Cuir Ottoman and a Tongue-twister

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.

34 thoughts on “Cuir Ottoman and a Tongue-twister

  1. Fellow leather phobe here! All of those are def leather-light perfumes in my book- although Cuir de Russie is still a bit of a challenge for sure. Even Cuir de Lancome was too birch-tar-y for this leather wimp. Try the gag-inducing leather in Bandit…it nearly killed me!

  2. Hi Jane! Just out of curiosity, what is it about leather perfumes that don’t work for you? (To my mind, three things influence how a perfume smells to us: 1) taste, which is influenced by culture and personal experience 2) anosmia and it’s variations 3) skin chemistry)

    I like a leather frag when it actually smells like leather, it’s just that they don’t on me. And now you’ve got me curious to try Bandit. 😉

  3. Wishing you a belated welcome to BotoBlog, Dionne! And might I say, you have excellent taste? I think Cuir Ottoman is a masterpiece (am lucky to have a generous decant thanks to Christos of Memory of Scent). I do find it a very masculine leather scent in the first stages of wear, but its masculinity is quite appealing to me. What I really love, though, is the way the scent evolves, and how that rugged leather gradually becomes a very elegant leather when the powdery notes show up.

    Anyway, thanks for reviewing this gorgeous creation (and I have to say yeah … perfect scent choice for a cuddly date with your husband). I also enjoyed getting a glimpse on some of those other leather scents that didn’t work for you. Hope you find more leathers to love and will write about them. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the welcome, Suzanne. I also love that strong initial blast – I wish it would hang around a little longer – but the heart is so very scrumptious as well. Right now CO is the front-runner for my Mother’s Day gift, although Philosykos is nipping at his heels.

      I managed to snag a sample of Bottega Veneta, plus Cuir de Lancome is going to be part of my March sample order because I’ve wanted to try it for a long time, but the rest of the leathers will have to wait: I can tell spring will be here soon, because I’ve got a major urge to try out the heliotropes. Summer is designated fig-sampling season, and I’ve got more incenses I want to try in the fall. So I’ll get to the leathers eventually, just not yet. If anything else works, I’ll definitely write about it. 🙂

  4. Great post, Dionne.

    I haven’t yet found a leather that works for me. It’s funny, I don’t think of Lonestar Memories as a leather fragrance as much as a gasoline fragrance. I will have to think about this next time I wear it. I don’t get leather from Cuir Beluga, either, and Bottega Veneta is soft suede to me. Cuir de Russe is disappointing. So you can see I have covered some of the same ground! 🙂 Maybe I will give Cuir Ottoman a try.

    1. Thank you, Natalie. In my mind, Lonestar Memories is categorized as leather+, because there’s so much going on in it. When I revisited it for this comparison, I was struck by the beauty of the opening, the airiness of it in comparison to CO. It really does evoke a sense of place for me. It took a good half hour before the sourness kicked in, and I love that first half hour very much.

      Strangely enough, Archimedes gets way more leather out of this than me, and it’s almost as good on him as LADDM. (I had a friend quip once, upon smelling him as he was leaving for a dance, “Do you think it’s wise letting him go out in public smelling THAT good? ;))

      I’m wearing Bottega Veneta right now for the first time by itself, and it’s just so pretty…. Very different feel than Cuir Ottoman.

  5. Oooh, I want to try it! I like leather but as of yet I only have a bottle of Cuir de Lancôme, which was a happy blind swap but isn’t the biggest leather ever! I want *more*! I don’t get any leather from Tabac Aurea either, but it doesn’t stop me from reaaaaaally liking it. Anyway, I’m putting CO on my list! (And your Holt Renfrew sells Andy Tauer? What lucky city are you in?!)

    1. I wish Tabac Aurea smelled good on me, the beginning is so wonderful, isn’t it? That great cherry-inflected woodsiness; but just like Lonestar Memories, after the first half hour it goes really off.

      And I should’ve been clearer about the list, Alnysie, sorry about that. The leathers listed are a combination of samples I own, and then further sniffing done at The Holt. (Boy, I *wish* Holt Renfrew carried the Tauers. Wouldn’t that be something! I’d love to visit the Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver locations, and sniff my way through the By Kilians, Bois 1920’s, Byredos and Frederic Malle.)

  6. Leather varies so much it is really hit and miss. That Perfume Shrine article sounds great but the link isn’t being found for some reason.

