La Via Del Profumo Venezia Giardini Segreti



Venice, the city of canals, Casanova, and romance is also a city with a secret. Gardens and green courtyards abound in secret nooks and crannies unknown to the anyone but the city’s residents. Did you know? I certainly didn’t, and I’ve been to Venice.

Venezia Giardini Segreti via the Profumo website.

Venezia Giardini Segreti via the Profumo website.

La Via del Profumo wants to open up this private world to you with Venezia Giardini Segreti, or “Venice’s Secret Gardens.” Venezia Giardini Segreti (which I’ll just call “Giardini Segreti” for the sake of brevity) is an all-natural eau de parfum from Dominique Dubrana (now known as “Abdes Salaam Attar“), the second in his new “Italian Series,” and a 2013 release.

Abdes Salaam Attar explains the inspiration for the fragrance:

Venezia, Giardini segreti” is inspired by the “corti” – the courts of Venice that contain its secret gardens, hidden within the maze of the city – and particularly to the imaginary “Corte Sconta detta Arcana” of the “Favola di Venezia” di Corto Maltese, first discovered in the recesses of Hugo Pratt’s mind, and illustrated by his hand. [¶] “When the Venetians grow tired of the established authorities,” he writes, “they walk to these 3 secret places and, opening the doors that are in the bottom of these courts, they go away forever into beautiful places and other stories.”

Source: La Via del Profumo.

Source: La Via del Profumo.

The essences that recount these hidden courts, where the feel and smell of the sea are never far away, are of Jasmine and Rose, of Italian aromatic herbs and of Myrrh, the sweet resin which evokes the city’s ancient connection with the East.

Ambergris is the ingredient of this perfume that celebrates Venice’s foundation on seafaring; it’s the key that opens the door to other worlds and other stories. It is the magical ingredient that renders the fragrance three-dimensional, the noble pheromone with a scent of leather, of sea and of mother’s milk. This smell, so rare and precious that it is no longer used in modern perfumes, confers to the “Venezia Giardini Segreti” a unique and inimitable magic.

Visit with me the secret gardens of Venice. Photo gallery.

Based on that description, the official notes in Venezia Giardini Segreti include:

jasmine, rose, herbs, myrrh, and ambergris.



Giardini Segreti opens on my skin with a powerful but delicate burst of green, dewy jasmine, infused with mint and dark, smoky indoles. The flower’s aroma feels as crisp and clear as a bell rung in the Alpine mountains, but there is a black, smoldering heart which is magnificent. The jasmine is not as heavily sweetened, fleshy, ripe or heavy in feel as the one in Abdes Salaam’s Tawaf; this is much fresher, greener and watery, at least at first. Yet, it inexplicably feels stronger, and its heart has a certain dark rubberiness. The wintergreen note which is laced throughout the jasmine is powerful at first, but it softens within minutes.



Giardini Segreti starts to slowly turn deeper and richer, losing some of its chilled dewiness and crispness. There is the tiniest flicker of something like light olive oil poking its head up in the distance. It’s hard to explain, but there is an oily richness which gradually starts to seep into the jasmine. It’s not greasy and it certainly doesn’t smell of olives, but it’s more than mere oil. It’s also lightly herbal in nature, though I find it impossible to distinguish the precise aroma. Basil? Tarragon? Myrrh can have an anise-like undertone on rare occasion, as it does in Serge LutensLa Myrrhe, but Giardini Segreti’s accord doesn’t smell like anise. Whatever the elusive herb, it’s an intangible, muted presence, but a pretty one.

10 minutes in, Giardini Segreti is a jasmine scent whose primary characteristics veer between minty green and oiled smoothness. The whole thing is flecked with black from the smoky indoles, while a tiny animalic tinge of leather stirs for the first time in the depths below. The fragrance continues to grow warmed and more oiled, but I smell no roses at all. In fact, I didn’t on any of the occasions when I tested Giardini Segreti.

Pure, fresh ambergris found on the beach.

Pure, fresh ambergris found on the beach.

I also don’t smell ambergris in the way that I’m used to or have previously encountered. There is none of the note’s salty, marshy or wet characteristics, though there is an increasing touch of muskiness circling around the animalic accord in the base. All there is instead is a richness and warmth. I would bet it’s the ambergris which is responsible for the oily feel which I talked about earlier. With every passing quarter-hour, it feels as though a soft wave of smooth, lightly scented, vaguely herbal oil is flooding over the jasmine. It turns the petals unctuous and slightly slick, though I have to repeat that the jasmine here is not voluptuously rich, narcotic, or heavy. The greenness remains at this point, thereby ensuring that the floral aroma is still somewhat fresh and bright. Nevertheless, the ambergris helps to muffle and mute some of that minty tonality.

At the end of the first hour, Giardini Segreti has turned into a baby-soft, smooth jasmine oil, with emphasis on the oil part of that sentence. The sillage has changed accordingly. From its originally forceful, strong opening, Giardini Segreti now lies less than an inch above the skin. The velvety jasmine petals are lightly infused with ambergris, herbs, and a lingering trace of smokiness. The more interesting thing, however, is the growing presence of an animalic, almost civet-like edge in the base. It’s the tiniest bit feral, but also very subtle.

Sketch: Walter Logeman at

Sketch: Walter Logeman at

Slowly, Giardini Segreti starts to shift into something darker, less green. At the 90 minute mark, the perfume is a softly smoky gardenia with only a trace of a green undertone but increasingly animalic, leather facets. The petals feel soft, but the sense of an oil has vanished. There is instead the first appearance of something peppered and woody in feel in the background. Giardini Segreti lies right on the skin like a discreet, intimate silken sheath. For my personal tastes, the sillage is too soft too soon, but, then, I prefer my florals to be sonic booms worthy of one of Wagner’s Valkyries. Giardini Segreti feels better suited to one of the dainty damsels who Casanova turned into a quiet sensualist.

