The sort of thing you'd catch a whiff of at the florist, perhaps.
Leather in fragrance is actually an accord, a combination of either natural extraits or synthesized aroma molecules that brings to mind the rich smell of leather. The idea. The memory. Richness. Warmth. A little tarry, smoky bite. An abstract that evokes nature.
One of the cool things I've discovered about leather fragrances is that they can smell amazing on women. Softened with floral notes, sexed up with amber, or even with the padded shoulders and mannish tie of tobacco, they can exude confidence and sophistication. In fact one of the theories about the explosion of leather fragrances for women in the 1920s (Chanel's "Cuir de Russie" or Caron's "Tabac Blond" for example) is that women were smoking in unprecedented numbers and leather based fragrances smell so amazing on those naughty, naughty emancipated smokers.
These days the majority of bottles on the fragrance counters are severely gendered. Women are flowers, fruits, sweeties and sometimes even bubblegum, and men are citrus, woods, tobacco, spices and yes leather. Sure that's a generalisation, but the mass market has become more heavily polarised over the decades and sadly a lot more predictable.
So thank the fates, and everyone else, that as the mass market fragrances got more boring the niche or artisanal fragrances got a lot more interesting. Nature hates a vacuum, as they say. Those niche market rascals are also often much less hung up on gender, and for my money that's a hell of a lot more interesting and sexy.
"Cuir Velours" (aka "Soft Leather") by Australian milliner/accessories designer Naomi Goodsir is very firmly unisex. I had heard good things about "Cuir Velours", so a while back while I was cruising LuckyScent (and ordering sample decants like a demon) I added a sample to my basket.
On the strength of the sample I searched for a supplier closer to home, and discovered Peony Haute Perfumery in Melbourne was a stockist. I may not have decided to visit Melbourne based on this alone, but it sure as hell was a contributing factor. Go and read about my visit to Peony if you haven't already and perhaps shed a quiet tear that such fabulous places still exist.
Cuir Velours, by Naomi Goodsir Parfums (2012)
Notes: Leather, tobacco, rum, cistus labdanum, incense, fleur d’immortelle
Nose: Julien Rasquinet
"Oriental leather. A deep & textured perfume, that evocatively encases the skin like soft velvet suede. A tobacco atmosphere supported by notes of rum, cistus labdanum, incense & fleur d'immortelle."
[Description by Naomi Goodsir Parfums.]
The opening of Cuir Velours is gorgeous; tobacco and leather support a beautiful boozy fruit set of top notes. Peachy, rummy and a quick flash of something that smells to me like fresh strawberry. The actual fruit, with its tartness intact, rather than a sugary candy idea of strawberry. All of this is given loft by the incense note. The balance is so good that the whole thing sings as a rich whole.
The fleeting fresh fruit notes have now given way to a more raisiny rum fruit note and it is easier to detect the smokier tones of the incense and tobacco. One of the notes is immortelle, or helichrysum, which is described as having a maple syrup like odour, with honey, straw, fruit and tea characteristics. The effect is warm, sexy and sophisticated. The projection and sillage are very good.
One word that is sure to make artisanal fragrance fans narrow their eyes and clutch their pearls is the word linear. Fragrances that are unchanging and tend not to evolve on the skin. This is often a characteristic of less expensive mass market fragrances, due to their structure and the types of synthetics that are used.
Cuir Velours is not linear, and although it does evolve it does not go through a dramatic change over time. I think this is primarily because the structure is so dominated by heart and base notes right from the get go. The transition it does make is into a softer, amber version of itself. The leather, smokiness and incense are all still detectable, overlaid with a softened version of the boozy fruit heart of the fragrance. The balance of this fragrance is noteworthy, with all aspects working in harmony.
Love. Cuir Velours is sexy, perfect for nighttime and cooler weather, when something warm and smoky is called for. I get fantastic sillage and longevity from this fragrance. When I initially assembled the pump action spray that ships with the bottle, I thought the spray result was a little mean at first, but in reality I wouldn't want anything more. The strength of this fragrance is very much an Eau de Parfum.
All in all a great investment and this winter I have been wearing this a lot already.