Saturday, April 29, 2006

Leather Fantasies

Leather perfumes are not my usual type of fragrance but I know I can grow into them because there are some truly breathtaking, extraordinary ones: Chanel Cuir de Russie, Guerlain Parure and one of my favorite perfumes by the venerable French perfume house of Caron, Tabac Blond.

Tabac Blond was an acquired love; I didn't fall in love at first sniff although I loved the idea of a perfume which didn't contain any tobacco notes but had been created to mask the odors of smoking (though I don't smoke anymore, I appreciate that this perfume marked a time in history when women were finally *allowed* to smoke). It's a very dry scent and unisex, although it is marketed as a Women's fragrance. I think Tabac Blond is one perfume which definitely could follow in Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur's footsteps and revamp how it's marketed--be unisex already! On second thought, maybe it's best marketed as the androgynous women's perfume. There aren't many of those. Marlene Dietrich and Debby Harry are associated with this exquisite and angular perfume.

It's spicy, rich, mellow yet very heady though controlled in its sweetness...if ever a leather perfume could be called a bombshell, this is it. It's hard-to-find and the only place I have seen it is at the Caron Boutique as an urn fragrance (there are special urns of perfumes at the boutique where they hand-decant perfumes of choice for you).

Tabac Blond (Oriental Leather) 1919

Top: Leather, carnation, linden.
Heart: Iris vetiver, ylang ylang, lime-tree leaf
Base: Cedar, patchouli, vanilla, amber, musk.

Chanel Cuir de Russie--Now, don't take my word at face value because this is just a rumor I'm sure...but I'd heard that Mick Jagger liked to wear this one on his behind...don't ask. It just always comes to mind now whenever there's mention of Cuir de Russie. I hope I haven't ruined it for you. Cuir de Russie is Russian Leather, and this Women's perfume by Chanel is an elegant play on the powdery Aldehydic Floral Chanel No.5 theme. Now, some of my readers might think what I'm about to say is sacrilege but I think many of the Chanel perfumes are similar. If you've smelled No.5, you could imagine it morphing into a leathery scent. That would be Cuir de Russie. Likewise Bois des Iles to me is a woodsy No.5 and No.22 is a softer, incense-based No.5 with very subtle white floral notes. The ones I find vastly different from No.5 are No.19, Gardenia and all of the newer scents from Coco and Cristalle forward. But I digress; Cuir de Russie is another leather perfume that I think is beautiful enough to claim as a signature one day.

Cuir de Russie (Chypre Floral Animalic) 1927

Top: Orange blossom, bergamot, mandarin, clary sage
Heart: Iris, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, vetiver
Base: Balsamics, leather, amber, vanilla

Guerlain Parure is the feminine leather chypre being the most floral of the bunch (although men could absolutely wear it, like men should wear whatever perfume they please--marketing scents is just that--marketing). I smell lots of Guerlinade, the Guerlain signature blend, in Parure which is best described as a classic scent of highest pedigree. I don't like Guerlinade alone but in Parure I find that the lilac note isn't as prominent when it's in a mix with dry leather to counteract its softness. Balance is everything in a blend and this one balances soft and hard elements perfectly. I'd read somewhere that Jean Paul Guerlain had created this one for his mother. I would say it's a mature type of scent but not one that a very sophisticated and individualistic young woman couldn't carry off. Of all 3 leather perfumes, I believe this one smells the most traditionally romantic.

Parure (Chypre Floral Animalic) 1975

Top: Plum, bergamot, fruits, hesperides, greens
Heart: Rose, lilac, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, jonquil
Base: Oakmoss, patchouli, spices, amber, leather