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.  

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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! 

Parfums Rétro Grand Cuir

Source: lonelyplanet.com

Source: lonelyplanet.com

A rocky mountain road with long, winding curves lies ahead of you, the wind blows through your fingers as you rev the throttles on the motorcycle, and all around you wafts the birch, pine and herbs of a nearby forest. They mingle with the scent of a leather jacket that is at once raw and refined, dark black and aged brown. The leather changes from the hard edge of tarry birch, to the quiet rumble of animalic, feline muskiness, the sweet glow of amber, and the refinement of the most expensive Italian suede. The bouquet contrasts with the clean freshness of skin that still carries traces of the soap you used in your early morning shower. It tames and softens the leather’s edges, creating the illusion of polite refinement over the lion’s quiet rumbling.

Source: Luckyscent

Source: Luckyscent

Contradictions and paradoxes lie at the heart of Grand Cuir, a fragrance from Parfums Rétro that 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 Italian suedes infused with lavender. It’s a journey that is at once animalic and clean with a fragrance that starts almost as an aromatic 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.

Jeffrey Dame. Source: Fragrantica.

Jeffrey Dame. Source: Fragrantica.

Grand Cuir is an eau de parfum that was released in June 2013 from a new company created by a veteran of the business. Parfums Rétro is the creative venture of Jeffrey Dame, a man who has more than 30 years in the perfume business in all its aspects: extensive involvement with Caron, Estée Lauder, Tuvaché and Neiman Marcus; actual perfume development for a number of houses; the creation of Perfume of Life (one of the very earliest online perfume forums) in 1999; his role as the President of Hypoluxe, a distributor of such well-regarded niche perfume brands as M. Micallef and Andy Tauer; and, now, his own perfume house with Parfums Rétro.

I should say at the outset that I know Mr. Dame (though we’ve never met in person), and I find him to be utterly charming, funny, direct, down-to-earth, and kind. He’s also a wealth of knowledge about the perfume industry as a whole, as he’s had a front row seat to observe its changes over the last 33 years. And he has definite ideas about how a perfume should progress, how it needs to have body and “movement,” and how many mass-market, commercial fragrances lack a distinctive character.

Ewan McGregor via The Daily Mail.

Ewan McGregor via The Daily Mail.

As a result, I was excited to see what his own creation would be like. Grand Cuir was developed in collaboration with the perfumer, Hugh Spencer, who has had a similarly long career in the business. At the same time, though, I rather dreaded what would happen if I hated the fragrance; I’m always honest, even if it doesn’t serve me well. So, it’s a huge relief to say that I think Grand Cuir is a genuinely good fragrance that has both the refinement of Chanel‘s legendary Cuir de Russie, but also, a sexy animalic growl. For me, Grand Cuir conjures up a good guy, with a slightly wild streak, clean cut sexiness, and sophistication under his leather. The fragrance straddles a variety of genres, and I found parts to be a mesmerizing balance of contrasts. I think men will love it, and that leather-wearing women would enjoy it as well.

In an interview with Ida Meister of Fragrantica, Jeffrey Dame described Grand Cuir as:

A fragrant composition in four parts:

    • A leather soul from start to finish.
    • Spicy and herbaceous accents.
    • A multi-dimensional floral heart.
    • A comfortable, relaxed base.”

The notes according to Luckyscent and Fragrantica include:

orange blossom, labdanum, birch tar, clary sage, lavender, carnation, rose, violet leaf, geranium, cinnamon, tarragon, pine moss, sandalwood, rosewood, patchouli and musk.

Source: yvelledesigneye.com

Source: yvelledesigneye.com

Grand Cuir opens on my skin with an aromatic, herbal, citric, fresh start. It may not be in the notes, but I smell bergamot, though it is quickly overwhelmed by a blast of dark, tarry, phenolic birch. It is followed by piquant, peppery, spicy notes from the geranium, carnation, and sharp lavender. Moments later, there is the sudden appearance of fresh, clean soap which contrasts with the dark tar of the birch. Running like a vein through it all is a dark-grey, mineralized, slightly fusty oakmoss.