Giardini Segreti continues to change by slow degrees. 2.5 hours in, it is a skin scent of half-sweet, half-dry jasmine with an undertone of animalic leather and a dash of peppered woodiness. An hour later, a subtle honeyed creaminess appears on the scene, leading me to wonder if Giardini Segreti has opoponax or sweet myrrh in addition to the ambergris listed in the notes. After 4.25 hours, Giardini Segreti is a blur of jasmine and lightly honeyed beeswax, and then just eventually just sweetened creaminess. All in all, it lasted just short of 6.5 hours on my skin.

On Fragrantica, there is only one review for Giardini Segreti. “Spookie” writes:

my first impression is that there is something very familiar about this perfume. Not in the sense that it reminds me of another scent but that it’s like turning a corner and experiencing deja vu. But this time I’ve turned a corner and I’m in a sunlit courtyard, the light dappled by a green canopy, small flowers peeking out of cracks in the cobbles and a brambly rose climbing a wall. It’s like this place has been waiting for me, patiently, to find it again. This is the scent of that place: quiet, private, and otherworldly. That was my first impression. [¶]

Over time this scent becomes more human, even sensual. There’s salty skin under the florals and an almost spicy green lifting it up. Projection is moderate but I have only dabbed from a small sample- not that there’s anything wrong with having someone lean in to smell this. I compared this to Tawaf, because I was curious about how the jasmine might appear in both, and unlike Tawaf’s almost sticky density, VGS’s jasmine is higher and brighter without losing its intensity. I like this perfume a lot, but then I’m frequently impressed by La Via del Profumo.

Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc loved Giardini Segreti, put it on her Top 10 List of Summer Scents (in 2013) that she had fallen for and described it as: “a haunting blend of jasmine, rose, herbs and ambergris that is just a joy to behold.” In her full review, she talks of how it evokes an alternate universe, writing in part:

AbdesSalaam Attar hails from that alternate universe. A Frenchman by birth and a traveler, he has undertaken the journey of fragrance backward, eastward, toward the origin and the Orient, via Italy. His Venezia Giardini Segreti does not attempt the dazzling technical feats of contemporary, French-trained perfumers but – I’ve written this before about his work – it nevertheless springs from an age-old culture of scent. […]

Here, rose and jasmine are both seductive and mystical. The herbs that tinge them with green and aromatic notes hint at an even richer bouquet – there is a tuberose effect – the petals vivid against sap-filled leaves and sprigs.[…]  the secret ingredient of his Venezia Giardini Segreti is ambergris, which he describes as “a scent of leather, of sea and of mother’s milk.” I’ve only smelled ambergris tincture twice, and couldn’t truly pretend to recognize it: perhaps the “sea” and “mother’s milk” are what give Venezia Giardini Segreti the eerie, “I’ve been there before” sensation I experienced when I applied it. Like Venice, perfume is nothing if not a labyrinth.

On Perfume Smellin’ Things, Giardini Segreti conjured up “garden of dreams and reverie” inhabited by “poet or noblewoman dressed in Renaissance garb.” Donna’s review talks about Giardini Segreti’s “magical effect,” and says:

The luscious jasmine Sambac in this fragrance is particularly sublime, and since my skin tends to amplify white florals, it is quite dominant at first, but that’s fine with me, since I love jasmine, and the languid dreaminess of the composition speaks to my own personality as a lover of gardens, history, beautiful vintage objects, and good stories. The rose is the handmaiden to the jasmine here, adding a ripe fullness and plush comfort to the centerpiece of jasmine. I don’t know what pure ambergris smells like, but its inclusion in this perfume seems to give in an overall patina of nostalgia and wistfulness, like the ineffable pull of memory experienced when looking at faded photographs of places you have never been, but to which you feel a deep connection, and you wish you could somehow become a part of that long ago scene, where all the rough edges have been erased by time, leaving only the watercolor beauty of happy memories and idyllic living. Wearing Giardini Segreti is like stepping into that fantasy world, and I never want to leave it.

Casanova's Garden. Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

Casanova’s Garden. Source: For The Love of Venice Facebook page.

My experience was obviously very different from either of those accounts. I didn’t have any of the lush richness, roses, or saltiness that they encountered. Then again, I experienced animalic leather and smokiness which I far prefer to roses. Whatever the specific notes, I have to confess that I didn’t find Venezia Giardini Segreti to evoke either romantic fantasy worlds or a sense of “I’ve been there before” that both the Fragrantica commentator and Denyse Beaulieu mentioned. I liked Venezia Giardini Segreti, and agree that it has a very languid feel as a whole, but I far preferred the decadent, hedonistic excesses of the jasmine in Tawaf. Plus, as I’ve noted a few times in the past, I like my white flowers to sing operatically and at Wagnerian levels. Others, however, prefer their perfume to be more discreet and approachable, so it’s all a matter of personal tastes.

At the end of the day, though, there is no doubt that Venezia Giardini Segreti is lovely. Its gorgeous, fresh, bright opening is a head-turner. At the same time, the unusual leathered touch and the animalic whiff of the later stages make the perfume stand out from many jasmine scents on the market. If you’re looking for a languid jasmine with a twist and with a touch of darkness, then you should definitely give Giardini Segreti a sniff.

Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Abdes Salaam Attar. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my views are my own, and my first obligation is honesty to my readers.

