Perfume Giveaway Winners: Parfums Rétro Grand Cuir

I have the list of winners for Parfums Rétro’s Grand Cuir. Congratulations. [NOTE on 1/08/14 — There is an update with information on shipping below in the shipping section.]

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS & INCLUSION:

The giveaway was restricted to 50 people living in the U.S. (or with a U.S. address), and 10 people in the EEC. The only requirements to enter the drawing were: (1) to tell me your favorite leather scent; and (2) to give me your location so that I could put you on the appropriate list. A few people failed to do that last bit, or to respond to my follow-up question about their location. As a result, they were disqualified.

THE U.S. WINNERS:

Late yesterday, Jeffrey Dame of Parfums Rétro informed me that everyone who was on the U.S. list would win one of the 3 ml sprays of Grand Cuir! My full list is:

  1. Holly
  2. Hajusuuri
  3. MeganLisa
  4. Magmat412
  5. Jill
  6. DkChocoman
  7. FeralJasmine
  8. Walter Proetzel
  9. Mdrigotas
  10. Ellen
  11. Slpippin
  12. Patrick
  13. Walt
  14. Chris P
  15. Tanya
  16. John A. Gasbarre
  17. WeFadetoGrey
  18. Paul
  19. Kathleen Bryson
  20. Leathermountain
  21. Davis Brandao
  22. Tora
  23. Tomate Farcie
  24. Carole Macleod
  25. Steve Raul
  26. Ncmeyers
  27. James1051
  28. Ringthing
  29. Sorceress of the Dark
  30. Michele
  31. Tami H
  32. Lisa B.
  33. RockinRuby
  34. BuysBlind
  35. Ashley S.
  36. RVB
  37. Teresa Chapman
  38. Sandy Vasalos
  39. MonoAtomic
  40. Carolyn (T_of_A_H)
  41. Mimi
  42. Michael Reid Hunter
  43. Kathy Bible
  44. Irina
  45. Joseph S
  46. Madelyn54
  47. T. Gillis
  48. Dubaiscents
  49. Ella
  50. Sara
  51. Julie F.
  52. Cyn Nagele
  53. Cohibadad
  54. NancySG
  55. Celena
  56. Lizzy
  57. Stacey W.
  58. Edward Gomez
  59. M. Trombley
  60. Elizabeth Watson
  61. Hunter
  62. Lucille Shissler
  63. Cath
  64. Judith
  65. ESwift68
  66. Vlad
  67. LRyan
  68. Gabriel
  69. Colin
  70. Escritoria
  71. The Smelly Vagabond
  72. Fazal Cheema
  73. Olfacta
  74. Trocjoh
  75. Judy Ware
  76. Civet
  77. Holly F.
  78. Mary Beth
  79. Pudgy Fudgy
  80. Devon Hernandez
  81. Azar
  82. Arhianrad (Juvy)
  83. Frank
  84. Matt M.

Those who were not included are:

  1. Anne1iese
  2. Becky
  3. Nancy C.
  4. Cheryl
  5. Audrey
  6. xtopher
  7. Gwenyth

Those of you on that second list who are in the U.S. can contact Mr. Dame to have him send you the Grand Cuir. He is an extremely nice chap — far nicer than I am, in fact — and wants people to have the opportunity to try his perfume. However, if you are in the EEC, your names were not included in the drawing for the few perfumes available, and there is no other recourse. Sorry.

THE EEC WINNERS:

There were 27 entries for the 10 prizes available to those living in the EEC. I submitted the names to Random.org, and this is the result:

Grand Cuir EEC Winners

Congratulations to C, Dgambas, Maria A., Bruno, Esperanza, Alexandr, Ines, Martin, Alison, and Veni H!

WINNERS & EMAILS:

You have THREE (3) days to contact Jeffrey Dame at Parfums Retro with your shipping information. Please do not contact me, but send an email directly to: jeffreydame@parfumsretro.com.

Your email should include your screen name with which you posted on Kafkaesque, and your mailing address. Deadline is end of the day, Central Standard Time (CST)  or GMT-7 in the U.S., on Sunday, December 29th. If you are one of the EEC winners and you fail to contact Parfums Retro with your shipping information in the proper time frame, your prize will be given to the next person on the list. The contacting deadline is firm. No exceptions.

SHIPPING:

Parfums Rétro will send the prizes directly to the winners, and pay for all shipping costs. For those in the EEC, it may take a while for you to receive your prize, depending on your customs and postal issues. Neither Parfums Rétro nor I am responsible for items that are destroyed by customs or lost in transit for some reason.

[UPDATE 1/08/14 — Jeffrey Dame has provided an update in the comments below. He’s written:

“A hello to all the Grand Cuir winners. Your prizes are now ready to sent out to you, but I have decided to add an extra treat in addition to Grand Cuir: new scents I am working on which are not yet released. These additional scents will be available at the end of this week and the prize packages will mail out on Monday January 13th. You will receive Grand Cuir plus a second scent of either the new man or new woman scents. There is nothing I love more than fragrances I have created out there on skin. Enjoy!” ]

FINALLY:

I’d like to express my enormous gratitude to Jeffrey Dame of Parfums Rétro for his generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness in offering such a massive giveaway. I hope you will let either or both of us know what you think of Grand Cuir when you have the chance to try it.  

Knize: Knize Ten & Knize Ten Golden Edition

Every perfume genre has its pioneering, benchmark classic, a fragrance by which all others who follow it are judged. The leather category might be the only one which has two leaders: Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie which came out in 1924, and the Austrian fragrance which followed it a year later from Knize called Knize Ten. One was inspired by the Russian treatment of leather and Coco Chanel’s affair with a Romanov prince; the other by the sport of polo as an emblem of aristocratic refinement. Both fragrances are centered around the use of birch tar leather, but they are very different.

James Dean via listal.com

James Dean via listal.com

Knize Ten is one of those legendary fragrances that leather lovers often hold up as the very best leather around. (Naturally, Cuir de Russie lovers don’t agree.) I decided to give Knize a whirl after hearing something about the company’s history which encompassed famous architects, figures who worked with Klimt (one of my favorite painters), and clothing clients who ranged from Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich, to King Juan Carlos of Spain. Knize Ten, in specific, was allegedly the scent of choice for both James Dean and David Niven.

I quickly discovered that there were two Knize Tens: Knize Ten original, and its special, 75th Anniversary version called Knize Ten Golden Edition. There seems to be endless debate as to the differences between the two, not to mention opinions about which version is better, so I’ve given each fragrance a few tests, as well as done a side-by-side comparison. I’ll take each in turn, after a brief foray into the history.

KNIZE & KNIZE TEN:

Source: themonsieur.com

Source: themonsieur.com

Knize is a very old, prestigious, Austrian men’s tailoring house, dating back to 19th century. Luckyscent’s history is inaccurate, referencing a start date of the 1920s, but First in Fragrance details the company’s precise origins:

Knize was founded in Vienna in 1858. […] In 1888 Kniže received the coveted title of royal tailor to the Austro-Hungarian Court. By the turn of the century many personalities, heads of state, artists and industrialists belonged to the select group of Knize’s customers.

[In 1909, the respected] architect Adolf Loos, who was known in Vienna for his pioneering [work…] designed a new shop facade in black marble and glass and designed new interiors. [The boutique became famous for its look and interiors, considered one of Loos’ best creations. Then, in 1921], Ernst Dryden was appointed to the Knize Company as designer. Dryden had studied with Gustav Klimt at art school and worked as a poster artist, designer and illustrator. Today Dryden is known as the star-designer of the 1920s who gave the Knize Company its avant-garde fashion image and its international reputation. […]

Knize Ten” – the first men’s fragrance collection in the world was launched on the international market. “Ten” is known as the highest player-rated handicap in polo. For Dryden.., polo, the sport of the English nobility, was the ultimate symbol of elegance. Dryden also designed the packaging for the Knize Ten fragrance line, which still exists today in the same timeless design.

Some of Knize’s most famous clients included Oskar Kokoschka (who paid for his suits with paintings), Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Tucholsky, Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Billy Wilder and King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Knize Ten, original.

Knize Ten, original.

In 1925, the company released Knize Ten, an eau de toilette created by François Coty and Vincent Roubert. The company amusingly called it “Toilet Water,” a description which remains to the present day on both the bottle and its box. According to Luckyscent, one famous author, Hans Habe, reportedly said, “if he were cast away on a desert island, he would take Knize with him, since, for a man using a toilet water, it was really not so much a matter of undermining the morale of a beautiful woman than boosting one’s own.”

According to Luckyscent, the notes in Knize Ten include:

Lemon, bergamot, orange, petitgrain, rosemary, geranium, rose, cedar, orris, carnation, cinnamon, orange blossom, sandalwood, leather, musk, moss, patchouli, ambergris, castoreum and vanilla.

Birch Tar pitch via Wikicommons.

Birch Tar pitch via Wikicommons.

Knize Ten opens on my skin with a burst of crisp, zesty, cool lemons, bergamot, and the bitter wood, twiggy note of petitgrain. The citrus cocktail is infused with smoky, dry cedar, a touch of rosemary, copious amounts of oakmoss, and leather. For an instant, the leather note smells like new shoes, but it soon takes on the tarry, phenolic aroma of smoky birch tar. It’s raw, rubbery, a tinge industrial, and quite smoky. The birch tar smells sharp and dark, but also woody with a hint of chilled, piney elements evocative of a dark, wintery forest. A forest infused with lots of latex rubber and some Michelin tires.

Source: hdwpapers.com

Source: hdwpapers.com

The forest impression really stems from the overall effect of all the green elements floating around. Most significant is the oakmoss which feels like lichen growing on tree bark, thanks to its dryness and the pungently mineralized, slightly fusty undertones. There is also a touch of geranium with its equally pungent, slightly bitter aroma of peppered leaves. Lurking underneath are the tiniest flickers of rose, powdered iris, and patchouli with a berry-like nuance. The smallest suggestions of vanilla-infused powder, animalic castoreum, and warm sweetness stir deep in the base. They’re all rather muted and insignificant, however. As a whole, Knize Ten’s main bouquet at first is of crisp, chilled, zesty citruses infused with fusty, mineralized, grey oakmoss absolute, trailed by black, tarry, rubbery leather in third place.

Tree moss. Photo: my own.

Tree moss. Photo: my own.

Ten minutes in, Knize Ten starts to shift. The lemon recedes from the lead to make way for the leather to take the main stage besides the oakmoss. There is suddenly a subtle florality to the scent, as a sharp, fiery carnation comes to stand in the wings. Standing by its side is powder, along with a clean white musk that, I must say, feels rather synthetic and gives me a faint twinge in my head. In the background, the rose pops up now and then, along with the geranium, patchouli, and vanilla. The petit grain and cedar add a faint suggestion of woodiness, but they’re muted and stay at the edges.

Source: minrenfang.com

Source: minrenfang.com

To my surprise, the birch tar begins to feel almost tamed by the other elements. Fifteen minutes in, Knize Ten softens and increasingly takes on the aroma of “new shoe” leather, infused with and almost powdery oakmoss and a hint of citruses. The birch tar’s phenolic, rubbery, smoky tonalities remain, but they feel overshadowed by the more sanitized, refined, leather.

Source: ehow.com

Source: ehow.com

At times, the clean, powdered, fresh elements create a rather industrialized impression, almost akin to “new carpet” aroma in an office. It’s an odd mix at times. On one level, it feels like an elegant, refined, and a seamless blend of expensive, “new,” unbroken leather shoes with a touch of suede. On the other hand, there is a discordant mix of clean musk and sweet powder that vie with dark, tarry, smoky, rubber latex like Michelin tires or some sort of rubber toy. I suppose the real problem is that I’m not a fan of either powderiness or the increasingly dominant white musk, a synthetic to which I’m quite sensitive.

Source: Amazon.

Source: Amazon.

Knize Ten really is very simple, uncomplicated, and largely linear scent on my skin. About 75 minutes in, the fragrance hovers a mere inch, at best, above the skin and is primarily a soft, powdered, clean, grey suede with synthetic white musk, oakmoss, and “new shoe” leather. There remain touches of the birch tar, but the perfume is really mostly just iris-y suede on my skin. I have to admit, I’m extremely surprised by how powdered and soft the fragrance is, not to mention the fact that it turned to suede so quickly.

The powdered element takes on an increasingly vanillic sweetness that slowly begins to take over during the next few hours. The muted floral elements weave in and out like ghosts, and are generally quite insignificant if a lesser amount of Knize Ten is sprayed, but more noticeable if a greater quantity is used. For the most part, the rose is the main flower, but there is a floral iris folded within the sweetened suede that is Knize Ten’s dominant note.

Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

By the start of the 5th hour, Knize Ten is a soft, vanilla suede with a strong hint of oakmoss and a lesser touch of clean, white musk. The birch tar hovers in the background, but it’s very muffled. As time passes, the sweet, vanilla powder increasingly becomes the sole focus of Knize Ten, with all the other elements retreating to the sidelines. The clean musk is the first to leave, then the oakmoss.

