Jean-Paul Guerlain 1998, reissue L'Âme d'un Héros 2008
Family: chypre, aromatic, woody
Notes: bergamot, lemon leaves, neroli, sage, ginger, juniper berry, nutmeg, ylang-ylang, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, benzoin, everlasting flower
Green gold
Period: The searching years

For his creative vision in the men's department, Jean-Paul Guerlain converted his fondness for strong and passionate women (best personified by the muscular rose perfume Nahéma) into matching manly themes of chivalry and Roman warfare. While he worked on Derby, an aromatic leather chypre from 1985, he had wanted to call it "Centurion", like the commander of a hundred soldiers in the Roman army. In 1998, he attempted anew to give olfactory life to a heroic figure, Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, a legendary Roman hero who was said to have lived in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC, and who has also been the subject of classical theatre (Shakespeare) and music (Beethoven).

When Jean-Paul Guerlain distilled Coriolanus into a perfume, he did it with equal classicality. He used excellent raw materials and made a very naturalistic and sincere outdoorsy chypre. Green and spicy-bitter up top, with lemon leaves, sage, piny juniper berries, ginger, and nutmeg, it eventually warmed up with ylang-ylang, everlasting flower, oakmoss, and vetiver. Especially the everlasting flower provided an unexpected honeyed-herbal, camomile-like softness to the drydown, and Coriolan was proof of Jean-Paul Guerlain's attention to detail from top note to base. Ylang-ylang is an unusual ingredient in a men's scent, but Jean-Paul Guerlain adores its golden, creamy heft, and at this point in his career he shared his time between the perfume lab and his new ylang-ylang plantation in Mayotte.

Despite the presence of ylang-ylang, maybe there was something melancholy about Coriolan. "A perfume like they don't make them any more," said the ad. It wasn't just hot air: Coriolan was very much a product of Jean-Paul Guerlain's old-school perfumery, a discipline he stubbornly refused to give up in favour of marketing briefs, and Coriolan came across as a grey double-breasted suit among grunge jeans, far removed from the aquatic style that became popular in the 1990s. Which probably explains why it, to say the least, wasn't a blockbuster. The following year, Jean-Paul Guerlain reused the accord for the more flamboyant and floral Chamade Pour Homme, but Coriolan had to leave the catalogue like a defeated man, to the regret of many male followers who feared that it would be Jean-Paul Guerlain's dying twitch. And they were almost right, he didn't create another masculine until his officially last creation, in 2010, the brilliant Arsène Lupin duo.

Today, Coriolan stands as the perhaps most overlooked of the Guerlains for men, but it was reissued in 2008 in the Parisienne line under the name L'Âme d'un Héros ("a hero's spirit"). The fragrance was finally discontinued in 2016.

The bottle itself was based on a warrior's armament, although of a design much more recent than Coriolanus, namely a nineteenth century copper gunpowder flask. The fragrance later lived in the Parisienne bee bottle for a couple of years until it changed to the wood-framed Parisien bottle.

The reissue felt somewhat drier than the original, maybe only because the juice was fresh.

  We love: that leftover bottles from 1998 are still to be found

  If you can wait for the drydown to show its soft mossy flower

  For those introverted, clear days

Some images courtesy of

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