Cost & Availability: Venezia Giardini Segreti is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available exclusively from the website, which ships its scents world-wide. All the following prices for Giardini Segreti are in Euros without VAT: €57,52 for 15.5 ml, €114,06 for 32 ml,  and €178,52 for 53 ml/1.79 oz. At today’s rate of exchange, the USD prices roughly comes to: $78 for the 15.5 ml, $155 for the 32 ml, and $243 for the 50 ml bottle. The site says: “Prices are without VAT and are valid for USA and all non EEC countries[;] for shipments in the EEC 22% VAT will be ADDED to the amount in the shopping cart.” There is also a Mignon Discovery Coffret which is available for any 5 fragrances, each in a glass 5.5 ml bottle. The price depends on which perfumes you pick, as the choice is up to you. The 5.5 ml bottle of Venezia Giardini Segreti is €20,83. On a side note, I received my samples from Mr. Dubrana incredibly quickly, less than 4 days after he sent it. Also, I have the impression that, with all purchases, Profumo provides free 2 ml samples, especially of any new fragrances that he is developing, since AbdesSalaam is very interested in feedback. In short, if you’re ordering fragrance, you may want to ask for a tiny sample of something that strikes your eye. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Venezia Giardini Segreti starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Perfume Review- Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque: Classic Sex Appeal

Serge Lutens perfumes tend be polarizing. Leather perfumes are also polarizing. Throw the two together and…. Whoa, mama! Yet, I find myself entranced by Cuir Mauresque (“moorish leather”) from The Master. And I don’t even particularly like leather perfumes! This one, though, has just shot up the list to equal Chergui, my previous favorite Lutens, and may even surpass it by a faint whisker. Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque

One reason may be the fact that Lutens puts Cuir Mauresque in the “Sudden Sweetness” category, alongside Chergui and Musc Koublai Khan. In fact, it does represent a line between those two scents: more spiced, ambered and floral than Chergui, but less musky than Musc Koublai Khan. Yet, in terms of descriptions, Lutens essentially settles for “Moorish” and “leather” as the basic gist for the perfume. It was created in 1996 with Lutens’ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, and is a unisex scent for both men and women. Originally, it was released only as a bell-jar fragrance exclusive to Lutens’ Paris Palais Royal salon and was not available for export. In 2010, however, it was made available in the US and worldwide.

I think the reason why I enjoyed Cuir Mauresque so much is because it is not really a leather scent on my skin. Instead, it’s a swirling, seductive jasmine, amber, animalic civet, and spice perfume which just merely happens to have leather undertones. It is a gloriously classique scent that strongly evokes Jean Desprez‘ legendary Bal à Versailles to my nose, though others seem to place it between the equally legendary Tabac Blond from Caron and Knize Ten from Knize.

Fragrantica classifies Cuir Mauresque as a “Leather” and says:

It represents a blend of leather wrapped up in jasmine and sweet spices to make a true Arabian aroma.

Notes: [Egyptian Jasmine] amber, myrrh, burnt styrax [resin], incense, cinnamon, aloe wood, cedar, civet, nutmeg, clove, cumin, musk, mandarin peel and orange blossom.

Cuir Mauresque opens on my skin with a richly heady mix of orange blossom, mandarins, musk, amber, resinous myrrh, nutmeg, cloves and a dry, earthy, (but not skanky) dash of cumin. There is the merest whisper of smoke and incense. Even fainter is the subtle impression of something flowery dancing at the very furthest edge of the notes. There is also, however, that slightly camphorous, chilled note which seems to be Christopher Sheldrake’s signature in many of his perfumes. It is subtle and evanescent on my skin — absolutely nothing like the mentholated, almost rubbery, slightly burnt, camphor note in Tubereuse Criminelle or, to a much lesser degree, in Borneo 1834.

Clove Studded Orange. Source: DwellWellNW blog at

Clove Studded Orange. Source: DwellWellNW blog at

The predominant notes, however, are musky orange, nutmeg and cloves. It’s surprisingly sweet, but there is nothing cloyingly about them. It’s also definitely not gourmand. I think the fruit, the dryness of the spices, and the woody elements cuts through the sweetness, as does the floral note. As the minutes pass, that last note becomes stronger and stronger. It’s jasmine — sweet, heady, and musky but not indolic, sour or over-ripe.

CognacAt first whiff, I did not detect any strong leather note except, perhaps, as just a vague, subtle, ghostly sense. Even then, I wouldn’t bet on it. Ten minutes in, however, there is a definite impression of uber-expensive, luxury car interiors, though interiors doused in very aged cognac. Yes, cognac. There is a definite sense of the dryer, almost woody, nutty aspect of really expensive cognac, as opposed to something sweet, boozy rum. It adds great warmth to the leather which takes on a very creamy, dark, rich feel. It’s more akin to a really old, dark brown, leather jacket than to the scent of a new Chanel purse. There is no impression of coldness nor of soft suede, and most definitely nothing evoking dead animals, barnyard manure or raw animal pelts as some leather fragrances are wont to do.Bal à Versailles

Twenty minutes in, lovely jasmine is the predominant note. It is sweetly spiced and slightly musky, underpinned by that very subtle leather note that has a faintly dirty, animalic, musky element to it, thanks to the civet. I have a definite impression of vintage Bal à Versailles with its heady florals wrapped in amber, musk, civet and resins. I’m not the only one; on Fragrantica, a large number of people seem to think the same way on the Bal à Versailles page. That said, Cuir Mauresque is nowhere near as animalic as Bal à Versailles and not one millionth as skanky. It’s softer, lighter, more spiced, less powdery and without any sweat, fecal or “piss” undertones.



It’s a lovely scent and narcotically heady in that first hour but, also, somewhat indolic. That’s where I fear it will trip up a few people, since indoles can be very tricky depending on skin chemistry. (See, “Indoles” and “Indolic” in the Glossary linked at the very top of the page for more details.) On me, the jasmine is never sour, verging on rotting fruit, or urinous. Instead, the jasmine, orange blossoms and spices are warmed in a lovely way by the styrax resin, the subtle smokiness of the incense, the amber and the musk. But it is the added touch of that animalic civet which is the perfect, crowning touch. It’s not skanky like unwashed panties or unsettling. Instead, it just evokes old-school glamour and seduction.

An hour in, the leather is much more noticeable, as is the animalic civet. However, they both share the stage with the jasmine. To the side, as supporting players, are: honey; very light, subtle incense; and a touch of earthy cumin and dry cloves, with musk and amber undertones.

There is a very classique aspect to the perfume, one which even my mother noted when she smelled my arm. She absolutely adored it, couldn’t smell any leather, thought it had “depth” (her highest compliment), and called it “seductive and mysterious.” I was very taken aback, especially as my mother doesn’t like most of what I give her to smell — Neela Vermeire’s Trayee and Téo Cabanel’s Alahine excepted. Generally, her tastes range from hardcore orientals like vintage Opium, Shalimar and Cartier’s Le Baiser du Dragon, to the classique scents of things like Femme, Jolie Madame, Joy, 1000, Fracas and Bal à Versailles. I suspect that it is Bal à Versailles which led to my mother’s admiration for Cuir Mauresque….