About 8 hours into Knize Ten’s development, the perfume is a soft, fuzzy, sweetened vanillic suede with the occasional, fleeting whisper of smoky birch tar and a hint of floral iris. Eventually, even the suede fades away, leaving an almost baby powder gentleness infused with vanilla. The scented, sweetened powder is comforting and soothing in a way, but also disappointingly simplistic. It is most definitely not me, and yet, there is something genuinely appealing about both Knize Ten’s middle suede stage and its soft finish.

What completely took me aback, however, was the fragrance’s longevity. Knize Ten lasted just a hair over 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, which is utterly fantastic for an eau de toilette. As for sillage, Knize Ten has a very strong start that softens less than 20 minutes into the perfume’s development. It turned into a skin scent about 90 minutes in, which isn’t a huge surprise for an eau de toilette. The longevity, though, is very impressive. I’d like to see a Jean-Claude Ellena eau de toilette last half as long, but I won’t hold my breath. I’d end up asphyxiating myself. 

I’ve tested Knize Ten several times, and the general outlines of its development don’t vary. One thing I did notice is that quantity makes a difference. When I applied more of the scent, I detected more floral notes and less synthetic white musk. The castoreum in the base was also evident, though it was muted, and it added a minuscule whisper of velvety, animalic “skank” that was not apparent with a small quantity. In addition, there was a subtle spiciness, and a distinct cinnamon element in the middle phase that was quite nice. In contrast, when I applied only a little of the perfume, the floral element was largely nonexistent! It also took far less time for the birch tar aspect to weaken, and then to retreat to its muted position on the sidelines; the powder was more dominant more quickly; and the whole thing turned to “new shoes,” followed by suede, in only an hour. Regardless of dosage, however, Knize Ten always ended up primarily as suede with vanillic powder on my skin; it simply took an hour or two more to get to that core essence if you applied on a lot.

I have to admit, I’m a bit bewildered by how Knize Ten manifested itself on my skin, given all the reports of the “ultimate” leather, combined with criticism about petroleum elements and “public washrooms.” Yes, those who don’t like Knize Ten definitely have some sharp words for it, and I think it all comes down to the birch tar. You simply have to like the note — in all its possible manifestations. On some people, it can take on a rubbery, latex-like aroma, on others a tonality that their nose translates as “dark petroleum” or “public restroom.”

Fragrantica commentators are firmly split into two camps: fans and haters. Some examples of how Knize Ten smells to different people, including a number of women:

  • Hmmm, all I’m getting from this is a very nice vanilla leather, with some nice flowers. I was looking forward to testing, what with the long history of this fragrance, but I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just a bit, well, vanilla.
  • Yes, yes, yes! Here is a real, 1920’s smoky leather. Knize Ten smells properly leathery and smoky, rounded out by an ambery, floral heart that reminds me somewhat of L’Heure Bleue. Knize Ten is nostalgic in the best sense of the word.  [From a woman.]
  • there’s some institutional cleaner notes in here which suggest a public washroom. There is a mildly skanky note to this stuff that’s throwing the whole fragrance off for me. 
  • It’s the strongest, skankiest leather I’ve ever smelled, and while it doesn’t smell animalic by any means, it does have that “porta potty” smell I get from other leathers like Royal English Leather. Meaning, it doesn’t smell like urine or feces, it smells like the pink aroma of the restroom itself.
  • The offensive opening reminds me of being in a car garage smelling petrol, tar and rubber and then suddenly the garage changes into a shop where they sell lots of leather shoes! Really amazing…. After that it changes again in a very very distinguished, sophisticated, not offensive and manly scent with perfect sillage and longevity. [¶] The dry down is a perfect original smell of (mainly) leather, amber, a touch of vanilla which makes you feel like a real man. Genuine leather!!
  • Knize Ten lives up to all of its hype, and then some. It has become my favorite leather fragrance. [¶] Knize Ten smells like the interior of a brand new luxury car with leather upoholstery. We’re not talking about black leather, like in Fonzie’s leather jacket. This is a soft, tan-colored leather smell that is also spicy, no doubt acheived by the presence of cinnamon. The addition of iris to the leather gives Knize Ten a hazy, dusky smell, adding to its allure and giving the scent great depth. It has a wonderful oily glow to it that the best leathers have, without smelling like gasoline.
Source: twincitycarpetcleaning.com

Source: twincitycarpetcleaning.com

My experiences aren’t the same as the majority of those on Fragrantica, but you can see the wide range in opinions and some overlap. I definitely agree that the powder and synthetic white musk combine with the suede tonalities to create an “institutional cleaner”accord. I thought it smelled like new carpet in an office, while others think it smells like “the pink aroma of a restroom.” Either way, there are a few notes in Knize Ten that I think take some getting used to if you’re unaccustomed to this sort of leather. However, I also believe that once you get over the hump of the first hour, Knize Ten becomes much easier. The iris-y suede and “new shoe” leather is refined, and the drydown’s vanilla powder quite comforting in an, unexpected odd way.

All in all, I wasn’t blown away by Knize Ten. What showed up on my skin was well-done, and had refined elements, but it wasn’t all that exciting, complex or interesting to me. It was just simply…. fine. Nice, even enjoyable at times, but I’m struggling to be more enthusiastic. I don’t think it’s merely a case of expectations or hype. It’s a question of the perfume’s simplicity, my personal tastes, and my skin chemistry. I missed the iris-appreciation gene, don’t like powder, can’t abide synthetic white musk, and generally can’t understand what’s so fascinating about suede. So, a largely simple, lifeless suede with lots of vanilla powder and some vaguely floral touches… eh. It’s nice. At the same time, I can’t help but shrug, or ponder a nap….

KNIZE TEN GOLDEN EDITION:

Knize Ten Gold Edition via Fragrantica.

Knize Ten Gold Edition via Fragrantica.

In 2000, on the 75th Anniversary of the original Knize Ten, the company launched Knize Ten Gold Edition which some people shorten to “Gold” or “Gold Edition” for simplicity. I’ll just call it “Knize Gold.” According to Luckyscent, the new version has the same notes as the original, but there are small differences:

The dry woody character of the historic fragrance is softened by more decisive floral notes, balanced out by spices and citrus to give it warmth and body, fruit of a truly special year.

First in Fragrance says that “Knize Ten Golden Edition is a softer version of Knize Ten, the formula was refined as some customers, found the original Knize Ten a little too tart.” I find definite differences between the starting points of the two scents, but they end up in the same place at the end.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Knize Gold opens on my skin with a strong bouquet of florals, just a whisper of oakmoss, and hardly any citrus tonalities. Instead, the dominant note in the first few minutes is the carnation which feels very spicy, followed by a pale pink rose, and a powdery, rooty iris. The flowers are all infused with birch tar leather, then flecked with pungent, peppered geranium leaves, and dry, smoky woods. As usual, the birch tar is strongly tarry, smoky, and with black rubber latex tonalities. Yet, the phenolic, black tar is countered by the floral notes, the touch of pepperiness, and a spicy bite.

A young cedar tree trunk.

A young cedar tree trunk.

In the background, the petit grain adds a bitter woodiness to Knize Gold, while the strong cedar element calls to mind a dry, dusty antique chest of drawers. There is a definite dusty quality to Knize Gold’s opening minutes. Part of it stems from the dry, wood tonalities, while the rest comes from the powder and the fusty oakmoss. The latter is surprisingly mild and weak in Knize Gold, especially as compared to Knize Ten where it dominated much of the opening salvo. On a positive note, the synthetic element in the base (from the white musk) is equally muted.

As a whole, Knize Gold feels much less crisp and cool than its forbearer. The citric notes are strongly reduced, covered by a strong floral aroma that initially dominates even the leather. The overall, opening bouquet is of: spicy, peppered carnation; softer, sweeter florals; tarry, smoky, raw, birch leather; dust; powder; dry cedar; a bitter pungency; and some minor oakmoss.

Source: abm-enterprises.net

Source: abm-enterprises.net

Knize Gold begins to transform 15 minutes into its development. Muted hints of sweetness start to slowly rise to the top, turning the fragrance softer and warmer. There are touches of dry, muted patchouli, along with cinnamon, and vanilla. Further down in the base, the castoreum begins to stir, adding the merest suggestion of a velvety, slightly musky, animalic skank. Ten minutes later, the first hint of orange blossom appears, though it doesn’t stay long and seems to vanish within minutes.

By the 30 minute mark, the cinnamon and vanilla become increasingly significant. They join the main players on the stage, countering the dry, dusty, woody elements and adding some softness. Down below, in the base, there is an unexpected creamy, woody smoothness, though it never smells like true sandalwood to me. There is also the very first hint of something ambered. The overall combination has the effect of transforming Knize Gold into a fragrance that feels smoother, warmer, less raw, and less fusty.

As the basenotes slowly tame the top elements, Knize Gold becomes much more sweet. It’s just the right amount, though, and balances out the fusty oakmoss, the dusty cedar, and the rubbery leather. It makes the main notes less sharp and aggressive, yet it doesn’t dilute them at all. At the same time, the florals start to soften and turn increasingly abstract. The carnation in particular recedes from the lead, and they all make way for the birch tar to take center stage.

Black, patent leather. Source: ferragamo.com

Black, patent leather. Source: ferragamo.com

Forty minutes in, Knize Gold becomes increasingly dominated by the leather. It is simultaneously the tarry, smoky, rubbery kind, and the leather of new, expensive shoes. In contrast, the original Knize Ten, at the same point in time, was primarily a “new shoe” aroma with some suede. Knize Gold has much greater rubbery tar and intensity. The sillage drops, the notes begin to overlap each other, and the fragrance turns into a smooth, seamless blend of lightly tarred leather, florals, dry cedar, oakmoss and vanilla powder, all resting upon a warm, ambered base flecked by cinnamon and castoreum.

About 90 minutes in, the perfume reflects the different variations on leather: “new shoes” infused with a light touch of something tarry, and accompanied by grey suede. The main notes are flecked by rose, iris, powdered vanilla, cinnamon, and oakmoss on an ambered base. As a whole, Knize Gold has much more leather, florals, dry woods, amber and warmth on my skin, significantly less oakmoss and powder, and hardly any citrus at all.

Source: funky44.com

Source: funky44.com

Yet, despite the differences in the opening, or the varying prominence of certain notes along the way, Knize Gold ends up in the same place as Knize Ten. At the start of the third hour, Knize Gold is a skin scent that is predominantly suede with vanillic powder, and just a touch of birch tar leather. The floral accords flit in and out of the top, while the ambered warmth of the base occasionally gives off whiffs of animalic, musky castoreum. The supporting notes eventually fade away by the end of the 6th hour, leaving nothing but the grey suede and vanilla powder. In the end, even the suede departs, and Knize Gold is just a blur of sweet powderiness.

KNIZE TEN vs. KNIZE GOLD:

I’ve outlined some of the differences in notes between the two scents, but I want to emphasize that they are largely subtle after the first hour. The most noticeable contrast is in the opening ten minutes, and in the two perfume’s overall feel at that point. Crisp, powdered, citrus-mossy coolness for Knize Ten; warm, floral, spicy, dusty woodiness for Knize Gold. Later on, the leather feels more profound and stronger to me in Knize Gold. In Knize Ten, the clean, industrial feel is more noticeable. Another difference is in the two perfumes’ relative longevity. For some reason, Knize Ten lasted longer on me and seemed sharper, undoubtedly because of the clean, synthetic white musk in the base which always sticks to me like glue. Knize Gold was softer, and the longevity clocked in only at 10.75 hours, instead of 12.

There are a few Basenotes threads contrasting the two fragrances. In one of the longer ones, there seems to be little consensus on which one has a more prominent leather note, or which fragrance is the overall favorite. Some think the birch tar is excessive in Knize Ten, and prefer the amount in Knize Gold. Others disagree, and think the leather is more profound in the Gold. A few think the original is more powdery, and opinions are evenly split as to which fragrance is better, or if they may have a feminine quality.

In contrast, on Fragrantica, most people seem to prefer the original Knize Ten. There aren’t a ton of entries, but what is interesting if you read them up close is that no-one seems to agree on the character of Knize Ten. One calls the Gold version more simple and stripped down. Yet, his words also indicate that he finds the Gold version to be more leathered, while he thinks the original is floral, something which he seems to prefer:

The golden edition seems like a simplied and stripped back version of the original. The burnt rubber smell is pronounced but the lingering floral seems to have dialled right back into the background. Those that find the original too floral should check this out. Otherwise, stick with the original. I find the original much more complex and better balanced.

Another commentator thinks the exact opposite when it comes to which scent has more leather. For “alfarom,” it is the original Knize Ten, not the Gold. He thinks the Gold is a “‘smoother’, polished” and “civilized version of the original” which is slightly richer in amber, but “toned down” with regard to the leather. As a result, he found the original Knize Ten to be more compelling.

One woman compared the two, found Knize Ten to be a better scent on men, but preferred Knize Gold for herself, putting in the same class as Habanita and L’Heure Bleue:

I also have to agree that the gold edition is a silver medalist compared to the original. That being said, this is one of the best perfumes I have ever smelled. I am a woman and would very happily wear it for formal occassions, in lieu of Shalimar, Habanita, L’Heure Bleue and all the other typical feminine leathers. I wouldn’t wear it to seduce men though, I would wear it as a tribute to the man who has seduced me… To my nose Knize is warmer, richer, more luxurious, more complex, exquisite! I cannot imagine why all men do not wear it, it is the absolute men’s perfume, if Rick in Casablanca was wearing a perfume it would be Knize Ten. Love!

