Every so often when preparing for my next fragrance review I have a wild and obsessive tendency to hammer down and scour the internet for histories; notes and other people’s reactions for a particular fragrance because doing so often prepares you to gauge and uncover more of a fragrance than merely smelling it prima facie. Through this you inevitably uncover a richer and more artful composition with the beautiful aspect of ethos through age and time.
© 2014 Liam Sardea
It also occurs, every so often, that certain reviewers find themselves so enthralled in the majestic delights of a particular smell; the nobility of veneration; or purely just the magnificent story of a fragrance’s conception and theology (a kind of fragrant metaphysics). After all, as I tacitly stated in my very first blog post:
Fragrance is the art of capturing scent. Those artists or ‘noses’, follow the trajectory of memory; they are masterful translators.
I am now one of those awe-inspired, jelly at the knees reviewers.
Cuir de Russie fits the bill perfectly in every appropriate category it belongs in. This liquid tells an entire story; a history book of escapades, the interception of masculinity and femininity, yesteryear restriction and scandalous shun and surmountable provocatives. Cuir de Russie seems temporally displaced also for the then Chanel of 1924, it’s not bouncy, flouncy, floral-heavy or diffident, but rather animalic, leathery and luxurious. It marks the transition of attitude in perfume, the attitudes regarding smoking (and tobacco as an ingredient) and a shift in overall dogmatic codes of conduct.
Woods for women? Birch? Tobacco? Preposterous.
A musky sexiness, tantalising leather and ecstatic woods combine to create the best leather perfume I have ever smelt. We begin with a Chanel opening, the paradigm. Icy aldehydes and the Chanel accord of rose, ylang-ylang, iris and delicate jasmine. It’s crisp only for a brief moment but it envelops rapidly into a dry and dusty leather powder, fully dark and animalic; hubristic and filled to the brim with a primal, carnal desire thanks to the leather. It is the powdery iris and orris root that keeps this chaste; barely. In the first half an hour the fragrance is soapy with a hint of effervescence; the florals, vetiver and orange blossom ‘lift’ the fragrance into the mild effervescent state; but this fades into something greater. And then we reach the pièce de résistance (à la drydown) , the showstopping combination of super high quality leather, rectified birch tar (va-va-voom!), toasty birch wood and but a delicate caress of tobacco. Just divine. One of the nicest and most comfortable smells you can recreate. The woodsy character of birch tantalised with the heavier heart is incredibly complex and superbly crafted. It smells like the rich leather of garments and in a sense, evokes the feeling of supple, buttery leather or reaching into a used leather purse that holds fine cigarettes.
The Russian influence at the heart of Mademoiselle’s creations was born from her encounter with the Grand Duke Dimitri, cousin of Tsar Nicholas II. Cuir de Russie, launched in 1927, is the fragrance of wild cavalcades, wafts of Blond Tobacco and the smell of the boots tanned with Birch Bark worn by the Russian Soliders. This sensual fragrance reveals the dark and musky scents of balms, Frankincense and Juniper Wood. Fruity zests of Mandarin Orange and Bergamot add a touch of insolence before giving way to the grace and fragility of eternal flowers: Rose, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang. A “thoroughbred” fragrance with a strong character, it holds within it the ambiguous secrets of femininity…
I like this because the leather is toned down just enough to not forfeit it’s right to be the main player – but just enough to emanate other smells that could have been lost in the foray. You get a smokey rich character from the leather, but this is reconfigured with florals in the far, far background to allow the base notes to shine and a touch of vetiver for cool greenness. Orris root is definitely not forgotten, as a pleasant powder note lingers perpetually. You just get this perfect angelic, paramount quality leather that reduces those with a real knack for fragrances into tears. Alternatives: Cuir de Lancome by Lancome; Cuir de Russie by Creed; Cuir de Russie Parfum by Chanel; Noble Leather by YSL; Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford (Male friendly) and Chanel No5 by Chanel. Imperative. Obligatory.
Subjective rating : 5/5
Objective rating: 5/5