Marlene Dietrich in her later years.

Marlene Dietrich in her later years.

The perfume’s very classique profile led to an interesting discussion when I asked what movie star she would associate with the scent. I kept imagining Marlene Dietrich in her older, less edgy, less hard and androgynous days.

Ava Gardner.

Ava Gardner.

My mother said, flatly and point-blank, “Ava Gardner.” Hardcore glamour, oozing sex appeal, a forceful personality to be reckoned with, and mystery. I countered with the mysterious, seductive, exquisite Princess Fawzia of Egypt. My mother still said Ava Gardner. We both finally settled on agreeing that there was nothing about this scent that could evoke someone cool like Grace Kelly, obvious like Bridget Bardot, or the girl-next-door like Doris Day.

In modern day terms, I thought of Halle Berry in her Bond girl role but that’s not quite the right fit. I can’t really think of someone who does represent the scent for me, not in today’s movie world. Cuir Mauresque isn’t symbolized by a Gwyneth Paltrow type, nor a Jennifer Aniston or Anne Hathaway. This is a perfume for a very strong woman (or man) with a slight edge, a bit of toughness, who radiates seductiveness and mystery, and who entrances as much by the enigmatic gaze as by her long legs or his broad shoulders.

Sometime at the second hour, the leather note does become more apparent but it soon vanishes with the return of the fruity-floral, musky civet, and amber notes of Bal à Versailles. Cuir Mauresque is significantly lighter and less animalic, while also being more tinged by smoke, but the resemblance is noticeable to my nose. The appearance of some sweet powder doesn’t change things as that, too, was in Bal à Versailles. Here, it’s not like baby powder or even like hardcore Guerlainade. It’s hard to describe, but there is a balmy, sweet aspect it.

By the end of the third hour, the perfume is all fruity-florals with honey, resins, musk and faintly powdered vanilla. The leather notes — to the extent that they are there — are very subtle and more like soft suede. Creamy, light and beige. Eight hours later, almost by the end of its duration, Cuir Mauresque turns into nothing more than lovely honey and dried fruit. The dry-down in all those last hours is warm, sweet, and truly cozy. Interestingly, the sillage on Cuir Mauresque was not particularly high. It was noticeable in the first hour, then dropped significantly and became close to the skin by the third hour. Others, like Angela at Now Smell This, have also found the perfume to have persistent longevity but to be “quiet” with moderate to low, sillage. I very much agree.

As you might tell from some of this review, I didn’t find Cuir Mauresque to be a very leather fragrance. I did, however, to be extremely approachable and versatile, not to mention seductive, mysterious and, in the final hours, as cozily delicious as a cashmere  blanket. I’m not surprised at all that, according to Luckyscent:

the master himself [Serge Lutens] has gone on record saying he doused himself in [it] on the rare occasions when he goes out. And considering the choice he’s got, that’s saying quite a lot.

He’s not the only one. The Non-Blonde wrote in 2009 that Cuir Mauresque was her “favorite” leather perfume, though the “less easily defined (and probably most controversial)” out of all the many leather scents that she has tried. She added: “I can’t get enough of Cuir Mauresque and tend to murmur sweet nothings at my bell jar[.]”

Angela at Now Smell This found it ” special — warm and cozy, intimate and spicy, different from my other leathers.” On her, the perfume “kicks off with a surprising note that offers a freaky insight into the rest of the fragrance.” It’s a sweet plastic note “that mingles with the fragrance’s leather to remind me of a 1970s faux patent leather purse.” That soon changes, however:

Lest you suspect Cuir Mauresque is headed down a path of discos, bondage, and Tupperware, think again. Cuir Mauresque warms into one of the snuggliest, most welcoming leather fragrances I’ve worn. Its mandarin peel and orange blossom work the way citrus does in baking rather. They keep the composition from cloying but definitely aren’t tart or bracing. The spices — and I’d include cardamom with the listed cinnamon and nutmeg — feel so obviously right with the medium-weight leather. Cumin and musk are just barely noticeable, but they push Cuir Mauresque away from bundt cake toward skin. Warm, luxurious, grandpa-cardigan-wearing skin — that is, if your grandpa has worn his shape into his Bugatti’s leather seats and has publishers clamoring for his memoir.

And Perfume-Smellin’ Things just went weak at the knees for Cuir Mauresque:

Along with Muscs Koublai Khan, I consider this to be one of Lutens’s most sensual, most seductive scents. Cuir Mauresque makes my mouth dry and my knees week. From the slap of pure unadulterated leather in the beginning to the warm, gentle caress of cinnamon and orange blossom at the middle stage, to the wonderful dark, ambery, leathery embrace of the drydown, Cuir Mauresque charmed, enamoured and enslaved me. This being a Lutens scent, it goes almost without mention that the woody accord of cedar and aloe wood (agarwood, the source of ouds) is executed in the most exquisite way; the wood here serves only as a background, but what a luscious, almost sweet background it is! I also adore the way a musk note is woven into the rich tapestry of the composition; even though never too evident, it is there at every stage of the development, adding the raw, animalistic accord that makes the blend all the more irresistible to me.

But, like many Lutens, the love is almost equaled by hate. For all the positive raves on places like Fragrantica or Basenotes, there are a number of negatives that evince pure loathing. Basenotes, to be specific, has 22 Positive reviews, 10 Neutral and 10 Negative. But the most searing, most scathing, and most amusingly repulsed review has to come from the blogger, Nathan Branch, who wrote:

in what seems to be a desire to be willfully obtuse, it contains a compound that smells strongly of piss — which, I suppose, if you’re into gay faux-biker bars and fetishistic watersports, you’d quickly associate with the scent of leather, but is this really the Lutens target audience?  […]

In Cuir Mauresque’s defense, the sour aroma of piss does fade as time passes, but it doesn’t fully go away, and I have to admit to not being particularly certain why anyone would reach into their perfume collection and think, “A-ha! Today I want to smell kind of like the windowless back room of a gay leather bar!”