It’s a start that very much straddles different perfume genres. Grand Cuir opens like a traditional aromatic fougère with lavender and citrus, but also like a crisp, clean, soapy cologne with aldehydes. Yet, Grand Cuir is also most definitely a leather fragrance with smoky, rubbery, tarry, and, at times, slightly raw undertones. The bundle of contrasts is soon complemented by other notes, stirring in the depths. There are hints of warmth and sweetness from the amber, then the merest whisper of patchouli, all lurking deep down. In the middle level, the rose and cinnamon flicker quietly, as does a suggestion of violets.

Source: philiphartiganpraeterita.blogspot.com

Source: philiphartiganpraeterita.blogspot.com

The leather rumbles through it all. For the most part, it never feels like purely raw, untreated leather, and it certainly never has the fecal aspects of some leather fragrances. On occasion, though, the birch tar does create a faint tinge of rubberiness and a dark smokiness. In essence, Grand Cuir smells like a very expensive, new, black leather jacket that still has something of an unbroken feel to it. It’s masculine and hard, but also soft and refined at the same time.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

I think it’s Grand Cuir’s soapy, aldehydic undertone that helps create that impression because there is a certain fizzy cleanness that makes the leather feel “new.” In many ways, Grand Cuir feels like a much smoother, softer version of Chanel’s Cuir de Russie. On my skin, that legendary fragrance manifested itself as mounds of fecal horse manure under a thick blanket of soap suds. Thankfully, Grand Cuir completely avoids those unpleasant extremes with a much defter, smoother handling of the birch tar, leather, and soap. That said, as most regular readers know, I have a slight phobia about soapiness, and I would generally prefer none of it in any fragrance. The same goes double for aldehydes. Despite that, however, I admit that the amount in Grand Cuir’s opening phase was generally manageable, even for me.

Plus, the soapiness serves a very useful, positive purpose: it smooths out the leather’s distinctly animalic edge. While the leather note is never purely raw or untamed like in Montale‘s Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, it does have a very subtle undertone that verges on something urinous. It is much like civet, to be frank, but it’s not extreme, and certainly nothing like a men’s urinal. If you can handle a slightly feline whiff of civet in vintage fragrances, this will be child’s play to you. The note here is much more like the subtle touch in Dior‘s Leather Oud, or perhaps fainter. I like it, and find that it adds a bit of an animalic growl to Grand Cuir’s underbelly.

Clary Sage. Source: TreeFrogFarm.com

Clary Sage. Source: TreeFrogFarm.com

Aldehydes and leather are not Grand Cuir’s sole focus at this stage. The herbal accords are equally significant. Tarragon provides an anise-like freshness, while the clary sage adds a spicy, herbal, creamy touch. It has a nuance of both lavender and leather that works well to complement those other notes, while its aromatic freshness also helps undercut some of the darkness of the birch tar. My favorite part, however, may be the piquant, biting, peppery nuances to Grand Cuir’s top bouquet which consistently evokes the dark, green, fuzzy greenness of geranium leaves. The green visuals are underscored by a very subtle note of pine trees that lurks about Grand Cuir’s edges.

Thirty minutes in, Grand Cuir slowly shifts. A more orange-y element begins to stir. The notes start to merge into each other to create a well-blended aromatic, herbal, green, leather fragrance with tarry bits and aldehydes. The leather is incredibly smooth and refined for something so full-bodied. At the end of the first hour, the labdanum appears, adding a slightly animalic, musky, sexy touch to Grand Cuir. Its ambered warmth with its faintly nutty side counters the masculine, faintly raw edges of the leather, creating a smooth balance.