    I like the feminine birch-tarry leathers i.e. Cuir de Lancome and Cuir de Russie (can’t believe you get out-house from the latter, even if it’s well-maintained!). The next one I want to try is the new Cuir Fetiche. I didn’t get tar or smoke from Cuir Ottoman, but really need to test again. Bandit was just plain scary. Like Natalie I get gasoline from Lonestar Memories and I only get the lightest touch of suede from Bottage Veneta and Cuir Beluga.

    Leathers are obviously a lot to do with skin chemistry plus our own associations. Great post!

    1. I’ll see if we can fix that link for you, Tara, and I appreciate the heads-up. In the meantime, here it is:

      That “well-maintained outhouse” note has popped up a few times in my testing, and I’d love to figure out the common denominator for it. It’s especially frustrating because many fragrances in the Les Exclusifs line work nicely on my skin, and I’d heard so many wonderful things about CdR. But doing a wrist vs. wrist highlighted just HOW BAD it smells on me.

      I’m curious to try Cuir Fetiche now since I’ve found a successful leather. It’s be great if it was stronger, like CO’s first ten minutes.

    2. I didn’t get outhouse out of Cuir de Russie either, but I got a pretty photorealistic version of our cattle working pens: animal hair & hide, iodine, dust, manure. And fear. Can’t forget the fear.

      1. It took me a while to figure out just what I was smelling. I’m pretty conversant with urinous and fecal smells (5 kids means lots of years of diapers), and when I was 12 we moved out to the country; 14 acres with 80 up the road in hay. (Even though my father was a lawyer by profession, the old saying “You can take the boy out of the farm…” totally applies to him.) At one time we had 40 head of cattle, chickens and sheep, although no horses until after I left for university. So I know all those smells, and it wasn’t any of them.

        I first encountered it in Ava Luxe’s Madame X, and it bugged me for a while because I recognized it but couldn’t quite place it. It was later when we were camping last year that I made the connection.

    3. Yep, Lonestar Memories smells like gasoline to me too, but in an interesting way.

      I don’t get any leather from Bottega Veneta at all. I haven’t figured out what the supposed leather accord is made of, and whether it’s something I’m anosmic to or my nose just breaks it up into its component parts.

      Dionne, this cracked me up: “Go Straight to Full Bottle, Do Not Buy Decant, Do Not Save $200.” Love!

      1. I do get some leather from Bottega Veneta, but it’s very soft and suede-like. Unfortunately, things got really sweet in the dry-down on my first try. I’ll need to revisit it, because the beginning is very lovely.

        It’s fascinating to me just how differently we all perceive leather. I’d love to see a survey of perfumistas and our experiences with this note.

        I’m glad you liked the Monopoly reference. 🙂

        1. You should do one (a survey)! Personally I like my leathers smoky but not too greasy or animalic. My favorite leather is Cuir de Lancome. Cuir Ottoman is going on my mental to-try list.

  7. ROTFL! You know, I skimmed this post something like twenty times while I was adding images, and missed the whole “Morlock up a pole thing” until I sat down just now for the Real Read. Even better, I sent you a decant of Chanel no. 19, because I love it so much, I just had to share 😉

    Leather is a funny thing for me too— like you, I love the smell of real leather. A tack shop, or even a tack room, is one of my favorite smells on earth. The smell wafting up off of a saddle as I polish it, or even just the smell of a new pair of boots: all moments I stop doing what I’m doing to deeply inhale and let the texture of the aroma soak in.

    Yet leather perfumes have been hit or miss: Cuir de Russe? Gag-O-Rific. I Don’t Think It’s Supposed To Smell That Way. Bottega Veneta, Kelly Caleche, no. 19, love, love, love— but those barely make it into the leather category. I guess I need to think about exactly what it is that bothers me about leathers— maybe the heavy handedness? Or maybe I’m just a Morlock too…


    1. I burst out laughing when I read your comment, Dee, and everyone came over, “What’s so funny?” Wild Things have day off school, Bones and The Engineer have day off work, so we’re just kicking back.

      And no worries about the No. 19 decant, as I’ll just add it to the library as a reference for friends (had a mother and daughter come over Tuesday night for a sniffery – daughter’s moving to Vancouver and invited me out to have a sniffing weekend).

      So what leathers have you tried? Because now I’m curious to know if CO works on you too.

      Oh, and should we add a IDTISTSTW tag? 😉 (Or maybe a Morlock tag? I love that Eric Bana is listed :))

      1. IDTISTSTW© tag added! LOL.

        For leathers, I’ve tried the Heely, the Lancome (which almost works), Chanel… Hmm, I’ll have to think about the others. These stand out for there Not Working status!