I can see why some women would find Knize Gold to be like Habanita or L’Heure Bleue: it’s the mix of florals, sweetened, vanillic powder, and leather. For me, however, the fragrance that came to mind when I tested both versions of Knize was Etat Libre d’Orange‘s Rien (which, granted, has a definite Habanita stage). Rien was not my cup of tea; I can handle bondage leather, but not when mixed with painfully abrasive synthetics, industrial elements, and baby powder. My skin simply amplifies those notes to a crazy degree. It’s why I wasn’t a fan of Habanita, either, which I tried for the umpteenth time the other day in hopes of bullying myself into changing my feelings. It not only gave a sharp headache to someone in the room, but I had to scrub it off for my own sake.

As a result, I prefer both Knize fragrances to some of its relatives in the leather group. I think the Knize scents are a much smoother, more refined handling on somewhat similar, overlapping elements. As between the two, I think I like the Gold Edition more, if only because it was much more complex and nuanced on my skin. Like a number of the Basenoters, I experienced substantially more leather and florals. Plus, there was less of the horrid clean, white musk which I cannot stand. Yet, both Knize fragrances are well-done, and I urge those who love birch tar leather, powdered florals, and iris-y suede to check them both out. You may love them, though I recommend the Gold version more for women.

On a personal level, however, I still find it hard to get excited by either fragrance. If I were to opt for a powdered leather, I would need more warmth, spices, incense, and ambered resins to go with it. In a world where there is Serge Lutens‘ fantastic, powdered Cuir Mauresque, I cannot imagine being interested in Knize’s dull, sterile, lifeless suede. Is there a place for both of them in a perfume collection? Absolutely, especially as they are very different. But one fragrance often makes me contemplate a nap, and it’s not the Lutens….

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Both versions of Knize Ten are eau de toilette in concentration that generally come in 2 sizes: 50 ml/1.7 oz and 125 ml/4.2 oz. Knize Ten costs $70 for the 50 ml, and $115 for the 125 ml bottle, with a European price of €48 and €82. The two sizes of Knize Ten Golden Edition cost $80 and $125, respectively, or €51 and €86. Knize has a website, but no online e-store from which you can buy the fragrances. In the U.S.: Luckyscent carries Knize Ten and Knize Gold in both sizes, though they are sold out of the Gold Edition in the 125 ml bottle. However, Perfume Gold sells both perfumes at the same price as Luckyscent, isn’t out of stock of the Gold, and also offers samples. Outside the U.S.: Knize fragrances are known to be hard to find, and I didn’t locate a ton of international vendors, especially for the Gold Edition. In the UK, I found Knize Ten at Manufactum which also offers a 15 ml bottle for ₤12,50. It doesn’t have the 50 ml bottle, but sells the 125 ml one for ₤83. There is also a huge 225 ml option. The site has some Knize Ten body products, but doesn’t sell the Golden Edition. London’s Les Senteurs also carries Knize Ten, sells the 50 ml bottle for ₤60, along with a sample, but it too doesn’t have the Golden Edition. However, Germany’s First in Fragrance has it, along with all the Knize toiletries, which include bath and shaving items. There, Knize Ten costs €48 and €82, while the Golden Edition is priced at €51 and €86, depending on size. Samples are available for both. Knize Ten is sold at some Russian retailers, but I couldn’t find any Middle Eastern sites, and the company’s website doesn’t have a list of vendors. Samples: Surrender to Chance has Knize Ten starting at $5 for a 1 ml vial, while the Gold Edition starts at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. A number of the retailers listed above also offer samples for sale.

Perfume Giveaway: Parfums Rétro Grand Cuir

Parfums Rétro has generously offered to give away 60 prizes, each of which will be a 3 ml sample of Grand Cuir, a fragrance that I thought was one of the best new releases of 2013. I’m very excited, because I really think Grand Cuir is a scent that deserves more exposure and attention. The other day, I was making some samples of Grand Cuir from my small decant for a few friends, and I couldn’t stop sniffing the air as the perfume swirled around me. I contacted Jeffrey Dame at Parfums Rétro on the complete off-chance that he may be up for a giveaway, thinking perhaps one or two posters may get the opportunity to try Grand Cuir for themselves. I was utterly stunned by the generosity of the response.

THE PRIZES:

There are essentially two different giveaways.

  1. The first and main one is for U.S. posters (or those who have the address of a cousin or friend in the U.S. who can send the perfume on to them): 50 people will each get ONE (1) spray atomizer of Grand Cuir in a 3 ml size.
  2. However, TEN (10) vials will be available for those in the EEC.
Ewan McGregor for Belstaff. Source: Twitter.

Ewan McGregor for Belstaff. Source: Twitter.

I put Grand Cuir on my list of Best New Releases of 2013. As I wrote in part of my review, contradictions and paradoxes lie at the heart of Grand Cuir, which explores leather from one end of the spectrum to the other under the most civilized and sophisticated of veneers. It starts as raw leather coated with birch tar and pungent herbs before turning into the expensive, new black leather of a biker’s jacket, then burnished, softly aged leather with amber, before ending up as the most refined of creamy Italian suedes infused with amber, lavender, and skin-like musk. It’s a journey that is at once animalic and aldehydic, soapy clean, beginning as a masculine scent that is an aromatic, herbal fougère with leather, before it transforms into something very different. And the whole thing is done sotto voce, with the quiet firmness of a confident man who doesn’t believe he has to be flashy and loud to draw attention to himself. Very well done, and very refined.

Anita Ekberg, Paris. Source: Lanier at Scents Memory.

Anita Ekberg, Paris. Source: Lanier at Scents Memory.

Despite the herbal, piney, birch leather opening of Grand Cuir, I do think it’s a scent that some women will enjoy. The storyteller perfume blogger, Lanier of Scents Memory, definitely thinks that Grand Cuir can be worn by women. In a review focused on Anita Ekberg and Paris, and entitled Mademoiselle Valentine, he writes, in part:

Grand Cuir by Parfums Rétro is a dramatically stunning perfume that recalls the lost last age of elegance. It is very classically French in its olfactory signature. Grand Cuir is purely rich and evocative of Pairs. It recalls an age of beautiful women who dress in chic elegant style at every hour of the day, who, for every occasion, had a perfume to match each mood, atmosphere and destination. Be that a shopping excursion, a romantic interlude or an evening alone at home reading “Bonjour Tristesse”. Yes it recalls all these things about women but when a man wears Grand Cuir it takes on the memories of women whom he has loved.  The perfume’s tag line reads “A leather with soul.”  This is true, it has soul, but it is not the soul of cool like in the late 60’s. It has the soul of chic from the earlier and too brief period between 1960 and 1964. It is complex, interesting, a bit demanding of your attention and utterly devastating.

George Clooney. Photographer: Sam Jones for TIME magazine.

George Clooney. Photographer: Sam Jones for TIME magazine.

For me, Grand Cuir was much more indubitably masculine, evoking a mix of Steve McQueen, George Clooney, and Ewan McGregor. I completely agree, however, that it is chic, refined, and elegant.

What I discovered the other night was that Grand Cuir somehow stays in your head, despite its notes swirling around in an air filled with other perfumes. Something about Grand Cuir’s clary sage, birch tar leather, labdanum amber, and clean aldehydic refinement stood out, making me sniff the air again and again, as well as the part of my wrist where I had wiped my pipette. I don’t even like aldehydes or soapy elements, but the contradictions and paradoxes make Grand Cuir incredibly interesting to me, drawing me in for more, again and again. So, I’m really excited that some of you will get to experience it for yourself.

ENTRY RESTRICTIONS & REQUIREMENTS:

The giveaway is limited to people living in the U.S. and EEC. The problem is that new postal regulations make it extremely difficult to send fragrances (classified now as hazardous materials) to certain parts of the world. So, we’re terribly sorry, but please do not enter if you are outside either of those two geographic regions (or don’t have a U.S./EEC cousin or friend whose address you can use).

EEC countries include but are not limited to: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Spain, and Greece. The full, complete list of current EEC members can be found here. I know I have quite a few readers from Croatia, but neither Parfums Rétro nor I are clear on Croatia’s member status. So, Parfums Rétro has decided to assume that Croatia is an EEC member for the purposes of the giveaway.

To enter, you have to do TWO things:

  1. leave a comment about your favorite leather scent to date; and
  2. state if you’re in the US or the EEC.

I usually respond personally to every comment on a giveaway, but that won’t happen this time given that it’s the week of Christmas and I’m rather exhausted. Don’t worry though, I will keep a running tally of every name, creating separate lists according to your location, and submitting the names on each list to Random.org in separate drawings.

If you don’t tell me your location, I won’t be able to include you because I need to know which entry list to put you on, especially as there are few samples or slots available for the EEC drawing.

WHEN DOES IT START & END:

The giveaway ends on Thursday, December 26th, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. which is -6:00 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

WINNERS & EMAILS:

The winners will be chosen by Random.org, and will be announced sometime the next day, Friday, December 27th, in a separate post. There will obviously be two lists of winners, one for the US commentators and one for those in the EEC.

The nature of email contact will be different this time. Once I post the winners, you have THREE (3) days to contact Parfums Retro with your shipping information. Deadline is end of the day, my time, on Sunday, December 29th. Please send an email to jeffreydame@parfumsretro.com. Your email should include your screen name with which you posted on Kafkaesque and your mailing address. If you fail to contact Parfums Retro with your shipping information in the proper time frame, your prize will be given to the next person on the list.

SHIPPING:

Jeffrey Dame. Source: Perfume of Life.

Jeffrey Dame. Source: Perfume of Life.

Parfums Rétro will send the prizes directly to the winners, and pay for all shipping costs. For those in the EEC, it may take a while for you to receive your prize, depending on your customs and postal issues. Neither Parfums Rétro nor I am responsible for items that are destroyed by customs or lost in transit for some reason.

FINALLY:

I’d like to express my enormous gratitude to Jeffrey Dame of Parfums Rétro for his generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness in offering such a massive giveaway. Some companies may give away one or two tiny samples, but 60 decants and 3 ml at that?! Amazing! I cannot thank Jeffrey Dame enough. Good luck to everyone! 

LM Parfums Hard Leather: Lust In The Woods

Source: Tumblr. Original artist or site unknown.

Source: Tumblr. Original artist or site unknown.

Sex. Seduction. The scent of a man in leather and smoke. The softness of a woman in sandalwood and vanilla. Musky figures entwined on a rumpled bed, in a room filled with the black swirls of incense. The smell of his neck, his chin rough with dry stubble, and the lingering traces of rum on his mouth. Her body golden, smooth, covered with honey, and damp with sweat. Hardness, softness, and always, pure animal sensuality.

The images that come to my mind when Hard Leather first opens on my skin are wholly inappropriate for further description. But it happens each time I smell the new fragrance from by LM Parfums. In the past, seduction has come to mind with a few fragrances that I’ve tried this year, notably Hard Leather’s older sister, Sensual Orchid, and Amouage‘s Fate Woman, but nothing quite like this. Nothing quite so animalic, so overt. This is not about coy, flirtatious seduction, but steamy intimacy.

Source: timeslive.co.za

Source: timeslive.co.za

For me, the opening hour of Hard Leather is primal, purely sexual, and it impacted me immediately from the very first time I smelled it. It made me quite lose my cool, despite being with the actual perfumer in the most haughtily snobbish, constipated place in all of Paris. And every time I’ve worn it since, it makes me feel quite heated. In short, Hard Leather has one of the best openings of any perfume I’ve smelled this year. In many a year, actually. The rest of the fragrance is not quite as glorious, primarily due to a middle phase that I struggle with a little, but the perfume is still incredibly well done as a whole and I think a lot of men are going to love it. 

LM Parfums Hard Leather 3Hard Leather is set to release some time this week or the next in France, so I thought it was time for a full, proper review, beyond just my cursory, initial ravings. [Update: The perfume was officially released a few hours after the posting of this review, and is now available for sale.] Hard Leather is pure parfum with 20% fragrance oils, and part of LM Parfum’s new line called The Intimacy Collection. The press release description sent to me states that Hard Leather’s olfactory pyramid includes:

Top Notes: Rum, Leather.

Heart Notes: Iris, Honey.

Base Notes: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Oud, Frankincense, Styrax and Vanilla.

Smoke #6 by Stefan Bonazzi. (Website link embedded within photo,.)

Smoke #6 by Stefan Bonazzi. (Website link embedded within photo,.)

When you smell Hard Leather from the sprayer on the bottle, you are hit with a wave of black incense that is almost fiery and piercing. It is followed by smoky, sweet oud that smells as though it were taken straight from an extremely old agarwood tree in Laos. On its heels is a powerful, intense sandalwood that is most definitely the real, spicy, glorious, and very rare kind from Mysore. There is a dustiness, a dryness to the wood-incense combination, but also a patina of sweetness. To my nose, the aroma evokes both the incense-sandalwood profile of my beloved vintage Opium, as well as the much drier, dustier, more fiery incense-sandalwood-oud combination of Neela Vermeire‘s Trayee. But you can’t judge a perfume by its bottle aroma, any more than you can a book by its cover.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

Source: Tumblr. Original source or photographer unknown.

