Guerlain (1998)


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Coriolan by Guerlain

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About Coriolan by Guerlain

People & Companies

Fragrance House
Robert Granai
Packaging / Bottle Design

Named after the 5th century Roman General, Gaius Marcus Coriolanus (who inspired the Shakespeare play Coriolanus).
The bottle is also based on a soldier image. It is a chypre fragrance and contains dominant notes of Lemon tree leaves, Juniper Berries and Everlasting Flower. Sadly, no longer available, but reorchestrated and relaunched as L'Ame d'un Héros in 2008.

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of Coriolan by Guerlain

There are 62 reviews of Coriolan by Guerlain.

Let's start with the positives: Coriolan is carefully made, with its construction exemplifying a degree of thoughtfulness worthy of the Guerlain name. The transitions here are exceptionally delicate and effortless; there's no rough patch, no hint of strain.

But--moving on to the negatives--all this lovely perfumery boils down to some nice stagecraft in service of a fairly boring play. There's nothing particularly vivid or memorable about the journey this light, green, herbal scent takes. What makes the Guerlain classics great is not just the care with which they're made, but their sense of well-developed theatricality, moving from distinctive effect to distinctive effect.

There are no striking effects here. The citrus-floral opening is a capably made version of the dandyish florals that show up in the 1990s, but there's nothing arresting about it. Many simpler or more direct compositions with similar openings achieve more distinction, even if they're less sophisticated. One it moves towards the central chypre-y accord, it feels even more familiar, and it's too subdued to present itself as one of the better variations on this style. The Guerlinade drydown is nice, but there are a lot of Guerlinade drydowns to choose from, and I'm not sure I find reason to prefer Coriolan's version over the others.

All-in-all, pretty weak stuff. The story goes that this was borne from the rough draft of a Derby sequel that had been collecting dust since before the release of Héritage; the right choice might have been to abandon it altogether. If this sounds like a harsh review, I'm not meaning to be too negative: Coriolan is "fine." But one doesn't expect "fine" from Guerlain, or from the successor to the all-timers that are Derby and Héritage.

Metallic and dull; sort of JP Guerlain does "Weekend for Men by Burberry". Sort of a fougere, airy and abstract, dry and quite light, and rather disagreeable. The 'vibe' is sort of similar to Jazz (maybe even Live Jazz), but Jazz is just way better, and that's what I'd recommend. Coriolan has been discontinued, but I would not miss it one bit.


How did it go so wrong? Citrus, wood, coriander... these things should be fine together, but they're not. The fault lies with dreadful materials; unpleasant chemical 'citrus' over a desiccated woody note thats only partly disguised by synthetic aromatics. Smells like sour cleaning fluid. I have to stop this now before I lose my breakfast.


Hmmm....tried to like this one, but I would just say it's so-so, a men's cologne that I just couldn't connect with.

Guerlain's Coriolan has an interesting history, which is so well-reported by basenotes reviewer "Zealot Crusader." It's a fougere from the late 1990's, a time where fancy experimental fragrances were still legion.

As an Asian Indian, I am very familiar with the fenugreek cooking spice, used in so many appetizers, dishes and even drinks and desserts. It has an odor that wafts strongly in Indian grocery stores, characterized by a sharp, slightly bitter aroma. Immortelle flower (Helichrysum angustifolium) has a fenugreek spice odor in it, which is earthy and has some of the muted spiciness of curry powder and the muskiness of toasted bread.

I couldn't place it back then when I'd first sampled Coriolan, but it's this fenugreek smell that I wasn't too keen on which came from the immortelle. Even with the other more pleasing notes - ylang-ylang (not listed), juniper, nutmeg, coriander, and others - Coriolan feels convoluted and unrelatable for my tastes.

