Perfume Reviews – Dior Leather Oud & Granville (La Collection Privée)

John Wayne riding through the arid desert canyons of New Mexico. Gary Cooper in a suit in the bracing, brisk air of Normandie. Two very different images of two very different men stemming from two very different fragrances in Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The fragrances are Leather Oud and Granville, and both were created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, to reflect different aspects of the life of Christian Dior.

LEATHER OUD:

Dior Leather OudDior describes the scent as follows:

Christian Dior searched the world, looking for the most beautiful fabrics that exist. Like the Designer, the Perfumer chooses the most beautiful raw materials, one of which is Oud Wood from Indonesia. Highly powerful, vibrant and deep, Oud Wood is rare and particularly recognizable by the leather scents that it diffuses when burned. Using this unique wood, François Demachy created an intensely masculine fragrance, with strong character in which Leather notes intertwine with those of Gaiac Wood, Cedar and Sandalwood.

The notes for the fragrance, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

Cardamom, Clove, Leather, Indonesian Oud wood, Gaiac Wood, Civet, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Birch, Cedar, Vetiver, Amyris, Beeswax, Amber and Labdanum.

According to Wikipedia, Amyris is a type of flowering plant or tree that is sometimes called torchwood, and whose trunk emits a type of balsam resin that is often also called elemi. Civet, as many perfumistas know, can have a very musky, animalic aroma that can border on the fecal if used in excess, but which can also lend plush warmth to the depths of a perfume if handled right. 

Leather Oud is sometimes described as an intensely animalistic fragrance, redolent of civet, but the Dior Privé line is not known for extreme, sharp, forceful, or loud notes of any kind — and Leather Oud is no exception. On my skin, it is almost entirely a dry, dusty, woody fragrance with nuances of dry leather and the subtlest inflections of oud, all barely sweetened with a dusty, dusky cardamom. Animalic? Not by a long shot.

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Leather Oud opens on my skin with a sour note like lemons, followed immediately thereafter by varying degrees of dry oud, bitter cloves, dusty cardamom, peppered and dry cypress, and slightly smoked gaiac wood. The top notes in the initial minutes smell a little rancid, though never fecal or wholly civet-like. There is a subtle, feline urinous edge, but it doesn’t last very long, either. Instead, Leather Oud starts pulsating out different layers of dry, smoky, peppered woods. There are subtle tinges of a rooty, dark vetiver, along with an equally dark, almost sour-smelling patchouli, and the merest suggestion of a herbal, floral element. The latter makes me think strongly of clary sage whose dry, lavendery veneer has a leathery undertone. The thing I find unpleasant in Leather Oud is the sour citric note that remains throughout much of the perfume’s development, and which impacts most of the remaining notes.

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

As for the leather, well, it’s there, but it is incredibly subtle. It’s not soft, warm, supple, sweetly aged and rich, but it’s also not black, raw, fecal or pungent, either. It verges on rawhide at times, feeling slightly phenolic and tarry due to the birch wood, but it’s a lot milder than I had expected. It’s also incredibly muted on my skin, overpowered in large part by the cornucopia of dry woods. In fact, the woods impact the feel of the leather to a large extent, turning it into something that feels dry, cracked and antique, instead of anything supple and rich.     

Forty minutes into Leather Oud’s development, there are subtle changes, though never to the perfume’s primary core. The agarwood (oud) which initially felt a little sharp now softens and takes on a slightly creamy feel, almost like cheese, before it eventually turns into something that is simply dry in feel. It is completely overshadowed by the dry gaiac wood with its smoky edges and which evokes images of burning leaves. Accompanying it is a peppered cedar. In the background, the cloves add a touch of bitterness around to the wood notes, and the cardamom brings in an extra layer of dustiness. 