Hard Leather opens on my skin with an initial whiff of honey and genuine Mysore sandalwood, then a powerful, potent burst of animalic, raw, musky leather. It’s as though a light coat of honey was thinly layered over raw animal hides left in the sun, which are then drenched with musk. The leather is initially like that in Montale‘s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, before it turns into something midway between Aoud Cuir d’Arabie and Serge Lutens‘ glorious Cuir Mauresque. By the same token, the musk is similar to that in Serge LutensMuscs Koublai Khan (hereinafter “MKK“), only rounder and generally softer. It has the most fleeting urinous edge, but far less than the Lutens had on my skin. I’m generally not one for very raw, extremely animalic leather, but, my God, it’s sexy here. It’s leather with the scent of skin, heated and musky after sex, lightly drizzled with honey, and wrapped up with tendrils of black incense.

On skin, the oud initially lurks behind the leather, but it rears its head after a few minutes. It smells exactly like the aged Laotian kind used in such expensive lines as Xerjoff, and Laurent Mazzone confirmed to me that it is indeed aged Asian agarwood. The wonderful difference, here, is that the oud never smells fecal, or (even worse) like rotting gorgonzola, the way that Laotian agarwood can sometimes be in perfumery. Instead, it’s smooth, with a bit of that “noble rot” funk that is true to real oud. It’s also sweet, thanks to the honey, and slightly smoking from the incense. The oud is blended perfectly with the other woods in Hard Leather, from the slightly musky, dry cedar, to the gloriously rich, smooth, spicy sandalwood. The latter most definitely smells like the real stuff, and judging by the Robertet name on my tiny decant and the fact that they deal with the most expensive raw materials, I suspect Mr. Mazzone spent a fortune ensuring he got actual, red Mysore instead of some generic beige wood or green Australian “sandalwood.”

Source: 123people.es

Source: 123people.es

The final result is an opening that I find to be utterly addictive, a smoldering cocktail of raw, steamy sex appeal. It’s as though Serge Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque mixed with MKK, Neela Vermeire’s Trayee, Montale’s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, and a dash of vintage Opium’s drydown, only the final result is ramped up by a hundred. It’s Lawrence of Arabia’s swarthy, musky sheikhs, with Turkish harem concubines clothed only in tendrils of incense, having sex in the ancient agar forests of Laos under freshly tanned, cured leather coated in honey and sandalwood.

Yet, for all that the notes may sound aggressive or too much, Hard Leather’s opening is utterly seamless and perfectly blended. The notes fluidly move one into the other, each transforming the next, with no hard edges, roughness, or spiky, prickly bits. In this phase, the incense may be the sharpest thing about the fragrance, waging a war of blackness on the sexual musk and leather, as if to drag the lovers to a Chinese temple. One thing I’ve noticed is that Hard Leather is a fragrance where less is sometimes more at the start, because two big sprays can be quite intense.

Thirty minutes in, Hard Leather starts to shift. The leather loses some of its rawness, turning richer, and more burnished. The musk softens too, feeling a little less dirty or skanky, while the honey blends in the base to add the faintest touch of sweetness. The sandalwood becomes even deeper, and even takes on a floral touch that is quite lovely. Actually, all the wood accords grow stronger, as does the smoke. Slowly, Hard Leather begins the transition to its next phase where the wood elements dominate the scent to such an extent, I sometimes wonder if the perfume might be more aptly named Hard Woods.

An hour into its development, Hard Leather begins its second stage, turning intensely dry. The desiccated feel from the woods and smoke essentially neutralizes the honey, but I think something else is at play. I smell Norlimbanol with its arid and, yes, its synthetic feel. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Norlimbanol is a super aromachemical from Givaudan that puts ISO E Super to shame with its power. It has an ultra powerful, sharp aroma of woodiness with an undertone of leather, but it is always bone-dry to the point of dustiness.

Recently, I spent 10 minutes sniffing just the outside of my little decant of Hard Leather, and there was a definite synthetic whiff of dry woodiness right from the sprayer. On skin, it only shows up after an hour or 75 minutes, but it does show up. A few times when I’ve sniffed Hard Leather on my arm and up close, I get an immediate tightness in my nose and the faintest tickle at the back of my throat. The Norlimbanol is merely a speck at first, but it becomes increasingly powerful in Hard Leather’s 2nd through 5th hours, and I have to admit, I’m not a fan of it. Even without it, I think the new focus on dry woods destroys the perfection of the first hour with its raw animalism and unapologetic, lusty sensuality. Bring back the sex and leather, I say!

Smoke #11   Stefano Bonazzi Selected Digital Works. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Smoke #11 Stefano Bonazzi Selected Digital Works. (Website link embedded within photo.)

About 90-minutes into its development, Hard Leather is a different fragrance. The oud and Norlimbanol have taken over, turning the scent into one of extreme woods and incense with a very arid feel. The lusty, raunchy leather is blended into it, but it is a much more muted layer that lies underneath, and it is no longer Hard Leather’s main focus. At the same time, Hard Leather’s initially powerful sillage drops. With 2 big sprays (or the equivalent of 3 enormous smears), Hard Leather initially wafts about 5-6 inches around you, before dropping down after 90 minutes to a softer, airier cloud that is only about 3 inches. It’s very intense when smelled up close, and remains that way for hours.

The other notes make a valiant effort to counter-balance the the power of the oud, incense, and Norlimbanol. Unfortunately, my skin takes synthetics like the latter and runs with it, so they’re not particularly successful. Still, I really like how the Mysore sandalwood blooms, turning more floral and much creamier. I can also detect the sweeter notes stirring in the base. Styrax is a smoky, spicy, slightly leathered sort of amber resin, and it adds little flecks of golden warmth like fireflies in an extremely dark, smoky forest. The tiniest tendrils of vanilla curl up as well, stroking the woods, trying to tame them with sweetness in order to end the dry spell.

Source: hqdesktop.net

Source: hqdesktop.net

The core essence of Hard Leather’s second stage remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. Different notes wax and wane in prominence or strength, but the intense smoke, dry woods, and oud dominate. The power of the trio and the length of their stay really seems to depend on how much Hard Leather you apply. The more you spray, the longer their duration and force, and the less sweetness the fragrance manifests. Regardless, midway during the third hour, the vanilla starts to play a much bigger role. It’s now quite cuddly, cozy, rich, and sweet. The sandalwood turns even creamier; it’s a very smooth, incredibly luxurious aroma that begins to muscle its way onto center stage. Hard Leather is an elegant blend of dryness, sweetness, spiciness, creaminess, smokiness, leather, and woods, with just a hint of something raunchy, untamed, and animalic at its edges.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

At the end of the fifth hour, the dryness finally recedes, and Hard Leather transitions to its third stage. The primary focal point is now spicy sandalwood and sweet vanilla, followed by oud, incense and increasingly muted hints of musky leather. It is all much more discreet, lying right on the skin, though it doesn’t take any effort to detect Hard Leather up close. Other notes pop up and down like a Jack in the Box. The honey reappears from time to time in the background, adding to Hard Leather’s growing glimpses of sweetness. The base feels much warmer now as well, though the styrax resin never seems like actual amber but something much more abstract in nature.

The oddest thing is the iris. Sometimes, Hard Leather has a definite floral element, but it really seems to stem primarily from the sandalwood. On occasion, however, the iris appears on my skin, primarily as a cool, soft suede with the faintest tinge of soft powder. It’s incredibly muted and weak on me, and I suspect cooler or paler skins may bring out the iris more than my warm, basenote-amplifying chemistry.

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Source: top.besthdwallpapers.info

Hard Leather’s final stage begins around the 8th hour. The perfume is a blur of spicy sandalwood with tiny flickers of smoky oud, musk, and sweetness. It feels quite abstract on some levels, though the sandalwood is unmistakable. In its final moments, Hard Leather is merely a gauzy whisper of sweet, slightly spicy woodiness. The scent has astounding longevity on my perfume-consuming skin. Two big sprays (the equivalent of 3 enormous smears) lasted 14.25 hours, though it was quite patchy in spots and I actually thought it may have died after 12 hours. With only one spray, Hard Leather lasts just under 12.5 hours. The sillage is initially quite fierce, but, like all LM Parfums, softens and drops around the 90-minute mark. Using the smaller quantity, Hard Leather became a true skin on me at end of the 4th hour; with a larger application, at the end of the 6th.

I love Hard Leather, though it’s not perfect. I will never get tired of its opening, and how jaw-droppingly seductive it is. It is pure sex on a stick (or, in this case, sex in a bottle). I wish with all my heart that it would last forever, especially as I’m less enthused by the 2nd phase with all its Norlimbanol. Still, the aromachemical is miles away from the demonic toxicity of YSL‘s utterly heinous Noble Leather, and it certainly didn’t impact me in the same way. It’s also much softer and tamer in small quantities, so I’d gladly wear Hard Leather even with the bloody Norlimbanol. That should tell you how much I love that raunchy, sexual, primal start. It’s positively indecent — in the very best way possible! Hard Leather ends on a happy note, too, with creamy, rich, gloriously real Mysore sandalwood, warm vanilla, and, less excitingly, oud.

For all that I would like to drown myself in Hard Leather’s opening, for all its impact on me, I most definitely do NOT recommend the perfume to everyone. Those who disliked any of the fragrances that I’ve mentioned here — from Aoud Cuir d’Arabie and Cuir Mauresque, to Muscs Koublai Khan or Trayee — should stay away. Those who have issues with oud of any kind, especially aged agarwood, or who find animalic scents to be dirty, should avoid Hard Leather as well. People who like their leather to be more like suede or expensive handbags will find this scent to be far too raw for their tastes. And, as a whole, I don’t think Hard Leather is a fragrance that the vast majority of women would like on their own skin, though I think a lot would find it incredibly sexy on a man.

Hard Leather is a fragrance that skews sharply and unapologetically masculine, rendering things like Puredistance‘s glorious M extremely unisex in comparison. (I personally think that M really is unisex, but I know a number of women who feel they can’t wear it. That sentiment would be amplified by a thousand for Hard Leather.) I think the dryness of Hard Leather’s second phase may also be difficult for people of either gender who prefer a little more sweetness with their woods or animalic touches.

Amouage Opus VIISpeaking of that dryness, Hard Leather at the end of the second hour made me think of Amouage‘s Opus VII. The two fragrances are very different, particularly because of the herbal oddness of the fenugreek in Opus VII and the nature of the two musks. On my skin, the animalic elements in Opus VII turned into something strongly reminiscent of a wild cat enclosure at the zoo with peeing lions, instead of the scent of skin during sex. Opus VII is visually greener, with strong spices, and heavily peppered with ISO E Super. Yet both fragrances have an extreme darkness to them, and share oud, incense, sandalwood, leather tonalities, and amplifying synthetics with a bone-dry feel. I think Hard Leather is much less desiccated than Opus VII, and has sweeter, warmer elements, but, in terms of an aesthetic style, the two fragrances share some distant kinship, though I must stress again that they don’t smell anything alike.

Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Oleksiy Maksymenko. Source: FineArtAmerica. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Still, if Opus VII was your cup of tea and you didn’t find it too dry, oud-y or smoky, then you should definitely try Hard Leather. If neither Opus VII nor any of the other fragrances mentioned here were your style, Hard Leather won’t be either. In my case, I loathed Opus VII (thanks to the peeing lion and the ISO E Super), but I do love Hard Leather because of its greater kinship with fragrances like Cuir Mauresque, MKK, and Trayee. The raunchy sexuality of that opening phase is so beautifully balanced, melded so seamlessly with the other notes, that it is very tasteful in my eyes — which makes it even more seductive and hot. Perhaps the best way to describe it is to compare it to the height of foreplay, instead of anything more… climactic, shall we say. Hard Leather’s subsequent journey into the depths of a dark, smoky forest undergoing a drought is hardly as appealing, but the creamy, sweetened warmth of the final stage takes us back to bed, with a couple now sleeping off the after-effects of both stages in a haze of sandalwood, oud, and sweet muskiness. 

Unfortunately, none of this comes cheaply. From what I’ve gathered, and from my early taste of the 2014 LM Parfums fragrances that I tried in Paris, Laurent Mazzone’s new Intimacy Collection seeks to focus on more complex, sophisticated scents based on the most expensive of ingredients. Hard Leather is the first in that collection, and it is priced accordingly at €295. (The current extraits perfumes are €195, a €100 less.) I don’t know what the American price will be when it eventually hits these shores and comes to Osswald in New York, but €295 is $400 at today’s rate of exchange. On the other hand, Hard Leather is also pure parfum in concentration, and there is a 100 ml of it. It smells expensive; it includes incredibly costly ingredients like aged Laotian oud, iris, and, more importantly, rare, almost extinct Mysore sandalwood; and a single spray has great potency and longevity.

I’m the first one to decry perfumes that are over-priced for what they are, but I think you’re definitely getting your money’s worth with Hard Leather. It is worth every penny. In fact, if the perfume consisted solely of that smoking hot, steamy opening, but cost twice as much, I’d contemplate selling a kidney to buy it. My God, that opening… that opening…. I don’t know if I should take a freezing cold shower, or just spray on some more. 

