Sour, spare, spicy and indefatigably cerebral.
‘Male’ chypres are almost without exception contrary and intriguing creations.
Jean-Paul Guerlain‘s short-lived Coriolan does not disappoint: it is as conflicted and elusive as it is possible for a perfume to be.
Like Coriolanus, the warrior turned putative Consul unprepared to accept the will of the proletariat, from whom it takes its name, this is a difficult and daunting character.
The flacon with its fair approximation of mediaeval armoured headgear signals from the start that this is a fragrance without use for fun.
Classic bergamot-bought sharpness is brought to the point of a lethal blade by generous amounts of petit grain and a metallic sage at the opening.
The transition through to the spicy centre is uncomfortable, anxious and unsteady, like a journey into battle across blood sodden fields.
Nutmeg, coriander and fennel seed are never truly freed of the earth for it is the oak moss underscoring them that is the indisputable signature of the scent.
With time a fine vetiver and polished leather accord, again recalling an imaginary knight’s equipage, comes to the fore, slightly sweetened by benzoin then in the next instant made bitter by resurgent moss, supported with patchouli.
If the description sounds complicated, a series of checks and balances, then it should be made clear that in fact the sum of the parts is much less complex than the whole.
This is a mass of contradictions held perpetually in tension, conceived entirely without complacency or the desire to simply please.
Coriolan is a masterwork of stand-offish olfactory mixology.
A Renaissance Prince of a perfume based on an idea of an ideal of classical proportion.
Its high, honourable ambition and discernible hauteur were undoubtedly its undoing in the common market place, but should recommend it to fragrance heroes everywhere.
This is no perfume for the common man (or, indeed, woman…).
This is a fragrance for the uncommon man.
The Dandy, is in raptures and enrapt with Coriolan today as it guards him against blustery Autumn’s intruding winds and insidious rain.
The Perfumed Dandy.