-blended, classic-verging-on-old-fashioned scent, depending on your taste. For me, it is old-fashioned, but because it is Coromandel we are talking about, I forgive it. I am less forgiving when it comes to No. 5, probably because that lovely patchouli is replaced with aldehydes. Coromandel is a fragrance that demands attention, rather like an insolent and relentless child. That’s again why I would probably refrain from spraying too much. It works well on clothes if longevity is important to you.
Now for the flip side: If you don’t like patchouli, this is not for you. While it is a sweet gourmand, it is indeed patchouli-forward. Some people may even detect a moldy or musty vibration in that patchouli if they smell it directly. Mustiness is a characteristic I find in some of Chanel’s other, lighter-on-the-patch fragrances, too, like those in the Coco line. To me, this is more raw, unfiltered patchouli, like the kind you find in Molinard’s Patchouli (which is great bang for the buck, by the way, if you’re a hard-core patch lover). This patchouli is dirty, metaphorically, too, and that is not for everyone.
It’s no cheap, either. A 75ml will cost you over 250 USD. You can bet the large 200 ml is probably hovering around 500 USD, and I don’t even want to tell you what that converts to in Japanese yen. My heart is breaking! I got my bottle for a good deal though, because I know how to haggle in Japanese online (in resale markets). I have the EDP version; the EDT concentrate is discontinued and is extremely coveted, and strong for an EDT. It was reformulated into the EDP in 2016. The pre-reformation version is probably different and even better, as they do tend to be. The earlier EDT lists white chocolate, in addition to vanilla.
I wouldn’t call Coromandel a modern fragrance. It suffers in the same way that others of the Chanel ilk do. It’s ever so slightly dated. I think more modern fragrances have a bigger tendency to be literal, tending to smell like something else, something that is not identified as “perfume.” Coromandel smells like perfume. And if I think about it, that is a common thing in Chanel fragrances and is why I am ultimately not a Chanel gal, with exceptions – this being one.
What I enjoy about this fragrance is not the patchouli, which is a note I tend to be very off and on about, to be honest. And it’s not the fresh and bright opening I love either. No, it’s more about how all the ambery resins at the base mingle with all that comes before it. I love that stuff. And that white chocolate undertone that is not too sweet? Love!. The incense and woodiness dry it down and bring the blend together. It’s viscerally pungent in a very pleasant and grounding way, perfect for a day cool enough for a wool coat and a raspberry beret – the kind you find in a second-hand store. There are lots of contrasts to be had in this wee bottle. I think it’s a pretty special and magical fragrance, and full-bottle-worthy, even if only for special occasions. For at least one time in your life, try Chanel’s Coromandel.