Disclosure: sample provided by LM Parfums. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Hard Leather is pure parfum extrait that is available only in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle which costs €295. It was released just today, 12/04/13, online, at LM Parfums. Samples of all LM Parfums extraits are usually available and priced at €19 for 5 ml size, and I see Hard Leather is also listed as of 12/14. Laurent Mazzone’s Premiere Avenue now has a decant of Hard Leather for that price as well. In the U.S.: Laurent Mazzone’s fragrances are sold exclusively at Osswald NYC, but they informed me on Twitter that they won’t receive Hard Leather until January 2014. I will try to update this post when they do. Outside the U.S.: You can find Hard Leather, along with all LM Parfums, and 5 ml samples of each at Laurent Mazzone’s own Premiere Avenue which ships throughout Europe. Hard Leather is not yet offered in decant form, but you can check back later as the perfume was just released today.  In the UK, the LM Parfums line is exclusive to Harvey Nichols. In Paris, LM Parfums are sold at Jovoy. In the Netherlands, you can find LM Parfums at ParfuMaria or Silks Cosmetics. In Germany, First in Fragrance carries the full line, and sells samples as well. You can also find LM Parfums at Essenza Nobile, Italy’s Vittoria Profumi, or Alla Violetta. In the Middle East, I found most of the LM Parfums line at the UAE’s Souq perfume site. For all other countries, you can find a vendor near you from Switzerland to Belgium, Lithuania, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Azerbaijan, and more, by using the LM Parfums Partner listing. Laurent Mazzone or LM Parfums fragrances are widely available throughout Europe, and many of those sites sell samples as well.

Profumum Dulcis in Fundo and Arso

Simplicity done in the richest, most concentrated way possible seems to be the signature of Profumum Roma. It is an Italian niche perfume house founded in 1996, and commonly called Profumum by most. The fragrances are often soliflores, or centered around one main note, but Profumum takes that note and concentrates it with 43% to 46% perfume oils to create the height of luxurious richness. Today, I thought I’d look at Dulcis in Fundo and Arso, two pure parfums which focus, respectively, on vanilla and on piney incense.

DULCIS IN FUNDO:

Source: stuffpoint.com

Source: stuffpoint.com

Have you ever gone into an ice cream or frozen yoghurt shop, sniffed the air, and felt almost uplifted at the aroma of freshly baked waffle cones sprinkled with sugar? Have you ever ordered a creme caramel, and thought its aroma of caramelized vanilla was utterly delicious? If you have ever wanted to put those scents into a bottle, then you may want to try Dulcis in Fundo.

Dulcis in Fundo is an eau de parfum that was released in 2001. Profumum‘s website describes the fragrance and its notes very simply:

Sin of gluttony… sin of heart:
In essence, don’t both passion and seduction
evolve through a flare of vanilla?

Sicilian citrus fruits, Vanilla

Source: Profumum

Source: Profumum Roma.

The description from Luckyscent nails the essence of the fragrance, and pretty much negates the need for much more extensive elaboration from me:

This opens with a very fresh, very sweet orange, like a clementine being peeled, complete with the tangy sharpness of citrus oil on your fingers. Then the sweetness intensifies and becomes richer, as if drizzled with Grand Marnier, and a billowy dollop of luscious, creamy, unadulterated vanilla tops it all off. Warm and brazenly sweet, this ambrosial blend is for the woman who wants to smell delicious. This is dessert at its irresistible best: whipped cream being licked off fingers, fits of giggles fueled by liqueur, suggestive whispers over shared spoonfuls. We suspect that more is going on here than citrus and vanilla (some say a saucy little apricot was involved) but perhaps it is just a citrus and a vanilla that get along exceedingly well. Delectable.

Blood Orange. Source: Twitter.

Blood Orange. Source: Twitter.

Dulcis in Fundo opens on my skin with a burst of juicy oranges that is not sweet but more like the tangy aroma of dark, ruby-red blood oranges. The note is concentrated, deep, tart and a little bit bitter. It is quickly infused with warm, rich, heavy vanilla that is quite custardy in its depth. I smell like an orange creamsicle with hints of freshly baked, warm-from-the-oven, waffle cones. There is almost something creamily woody deep, deep down, because there is a subtle impression of gingerbread to the waffle base.

The vanilla soon turns richer, making Dulcis in Fundo smell very much like a creme caramel with a slightly singed top. Less than 15 minutes into the perfume’s development, the orange top note abates, leaving an aroma that is primarily that of waffle cones and creme brulée dusted with tablespoons of sugar. I loved the tart citric element, so it’s a bit of a shame that it vanished so quickly and that it contents itself with popping up from the sidelines only once in a blue moon in the first two hours. Dulcis in Fundo is sweet and intensely strong, but without massive sillage and with surprising airiness. In its opening ten minutes, it hovers perhaps 1-2 inches, at best, above my skin, but is profoundly concentrated when smelled up close. 

Crème Brûlée. Source: eugeniekitchen.com. For an easy recipe, go to: http://eugeniekitchen.com/creme-brulee-recipe-burnt-cream-french-custard/

Crème Brûlée. Source: eugeniekitchen.com. For an easy recipe, go to: http://eugeniekitchen.com/creme-brulee-recipe-burnt-cream-french-custard/

Dulcis in Fundo is a largely linear, simple, uncomplicated gourmand that smells of nothing more than sugared vanillic pastries. Funnel cake, waffle cones, creme caramel, Italian baked goods — you take your pick. Dulcis in Fundo is a cozy, cuddly, sweet delight, but there is sufficient dryness that (on my skin at least), it never felt like diabetes in a bottle. I’ve tried gourmand fragrances and vanilla scents that made my tooth ache from their sweetness, but Dulcis in Fundo is not one of them. It is never unctuously heavy, either, no matter how rich the fragrance may initially appear or the subtle sheen of oils that it initially left on my skin.

Actually, for all its concentrated feel, Dulcis in Fundo is rather light in weight. In fact, to my surprise, it became a discreet skin scent on me after an hour. Perhaps Profumum felt that so much rich vanilla needed a very light hand and unobtrusiveness in order to prevent a cloying, nauseating feel. All in all, Dulcis in Fundo lasted a good solid 8.75 hours on my skin, though there were lingering traces of it well over the 12-hour mark. I’m going to put the longevity at the lower figure, solely because Dulcis in Fundo really seemed like it was about to disappear at the start of the 8th hour, even if little patches lasted for another four.

Funnel cake cupcakes. Source: confessionsofacookbookqueen.com (Website link embedded within photo.)

Funnel cake cupcakes. Source: confessionsofacookbookqueen.com (Website link embedded within photo.)

Dulcis in Fundo is the furthest thing from edgy, revolutionary, or complex, but it may be the most decadent of sinfully rich vanillas. That is probably one reason why it seems to be many gourmand lovers’ idea of heaven. The perfume is not exactly cheap at $240 or €179, but it is 100 ml of something that is essentially pure perfume extrait with its 43%-46% concentrated oils. Profumum always has the richest fragrances on the market, with generally exceptional longevity, so the price makes their perfumes a good deal for what you’re getting, if you love the scent in question. I personally am not such a fanatic about vanilla or gourmand fragrances, but enough people are for Dulcis in Fundo to be completely sold out at this time at on the Luckyscent site.

Whether it’s people I observe on fragrance groups or those commenting on Fragrantica, gourmand lovers of both genders seem to adore Dulcis in Fundo. Some of the Fragrantica reviews:

  • If I had money to burn, I’d burn it on this perfume. For me, it’s one of those “eyes roll back in your head” perfumes. The citrus and vanilla are perfectly blended to create a tart, sweet, tangy, candy-like scent Willy Wonka would be proud of. My first thought – Smarties! If you’re looking for sultry, smoky, grown-up vanilla – keep shopping. If you want a truly sweet, delicious, unique perfume with the punch of a Jolly Rancher that’s not watery or shadowy (like most mainstream / celebrity fruity vanillas), this is it.
  • Seriously the best thing I have ever smelled. Warm, deep, sweet, bourbon-y. [¶] I don’t get any orange other than *maybe* a passing hint right at application. Sillage is great – dabs on my wrists keep this floating to my nose all day. It’s actually distracting. In a good way.
  • I don’t’ get any citrus at all in this, but it’s an incredible vanilla, very true to bourbon vanilla to the point of almost smelling at times like extract. There are smoky notes, faint incense feeling, and just that rich, thick vanilla, but it’s not cloying, sweet or overpowering. Lovely lovely scent. I want more.
  • Top notes: lemon cake
    Middle notes: vanilla cake and a hint of cinnamon
    Dry down: vanilla cake and marshmallow filling  [¶] Not particularly complex. Probably too sweet for me to wear very often but positively delicious nonetheless. The vanilla in this is more candy like and than floral. The most pleasant gourmand I’ve come across.

One of the women who purchased Dulcis in Fundo did so despite the cost and after extensively testing a wide variety of other gourmands. She wrote, “at $240 (which could also be a nice pair of boots!)– it had better be IT if I’m paying money for it,” but, for her, Dulcis in Fundo did turn out to be “It.” She even says it seemed to have a huge impact on a younger, male co-worker on whom she had a crush. More to the point, the perfume didn’t smell like cheap vanilla:

I’m a fan of vanilla in theory, but some as you know can smell tawdry or cheap. Some are overrun by other things –smoke, flowers, musk or what have you–which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for. […] This is vanilla with a touch of citrus–heaven sent vanilla. I keep smelling my arm, with the overwhelming urge to rub my face in it.

For others, however, with less of a passion for sweet perfumes, Dulcis in Fundo was too much. Too sweet, too expensive, and too much like food. A few experienced some bitterness, with the tiniest bit of “skank” from what they found to be a cistus, amber-like note in the base. The vast majority, however, loved the fragrance, including some men.

I’m not a gourmand lover, but I think anyone who adores dessert fragrances centered on vanilla should try Dulcis in Fundo. It’s very well-done, and very cozy.

ARSO:

Arso: Source Luckyscent.

Arso: Source Luckyscent.

Arso means burnt in Italian, but strong smoke is only part of the fragrance by that name from Profumum. Arso was released in 2010, and is classified as an Eau de Parfum but, like all its Profumum siblings, it is actually an Extrait or Pure Parfum in concentration. Profumum‘s beautifully evocative description for the scent reads:

Outside the first snow was falling and
the wind was caressing the leaves of the pine trees.
Inside the chalet of a good red wine
mingled with the notes of a beautiful jazz music.
You and I hugging on an old sofa
and around us the smell of a crackling fireplace,
the white smoke of a precious incense
and the warm scent of pine resin.

Luckyscent has a similar, mood-based description for Arso:

The sharp, evocative scent of wood smoke – triggering childhood memories of bonfires and burning leaves – is at the heart of this eloquent scent. Arso means “burned” and the masterfully rendered smokiness works with the crisp cool scent of pine to conjure up a cabin in winter, with a crackling fire on the hearth. You … also get the warm indoor scents of well-worn leather and glowing incense, as well as the fire. The mood is calm and comfortable and safe [….] This is perfectly suited for the strong, silent type – the sort of man who could build a house single-handedly and maybe even chop down the trees to build all by himself. Quiet, reassuring and powerful.

Profumum Roma rarely seems to give a complete list of notes for its fragrances, and I suspect a lot is often left out. The company says Arso contains, at a minimum:

Leather, incense, pine resin, cedar leaves

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Pine tree sap. Source: howtocleanstuff.net

Arso opens on my skin with pine sap, smoky cedar, and sticky caramel amber. There is a hint of muskiness to the golden, sweetened base where there is plainly ambergris at hand, not amber. The note is a common signature to many Profumum scents, and it is always beautiful. As usual, it’s salty, a little bit wet and gooey, musky and sweet. The marshy saltiness works stunningly well with the woody, wintergreen, pine sap with its slightly chilly, tarry briskness. The latter feels sometimes like resin pouring out of a pine tree, then boiled down to concentrate with brown sugar until it is simultaneously sweet, tarry, and wintery wood in one. My word, what an intoxicating start. Small tendrils of black smoke curl all around, adding to the richness of the notes and preventing any cloying sweetness. In a nutshell, Arso is smoky, piney, woody, dry, sweet, salty, and golden, all at once.

The black smoke grows stronger with the passing minutes, as do the dark, green coniferous elements. Arso evokes a campfire, complete with burnt leaves and singed, smoking wood, but this campfire is drizzled lightly in sweetness. Underneath, there is a touch of leather, but it’s never harsh, black, brutally raw or animalic. Instead, it’s aged leather, sweetened by the ambergris and piney resinous tree sap into burnished richness. Still, it’s not a predominant part of Arso at this point by any means, and it certainly doesn’t alter the perfume’s woody, piney, smoky essence.

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Photo: David Gunter Source: Flickr (website link embedded within photo.)

Some people have compared Arso to Serge LutensFille en Aiguilles, but I think the two fragrances share only surface similarities. The Lutens has a fruited component with its dark, plum molasses. There are strong spices up top, while the base is dark, purple-black and green in visual hue, as compared to Arso’s base of salty caramel-gold with black. The pine notes are another big difference. Arso feels as though pine needles have been crushed in your hands, but, for me at least, the fragrance never evokes the chill of a winter forest or Christmas time. It’s not because the pine is much more significant and potent in Arso, but more because it has been sweetened in a very different way. The ambergris lends it a salty quality, turning Arso much warmer, less brisk, and almost more honeyed than Fille en Aiguilles.