Ouch! Clearly, the indoles in the jasmine turned extremely sour on his skin. But the degree of revulsion in that review and in a few comments on Basenotes led me to wonder.

So, I tried Cuir Mauresque a second time. I strained and strained to find something akin to the notes described but, no, I didn’t. Perhaps, during the second hour, there was a slightly sour note — but I’m pretty sure I found it only by the power of suggestion. Whatever it was, and if it was even there, it was extremely fleeting.

The funny thing is, on both occasions, Cuir Mauresque was not a very leathery scent for me. It was always a seductively jasmine, fruity scent with civet, spices, resin and subtle smoke. It just merely to have a leather undertone — and only on occasion at that! But, as the other reviews up above demonstrate, the perfume can take on a wide variety of aspects, from much more leathery, to notes resembling oud, and, alas, occasionally, also something urinous in nature. Clearly, this is one perfume that needs to be tried first and not purchased blindly, particularly if you have issues with indoles or leather. In fact, I’d say flat-out that those who don’t like either note — but who especially don’t like very heady florals or musky, animalic civet scents — won’t like Cuir Mauresque one bit.   

Those who do like leather scents, however, may be interested to know that Cuir Mauresque is repeatedly said to fall somewhere between the old leather greats: Caron‘s Tabac Blond and Knize‘s Knize Ten. Some people also bring up Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie, especially in the dry-down, but I see absolutely no similarity to the latter. On me, Cuir de Russie was pure horse feces cloaked in soap. (I was not a fan, but I recognize that I’m in a distinct minority on that one.)

In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez, Ms. Sanchez classifies Cuir Mauresque as a “Sweet Leather” and gives it a three-star rating, writing succinctly:

The great leathery classic, Caron’s Tabac Blond, receives the Lutens treatment — more transparent, sweetened with jasmine and dried fruit. Lovely, but somehow less, and no match for, say, Knize Ten.

I’ve never tried either, though I do have a sample of Knize Ten that I will get around to eventually. While I can’t compare Cuir Mauresque to the great leather classics of the past, I think that Ms. Sanchez’s 3-star rating is extremely unfair. My perspective is closer to that of PereDePierre who writes that it is “[a]rguably the best of the modern leather fragrances” and who considers it to be much more of an amber than a leather, one whose “most distinguishing feature is its combination of cinnamon and orange blossom.” I’d toss in jasmine and civet into that mix, but yes, I quite agree.

I also think Cuir Mauresque is a very approachable “leather” that is perfect for people like myself who have some difficulty with the category. But, most of all, I think it’s sexy as hell.

Cost & Availability: Cuir Mauresque is available on the Serge Lutens website for $140 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle. It is also available in the famous Bell Jar for $290 for 75 ml/ 2.5 fl. oz. Barney’s, Luckyscent and Beautyhabit all carry the 1.7 oz/50 bottle for $140. I also found it on sale at FragranceX for $106.99 and I believe they ship all over the world. However, at this time, they only have 6 bottles left. In the UK, I couldn’t see it listed at either Harrods, Selfridges or Les Senteurs. In Australia, I found it on the Hot Cosmetics website where the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle seems to be on sale for AUD $130 instead of AUD $196. For other countries, you can use the Store Locator on the Lutens website.
Sample vials to test it out can be purchased at Surrender to Chance and start at $3.99. Surrender to Chance also has a special Lutens sample pack of 3 non-export perfumes which includes Cuir Mauresques (Musc Koublai Khan and Ambre Sultan) and which starts at $11.99 for the smallest sized vials. Surrender to Chance has the best shipping rates, in my opinion: $2.95 for orders of any size within the U.S.. Unfortunately, with the US Postal Service’s recent price increase, international shipping has now jumped from $5.95 to $12.95 for all international orders under $150. However, price increases for international shipping have occurred across the board at most other sites, too. 

Preliminary Review – Chanel Les Exclusifs 1932: Sparkling Jasmine

In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, Chanel launched her first collection of haute jewelry. It consisted of diamonds set in platinum and was shown in an exhibit entitled “Bijoux de Diamants.” In 2012, on the 80th Anniversary of that exhibit, Chanel debuted a new fine jewelry collection and, in homage, called it The 1932 Collection.

Le-parfum-1932-de-ChanelSometime in early 2013, Chanel will release the perfume that goes along with that collection. It too is called, quite simply, 1932 and it is part of Chanel’s Les Exclusifs line of fragrances. The date for its release seems to be February 1, 2013, though I have read one report of March 1, 2013.

I have a large sample of 1932 already, but there is no official information on the perfume, no press release, no listing on Chanel’s website, and only a few unconfirmed details. So, I set out to discover more about the perfume prior to reviewing it. Two attempts to ascertain notes or details from Chanel were unsuccessful. The only thing that seemed certain beyond all doubt is that 1932 is a jasmine scent that comes in Eau de Toilette concentration. So, I played amateur detective, relying on a photo of a 1932 perfume box, its listed ingredients, and Google. You can read about my efforts in full detail here, but the bottom line is that the only definite notes in 1932 thus far seem to be:

jasmine, iris and musk.

Relying on the perfume box’s list of ingredients and all the sources available to me thusChanel 1932 far, I hazarded a vague guess that the notes may include some or all of the following:

Jasmine, rose or some possible rose enhancers (farnesol), bergamot (or lavender or coriander), cinnamon, cloves, violet or orris/iris, coumarin (hay), musk and possibly vetiver.

Again, you can read all the reasons why I came to that conclusion in the Sneak Peek post.

I am the very first to say that I am no perfume expert, and even less so when it comes to chemical terms and the technical aspect of perfume ingredients. I have tried to do the best that I can, with the limited information and resources available to me, but I’m sure my attempts to translate terms like “hexyl cinnamal,” “linalool,” or “farnesol” may have gone array somewhere.