Coriolan is a famous flop from the house of Guerlain, that was in the midst of transitioning from family-owned perfumer a la Creed, to branch of a larger company (LVMH, owners of YSL and Gucci too). The story is well-told, but for those who haven't the time to read long blogs on the subject, here's the basic version: Jean-Paul Guerlain had originally meant Derby (1985) to be named "Centurion", and the scent itself was designed around that theme. A sequel was planned, with the working name Centurion 2, but scrapped in favor of what would become Guerlain Héritage (1992). The LVMH acquisition of Guerlain would effectively wrest creative control from Jean-Paul, making him put in bids to make fragrances for his own house much like outside perfumers must, and he lost to Oliver Cresp, who ended up being the nose of a reorchestrated Champs-Elysées (originally by Jacques Guerlain in 1904). Jean-Paul was still publicized as the perfumer despite not working on it, and to quell his fury at losing control over the family business, LVMH executives gave him carte-blanche over the next masculine. Jean-Paul dusted off the then nearly 15-year-old Centurion 2 project and after continued tinkering, changed the name to Coriolan, and the rest is history. Like most Guerlains, Coriolan began life in a bespoke flask design, which in this case is likely one of their best as it resembles an old gunpowder pouch, but unlike most Guerlains, never made it past the intial launch into a more standard-issue bottle since it was killed off after only four years in production. It would almost seem the intent from Jean-Paul was to create something collectors would scramble over, even if Coriolan did it's time at discounters long before it's veneration set in.

Everything about Coriolan is irrespective to trend. It's the ultimate "vintage hound's cologne" even before it became vintage itself because it was based on an unused old formula, further keyed to a mature and traditionally-minded taste as per Jean-Paul's predilections; the kind of person that would love Coriolan in 1998 was the guy who declared perfumery dead at the beginning of the 90's, when styles shifted away from natural ingredients and moved to custom synthetic notes. Mr. Guerlain might have had a surprise hit with the aptly-named Héritage by sticking to his guns in the face of change, but that trick would only prove useful once since a few other old fougère or chypre designs also snuck onto the market amidst the aquatic tide and summarily failed. Coriolan opens like an eau de cologne at first, even if the genre of chypre is the one it's given by Jean-Paul himself, with lemon leaves, bergamot, neroli, and petitgrain rushing out from skin. Things become almost herbal rather than soapy thereafter, in that delicate Guerlain way, and you can tell this was a detailed master creation out of time with it's audience, since the transition here is meted out nearly identical to the slow pacing of Habit Rouge (1965). Ginger, nutmeg, ylang-ylang and the unique immortelle note that sets Coriolan apart from most others in the chypre class all emerge in the middle. Those who've smelled immortelle, or everlasting flower as it's also known, will recognize it's unmistakable curry-like note instantly, and it actually adds much-needed masculinity to an otherwise dandyish phase, until it fades into a softness similar to chamomile tea in the end. The base is where the "Guerlinade" lives, which is another link back both to Derby and Habit Rouge, with DNA running all the way to Mouchoir de Monsieur (1902) if one cares to follow. Oakmoss, patchouli, benzoin, and a true blonde leather -unlike what most modern masculines claim to have- rounds out the "Guerlinade" dry down. I feel like this scent may also be the source inspiration for Avon's series of bizarre (but nice) masculine pseudo-chypres from 2000-2003 (particularly 2000's Avon Uomo), because until I smelled this, I had no clue what spooked the budget house to go that traditional direction.

Coriolan was the last gasp Jean-Paul Guerlain was given with a mainstream perfume, as it was almost made to fail commercially as a perfume snob's wet dream among a nightmare landscape of lowbrow synthetic aquatics. Guerlain himself would be limited to just high-end niche creations like the exclusive Parisienne line until his retirement in 2010, with Coriolan itself being a perfume more at home as a niche product, and unsurprisingly re-released as such alongside Derby but with the name changed to L'Ame d'un Héros (2008), holding a much higher price tag to boot. As a dry chypre with the brightness of an eau de cologne, the roundness of a fougère in the base, and an exotic flower as the starring note, Coriolan shockingly doesn't have the loudest performance, even if it's a very unique gentlemanly statement that has a long, achingly beautiful dry down thanks to the immortelle. Formal use is best, but unless you're a fan of mid-century French chypres with even older turn-of-the-century floral twists, this won't seem appropriate anywhere. After 20 years Coriolan finally joined the ranks of sought-after vintage perfumes alongside it's older brother Derby, and has slowly surpassed it's MSRP (adjusted for inflation) to become a unicorn in the wild. This is a fate that I begrudgingly say it deserves, as it appears that from the bottle design, gorgeously natural scent composition itself, and even the ad slogan of "a perfume as they don't make them anymore", it was never meant to be anything more than an exotic historical document which pleased Jean-Paul's muse, coveted on the shelves of zealous collectors in years to come. Thumbs up from me, but definitely sample before you accidently fleece yourself in a blind buy, since despite it's artistic resplendence, it may be a tad too fussy for most modern palettes.

This herbal beauty,
Guerlain's lost rustic charmer,
Honored by Hommeage.

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