Source: Theatlantic.com

Source: Theatlantic.com

Perhaps more important, there is a substantial difference to the quality and feel of the smoke in Arso. It smells like juniper or cade, with a phenolic, almost camphorous tarriness that evokes leather and bonfire smoke. It’s sharper, more intense, blacker, and subsumed with the forest smells, instead of feeling more like temple incense infused with plums and spices. Lastly, on my skin, the smoky cedar is as dominant a part of Arso as is the pine. In contrast, Fille en Aiguilles is primarily fir and plummy fir resin. In short, Arso is much more purely woody, salty, musky, and leathery than Fille en Aiguilles which is much more centered on heavy frankincense with gingered sugar plums, spiced molasses, and brown sugar. I love Fille en Aiguilles passionately (and own it), but Arso is a fabulous scent in its own right and for very different reasons.

Source: wallibs.com

Source: wallibs.com

Both scents, however, evoke the very best of a forest. With Arso, it’s a landscape speckled with the warmth of summer’s golden light. The pine needles crunch under your feet, releasing their oils, and melting into an air filled with the aroma of a thick, rich, salty caramel. You know the smell of ice-cream shops that make waffle cones? Well, the note that is such a profound part of Dulcis in Fundo also lurks about Arso’s opening, though it is much more fleeting and minor. It is deep in the base, not the center of the fragrance, but there is a whiff of that same delicious sweetness in the ambergris’ rich undertones.

Josh Holloway who plays "Sawyer" on Lost. Source: momdot.com

Josh Holloway who plays “Sawyer” on Lost. Source: momdot.com

Here, it mixes with the aroma of the great outdoors, a bouquet that conjures up images of Colorado’s vast vistas of dark pine forests, complete with a trickle of smoke spiraling out a small log cabin’s chimney. It is summertime, and everything is a blur of gold, green, and black. The man who appears is handsome but rugged, with a faint scruff of beard on his face. In my mind’s eye, I see “Sawyer” from the television show, Lost, the sexy, tough con man with an inner softness and golden heart. Arso fits him perfectly, with its rugged piney profile, saltiness, smoldering dark depths, leatheriness, and sweetened smokiness.

It takes about 4 hours for Arso to change. The first stage is all sharp, tarry, piney smoke with salty, golden, caramel ambergris, cedar, pine resin, forest greenness, and sweetness. The second stage is much drier, and more about the bonfire smoke and the leather. In fact, the latter occasionally dominates on my skin, though it feels like the result of the other notes swirling about than actual, hardcore leather in its own right. There is an animalic undertone to the note, as well as a sour edge that feels almost civet-like on occasion.

The leather vies with the tarry, black campfire smoke for supremacy, with both notes overshadowing the amber. The woody elements have retreated, especially the pine, though the cedar is still noticeable. I’m not a huge fan of the sour edge to the leather, and I’m substantially less enthused by Arso’s later stages than its opening, but I suspect that it is my skin which is responsible. It doesn’t help that the gorgeous, salty amber-caramel largely vanishes around the start of the 5th hour, turning Arso much darker and smokier. In its very final moments, the fragrance is merely a blur of abstract woodiness with a touch of dark leather and the merest whisper of bonfire smoke.

As with all of Profumum’s scents, Arso is not a very complicated scent, though it is much less linear than some of the line. The Italian perfume house seeks to highlight a handful of notes in the most luxurious, plush, opaque manner possible, and Arso is no generally different. However, I was surprised by how quickly the perfume felt thin and airy; it lost much of its concentrated, heavy richness around the 2.5 hour mark which is also when Arso turns into a skin scent on me. It is not a powerhouse of projection, either. I’ve worn Arso three or four times, and no matter the quantity, its sillage in the first hour hovers, at best, about 2 inches above the skin. The sharpness of the juniper-cade’s black smoke and leatheriness remains forceful for ages though, and the perfume as a whole is still easily detectable for the first four hours when sniffed up close. All in all, Arso’s lasts between 9 and 10.25 hours on my perfume consuming skin, depending on the amount applied. As always with Profumum scents, there are minuscule patches where the aroma seems to linger for about 12 hours, all in all. 

I think Arso skews more masculine in nature, though women who love bonfire aromas, smoky pine, tarry cade, and leather fragrances will also enjoy it. I know a few who are big fans of Arso, but, generally, it is men who gush about it obsessively, falling head over heels for the tarry, woody smoke. Still, one woman on Fragrantica, wrote the following review:

Wow. I am so surprised. Arso is totally different from what i expected from the notes listed. I thought this was going to be a kinda brisk woodsy fresh forest scent; but instead its a thick dark caramel and tar. Tree sap being melted over a fire with cedar and pine logs. The beginning reminds me a lot of Mamluk (which came a year later). It settles into a cool dry *almost bitter* smooth leather scent

Im a girl and dont happen to find this too masculine smelling at all!!

Source: freeirishphotos.com

Source: freeirishphotos.com

A male commentator, “raw umber,” had a very good description for the scent, writing:

Arso is a dry pine that is encrusted with sticky, highly flammable sap. It starts out Christmas tree, and ends up blackened fire pit. [¶] On the exhale, I get the faintest trace of something that has burned, like the smoldering remains of a campsite cookout.

The almost undetectable leather and incense provide a faint saltiness, which enhances the dimension of the burned smell as Arso dries down, but it never plainly spells LEATHER, or INCENSE. It’s projection and longevity are both very good.

The slightly charred pine is the feature here from start to finish. It is 100 percent unisex, and it can be worn whenever you wish to smell like you’ve been camping.

A few people hated Arso at the start, then suddenly fell in love. Take, for example, the assessment by “alfarom” who wrote”

Arso is possibly one of my biggest 180 so far. I always found it unbalanced, sort of too smoky but I was wrong! It smells so darn good.

Strongly resinous, incensey with a tad of sweetness during the opening and with leather hints throughout. A shy boozy note discreetely remakrs its presence druing the initial phase to slowly disappear leaving space to a slighlt sweet amber note while the fragrance dries down. Smells exactly like an estinguished campfire where they burned resinous pine, cedar and tones of dry leaves, smells of velvety white smoke, smells incredibly salubrious. Initally I thought about a mash-up between Fille En Aiguilles and Black Torumaline but overall Arso is less balmy, less sweet and as much as I love the Lutens and the Durbano, this one is much more wearable.

Surely among the best deliveries from Porfumum. Terrific!

There are a few others who initially hated Arso, too, like one chap who first thought it was a “no no” of masculine pine and harsh incense at the start, before suddenly finding, after 3 hours, that it was utterly addictive. The time made a difference, turning Arso smoother, softer, and “delicious.” He found himself “blown away” and, though he still preferred Serge Lutens’ Fille en Aiguilles, he found Arso much more wearable.

I am the opposite. I find my beloved Fille en Aiguilles to be much more approachable, perhaps because the smoke isn’t like extinguished campfires and there is no cade-like, tarry leather that feels sharp or a bit animalic at times. I’m not passionate about Arso’s dry final stage, whereas I love the Lutens from start to finish. It is simply a matter of personal preferences and skin chemistry, so I’ll stick with my bottle of Fille en Aiguilles, while admiring Arso for being a wonderful smoky, woody fragrance of a different kind. That said, I think Arso would be a great Christmas gift for a man (or woman) who loves intensely smoky, woody fragrances, or scents with a incense-leather profile. It’s wonderfully evocative, and very sexy.

DETAILS:
DULCIS IN FUNDO Cost & Availability: Dulcis in Fundo is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: the perfume is available at Luckyscent, which is currently sold out, but it is taking back orders for December delivery. Dulcis in Fundo is also carried at OsswaldNYC. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, Profumum perfumes are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Dulcis in Fundo at Premiere Avenue in France (which also ships worldwide, I believe) and which also has Dulcis’ matching shower gel and body oil as well. The fragrance is also carried at Switzerland’s Osswald, France’s Le Parfum et Le Chic (which sells it for €185), Paris’ Printemps department store, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). According to the Profumum website, their fragrances are carried in a large number of small stores from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy. You can use the Profumum Store Locator located on the left of the page linked to above. Samples: Surrender to Chance carries samples of Dulcis in Fundo starting at $6.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.
ARSO Cost & Availability: Arso is an Eau de Parfum that also comes in a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle which costs $240 or €179. Again, Profumum unfortunately doesn’t have an e-shop from which you can buy their fragrances directly. In the U.S.: Arso is available at Luckyscent, and OsswaldNYCOutside the U.S.: In the UK, the full line of Profumum fragrances is at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie in Harrods. Elsewhere, you can find Arso at Premiere Avenue in France, Paris’ Printemps store, the Netherlands’ Celeste (which sells it for €180), Zurich’s Osswald, and Russia’s Lenoma (which sells it for RU16,950). For all other locations from Copenhagen to the Netherlands, Poland, France, the rest of Europe, and, of course, Italy, you can use the Profumum Store Locator to find a vendor near you. Samples: Surrender to Chance doesn’t carry Arso, but you can order from Luckyscent at the link listed above.

YSL Majestic Rose & Supreme Bouquet (Oriental Collection)

YSL’s new Oriental Collection is a trio of fragrances that are meant to be “an invitation to travel” to the Orient. Each one is an eau de parfum housed in a gold-covered bottle, and offered in limited distribution at a very high price. The other day, I covered the toxic abomination that is Noble Leather. Today is the turn of the remaining fragrances in the line: Majestic Rose from the great Alberto Morillas; and Supreme Bouquet, created by perhaps the even greater Dominique Ropion

MAJESTIC ROSE:

The most complete and detailed information I found for Majestic Rose comes from Osmoz which states, in part, that:

Source: Osmoz

Source: Osmoz

Majestic Rose pays tribute to the queen of flowers. Rose goes animalic here, becoming one with the oud wood in the trail. […] Composed around rose, the fragrance starts by unveiling notes of bergamot, raspberry and papyrus. The rose heart is sweetened with honey and spiced with saffron and maté. The woodsier trail is composed of oud, guaiac and vanilla. Perfumer: Alberto Morillas, Firmenich.

Note of Top : Raspberry, Bergamot, Papyrus

Note of Heart : Rose, Mate, Saffron, Honeyed Notes

Note of Base : Vanilla, Oud, Gaiac Wood

Maté is not a common note in perfumery, and it plays a part in Majestic Rose’s opening, so I thought this description of it from Osmoz might be useful:

Tobacco, Herbaceous, Hay, Tea. […] Maté is a variety of holly that grows in South America. […] Used primarily in men’s perfumery to create fougere and chypre tonalities[.]

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

Majestic Rose opens on my skin with: indistinct, anonymous “fruit;” something very much like ISO E Super; stale, dusty, dry tobacco; fruited rose; dusty, dry parchment paper; cheap synthetic “oud;” dry, leathery, spicy saffron; and a hint of vanilla. Oh, did I happen to mention dust? The fragrance is the oddest mix of sweet syrup and dust notes. All I can think about when wearing it is actual dust in an old library that has been drenched in a thin layer of fruit syrup, saffron, and jammy roses, all sprinkled with astringent, peppered ISO E Super, synthetic tea, and a drop of honeyed tea. It’s an airy mix with moderate sillage, but the prickly, peppered, spiky, synthetic elements all give it a certain roughness and sharpness.

Majestic Rose may not be the toxic dust cloud of its brother, the vile Noble Leather, but it has its own share of chemicals. I would bet anything that the perfume contains Kephalis. It is a synthetic which smells a lot like ISO E Super, is extremely dry, and which Givaudan describes as a long-lasting note with an amber-woody-tobacco profile. As for all that dust in Majestic Rose, it may stems from the papyrus, but the sheer degree of aridness underlying the scent seems much more consistent with the super synthetic, Norlimbanol. It is produced by Alberto Morillas’ own firm, Firmenich, and has been described by Chandler Burr as “quite simply, the smell of extreme dryness, absolute desiccation.”

Source: The Guardian.

Source: The Guardian.

At its core, Majestic Rose is a dust, rose, and “oud” fragrance. Certain notes act as supporting players, waxing and waning in prominence, but the perfume’s essential profile doesn’t really change. Five minutes into its development, the vanilla in the base starts to stir, while the papyrus becomes stronger and more significant. Majestic Rose just gets drier, and drier. And drier. 15 minutes in, Majestic Rose loses much of its syrup, and the fragrance starts to feel like a dust bowl with synthetic peppered ISO E Super, bone-dry woodiness, and, in a wholly discordant mix, sweet pink roses. It’s almost disconcerting to smell the flowers given the other notes. It’s as though a single, fresh, pink rose were pressed in parchment paper scrolls, then stuck in a monastery’s library which hadn’t been dusted since the late 11th Century. 

Thankfully, that phase is short-lived and only lasted about 40-minutes, but at least it was somewhat interesting and different. It’s a lot more than I can say for the rest of Majestic Rose’s development. As the dust recedes, the fragrance turns into a generic bouquet of syrupy rose, synthetic oud, and ISO E-ish chemicals in a cocoon of indistinct, abstract dryness. Hints of other things come and go, like vanilla and tobacco, or the merest drop of something that occasionally feels tea-like, but Majestic Rose’s main thrust is rose-oud (with synthetics). Needless to say, it’s not a particularly distinctive combination these days. In fact, something about Majestic Rose feels awfully familiar, but it’s hard to know which rose-oud fragrance it might be — there are literally hundreds of them.