        Tabac Aurea I’ve never thought of as a leather— is there supposed to be some in there? And, btw, how awful that it goes sour in you! It’s such a love for me…

        1. I just noticed you also added the copyright symbol at the end of IDTISTSTW – that’s hilarious!

          Tabac Aurea does have leather in it, although I wouldn’t classify it as a leather frag at all. But just like No.19, it can steer things right off a cliff for me. I’m be interested to see if Tabac Aurea would work on me if I requested a custom leather-less version from Laurie.

    2. Oh man! There is a big decant of Cuir de Russie – the Chanel – on its way to you! I hope you can use it as a swap! It’s hardly used.

      I could hardly smell it. (Nothing to do with my current anosmia, I bought it about three months ago.) I can tell that something is there, but can’t perceive it, like squinting through the wrong end of a telescope.

      1. LOL! I’m going to have to develop an appreciation for it, apparently, because I’m going to have quite a lot (my 5mL decant has been sprayed just the once!!). I really will give some more wearing, if only to discover what exactly it is that So Doesn’t Work for me. 😉

  8. Interesting, interesting…

    I like my leather singing backup anyway. Somewhere up there in comments I told you how I felt about Cuir de Russie (gah), and I am skeered of Bandit. No. 19 is only a leetle bit leathery – and if it doesn’t work, it Just Doesn’t Work. (I finally gave up on Mitsouko.) Tabac Aurea, for me, is the whole Autumn sunshine-Snickerdoodle cookies-Boyfriend’s leather jacket-Boyfriend’s warm skin with hint of his parents’ cigarette smoke Experience.

    How did you get on with Cuir de Lancome? It’s such a gentle leather.

    1. I will get back to you on the Cuir de Lancome in a couple of weeks, or however long it takes for March’s sample order to arrive.

  9. I just got my sample of Cuir Ottoman yesterday and haven’t tried it yet but it’ll probably work for me since I had absolutely no problems with most perfumes you’ve mentioned. No 19 has leather? Where?!! (looking around) Cuir de Russie – love. Lonestar Memories, Tabac Aurea, Cuir de Lancome, Bvlgari Black – strong likes. Kelly Caleche and Cuir Beluga – don’t get leather there.

    On the perfume unrelated note: in IE those footnotes remind legal fine print: they are there but almost completely illegible (they look better in Firefox).

    1. I’ll be interested to know what you think of CO, Undina.

      In terms of No. 19 having leather, for me it was more of a process of deduction: Heure Exquise smells lovely on me, yet for some reason the far drydown of No. 19 does not. When I checked the notes online to figure out what was happening, leather popped up as something in No. 19, but not HE. Now it’s possible that it’s not leather that’s causing the problem, but it seems likely.

      Thanks for the heads-up about the footnotes. What I’d like to do is put them in a slightly smaller script, but I’m still new to HTML and haven’t figured that out yet.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I think Parfum d’Empire has one of the best sample programs around. And as an added bonus to Cuir Ottoman, there’s also Wazamba, Ambre Russe, Azemour les Orangers, Equistrius, Osmanthus Interdite….. This has been a very good line for me.

  10. Oh, I wanted to love this. Leathers aren’t my thing.. but I have heard such good things about this. I received my sample last week. I liked it, but it smelled oh so familiar. Again, I liked it. Then my memory came back to me… It smelled like my aunt back in the 1970s. I like it, but just don’t love it. Leather yes, but have to admit it is unique.

      1. Have to admit that I am a Parfum d’Empire virgin (a word that can’t be used often at my age). Any suggestions for testing? Or should I just throw caution to the wind and order the 13 set sample collection?

        1. The price for the sample set just went up, it’s now about $29 for the 13 samples, shipping included (compared to @ $13 for 3 of your choice.)
          I’ve tested 11 of the 13 samples now and still need to give Iskander and Fougère Bengale a try, and I’ve been very impressed with this line.

          I suppose it depends on what you like. You mentioned on your blog that you’re loving the orientals right now, so definitely give Ambre Sultan and Aziyadé a whirl, and I think Fougère Bengale fits there as well. If you also like incense, Wazamba is very nicely done, and if you’re also a fan of citrus, yeah, just get the whole sample set. PdE has three that I’d consider to be very femme, but the rest are definitely unisex.

          I’m a Serge Lutens virgin myself (ooh, now I feel all girly and young;)).


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