Nonetheless, I think I have a mildly competent nose (I hope), so I can give you preliminary idea of what 1932 is like. Later, when Chanel releases press information, details of 1932’s notes, pricing and availability, I will do a proper review and include other people’s perceptions or reviews of the scent so that you can get a better, fuller idea as to what it is like.

For the meantime, however, I’m working totally blind on this — much like someone standing before a Mexican piñata while blind-folded, and attempting to hit something accurately. Let’s take a leap into the deep-end together.

1932 opens on me with a strong burst of bright lemon. It’s so fresh and zesty, I feel as though someone just cut into a lemon in front of me and squirted some drops of its juices on my skin. That immediate burst of freshness is followed almost seconds later by a massive dose of aldehydes. (You can read more about aldehydes in the Glossary.) Here, they smell soapy, waxy and candle-like. The lemon quickly melts into the aldehydes, creating the impression of soapy lemon wax. There is also the impression of something floral, akin to rose, but it is almost imperceptible under that thick veil of aldehydes. Along side, there is faintly powdery iris, but, again, the whole thing is subsumed under the sheer force of the aldehydes.

For full clarity, I should note that I tested out 1932 twice to ensure I had as accurate a sense about the perfume as possible. And, with one exception, 1932 was consistently the same throughout. The difference was a slight variation in the opening. The second time I tested 1932, there was a hefty dose of coumarin with its strong notes of sweet hay that appeared almost immediately after the lemon note. (In fact, if I sniff the vial to my decant, the predominant impression is of lemon followed by hay.) Unfortunately, the hay note is a bit of a ghost throughout this perfume. As you will read later, it pops up, vanishes, comes back, flits away, and so on. It is both maddening and quite enchanting, but then I love coumarin. With the exception of coumarin’s appearance in the opening the second time around, the rest of the perfume’s development continued on the same trajectory in both tests.

Two minutes in, the jasmine makes an appearance. It is timid, as if raising its bonneted head above the field of waxy soap and dappled lemon. The jasmine is sweet, light and demure, verging on the insubstantial. How could it possibly compete with those forceful aldehydes? This is probably the time to confess that I am not a particular fan of aldehydic fragrances and that this opening makes me sigh a little, though it is never as extreme or as unbearable as some perfumes. Even for someone like myself who dislikes the note, this is very manageable.

Fifteen minutes in, the jasmine becomes a much stronger player on 1932’s stage. It is heady, but there is a surprising sheerness and airiness to the scent. It is not an indolic or over-ripe scent — and jasmine can be one of the most indolic flowers around! (You can read more about Indoles and Indolic scents at the Glossary.) Indolic flowers can often have a rubbery element to the narcotic richness at their heart; over-blown ripeness that, sometimes, can verge almost on the side of decay. These indoles are the reason why some people get the impression of “rotting fruit,” sourness, urine, plastic, or Hawaiian flowers. Here, I don’t smell anything verging on over-ripe or full-blown; there is no rubberiness, no rotting fruit and, certainly, no decay. However, I do occasionally get faint whiffs of something slightly sour emanating from my arm. It’s extremely mild, never constant, and quite fleeting.

Thirty minutes in, 1932’s aldehydes have faded and jasmine takes full center stage. It is significantly stronger, though still airy, and is now accompanied by musk. There are also faint banana undertones to the scent. I have no idea if they are yet another manifestation of the aldehydes (which can take on a banana accord in addition to the lemon, waxy, soapy one) or if they are the result of something else. Such as, for example, ylang-ylang.

One person who has already tried 1932 says that there is ylang-ylang and sandalwood in the scent. On Perfume Shrine (a blog which first broke the story of 1932 over a year ago in early 2012), a poster by the name of Henrique/Rick wrote the following description this week on the site’s latest entry about the perfume:

Well, in the case of this fragrance, i’m pretty sure that it’s not hedione, since the jasmine used on it has a slightly fruity, yellow aspect on the aroma, while the hedione is more green to my nose. This is a lovely Chanel, very true to the classics. Altough the jasmine is highlighted, this is not a heavy jasmine fragrance. It starts with a exquisite blend of aldehydes, iris and ylang-ylang, then leaving space for the jasmine to shine, and at the base revisiting the jasmine and combining it with a gorgeous woody base of sandalwood supported by some musks. It’s really well done, there was a long time that i didn’t smell a Chanel that i wanted to glue my nose on my arm from the first moment until the last on skin.

Henrique/Rick’s comment is the sole description or impression of 1932 that I can find anywhere on the internet at this point. I agree with him on much of his description, especially the aldehydes. (How could one miss them?!) I also agree on the iris, but I’m not absolutely convinced on the ylang-ylang or the sandalwood. Yes, they could be there. But then again, the banana smell could easily come from the aldehydes; and jasmine by itself can be as heady, ripe and creamy as ylang-ylang.

Henrique/Rick is probably correct that “hedione” (a jasmine molecule first discovered in 1962) is not included here. For one thing, hedione is not listed on the box, though obviously that’s not dispositive. Perfume boxes don’t always list all the ingredients, after all! But the real thing is, one doesn’t have to use hedione to create a jasmine scent. According to a detailed explanation of how to create jasmine scents by Pierre Benard, a Grasse perfumer interviewed on Fragrantica, there are other ways to replicate the flower’s note. One way is to combine “Indol plus Benzyl Benzoate” with some eugenol for a green note. I see the eugenol and Benzyl Benzoate on 1932’s box, so maybe that is the route Chanel decided to take here. I certainly don’t smell the green note that Henrique/Rick attributes to hedione but, like him, a much more yellow, fruity aspect.

