Never say never to leather1.
If you’d asked me a month ago, I would’ve said that leather was a no-go note for me. Chanel No. 19 got nasty in the drydown2, Tabac Aurea was the only SSS that smelled horrible on me, Lonestar Memories went sour and even Cuir de Russie was a hot mess. Not that there’s anything wrong with these perfumes, let’s get that out of the way right now and quickly, before both my co-contributors string me up a flagpole for being such an uncultured, cave-dwelling Morlock.
Like many perfumistas, I’ve got a 1-5 rating system, ranging from “Aaaaagh! Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!” to “Go Straight to Full Bottle, Do Not Buy Decant, Do Not Save $200.” However, I’ve also got a special category, a specific-to-Dionne category called I Don’t Think It’s Supposed to Smell That Way. I’m considering copywriting it.
Perfumes that fit in the IDTISTSTW© category are those that are obviously mutating once they encounter my skin, because the monosyllabic Hulk sitting on my arm bears no resemblance to the Eric Bana everyone else is drooling over. The IDTISTSTW© phenomenon kept me believing for 25 years that perfume wasn’t for me. Quirky skin chemistry can sometimes really suck.
So why didn’t I skip testing Cuir Ottoman once my Parfum d’Empire sample set came? Maybe I’m trying to cultivate a beginner’s mind. Maybe – and probably more likely – I’m just cheap. “Dang it, I paid for this, and I’m spraying it.” Whatever the reason, I’m sure glad I did. (Hel-looooo Eric Bana!)
Cuir Ottoman got its first trial on a Friday night, as I prepared to snuggle with The Engineer in our basement and watch Bones on Netflix. (Yup, I am an exciting date.) As we got cuddly, he exclaimed “Ooooh, you smell really good, that’s different than anything you’ve ever worn before.” There were several pauses in the show for further huffing.
Subsequent tests where I pestered friends with a proffered wrist and “You should smell me” also received unanimous approval. There were lots of comments like “Hey, that IS nice. Can I smell that again?”
Well, that’s all well and good, but cut to the chase: how does Cuir Ottoman smell?
It starts out with a really strong smoky leather note. Have you ever walked into the tack room at a historical village, the kind of museum with people dressed historically and actually doing things like shoeing horses? That kind of leather. Boom! Archimedes3 describes the beginning as “robust.” The initial kick starts softening after about 10 minutes, and despite the fact that there’s no mention of fruit in the notes anywhere, I get a sweet, mulled feeling in the heart. As CO dries down, the leather gets mellower, there’s more powder and vanilla joins in . Some of the reviews I’ve read say there’s a gasoline hit in the top, but I don’t get that at all; others say this skews to the masculine…. not on me, baby. This stuff is sensual.
I decided to do some wrist vs. wrist comparisons with the other leather samples I own to make sure that it wasn’t simply the case that my tastes had changed. Then I headed over to Holt Renfrew to try more leathers. Here are the results:
- Doesn’t Smell Like Leather, Goes Sour Instead: Lonestar Memories4, Tabac Aurea
- Uh, There’s Leather in This?: Kelly Caleche, Cuir Beluga
- Well-Maintained Outhouse at Campground: Cuir de Russie, Cuir Améthyste, Violet Tendencies
- Actually Smells Like Leather, Will Investigate Further: Bottega Veneta
Once I thought about it, it occurred to me why one leather could work when so many don’t. Elena at the Perfume Shrine (with contributor Denyse Beaulieu) wrote an excellent series on leather, and part 3 lists 10 different natural and synthetic ingredients that can be used to create the note. Obviously, there’s something different in Cuir Ottoman than the others I’ve tried.
Thank you, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, for your inclusiveness. We Morlocks like to smell nice too.
1 Try saying that five times really fast. It’s not that different from one of the warm-ups I used to sing in choir: red leather yellow leather, red leather yellow leather, red leather yellow leather…
2 I’m so sorry, Mals. I really did try. Several times.
3 My 16 year-old son. Out of my whole family, he’s the one who’s the most interested in perfume, and often wants to discuss whatever I’m wearing. He’s saving up to purchase LADDM.
4 Smells fantastic on Archimedes, though.