Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Beaches are officially open in New York City--Summer '08 is around the bend! Contrary to expectations to wear light perfumes during warm weather, I've been breaking the rule and sampling leather perfumes all through last week. Well, you gotta live, and perhaps my faithful readers in Oz who are about to face winter again will appreciate these heavy leather choices. I'm learning that leathers share many similarities such as a dense, sweet-smoky and often very refined powderiness on dry down (can seem cloying for some), sweet and animalic heart notes such as honey and/or jasmine, and also very often a slightly medicinal wintergreen note holding the top notes making the leather smell more authentic. I'm still resampling my favorites, and here are just some brief thoughts about the ones I found most memorable:

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque (Moorish Leather): This one surprised me because I almost loved it enough to consider buying, until the dry down which was a bit headshop and heavy for me. I'd describe this leather as an almond-cherry one, strong, spicy and sweet at once, comparable perhaps to Caron Farnesiana more than Tabac Blond. It's full-bodied like Sarrasins but compositionally spicy-woody-incensey, perhaps like People of the Labyrinths Luctor et Emergo or Dior Hypnotic Poison, maybe even a bit like Dior Dolce Vita (1996--same launch year as Cuir Mauresque) with a spiced peach woodiness, but mellower, of more sumptuous quality (as heavy as it is, there are no jagged edges in Cuir Mauresque). It is punchy, however, like the rounded timbre of a trombone or french horn (OK--maybe a tuba), and bold, with notes sitting mostly in the mid-to-low range like aforementioned Sarrasins or Piguet Fracas. Honeyed and candied sweetness is its heart of orange blossom, anchoring the scent firmly in the Oriental range even as it extends one foot into the leather Chypre range (or the other way around). The Gourmand element disappears by the final dry down and ends on a thoroughly New Age natural food store smoky-incensey hippyish note--nothing wrong with that, of course, but I like to end on a sweeter, less dirty, more sophisticated note. Oh, but I do love's almost like Fumerie Turque with richer sandalwood.

Elsha 1776: Originally known as Russian Leather by Elsha, "the aristocrat of fragrances", it has a loyal following of fans. It seems to only come in one size, a huge 8 fl. oz. bottle resembling a whiskey bottle. Upon unscrewing the jumbo gold cap, it has a sweet, pleasant aroma, not at all like a shoe store or a bizarre and misogynistic S&M scene, but like something nice and wearable, likable, something I would even put on for size, like slipping my size 6 feet into a man's cowboy boots. It smells like a man's cologne, a slightly sweet but not too animalic sheer leather that starts out spicy like Old Spice and ends on a natural food store smoky-incensey hippyish note similar to the way Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque ends. I guess this hippy incense note is a recurring theme with some leather fragrances. Now, I'm not really sure this Russian Leather was actually created in 1776 or if that's just a name. If it's true, it would be older than Creed Royal English Leather, making it the first of its kind (in recorded history, anyway, which doesn't always mean it's the first of its kind any more than Carthusia Fiori di Capri is the first floral water, ever).

Andy Tauer Lonestar Memories: Here's the cowboy perfume sighting I was waiting for back when I'd posted about the New Classics Trend taking over. The notes listed on are: Geranium, Carrot seed, Clary sage, Birchtar, Cistus, Jasmine, Cedar wood, Myrrh, Tonka, Vetiver, Sandalwood. There is no wintergreen listed but I seem to smell that most prominently as I do in many other leather fragrances. Perhaps it's just the effect of copius amounts of birch tar. It starts out a warm and sweet, powdery scent, not overly rich but substantial, very pleasant and almost an ambery-vanillic comforting powderiness, and it ends on a more floral-woody accord. This one is pretty well-mannered, a nice, agreeable scent overall, and I'd say it smells more aristocratic than Elsha which in comparison smells like the cowboy, but I'll let your own fantasies decide which is which.

English Leather by Dana: I'll have to try it again to be sure, but I don't think I like this one. It seems very strong and obnoxiously flowery-smoky-dirty on dry down. Maybe dirty's not the right word since it's not exactly animalic--it's just a mishmash of flowery tobacco notes. Well, you can't expect a miracle from a drugstore scent, but I'm sure there are loyal fans and some people on whom it smells nice. It captures the basic idea of an English Leather, but wow, how sweet (and kind of sour) and heavy and spicy can powder get? (Edited to add) I tested it again and I like it better this time. I'm smelling a powdery musk base (but that's typical of drugstore scents like Canoe, also by Dana, and Love's Baby Soft, Jean Nate, etc.) but it's not too heavy, and the acidic note I was smelling turned out to be a sweet, lovely orange blossom note. It's actually kind of fresh and wearable. At roughly $10-$15, it's a good deal for this type of fragrance.

Parfums de Nicolaï Baladin: This is another nice leather. At first try, it smelled like a crisp floral leather to me, and then, on the second try, it smelled a lot like Eau d'Ete, with a lemon-lime opening atop a jasmine heart. The leather-birch tar-vetiver notes kicked in, but it dried down to a Floral on me, and a somewhat nondescript and perfumey one at that. Maybe it was all the tarragon-thyme muddying up the floralcy a bit. Still, it's refined and I can see women wearing Baladin just as well as men, and it's a well-mannered enough scent that I would say even those of you who are scared of leather scents might take to it. Baladin isn't as fresh as Eau d'Ete but it's not as animalic, either, which is funny considering how animalic and heavy-sweet most leathers I've tested have seemed compared to jasmine florals, probably due to the addition of honey in most leathers, accentuating the "animalic" (acidic(urinal)-fecal) quality, plus heavy base notes to help carry its weight.

(Image: Saint Maurice (St. Moritz))