Gabriel Chanel was an ardent collector of Coromandel folding screens. These decorative wood screens with elaborate inlays are so termed because they were shipped to Europe via the Coromandel coast of Southeast India. It was also here that dry patchouli leaves were often laid among clothing to repel moths. Hence, I find it apt that perfumer Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake would decide to explore this multi-faceted material in Coromandel (Chanel, 2007), a perfume inspired by the mademoiselle’s passion for the folding screens.
With just a resinous piney start, it quickly descends into a rich patchouli. The camphoraceous and earthy facets of this raw material are curtailed, whilst the woody balsamic aspect is pushed and extrapolated. Fruity jasmine adds to the voluptuousness. Benzoin and vanilla play up the balsamic sweetness of the woody facet. And, to offset the heft, resinous incense is the perfect foil. The result is a patchouli so opulent that it tantalises with the richness of chocolate.
The dry down is just as decadent and smouldering, with sweet benzoin and incense lingering well into the night. Its resplendent sillage beguiles with enchanting sweetness of woods and resins. Its restrained gourmand exploration is mesmerising. Coromandel is a revelation about this otherwise earthy, woody raw material. It invites me to imagine the couturier lounging in her chair, feeling cocooned by the woody warmth of the decorative screens whilst beholding the gilded and mother-of-pearl inlays.
Source: Boris Lipnitzki’s portrait of Gabrielle Chanel in 1937