Suzanne's Perfume Journal

December 9, 2007:

Snow, Frankincense, and Coromandel

The first snowfall of December arrived earlier this week—a gentle amount, only an inch or so—and, though it is mostly gone now, replaced by a cold drizzle of rain, I spent a day or two enjoying the quietude it cast.  It was a featherweight snow that reflected light into the house at a time when the hours of actual daylight are waning, and its sheer softness beckoned me to take a walk in the fields, to feel the bracing air and the stillness of this rural corner of Central Pennsylvania, where I live.

It’s amazing how, when one sense is muted, it changes our perception of a place or thing.  Snow muffles the sound of traffic from the nearby roadway, and even my own footfall is reduced to a gentle swish, as if I am walking on a cushion of soft pine needles.  In the silent stillness, my others senses are heightened: I am aware of the ozone-and-mineral taste of the winter air, the starchy feel of it against my cheek and teeth.  Architectural aspects of nature that escape my sight when the fields are ripe with vegetal color now stand out in stark relief under this fine cover of snow: the spindly-umbrella skeleton of elderberry branch; the domelike crater where a deer has slept in the switch grass; the marshmallow boulder that guards a hedgerow.  If winter were a garment, it would be a white cotton dress with crisp Victorian pleats and puffed sleeves.

Returning home, I leave the cold at my doorstep while the tranquility of my perfect winter day follows me inside.  I decide to perfume myself with frankincense and amber and patchouli drier than the downy snow.  Chanel Coromandel.  It is one of the scents I have turned to most often this year, throughout the summer (when the heat combines with it in a most sensual way) and into the fall (when I crave amber scents above all others).  I went through two decants before breaking down and buying a full bottle.  It’s possible I love it even more now, in early winter, when the natural world enters its desert-like slumber.  Though classified as an oriental, Coromandel is neither spicy nor strong—and though it has a sharp pine-like note in the opening, this passes so quickly that in minutes I am enveloped in warm balsam-y frankincense and soft patchouli, which later dries down to an even softer whisper of vanilla notes emanating from the benzoin and amber base.

Frankincense, a gift from the true desert, is one of my very favorite perfume notes.  For 5,000 years, “tears” of frankincense have been burned in temples throughout the world and across most of its religions.  “The aroma of frankincense is said to represent life,” states Wikipedia, “and the Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths have often used frankincense mixed with oils to anoint newborn infants and individuals considered to be moving into a new phase in their spiritual lives.”  When burned, its smoke is thought to carry prayers to heaven, and it is used in meditation and yogic practices to deepen the breath and still the mind.

How perfect, then, to have Chanel Coromandel close at hand.  For me, early winter is a time of solitude and reflection.  A time to give thanks for the year behind me and to look forward, with hope and prayers, for the new year ahead.  At some point (oh, around February), I will want to walk away from the desert-like solitude of winter, and then I will look to my lush floral perfumes to transport me elsewhere.  But here in early winter, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Chanel Coromandel with its precious resins will follow me into another season.


Coromandel, an edt, is part of Chanel’s “les exclusifs” collection and can only be purchased at Chanel boutiques or at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.  (Update: I believe Saks Fifth Avenue in New York might carry the Exclusifs collection now too.)

Image: "The White Veil" by American Impressionist painter Willard Metcalf (1858-1925) is from, where it can be purchased as a print.

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