We part ways on the issue of sandalwood. If it’s included in 1932, it was almost nonexistent on my skin the first time round. The second time round, I could smell something vaguely approximating it, I suppose, but it was extremely faint. The impression may well have come from another ingredient entirely. I think back to Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s repeated comments in “Perfumes: the A-Z Guide” on just how few sandalwood fragrances actually have sandalwood in them at all these days. According to them, true sandalwood from Mysore, India is so scarce and so prohibitively expensive that most perfumers use Australian sandalwood which is an entirely different species of plant and with an entirely different scent. To the extent that 1932 may have sandalwood in it (of any kind), I think it is completely overshadowed and overpowered by the musk.

In that first hour, there was an unexpected element to 1932 in my first test. For some inexplicable reason, there was a slight earthiness to the scent on one arm accompanied by definite notes of mildew. It was faint but, there is no doubt, I smelled mildew! It’s not musty, so much as faintly moldy and a bit damp, if that makes sense. I can only attribute it to iris note which I’m guessing is from orris root; distillations from the roots of a flower or plant can have a faintly earthy smell, and that is much more the case than when the flower above earth is used. But I’m still not quite sure what causes the mildew note unless it is the combination of the orris root with the musk. The second time around, I didn’t smell mildew precisely, but there was a similarly damp and slightly earthy note. This time, it was faintly musty. Nonetheless, it was extremely subtle and subsumed by the stronger musk note.

1932 remains a predominantly musky jasmine smell for about two hours and then two new players arrive on the stage. The first is bergamot. It isn’t overwhelming but neither is it so faint as to be imperceptible. It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest, especially for it to show up at this point instead of in the opening. But I definitely smell traces of Earl Grey Tea! It adds a note of freshness and depth to a scent that was essentially quite simple thus far.

The second player is coumarin. As noted earlier, the coumarin note is almost like a playful ghost: it appears with such freshness and sweetness, then it suddenly vanishes entirely, only to reappear and pop back up 10 minutes later, before flitting away again. Its coy disappearing act continues throughout the development of 1932. Each time, however, the coumarin smells exactly like freshly mowed hay! It never has the vanilla undertones that the ingredient may sometimes have. It adds a bit of dryness and a subtle woodsy element to the sweet jasmine; it also tends to make 1932 a scent that some jasmine-loving men could wear as well.

The final hours of 1932 are very simple. It is really just jasmine and musk with an almost imperceptible touch of something woody. It’s soft, light, and silky on the skin like a fine negligée. And that’s about it.

At no time did I smell the cinnamon or cloves which I had guessed might be in the perfume due to the ingredient list on the perfume box. Nor did I perceive any obvious or strong vetiver notes, even though the French Marie-Claire site had stated vetiver was in the perfume. To the extent that vetiver roots can contribute to an earthy element in perfumes, then perhaps that was the cause of the faintly musty, earthy impression that I had at one point. But I highly doubt it; I really don’t smell vetiver! (And I just reviewed Chanel’s vetiver scent, Sycomore, yesterday, so I am familiar with both the note and how Chanel may handle it.) No,1932 is not a green or green-brown scent in any way; it is all yellow and white, with perhaps a little beige from the musk.

ChandelierI have the oddest perception of 1932 as a crystal chandelier. Not all of its prism drops have been properly cleaned, and some have a thin film on them, as if from the remnants of soap. Others prisms, in contrast, are clear and reflect the light, shooting off coloured rays of lemon, jasmine and musk when the sun catches them. It’s overall shimmer is so subtle as to be imperceptible at times. Sometimes, it’s a bit dull and dusty. Sometimes, bright and shiny. But whenever the light hits it, there is a sparkle in Chandelier reflectionsthe reflection, even if it only hits the walls around it. In those cases, the jasmine sparkles with a sort of evanescent glow.

That said, I wasn’t overwhelmed by 1932. It is most definitely not love at first sniff, or even third. It is a perfectly nice, even lovely, scent that oozes very discreet, very expensive, elegant trails behind it. It is simultaneously somewhat heady but, yet, also sheer and light. But it is far too demure, nondescript and soft for me. I don’t find it particularly complex, transformative, or unique. At the same time, however, I think it is undeniably well-blended with ingredients that are obviously of extremely high-quality. It is hugely approachable, and will undoubtedly be a massive hit with those who like soft florals, jasmine fragrances and/or unobtrusive feminine scents.

All in all, it really and truly embodies the classique Chanel woman — though not a very modern one. To me, it calls to mind one of those 1950s aristocratic, wealthy leaders of high-society, or one of Alfred Hitchcock’s icy blondes. Impeccably dressed with pearls and gloves, hair frozen in a perfect coif, and extremely feminine, but also controlled, reserved, haughty, aloof and not-so-faintly superior. It is a fragrance that I can imagine a lot of women wearing every day. It is discreet, while being highly feminine, lady-like, and expensive-smelling. On the other hand, one might argue, it is also simple, boring, predictable, and faintly generic. There is nothing particularly electrifying or charismatic about it.

But you know what? I highly doubt it’s meant to be! This is a scent for the woman (or jasmine-loving man) who does not want to stand out in an ostensible manner. This is not for Maria Callas, Grace Kelly, or any famous person for that matter. This is for the quiet movers-and-shakers behind the scene who abhor the spotlight and who clutch their pearls (or cufflinks) at anything as remotely vulgar as obviousness. Quelle horreur! I think this is absolutely and intentionally meant to be a scent for the aristocratically discreet who want something safe and timeless that screams high-class, restraint and quiet wealth.

1932 accomplishes all that superbly.

Sillage & Longevity: The sillage and longevity of 1932 is adequate, in line with some others in the Exclusifs line which are said to be thin, sheer, and of short duration. (For example, 31 Rue Cambon or 28 La Pausa.) On me, 1932 had good projection for the first one and a half hours, thereafter becoming close to the skin. As for longevity, it was below-average even for my perfume-consuming skin. It only lasted a little bit above 4 hours, all in all. But, as always, remember that my body consumes perfume. Perhaps others will have more luck. At this time, it’s hard to know for certain what it would be like for the average, normal person.
Cost & Availability: There are limited details on either of these points. Thus far, I know that 1932 comes in Eau de Toilette concentration, but I don’t know if Chanel will release a parfum version as it has for three of its Exclusifs line (Bois des Iles, Gardénia & Cuir de Russie). As for cost, it will undoubtedly be the same as all the other Exclusifs eau de toilette fragrances which currently retail for $130 for a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle or $230 for a 6.8 oz/200 ml bottle. In general, the Exclusifs line is only available in Chanel boutiques or on their website. At this time, however, I have no information as to when 1932 will be available outside of Chanel’s Paris store, or when it will be available on its website (either the U.S. one or the French one). As noted earlier, I will do a full, proper review with all the necessary information once the perfume officially launches and Chanel releases further details.

