Mona di Orio’s Cuir for me is a throwback to violent leathers. Here in this fragrance, the leather and its accompaniments are intelligently violent, sticking true to the brand’s collection: Les Nombres d’Or, or the golden number. Cuir lives a foreign life of near spite and carnage. It provokes sternly as tumbleweeds pass by and the silence is cut with fast moments of furious action. In the end we are left with a ruthless result, staggeringly dangerous yet strangely inviting at the same time.
To put it simply, Cuir reminds me of solidified mud on the soles of shoes. Pets love to smell shoes, because as they are worn throughout the day they go where you go. The smell of the earth collects on the bottom of the shoes, perhaps some dead grass, dirt, bark, and fecal matter too – and together the impression of arduous manual travel is created. Of course, the shoes begin to wear out as wrinkles and creases begin to form on the uppers, with some sweat absorbed by the leather too. Altogether, Cuir reminds me of all that. Rough cowboy leather.
Photo by Liam Sardea (c) 2015
Cut through the smoggy and fecal haze of leather and we’ll find traces of dry herbs. However, before that can happen this horse must be tamed and mounted. Cuir’s richness is first presented shockingly, loud and bombastically overflowing with spices and an animalic depth. The castoreum is clearly there in a style similar to Chanel’s Antaeus however bolstered up significantly with an artemisia and cardamom counterpoint. The leather here is tight, and a smidgen pulpy in typical leathery cough-syrup style. This is then given depth as a dry and grassy peat feature sparks the imagination. Focus in (or rather, out) and find quinine (aromatic compound: quinoline) a facet that becomes very clear with consecutive wear.
The usual powderiness of leather is extended with Mona di Orio’s signature dusty accord (found best in Eau Absolue), that is given a broad ‘Western cowboy’ aspect with a highly resinous and balsamic undercurrent. Together, a muted intensity is achieved never losing its masculine, meaty and peppery quality found from the concentration of the leather notes and accords. Cuir’s refreshing character is mostly attributed to cool notes: cooly spiced cardamom and juniper, the bitterness of quinine translated into a freshness of sorts, and the slightly mentholated faux-wormwood accord created from artemisia. This is balanced with an ashtray tobacco note, with an almost Provençal herbs inflection given a slight twist from what I detect is anise and a hushed citric note. The sprightly green quality of cardamom and the wormwood accord arrange themselves pleasantly against the leather, harmonising very quickly.
Cuir mellows and softens nicely. The walked in shoes have been taken off and allowed to air out. Dry roasted vetiver and hay can be detected seasoned with a hint of cumin, florals way in the far back, and tobacco lingering like a treat. The scent becomes surprisingly fresh and liberated, redolent of sawdust trailing with an intriguing solemnity. This is a burning tree in a native smouldering bush. Albeit, the smoke at times gets in the eyes.
Alternatives: Antaeus by Chanel; Sycomore by Chanel; and Knize Ten by Knize.
Behind the rough callous nature of the scent lies a gentleman. He just has to be given a good scrub. And it’s true, totally chic for a female too!
Subjective rating : 4/5
Objective rating: 4/5