At its best, Coromandel from Chanel's Les Exclusifs line smells like the most elegant and airy interpretation of patchouli- the old hippie cleaned up well, got a real job and started making enough money to wear Chanel. On its (or, more accurately, mine) off days it's a bleached and washed out Borneo 1834, complete with a chemical note that annoys me and makes me long for the real thing. The company's website clearly states that Coromandel was composed by their in-house nose, Jacques Polge. Since Christopher Sheldrake who created Borneo for Serge Lutens is also on Chanel's payroll, I wonder how he feels about this homage to his work. For that matter, I'd also like to hear what Uncle Serge has to say about it.
Still, on good days I really enjoy wearing Coromandel, even if like the other Les Exclusifs, I need to spray it with abandon to make it stick (which explains how I've managed to drain a second 5 ml decant this year). The patchouli here is less dark and chocolaty than in Borneo, and the dry-down is not as sweet. My favorite part is the moment a waft of clean incense rises into the air while at the same time I can almost see the plush velvet drapes being pushed aside and daylight pouring in.
Coromandel, like several other Chanel products from lipstick to nail polish, was named after the Chinese lacquered wood screens in Coco Chanel's home. I'm usually more than a little annoyed with the constant use and abuse of Mademoiselle's decor by their marketing department. Eventually they'll run out of nooks and crannies in that famous apartment and then what? But at least in the case of this perfume I can actually see the connection. There's something exotic, elaborate and, of course, woody about Coromandel. It has an oriental base, a level of lushness and luxury that can be very Chanel, and a smooth varnish feel. I think I like it best when wearing Coromandel out of the house, where it can waft and move around. For a more cashmere-like treat and to enjoy my chocolate patchouli in all its glory and weirdness I'd still choose Borneo 1834, but I'm a Serge fan girl and would usually take a Lutens over Chanel.
Coromandel and the rest of Chanel Les Exclusifs were first released in those huge and annoying 6.8 oz jugs. Apparently someone at Chanel has been listening and they recently launched a more reasonable bottle. While 2.5 oz ($110) is not exactly petite, it's actually a very good size considering the amount one needs to apply of this EDT.
Photo of a Coromandel screen at socialite Dodie Rosekrans' residence in San Francisco photographed by Lisa Romerein, featured on a very inspired and inspiring blog, thestylesaloniste.com.