Reviews En Bref: L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer & Serge Lutens A La Nuit

As with last week’s rundown, this post will be a brief summary of my impressions of several perfumes that I didn’t think warranted one of my full, extensively detailed reviews.

Passage d’Enfer by L’Artisan Parfumeur needs another name. Badly. Alternatively Passage d'Etranslated as “the passage to Hell,” or the “gateway to Hell,” the name would lead you to think this is a scent that is fiery, smoky, and the gateway drug to all sorts of dark things. Instead, it is light, soapy, extremely short in duration, and a floral musk. Apparently, the name really refers to the street on which L’Artisan’s offices were located which is fine and dandy, but then give this name to another perfume! NST provides the following details: “Passage d’Enfer was launched in 1999; the perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti and the notes include white lily, aloe wood, frankincense, benzoin and white musk.”

Passage d’Enfer is a unisex fragrance whose opening is light, fresh, clean and soapy. There is lily and a faint musk. I love lily and its soft touch here, but it’s too soft. Too ethereal for me. It’s also of too short a duration. I also love frankincense in perfumes, but I smell none of it here. I do, however, smell pencil shavings?! I had read that that was a frequent impression of the dry down, but I hadn’t believed it. I do now. And it didn’t require the dry-down for it to appear it, either. I smelled it within the first five minutes! (Just how fast does my body burn through the pyramid notes anyway?!) If forced, I would call Passage d’Enfer an elegantly austere perfume. I suppose.

If I were to be frank, however, I’d call it linear, boring, and redolent of hotel soap. (Definite hotel soap — without question — and not the expensive kind either.) I should probably bite my tongue, but I cannot. The almost antiseptically clean, synthetically soapy scent conjures up the soap bars with their slightly brown, plastic paper wrappings that are so common in cheap, tacky and faintly seedy hotels. And the combination of floral musk with that soap is rendered me faintly nauseous. I know I have a bias against the clean, fresh soapy category of perfumes but, nonetheless, I find this one to be a particularly revolting version of it. So, I take back what I said about the perfume’s name being a misnomer. No, this really is the gateway to hell, and it calls to mind things that are probably better left unsaid.

A La Nuit by Serge Lutens is a lovely jasmine soliflore for women that evokes the bright green of spring.A La Nuit Created by Lutens’ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, it was launched in 2007 and contains several different types of jasmine along with green notes and musk. Fragrantica describes it as follows:

Several variances of jasmine are combined in the composition: Indian, Egyptian and Moroccan. The jasmine blend is accompanied by green branches, honey, clove, benzoin, and musk. The composition starts with intensive jasmine notes, warmed and deepened by benzoin in the base. The base notes are surprising here because they are greener and lighter than the central notes, and thus they emphasize the spring-time floral character of this fragrance.

A La Nuit’s opening made me go “Mmmmm” out loud from the sheer pleasure of that lovely, gorgeous jasmine. It’s heady, but it’s not a ripe, overblown jasmine. The green notes give it a lightness and freshness. There is almost a milky element to the greenness that is hard to explain. It’s as if the fresh lightness of the green branches have combined with the honey and faintly musky feel to create a sweetly milky green note. The scent brings to mind a green bamboo candle I have and love it.

I love A La Nuit’s jasmine and I keep putting more on. Mostly, because the bloody scent doesn’t last on me! Within 10 minutes, it starts to fade and become close to the skin. That has to be a new record, both for me and for niche fragrances on me. If I remember correctly, A La Nuit was the third Lutens fragrance I ever tried; its incredibly brief shelf-life was what cemented the impression in my mind that Lutens perfumes were a dubious proposition for my skin chemistry.

I’m obviously a bit of an oddity when it comes to perfume duration and projection but, nonetheless, I was amazed to read the NST review in which the jasmine-loving writer Jasminefound it too strong and too sweet. In fact, her reviewing notes flatly state “your basic death by jasmine.” Her comments may prove useful to anyone considering the perfume:

the top notes […] are as close to being buried alive in flower petals as anything else I can think of. If you don’t like jasmine, it will seem like an awfully long wait for it to calm, assuming you bother to wait at all — I should think a true jasmine hater would find A La Nuit a scrubber. If you adore jasmine, you might find it heavenly. I do love jasmine, but the top notes are SWEET and STRONG, and I find it nearly unbearable sprayed. A little dab here and there is plenty enough heaven for me.

A La Nuit does calm — and doesn’t really take all that long — and then it is even more heavenly: a sumptuous jasmine, ripe but no longer heady. […] The longer it is on skin, the more the lushness fades, and eventually, it nearly qualifies as fresh, but there is fresh and then there is fresh. A La Nuit isn’t at all clean, in fact, it is more than a bit indolic (several reviews mention dirty diapers, or even cat urine).

It is the prettiest jasmine I know, although it isn’t girly-pretty in the least. It is jasmine with attitude, and while I don’t tend to classify my fragrances as for day or evening wear, in this case the name suits. I find that it just doesn’t feel right during the day.

I agree that it is definitely one of the prettiest jasmine fragrances. (I, for one, certainly do not smell cat urine or dirty diapers.) It’s an absolutely gorgeous fragrance that any jasmine lover should try. I don’t think this is a night-time only scent, either. The freshness and the greenness counter that, but I realise that it depends on a person’s individual style. For me, it wouldn’t be an issue for one single reason: A La Nuit wouldn’t last 30 minutes on me, day or night! If it lasted a good few hours, I would be very tempted to buy a full bottle.