Soon after the one-hour mark, Leather Oud turns softer, creamier, and smoother. It’s very much as though someone had buffed and polished all the rough edges out of the wood. The thread of sour lemon remains, but all the other notes, right down to the bitter cloves, seem more refined. The leather and the oud are mere flickering touches — so much so that I’d never consider Leather Oud to be either a true agarwood fragrance or a leather one. Their muted nature reminds me strongly of By Kilian‘s oud fragrances where the element is a mere background suggestion; if you’re expecting an oud like those offered by Montale, or a serious leather fragrance, then I think you’ll be sorely disappointed. As always Dior offers an extremely refined, smooth interpretation of notes in a well-blended fragrance that is meant to be rather discreet, unobtrusive, and the epitome of moderation. Leather Oud is no exception, right down to its sillage which becomes moderate-to-low around the 90-minute mark.

"Dry Lake Bed" by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

“Dry Lake Bed” by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

Though parts of Leather Oud, like the cardamom become slightly sweeter, the perfume’s essence remains unchanged for the remainder of its lifespan. It is a dusty, arid, woody fragrance infused with dry smoke and sprinkled with barely sweetened cardamom. Around the sixth hour, the bouquet of woods is joined by warm beeswax, but it does little to enrichen the fragrance. Leather Oud evokes, in part, the scent of a dusty bookstore with reams of old, dry paper and, visually, a desert in the old Wild West. For some reason, I keep seeing John Wayne in my mind’s eye. And he stays there for the next 12 hours, until the perfume starts to slowly fade away. In its final moments, Leather Oud is a simple cardamom muskiness, and nothing more. All in all, the fragrance lasted just under 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with soft sillage throughout.

John Wayne in "Hondo" via cinemaforever.com

John Wayne in “Hondo” via cinemaforever.com

Leather Oud is far, far too dry for my personal tastes, but I think it’s a beautifully crafted, well-blended fragrance that is a highly refined take on dry, smoky woods. It seems to be one of the more beloved Dior fragrances, and men go crazy for it, though some on Fragrantica bemoan its dusty nature. A few commentators talk about intense civet notes, but most seem to find it quite manageable and muted. One commentator who is well used to civet, can “sniff it out a mile away,” and loves it wrote that he couldn’t detect any at all; in contrast, another noted a “creamy, fecal” undertone to the fragrance, while a third who despises civet says it is done so beautifully in Leather Oud that it is the first civet fragrance he loved. Obviously, this is a fragrance that you have to try for yourself in order to assess how the note will work out for you. I will say this, however: my skin tends to amplify base notes, especially the more animalistic ones, and I don’t think the animalic dirtiness was strong by any means!

Plus, it simply isn’t the Dior style or signature. None of the Dior Privé line of fragrances are meant to be extreme in any way; they’re meant to be the epitome of refinement and smoothness. And that certainly seems to the majority consensus on Leather Oud on Fragrantica. Their raves are simply too effusively long and gushing for me to quote in any coherent way, so I’ll just say that men who enjoy super dry fragrances (think Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain levels of dryness) with the subtlest tinge of oud, leather, and musk should definitely try out Leather Oud. I don’t think this would really work for most women, however, as the fragrance definitely veers towards the deep end of the masculine spectrum.

GRANVILLE:

Granville is technically supposed to be a women’s fragrance, but its deeply aromatic, invigorating, herbal, woody nature makes it much more suitable for a man, in my opinion.

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Dior describes the perfume and its inspiration as follows:

The House where Christian Dior spent his childhood is located in Granville, in the Normandy region. Built overlooking the cliffs, it is surrounded by pine trees and has a view of the sea. Inspired by this site that is so dear to the Creator, François Demachy chose to create a fresh, invigorating and aromatic fragrance. “I not only wanted an aromatic fragrance, as the estate has an abundance of pine trees, but also one that is exceptionally invigorating and extremely fresh. The gusts of wind, the waves that are constantly breaking against the rocks… Nature, in Granville, is anything but serene. This fragrance is like the wind that blows through Granville.”

Dior GranvilleThe notes in Granville, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

mandarin, Sicilian lemon, White thyme, rosemary, pine needles, black pepper, sandalwood and gorse.

