As I smolder with Royal Bain de Champagne in a thick cloud of sweet balsams, woody softness and ambers, I thought I’d share some thoughts on leathers. Yes, my fetish… perfume family and generally appreciated scent. This idea of an addition to my neglected blog came to mind after I’d bought an iPad this weekend with a red – leather – smart cover. While I was downloading this and updating that, seamlessly, of course, something quite nice caught my nose. First thought: as usual, my awesome cologne, but no – Saturday I was wearing Eau Dynamisante so much more civilized. It came back yet again while iCal was synching with Outlook… Still couldn’t catch where this provocative little scent was coming from. Then… right I as went to smart-cover off my iPad – there it was: that heavy, crusty leather smell that you only get with a great new Aero leather jacket or a pair of Frye boots. And well, it just fell clearly to me that the colognes and perfumes commonly called leathers – have strictly nothing, but really nothing at all to do with leather, at least for my humble nose who sort of distinguishes three leather groups in the perfume leather market:
1. The Bourgeois leathers: Brut, Habit Rouge, Aramis, Yatagan, Jules…
3. The suave leathers: Knize Ten / Tabac Blond / Cuir Mauresque /Creed’s Royal English Leather
IMHO: The first family, for me, unites some strong colognes from the 6o’s to the late 70’s that all seem to find inspiration in Bandit by Piguet– a powerful leather shrouded in multiple layers of other great scents ranging from jasmine to incense. It would seem the underlying objective here is to hide the leather! Every time I wear one of them, I get that same feeling: a beautiful leather uselessly gift-wrapped a hundred times. Is it that embarrassing to just wear a straight-forward leather cologne? Hang-ups, hang-ups… This coincides with the dawn of the freshly showered scents- out with the animalistic smell in with the soapy-fresh-out-of-the-shower scent- a movement appearing in the same time frame: Eau Sauvage, Monsieur, Pour Monsieur, or the sadly discontinued Ho Hang (yes, unique but, well, let’s be honest just not the same register).
The second family includes, to the best of my knowledge, two outstanding Cuirs de Russie (Russian Leathers) – L. T. Piver’s Cuir de Russie (the lotion and not the recent EdT) created in the very late 1800’s or early 1900’s carries that recognizable Birch scent which can be found in a more vanilla-softened version by Chanel, clearly inspired by L. T. Piver’s. It would seem that this version of the leather scent comes from the tanning of leather with Birch wood Russian-style. I am unfortunately unable to testify however much I’d like to say that I have attended such tanning sessions! A more recent rendition of Cuir de Russie was made by Jardin Retrouvé – but the three differ ever so slightly where Piver’s is the purest, Chanel’s the shyest, and le Jardin Retrouvé’s the easiest to wear.
My third family includes four similar scents – I am only acquainted with these – all of which are sumptuously spicy with explosive hearts wrapped in bouquets of rich rose and jasmine with varying levels of dryness. Created in 1924, Knize Ten is the most balsamy-balanced managing best to keep the explosive clove-cinnamon core from melting down to fusion! Creed’s Royal English Leather with weakened doses stays politically correct. Tabac Blond, created by Ernest Daltroff for Caron in 1919, carries a clove-dominated heart that rapidly eradicates the weak floral wall with burning dryness and makes an incontestable statement – accompanied or not by leather attire. Born in our our current decades comes Cuir Mauresque drowned in a vanilla-balsam, powdery, sweet syrup making for a more questionably strong scent.
Whether these scents lie or not in a true leather essence remains an insignificant mystery (at least to me). It is however reassuring that the leather family is made up of genuine, affirmative, marking scents of true character which can – almost – be like wearing leather.