The master of minimalism does it again, with a fragrance unlike much of his previous Hermessence works.
Here we look at leather in a different light, diminishing the libidinous qualities and the sexual timbre of phenolic-driven leathers, often layered with hints of super sweet fruits and rectified birch tar smelling like sweat and shoebox.
I can’t recall an Ellena fragrance that uses predominantly a leather composition, so I naturally looked forward for his take on it. Like most of Ellena’s Hermessence work, he always has a certain angle to a perfume. Iris Ukiyoe was inspired by Japanese watercolours, whilst Poivre Samarcande was inspired by a grand oak tree that eventually grew ill outside of Ellena’s house. The tree felled, and released a scent Ellena loved and recreated through fragrance. Thus, Cuir d’Ange is inspired by Ellena’s great love of literature, and his deep affection for the works of Jean Giorno and in particular Jean le Bleu which mentions the term cuir d’ange, or angel leather.
Jean-Claude wonderfully implies that he himself is an author – but uses smells and scents as his words. And hence, Cuir d’Ange is poetry for leather on skin – a seamless duet, balancing between romanticism and tautness. A novel take on a leather fragrance.
Photo by Hermès
Deceptively simple, I pick up two accords from Cuir d’Ange:
The first is a leather accord of superlative degree. It is supple, smooth and hosts an airy richness. I am instantly reminded of handbags; the best kind of course. Hermès is a house famous for their leathers (I personally love their silks too) and they use an assortment of amazing calf leathers with an amazing sheen quality to it, with a persuasive sturdiness. I am particularly fond of their colourful Ulysee notebooks with a delicious leather cover and the revered Sac a Depeche, which I call colloquially: the male Birkin bag.
I have delineated my love for Hermès leather because of the quality and in turn, the quality of its scent. Jean-Claude explains how leather innately contains immense complexities, with very delicate floral nuances. Ellena visited the trove of leathers stored by Hermès and was captivated by the luxuriousness of it all. He explored the subtle differences and the differing smells each piece of tanned leather contained and found that “The most expensive pieces smelled of flowers”. Leather innately has a restrictive feel to it, a sense of tension and constriction. The robusta and gusto of leather is romantic when it smells worn in.
Cuir d’Ange opens with a dizzy and imperceptible floral accord (the other accord) lifting the leather to its angel status. Diaphanous yet imperative in achieving the desired effect, the florals give a saccharine tang against the leather backdrop; like flowers in a leather vase. A clean style of musk is obvious throughout the life of this fragrance, hinting at tobacco and beeswax subtleties and connotations. I am also fond of the use of heliotrope, giving the old school melancholy feel, entwined with fleshly hawthorn flower that opens with a note reminiscent of sesame seeds and a very light eugenol clove giving warmth and radiance – I get a metallic jump from the violet used, only adding to the skin and leather effect. Cuir d’Ange also has a soapy quality surrounding it, as if rough skin has been scrubbed and polished to buttery state. Cool tones of iris, suede, heady narcissus and a contrasting bitterness are also to be found, and together smells like copy paper and new books. It is creamy without the usual vanilla, and that’s rather pleasing to smell from time to time.
This fragrance is narcotic for sure, and very comforting. I love to contrast this against Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford, with this being the romantic fragrance, and Tuscan Leather being the raspberry and raunchy driven aftermath. The overloaded musk gives Cuir d’Ange its romantic appeal, with the dry leather as well being tempted by a pale almond note.
Alternatives: Dans Tes Bras for Frederic Malle (Editions De Parfums); and Dior Homme Intense by Dior
A leather made into watercolour. Very well balanced.
Subjective rating : 4.5/5
Objective rating: 4/5