Source: topiphonewalls.com

Source: topiphonewalls.com

At the 1.5 hour mark, Grand Cuir settles into its next stage. It has lost much of the herbal, pungently green, somewhat tarry elements of its opening, and is now sleekly stalking out of the gates as a plush, smooth, deep leather with just a faintly animalic, musky growl and a lingering patina of soapy aldehydes. It’s as though that dark, new, black leather jacket has turned into a broken-in, burnished, soft leather that is warm, and rich. Grand Cuir is now flecked with amber, lightly dusted with sweet cinnamon, and is firmly ensconced in a woody embrace. It has the sensuous aspect of Serge LutensCuir Mauresque but with much more animalic touches, no jasmine florals, aldehydes instead of powder, and a much more woody base. Grand Cuir’s sillage also changes, dropping quite a bit to make the perfume hover just an inch above the skin.

Ewan McGregor for Belstaff. Source: Twitter.

Ewan McGregor for Belstaff. Source: Twitter.

The fragrance continues to soften and to transform on the leather spectrum. Grand Cuir feels masculine, but soft, clean, and musky at the same time. It’s leather that is turning to suede, but with still a bit of a sexy edge. In some ways, it evokes a clean-shaven man, more than one sporting stubble, if that makes sense. In fact, I have the perfect mental image in my head of the man who symbolizes Grand Cuir, but I couldn’t find an image to fit. (Apparently, men who wear leather don’t shave for fashion shoots!) It’s not James Dean in Mendocino, no matter what Luckyscent’s ad copy for Grand Cuir might say; James Dean is far too pretty. It’s also not Humphrey Bogart (too leathery, old, and rough), Robert Redford (too pretty again), or Leonardo di Caprio (too boyish and soft). George Clooney is very close, but I don’t associate him with leather or with a devil-may-care edge. It might be a dark-haired version of Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape” with the charm of Ewan McGregor and a dash of George Clooney, perhaps.

Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape."

Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape.”

Whoever the perfect masculine representation may be, Grand Cuir turns utterly addictive at the start of the 4th hour. It’s the most fascinating mix of musky and clean, animalic and refined. Something about the leather is as soft as the most expensive Italian suede, while still maintaining the feel of really well-polished, expensive leather shoes, and the confident swagger of a guy in a biker jacket. None of it is too much, either in terms of brashness, refinement, elegance or sexiness. And, believe it or not, I think that oddly clean, soapy patina may be the reason why. It keeps all the competing elements in check, balancing them out, taming the hint of civet-like sourness to the leather, and adding a sophisticated smoothness. For my tastes, this amount of aldehydes or soap is perfect — and perfectly chic. I wish it had been that way initially, but, again, I’m phobic about soapiness.

Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Source: seasonalcolor.yuku.com

Grand Cuir continues to soften further, turning into the palest, creamiest suede. It sits over a base of amber that is warm, but not heavy or thick. It is also supported by a faintly woody undertone, though it’s too nebulous to be easily distinguishable as rosewood or something else. Finishing things up is a fluctuating degree of animalic edge, and a lingering muskiness that feels clean. At the start of the 8th hour, Grand Cuir is suede with a sweet-sour edge over sheer, woody amber, but with the surprising return of the lavender and clary sage. I tested the perfume twice and it was the same situation on both occasions: Grand Cuir turns into a beautifully soft, refined suede infused by the perfect touch of creamy lavender and slightly floral clary sage. I loved it, and was very happy that the fragrance remained that way largely until its very end. In its final moments, Grand Cuir was just a faint blur of lavender with some abstract suede-y sweetness.

Grand Cuir has enormous longevity on my skin, but very soft sillage. It lasted 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin with three sprays, and 10.5 hours with two small ones. The sillage began at the moderate end, wafting about 3 inches above the skin, before dropping around the 1.5 hour mark to something much smaller. It was a skin scent on me by the end of the 2nd hour. All of this is intentional. Jeffrey Dame has explicitly said that he didn’t want a blustery, loud scent, but, rather, one that was discreet:

I realize that inobtrusive has ceased to be a positive attribute these days—but I intend it here as a great compliment. We aren’t howling patchouli here, or musk-monster, either.