Source: Ashes of Roses Designs, Facebook page.

Source: Ashes of Roses Designs, Facebook page.

I’ll be honest, I scrubbed off Majestic Rose after three hours. Normally, I would put up with an unpleasant fragrance, partially to see what happens but, primarily, for the sake of thoroughness. However, after the indescribable horror of YSL’s Noble Leather, my tolerance levels are wholly depleted. Moreover, I saw zero chance of Majestic Rose suddenly morphing into something different, it was giving me a mild headache, and I’m pretty much fed up with bad perfumes from YSL. So I had a Thanksgiving Day indulgence, even if that consisted of soap and aggressiveness with a loofah. You probably won’t be shocked to hear that Majestic Rose — like most very synthetic, chemical fragrances — was not easy to remove….

As with all the fragrances in the Oriental Collection, Majestic Rose costs £185 or €177 for an 80 ml bottle. At the current rate of conversion, £185 is $301. I’ll spare you a repetition of how inexpensive it is for individuals like you or I to buy a bottle of each of those synthetics cost in concentrated, undiluted form, or how little L’Oreal/YSL probably spent to make this fragrance. Suffice it to say that the cost of this fragrance is utterly ridiculous, given the ingredients and banality of the scent.

SUPREME BOUQUET:

Source: dubaidutyfree.com

Source: dubaidutyfree.com

According to Osmoz, Supreme Bouquet was created by the legendary Dominique Ropion of IFF, and it provides the following description of the scent:

Sweet and creamy, Supreme Bouquet is a perfume in Yves Saint Laurent’s Oriental Collection. Inspired by the mysteries of the Orient, the line is an invitation to travel. The house describes Supreme Bouquet as an escapade in an oriental garden. The fragrance is composed around white flowers.

Supreme Bouquet opens with notes of bergamot, pink pepper and pear. The heart pairs tuberose with jasmine and ylang-ylang. The slightly ambry trail is composed of white musk and patchouli.

Note of Top : Pear, Bergamot

Note of Heart : Jasmine, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang

Note of Base : Patchouli, White Musks, Ambry Notes

I’m a sucker for tuberose, so I perked up a little when I sniffed Supreme Bouquet back in Paris. It was still a very tempered response, however, and one that was wholly relative to my utter disdain for the other two fragrances in the Oriental Collection. On paper, it seemed moderately pleasant and pretty, but nondescript and lacking much originality.

The sad thing is that it’s actually much better on paper! On the skin, it’s merely yet another synthetic trip to disappointment. In a nutshell, Supreme Bouquet is like any fruity-white fragrance available at Sephora or at a middle-level department store. Actually, I’m pretty sure some celebrity fragrances are like Supreme Bouquet — right down to their chemical base.

Source: ilikewallpaper.net -

Source: ilikewallpaper.net –

In the vial, Supreme Bouquet smells like a dewy, watery, sweet, white floral scent dominated by tuberose, and lightly infused with pear and white musk. On the skin, it opens with pink peppercorns, white musk, sweet greenish pears, and tuberose. The notes sit atop a base of synthetic, clean, white musk, a synthetic like ISO E Super, and fake “ambry” notes. The synthetics soon become as dominant as the supposedly natural notes, turning Supreme Bouquet into a very sharp, almost laundryesque white floral bomb with pear, pink pepper, and prickly, peppered, sharp ISO E Super. The perfume is a lot of things: it’s very sweet, very fresh, very clean, very white, and very synthetic — but not, alas, very interesting.

TuberoseIt takes less than five minutes for my skin to be radiating sharp, synthetic white musk and spiky ISO E Super infused with tuberose, pink peppercorns and pear. It gave me an instant headache. Only after an hour do the synthetics finally start to soften, retreating to the edges of the fragrance. The purple patchouli surges to take their place, turning the tuberose even sweeter and adding a much heavier, deeper, fruited touch. By the end of the second hour, Supreme Bouquet is fruity-floral with gooey, purple patchouli and still sharp musk over a sheer, generic, abstract “amber” base with ISO E Super. The jasmine is as prominent as the tuberose now, but the patchouli threatens to dominate them both.

Supreme Bouquet is a largely linear, simple fragrance. Only at the start of the 7th hour does it change, but it’s one of degree. The fruited patchouli is now equal to the tuberose, if not sometimes a bit more dominant, and both notes are trailed by lingering traces of peppered synthetic. Honestly, I see no amber whatsoever in the base. In its very final moments, Supreme Bouquet is merely an abstract blur of a fruited white floral. It lasted 10.75 hours on my skin, with sillage that was moderate only for the first hour but which quickly turned soft. The potency of the synthetic notes, however, meant that Supreme Bouquet was still quite sharp and easily detectable if sniffed up close. The perfume only became a skin scent after about six hours.

If you’re looking for a tuberose with fruity patchouli and synthetics, you should spare yourself Supreme Bouquet’s ridiculous price, and just take yourself off to Sephora, or a bargain basement to look for a celebrity fragrance. There are any number of places where you won’t be charged £185 or €177 for an utterly generic fruity-floral fragrance reeking of ISO E and white musk. Let’s not forget those pink peppercorns, either, something which is wholly passé as a perfume trend now but which was such a mainstay of commercial perfumery to go with the fruited patchouli and the white florals.

Dominique Ropion via fotomag.com.ua

Dominique Ropion via fotomag.com.ua

It’s sad to see the great Dominique Ropion‘s name attached to something that, quite frankly, makes some of the Tocca line of perfumes look like high-quality masterpieces. He really is a superb perfumer; from Ysatis to half of the most famous Frederic Malle fragrances and many other celebrated gems, he is enormously talented. He’s also seems to be a wiz with florals, and tuberose in particular. For example, the famous Carnal Flower, Dior‘s white Pure Poison, and the sadly maligned Amarige. To go from Carnal Flower to this?! In fact, if you’re looking for a simple fruity-floral, you may want to go with the Tocca brand than YSL. Tocca’s Florence is a much better fragrance which also has pear, tuberose, jasmine, bergamot, and musk. In addition, it also has more nuance, thanks to gardenia, violet, iris, and apple; it lacks patchouli; and it is a much fresher, greener, less sickly sweet perfume. Plus, it costs $68, not $300.

I don’t blame Dominique Ropion, however, for the utterly generic, Britney Spears-like fragrance that he’s created. (Britney Spear‘s best-selling Curious has a similar tuberose, pear and musk profile, but also many more notes and no fruited patchouli.) No, in this case, I blame Ropion’s masters at L’Oreal, since the simple fact is that all perfumers must abide by the agenda, briefs, and price point set by the client. Still, there is no getting around it: Supreme Bouquet is not Mr. Ropion’s finest hour. I wonder if he was bored out of his mind making it? I certainly was while wearing it.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Each fragrance in YSL’s Oriental Collection is an eau de parfum that comes in a 2.7 oz/ 80 ml bottle, and is subject to very limited distribution. The price is £185 or €177. The French YSL website and the UK YSL site both carry the Oriental Collection, but not the US one. In the U.S.: I haven’t found any American retailers thus far that carry the line. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, from what I’ve seen thus far, the Oriental Collection is most widely found in the UK and France. In the UK, and for Supreme Bouquet, the London links are: House of Fraser (which is discounting the scent at £148), Harvey Nichols, and HarrodsJohn Lewis is offering Majestic Rose and Supreme Bouquet at a slight discount with a price of £166 instead of £185. There are only 3 bottles left of each at the time of this post. John Lewis ships internationally to over 33 countries, and has free UK delivery. For Majestic Rose, the perfume is currently sold out at London’s House of Fraser, but it is available at Harvey Nichols. I couldn’t find it on the Harrod’s site, but I know they sell it. In Paris, I’ve read that the full line is available at the main Sephora on the Champs Elysees. In Ireland, Brown Thomas sells Majestic Rose and Supreme Bouquet for €205. In Russia, Orental has Majestic Rose and Supreme Bouquet. Airports: Finally, you can find YSL’s Oriental Collection at a number of airports. I myself tested it at Paris’ CDG International Departures, and I know it is also available at London’s Heathrow. I suspect the same applies at all other large airports. Samples: I obtained my samples from Surrender to Chance which sells the complete trio in a set starting at $13.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Majestic Rose and Supreme Bouquet are also available individually starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Obviously, the complete set is a bit of a better deal. 

YSL Noble Leather (Oriental Collection) – Ignoble Leather

Source: www.luxe-en-france.com

Source: luxe-en-france.com

You better hold onto your seats because I’m not in a good mood. In fact, I’m in a distinctly vile mood, thanks to Noble Leather, a new fragrance from YSL that was released last month in very limited distribution. Ignoble Noble Leather is one of three scents in the new Oriental Collection that is meant to honour the brilliant Yves St. Laurent himself.

All I have to say to that is that the poor man would cry in his grave if he smelled this fragrance. He happens to have been a personal idol of mine, a man I practically worshiped in my youth, and whose creations were once a huge part of my life in numerous different ways. He would cry at the toxic horror that is Noble Leather, and I would join him — if I didn’t feel like taking a sword and stabbing it through L’Oreal‘s heart. 

Source: Basenotes.

Source: Basenotes.

The most common, frequent description of Noble Leather lies through its teeth when it states:

Yves Saint Laurent has drawn its inspiration from the splendours of the East to give birth to an exceptional collection. In honour of its creator and his never-ending passion for the elsewhere, the Oriental Collection celebrates the mysteries and refinement of a land of infinite richness. The potent and deep scent of leather fervently states its case and whispers an elegant, raw and carnal sensuality. The ambery wood accord embraces languid vanilla and the earthy scents of patchouli before giving way to intermingling tanned leathers. Enhanced by a dash of bright saffron notes and softened by the candied sweetness of the dried fruit accord, this skin-deep fragrance leaves an unforgettable impression.

Noble Leather. Source: Luxe-en-France.com

Noble Leather. Source: Luxe-en-France.com

The most complete and detailed information I found for the fragrance comes from Ozmoz. It states that Noble Leather was created by Julie Massé of Mane, and it provides both a description of the bottle and the full list of notes:

Sensual and animalic, Noble Leather is a fragrance in Yves Saint Laurent’s Oriental Collection line. Inspired by the mysteries of the Orient, the collection is an invitation to travel. Noble Leather is composed around a leather accord that’s sweetened with dried-fruit notes. The cubic bottle is sheathed in gold and nestles in a golden box inspired by an Oriental palace. Available from selected points of sale only.

Top : Violet Blossom, Saffron, Tangerine

Heart : Tobacco, Leather, Dried Fruit

Base : Vanilla, Patchouli

A pack of lies, if you ask me. Nothing in this fragrance “celebrates the mysteries and refinement of a land of infinite richness.” What it celebrates are laboratory concoctions. An invitation to travel? Where? To see the scientists at work in the bowels of Givaudan creating vats of cheap Norlimbanol, the ISO E-like Kephalis, cheap purple fruit-chouli, and Safraleine? As for the Orient, bah! It would join Mr. St. Laurent in weeping copious tears of shame that its name has been linked to this over-priced, outrageous hot mess. At least one of them should sue for defamation.

And L’Oreal, you should be utterly ashamed at what you’ve done to the Yves St. Laurent name, a name that was once highly respected, and my own personal favorite amidst all the perfume houses. For shame. FOR SHAME, you revolting, mercenary creatures. Stop picking at the Yves St. Laurent carcass, like the maggoty, mangy, flea-ridden vultures that you are. Haven’t you done enough with the emasculated eunuch and abomination that is the current Opium?

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

Source: hdwallpapers.lt

I suppose I should get to what this vile horror smells like, but I’ve been trying to put off revisiting the memory from sheer misery. Well, Noble Leather opens like a toxic cloud of chemical napalm on my skin. There is a momentary pop of saffron, rich rose, and then a powerful, unexpected burst of an oud-y woodiness, followed by a tidal wave of synthetics. That artificial “oud” is highly peppered and dry, to the point that it feels prickly, spiky, and almost sulphurous. It actually doesn’t smell like the real wood, but my brain is clearly making the connections between the chemicals that often accompany agarwood in fragrances like Montale’s Aouds, and interpreting it as “oud.” Only here, it smells like a really bad, cheap version of Montale’s “oud” — which says something….

In these opening minutes, it is genuinely difficult for me to detect much in Noble Leather behind the deluge of chemicals that are, alternatively, profoundly peppered, aggressively sharp, sulphurously smoky, prickly, and syrupy sweet. My nose is pounding from some sort of piercing dryness, while a sudden pain shoots behind my left eye. But, eh, I’m generally used to such things when there is a gallon of synthetics involved, no matter how miserable the experience. What I’m significantly less used to is the feeling that someone has taken the edge of a sharp kitchen knife and scraped it all along the back of my throat. It feels raw, scratchy, and then it starts to burn. What the hell is in this bloody perfume?!

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

Art by: LordmOth on Deviant Art. (Click on photo for website link embedded within.)