I’m used to “gorse” being another name for a Scottish bush or brushwood, but Fragrantica tells me that it’s also called Dyer’s Greenwood which has a dry, bracken-like aroma similar to “broom” (which, in itself, has a dry, hay-like scent). Either way, I don’t think it’s a prominent part of Granville which is dominated primarily by a strong eucalyptus-like, mentholated note infused with lemon and herbal touches. 

Granville opens on my skin with beautifully sweetened lemon. It has a sunny, bright, fresh warmth to it that is simply lovely. Within seconds, it is infused by strongly aromatic, herbal notes from the thyme, to a subtle glimmer of rosemary, and something quietly floral which feels very much like dry lavender. Granville has a strong resemblance at first to Dior‘s Eau Sauvage, but that quickly dissipates under an onslaught of fresh, camphorous pine with a decidedly eucalyptus-like character. It feels extremely sharp in comparison to the smoothness and richness of the lemon aromatics. Dry, slightly honeyed, hay-like elements from the broom/gorse and cracked black pepper are the final elements to round out the invigorating bouquet. 

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Granville’s primary essence remains the same throughout most of the perfume’s lifespan. The only difference is the degree to which certain notes can compete with each other, though they have no chance to overcome the piney, mentholated, eucalyptus top note at all. Around the forty minute mark, there is the introduction of ISO E Super which eventually fades away after a few hours. Later, there is a much stronger impression of a faintly floral tinge to the herbs lurking in the background. In fact, I can’t help but think that herbaceous lavender is a hidden note, and its combination with the slightly tarry, mentholated pine note strongly calls to mind Santa Maria Novella‘s cologne, Ambra, which is dominated by an extremely similar, tarry, mentholated birch note atop lavender and citrus.

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

At the start of the second hour, Granville becomes smoother, softer, better rounded. It loses its sharp edges, but it retains a certain fresh briskness. It feels rather old-fashioned, conjuring up images of a very refined, classical, suave, debonair gentleman — like Gary Cooper — in a bracing, outdoors environment like the coastal cliffs of Normandie. At the same time, however, it also evokes a very old-fashioned European pharmacy, which is a distinctly less appealing impression. As a whole, Granville is a very linear fragrance that never changes much from start to finish. In its final hours, it’s nothing more than an abstract, woody muskiness with faint flickers of pine. All in all, Granville lasted just over 11 hours, and the sillage after the first forty minutes was moderate-to-low.

Granville doesn’t seem to have a very enthusiastic reception on Fragrantica — and I don’t blame them. I do think it’s better than some of the extremely negative comparisons to scrubbers, hospitals, bathroom cleaners, medicine, chemical astringents, and Ayurvedic Tooth powder that are listed, but it’s not a fantastic, super-duper fragrance nonetheless. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from great, either. I think the fairest (and, certainly, the most positive) description for Granville comes from the commentator, “alfarom,” who writes:

An high-end version of Pino Silvestre aimed to the ladies (well, sort of).

I’ve to admit the above sentence may sound disencouraging to someone but let me say Granville is terrific. It’s a classy herbal/citrus with resinous undertones that opens with a sparkling lemon joined by leafy green citruses. In this phase it may somehow bring to mind of classic Eau De Cologne type of stuff but when you’re just about to dismiss it because of this, pine and some culinary herbs (thyme and rosemary) join the party leading the fragrance to other territories. Slightly minty (menthol), bitter, dark green and much closer to Pino Silvestre than to an EDC.

That being said, Granville is not exactly up my alley, but if you’re into bright piney fragrances this is an extremely solid option. Originally aimed to the ladies but definitely more masculine.

I’ve never tried Pino Silvestre, and I smell eucalyptus far more than mint, but his description is pretty spot-on as a whole.  And Granville isn’t up my alley, either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that you rush out and try it unless you are really obsessed with mentholated pine or eucalyptus notes. In all honesty, I think Granville is a rather mediocre showing in the Privé line.

 

DETAILS:
Leather Oud is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. So is Granville. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. In the U.S.: both fragrances can be found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. Elsewhere, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, though I don’t know if the SF Neiman Marcus carries all of them.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have Leather Oud available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Leather Oud a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. Granville is also available for the same price. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.