My personal tastes actually do run towards “howling patchouli,” and I like perfumes with a sonic boom, but there is a time and place for refined, discreet elegance as well. If Grand Cuir didn’t have such a distinctive character and such movement across its stages, I would be less enthused, because who wants bland, boring discretion? But it does have those things on my skin. It has the refinement that I sought in Cuir de Russie before I came to a skidding, horrified stop at the enormous mounds of horsey manure and soap that emanated from my skin. (Yes, yes, I know that’s heresy. Stone me if you will. I fully recognize that I’m in a tiny minority on Cuir de Russie!) Grand Cuir also has the sex appeal of Cuir Mauresque, one of my favorite leathers and Serge Lutens fragrances. And then, it ends on the expensive suede softness of Parfum d’Empire‘s Cuir Ottoman, only without the gourmand vanilla touches but with woody notes or creamy lavender instead. For all that, I’ll put up with the discreet sillage.

I think the different aspects and facets to Grand Cuir make it something that women can wear as much as men, so long as they like leather. There are numerous women who worship at the altar of Cuir de Russie; they should certainly try Grand Cuir. However, women who don’t like perfumes with an animalic edge, or who prefer more purely suede affairs boosted by gourmand touches would probably struggle a little with Grand Cuir. I suspect that is why Luckyscent seems to have designated the fragrance as a “masculine” one.

That said, 40% of the sales of the perfume are by women, so don’t let the categorization put you off. If you can wear Etat Libre d’Orange‘s very intense leather Rien, if you like birch tar in various woody fragrances like Andy Tauer‘s Lonestar Memories, and if you enjoy herbal, aromatic notes, then Grand Cuir will be easy. The key is how smooth and seamless the fragrance is, how none of the notes are out-of-balance or bullying. From the leather to the birch tar, it’s all done in a manner that is intentionally less forceful or intense than in its compatriots. Grand Cuir wants to speak sotto voce, in everything, believing that refined subtlety is best.

Reaction to Grand Cuir is generally positive. On one early Basenotes thread, at the time of the perfume’s release, there are a number of appreciative comments. One example, from “Buzzlepuff” reads:

This is a fantastic leather fragrance – I think.    I am smelling rawhide realism, aged lived-in character, depth of tone, highs and lows, cowboys, floral civilized character points, lots and lots of growl in here.  Yes I am liking this leather sample.  This is leather for big boys and girls! Don’t even try it if you aren’t ready for the real thing.

In the official Basenotes entry for Grand Cuir, reaction is more mixed, with some people struggling in particular with the perfume’s opening. They found it smelled like “muscle ache rub” or “cold cream.” Yet, even one of those commentators liked the fragrance as it developed, writing

It becomes a very excellent natural leather fragrance, if you let it. […] If you make a snap decision about this, you will hate it.  If you give it some time you might love it.  It is not as strong as Knize 10, or most of the Spanish leathers out there; nor as flowery as Cuir Pleine Fleur by Heeley.  It is very subtle, natural and captivating.  I don’t know how it is “retro” but it seems fairly modern to me, but not austere or sweet. This is very much worth a try, after a rather strange opening.

A poster called “TheBeck” responded on how the problematic “cold cream” note is the clary sage, then wrote a positive ode to the well-balanced, “unique” elegance of Grand Cuir. It’s too long to quote here, but, in essence, he finds that the soapy aspect “gives us that fresh juxtaposition against the leather and birch tar base which makes this so intoxicating. […] Grand Cuir is perfectly balanced. How the ‘nose’ got all those spicy herbs, florals and leather to blend so seamlessly was no small task. But the results are fantastic.” 

On Fragrantica, the same dichotomy exists: a few people found the perfume too soapy, while others write lengthy raves about how it’s a highly refined leather with substantial depth, body, and transitions. I think the key is to get past the opening stage, especially the first 40-minutes, when the soapy element and the herbs are most distinct. The subsequent phases are worth it if you’re a fan of leather or suede fragrances. And the ending is really lovely.

DISCLOSURE: My sample of Grand Cuir was provided courtesy of Parfums Rétro. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Grand Cuir is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle and costs $155. For the moment, it is in exclusive distribution via Luckyscent which also offers samples for $4 a vial. Starting in 2014, however, Parfums Rétro will be available in the UK and the EU at various perfume retailers.