It is a rhetorical question because I actually recall the unpleasant medley of toxic chemical smells from a prior experience, though it had been faint in comparison then and it never — ever — triggered a reaction like this. This smell that is almost like ISO E Super, but not quite; this olfactory cocktail that begins with a slightly astringent (and quite oud-like) note, before quickly radiating a spiky, smoked, highly peppered cedary dryness, with amber and the vaguest undertone of leather — this medley feels extremely familiar.

Early this summer, I came across a discussion about the synthetic aromachemicals, Kephalis and Norlimbanol on the blog, Scent Intoxique. I am forever indebted to Duke Hunt whose invaluable description taught me to recognize the cocktail of synthetics that I detect here (only Noble Leather has them amped up on steroids, if you ask me). In his review for Nasomatto’s Black Afgano, Duke Hunt wrote:

Straight out of the bong you’re greeted with a dense aroma chemical sucker punch made up of synthetic Givaudan oud, coupled with an underpinned cedar effect in the form of Kephalis (which is an Iso-E-Super substitute, only with a more woodier/smokier feel).

Finally I can make out some quite prominent vetiver/tobacco notes, adding to the “greenness” which the general nose picks up. I may be off, but I definitely feel like I’m picking up one of the main players here and that’s Norlimbanol™, which is described as an “extremely powerful woody/animal amber note. That has a dry woody note in the patchouli direction”. 

As described by Chandler Burr, “Norlimbanol is one of the most amazing scents around, a genius molecule that should be worth its weight in gold; Norlimbanol gives you, quite simply, the smell of extreme dryness, absolute desiccation, and if when you smell it, you’ll understand that instantly—the molecule is, by itself, a multi-sensory Disney ride.”

It’s this same compound which I believe gives the scent its subtle leathery undertones along with the amber. [Emphasis in font to the names added by me.]

Almost everything he’s written — not everything, but almost all — I detect here. From “the subtle leathery tones along with the amber,” to the spiky, peppered, almost greenish notes that resemble smoked cedar, to acutely dry, astringent, almost sulphurously burning woody-amber notes. The patchouli he mentions, well, that is provided in additional form with the actual note, as is the supposed tobacco (which is probably just more Kephalis in disguise). And the whole, utterly heinous, indescribable abomination is wrapped up with an ISO E Super-like bow that explodes at you right out of the starting gates. I sharply and vehemently disagree with Chandler Burr that this is genius gold.

To me, Noble Leather’s toxic brew is a chemical hell on earth that is the perfume equivalent of napalm. Each and every time I sniff I my arm, the back of my throat burns, and I get a spasmodic pain behind my eye. I have smelled a lot of ISO E or synthetic fragrances, and, while I may hate the aroma, I don’t get physical reactions unless the quantity of aroma-chemicals is really enormous. And I certainly can’t recall the last time I had a physical reaction that was this strong.

Source: Shutterstock.com

Source: Shutterstock.com

Minutes after the traumatizing tsunami of toxicity that is unleashed on me, more notes arrive on the scene. There is a jammy patchouli that evokes the aroma of syrupy red roses dominated by dark fruits, then small bubbles of a sweet tangerine and a powdery violet. At first, the citric element is a bit juicy and tart, but it soon takes on a plastic synthetic profile. You know those cheap “Made in China” plastic toys? Well, imagine the smell of one of those just barely infused with something orange-like. As for the violet, it’s delicate, but also somewhat woody and is quickly transformed with a peppery bite from the other accords. Much more prominent to me is a note that distinctly smells like jammy roses, even though there is none listed in the perfume. I assuming it’s my mind making those connections again, as fruited purple patchouli often accompanies a rose accord in perfumery. Whatever the reason, there is a fruited floralness in Noble Leather that goes beyond mere “violets” and which I’ll just call “rose” from this point onwards.

Safraleine. Source: Givaudan.

Safraleine. Source: Givaudan.

Then, there is the saffron. It starts off being a little fiery and spiced, but soon takes on a warm, almost leathery bent. It is most definitely Safraleine, a Givaudan creation that the company describes as follows:

Safraleine has a very unique warm and vibrant character offering a new alternative to existing spicy odorants. Safraleine exhibits warm, powerful, leathery and tobacco facets but its complexity also reveals characteristics of spices reminiscent of natural saffron, enriched by rose ketone-like floral aspects.

The shrieking madness finally starts to abate about 10 minutes into Ignoble Leather’s development. Now, it’s only a moderately aggressive chemical bath of violet, jammy fruited patchouli, plastic orange, fake oud-y woodiness, and highly peppered, ISO E-like sharpness. For the first time, the tobacco and leather appear on the scene. The former is dusty, dry, and smells a bit like a stale, unlit cigar. The latter smells like suede infused with cheap, pleather vinyl. Yet, neither one feels distinctive or much like the notes in their own right.

Kephalis. Source: Givaudan.

Kephalis. Source: Givaudan.

The best way to explain it is that the tobacco doesn’t smell like the actual tobacco found in other fragrances focusing on the note. It smells like an abstract approximation of what “tobacco” is supposed to smell like. My guess is that there is no actual tobacco in Noble Leather but that the aroma has been artificially created by Kephalis, that cousin to ISO E Super. Duke Hunt talked about Kephalis in the section I quoted above, but Givaudan‘s description of the synthetic is useful:

Kephalis is a very versatile and rich product, used as a long lasting heart/basic note. It blends well with floral notes (jasmine, rose, violet, lavender, etc.) as well as sophisticated amber, woody-aldehydic, tobacco and masculine creations. 

Thirty minutes in, the balance of power in the perfume starts to shift. As the super-shrill astringent, sulphurous, dusty and dry woody synthetics abate (a little), there is a matching rise in the fruited patchouli. It becomes heavier, more prominent, and suddenly, Noble Leather feels even sweeter. The most positive thing that I can say about the whole ghastly concoction is that the violet is pretty. Oddly enough, the peppered ISO E-like note seems to give the sometimes wan, frail note a little oomph. As a whole, though, the violets are never a significant part of Noble Leather on my skin. How could something so delicate withstand the power of a super synthetic like Norlimbanol?

"Rose Reflections" by HocusFocusClick on Flickr. (Click on photo for website link which is embedded within).

“Rose Reflections” by HocusFocusClick on Flickr. (Click on photo for website link which is embedded within).

At the end of the first hour, Noble Leather is a slightly softer mess of sharp, dusty, woody dryness with spiky, peppered ISO E-like notes, a syrupy pink rose, sticky fruits, cheap vinyl-smelling leather, hints of violets, stale tobacco, and synthetic, buttered saffron. It starts to devolve, with the fruited patchouli becoming more prominent, the fragrance taking on an amber undertone, and the woody notes turning more abstract.

In the middle of the second hour, Noble Leather feels more and more like a vaguely floral patchouli with fruited molasses, amber, and ISO E, over a base of extremely dry woodiness that, at best, resembles a sharp cedar. The vague abstraction of cheap leather retreats to the sidelines. The whole thing is much softer and, though I’m not keen on patchouli rose, Noble Leather smells better. It is almost pleasant — albeit on the most relative of absolute scales fabricated in the bowels of Hell. Perhaps it’s the relief talking, as Noble Leather’s soft cloud is now radiating only 3 inches off my skin, instead of punching me in the head like Mike Tyson.

Regardless of what the notes may say, Ignoble Leather has a definite underpinning of amber. I suspect it stems from some combination of the synthetics together. Whatever the precise reason, by the middle of the second hour, Noble Leather smells of a soft, “oud”-y rose with fruited patchouli, dusty saffron, dusty and stale tobacco, dry cedar-ish woods, and Norlimbanol amber. The perfume’s sillage drops, but the notes are still forceful when smelled up close. In fact, each and every time I sniff my arm, it feels like someone has taken an old-fashioned 18th-century straight razor to the back of my throat.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

At the end of the fourth hour, Noble Leather is a woody, dry amber fragrance with tobacco, saffron, and that patchouli rose. There is the vaguest hint of suede that pops up every now and then, but leather? Elvis left the building a while ago. Taking his place is a subtle, very dry vanilla that starts to rise to the surface. Noble Leather turns increasingly abstract and hazy, and its final moments consists primarily of an amber with indistinct, super dry woodiness and vanilla, atop an amorphous, slightly fruited sweetness. All in all, the bloody perfume lasted just over 9 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with sillage that was initially fierce, then strong, before it turned soft about 2.5 hours into Noble Leather’s development. As you might have gathered by now, I was not a fan. Of any of it.

In fact, I wasn’t a fan even in my first encounter with the perfume. I actually smelled Noble Leather while I was in Paris. It was on a paper mouillette, but I was taken aback even then by the sharp wave of horrors that came at me. I didn’t know Noble Leather’s official notes, but I recall telling the sales assistant that I smelled oud, and asked if it had ISO E Super. When she stared at me blankly, I wrapped things up by simply saying that I was tired of safraleine-oud-rose fragrances. I could smell much of it, even back then from mere paper. But on actual skin…. it’s a whole other matter entirely.

On Fragrantica, the main focus of people’s discussion of Noble Leather is Tom Ford‘s Tuscan Leather. I took out my sample of the latter today to give it a cursory comparative test, and the two scents are simultaneously extremely alike and nothing alike. Yes, the perfumes have an extremely close olfactory bouquet but, at no time, does the Tom Ford fragrance hit you with a tsunami of toxicity. There are definitely traces of Norlimbanol in Tuscan Leather, and it has an incredibly dry, peppered base, but the relative degrees are night and day apart. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, the amount of synthetics used in Noble Leather would rate a solid 10 in the opening minutes. Tom Ford’s would rate a 1.5, which rises to about a 2 or 2.5 as the Norlimbanol starts to stir and become more prominent. For what it’s worth, Tuscan Leather triggered some scratchiness in my throat as well, so I’m clearly sensitive to that particular aroma-chemical in ways that I am not even to ISO E Super. But it is more like minor irritation, a small cough, as opposed to feeling that my skin has been scraped raw by a straight razor.

I realize that the degree of my fury may seem quite disproportionate to the situation at large. I am sure many of you think that the perfume can’t possibly be that unpleasant, and that my nose is simply much more sensitive than the average person. I concede that last point. I always had an acutely sensitive nose but, the more I sniff perfumes daily, the more sensitive it becomes, since, in essence, the nose is merely another type of muscle. Exercising it daily makes it much stronger. But, in my opinion, Noble Leather really is that bad. For all that people think it’s a clone of Tuscan Leather, the latter is an infinitely better, smoother, more well-rounded, high-quality, expensive-smelling fragrance. It lacks Noble Leather’s sharp, bony, spiky elbows and prickly roughness. Noble Leather amps up the chemicals to a shocking degree; it’s vats of the stuff, instead of a few table spoons.

One of the reasons why I’m so angry is the cost of Noble Leather. YSL is charging £185 or €177 for an 80 ml bottle. At the current rate of conversion, £185 is $301. That is completely outrageous given the ingredients used in the fragrance. Yes, real saffron is bloody expensive, and a lot of perfume companies use Safranal or Safraleine instead. But the ISO E-like tobacco, Kephalis? Norlimbanol? I can go out right this minute and buy 4 ml of Norlimbanol in undiluted concentrate from The Perfumer’s Apprentice for $3.99, or a large 80 ml bottle (the same sized bottle as Noble Leather) for $36. I can buy 80 ml of Kephalis for $18. Given that L’Oreal undoubtedly gets a massive discount for wholesale orders of the stuff, the cost to them would be even lower. Plus, since all this stuff is subsequently diluted in an perfumer’s alcohol base, 80 ml of either chemical could probably make several hundred bottles of perfume.

That makes Noble Leather’s $300 price tag simply insulting. Sheer venal greed for a totally crap, cheaply made, chemical perfume that is a tsunami of toxicity. Yves St. Laurent was the epitome of elegance, luxury, seductiveness, and opulent orientalism. This “homage” to him is an utter abomination. I can’t even bear to talk about it any more.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Each fragrance in YSL’s Oriental Collection is an eau de parfum that comes in a 2.7 oz/ 80 ml bottle, and is subject to very limited distribution. The price is £185 or €177. The French YSL website and the UK YSL site both carry the Oriental Collection, but not the US one. In the U.S.: I haven’t found any American retailers thus far that carry the line. Outside the U.S.: In Europe, from what I’ve seen thus far, the Oriental Collection is most widely found in the UK and France. In the UK, I found Noble Leather slightly discounted at John Lewis which sells the scent for £166 instead of £185. There are only 3 bottles left at the time of this post. John Lewis ships internationally to over 33 countries, and has free UK delivery. Elsewhere in the UK, London’s House of Fraser carries Noble Leather, as does Harvey Nichols and Harrods. In Paris, I’ve read that the full line is available at the main Sephora on the Champs Elysees. In Ireland, Brown Thomas sells Noble Leather for €205. In Russia, Noble Leather is carried at Orental. Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes had tester bottles of Noble Leather for $189.99, but they are “out of stock.” Airports: Finally, you can find YSL’s Oriental Collection at a number of airports. I myself tested it at Paris’ CDG, and I know it is also available at London’s Heathrow. I suspect the same applies at all other large airports. Samples: I obtained my samples from Surrender to Chance which sells the complete trio in a set starting at $13.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Noble Leather is also available individually starting at $4.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. Obviously, the complete set is a bit of a better deal.