The Unexpected Pleasure

Well, Patty has punted is too busy shopping doing a lot of macaron and wine fragrance research in Paris right now and will be back soon with lots of interesting perfume-age, so today you’re stuck with me.

Awhile back* I blogged on this Annick Goutal candle I love, Le Sac de Ma Mere (my mother’s purse), which smells like the inside of a lady’s handbag, with accompanying smells of cologne, face powder, lipstick, etc.  The candle description from the Annick Goutal website:  “Childhood scents stay engraved in our memories. Camille Goutal has created the magic of memory by recalling the fragrance of her mother’s handbag. It is a scented candle in which the dizzying smell of tanned leather is mixed with powder blush and lipstick.  Ingredients: Russian leather, Iris, Violet, Oak moss.” It would probably make a great room spray (which I would wear) and I tried layering various leather fragrances with various cosmetic-smelling powdery fragrances and never even came close, because I wanted a fragrance that smelled like that candle.

I should ‘fess up that while I absolutely love leather in a fragrance, and think leather fragrances are amazing, they tend not to be things I wear much.  At various times, various lovely people have gifted me with samples of rare, expensive, and/or unusual leathers.  I love to take them out and smell them, but that’s as far as it goes.  I know a lot of you are total leather freaks and own every leather out there, and more power to you.

I got a generous decant of Cuir de Lancome from a generous friend recently.   I swooned at the first sniff — not because it is the single greatest leather on the planet, which clearly it is not, but because it was what I’d been yearning for — the effect (if not a precise dupe) of the smell of that candle, with expensive leather and something vaguely sweet.  I looked it up online and I feel like a doofus — it was part of the Lancome La Collection reissue, and I saw the rest of them (Climat, Sikkim etc.) but never saw Cuir at a Lancome counter in the states.

Calice Becker is the perfumer, and the notes are mandarin, saffron, bergamot, patchouli, hawthorn, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris root, birch and styrax. Cuir de Lancome was reintroduced in 2007, after which it sank like a stone, along with all the rest of La Collection that the Lancome SAs perversely hid behind the counters like the bottles were poisoned, so all you could find was their usual dreck.

This reissue of Cuir got mostly meh reviews.  I’m going to side with Angela at Now Smell This who shares my admiration for its softness and elegance rather than focusing on its failings compared to other leathers, or to the original (1930s?) Lancome Cuir, which was apparently quite a smell to behold.  For what it’s worth, Lancome doesn’t even list leather as a note — it’s a fake-out, probably as Angela notes astutely, the saffron among other things.

It paints a picture: a fine ladies’ vintage handbag, butter-soft leather gloves, lipstick, coin purse, handkerchief, violet pastilles, a few stray strands of tobacco.    As a “Leather” it seems destined to disappoint.  On its own terms, it is lovely.  It is feminine without being girly, sophisticated but warm, dry rather than powdery.  A big, warm hug to my benefactress, who was already being generous and made me even happier, I suspect, than she’d imagined.

A few online etailers like carry it if you google, and there are several NIB on eBay.  And all you leather freaks feel free to come out of the woodwork and sneer at me and/or recommend your favorite leathers, freaky or not.

PS  And I think it speaks volumes for how crappy Lancome’s marketing was of the Collection that this is the best image I could find.  What is wrong with those people?

*By the way, I just noted the date of that first post.  A full year later, the (unlit) Goutal candle is still throwing out its delicious scent on the desk next to me while I blog.

  • lunarose says:

    sounds so yummy! i keep checking lancome counters for cuir, but the sa’s just look at me like i’m nuts. i lost my sample of Bandit in the closet somewhere and am very sad – it’s a bitter/creamy leather that i love. luckily it’s very reasonably priced o:-) my first grade teacher wore tabac blond in the early seventies (lovely gorgeous woman) and turned my mom onto it. the vintage parfum and edt are both worth taking a sniff of – they are substantially different from today’s, though i appreciate today’s version as well. the vintage is more womanly somehow, and not in the typical floral way. i don’t know how to explain it. and habanita is so fun to wear, it makes me think of flappers more than tabac blond even though i think they are from the same era. habanita just seems more ‘kicking up one’s heels’ and carefree – no concern for consequences. vintage tb makes you think there could be ALL TYPES of consequences! (can you tell i love leathers? i’ll stop now ):-@

  • rosarita says:

    I need to try this, even though no Lancome has worked for me. It sounds just right. I like Cuir Ottoman a lot, and my favorite leather is Ava Luxe Madame X, which is the sexiest fragrance I own. Very femme fatale. o-+

    • March says:

      It sounds like this might be a winner for you. And FWIW it’s certainly my only Lancome, although I wouldn’t have said no to one of the others in La Collection (Magie or Sikkim, I forget).

      • Carol Sasich says:

        I love Ava Luxe Madam x , sometimes the musk knocks me flat so I layer it with L’Artisan for Bottega Venetta Intreccio #1 , it’s a room spray ( Christen turned me on to it and it’s great leather on skin too….)

        • March says:

          I really like two of them, but can never remember WHICH two :”> ##1 and #4? #2 and #4? The one that smells like Christmas, and the butch one.

  • Kim says:

    I like Cuir de L but my true leather love?
    Chanel Cuir de Russie, parfum strength. Sigh. 😡
    There is just nothing else like it!

  • Carol Sasich says:

    I sniffed that sample of Le Sac de Ma Mere edp at Aedes last April….let’s hope it goes into production becase , March , it was fantastic!!

  • helenviolette says:

    What fun! I am wearing Cuir de L today! I ordered it unsniffed and it arrived a few days ago and I have worn it daily since. A beauty. I had been hankering to smell it since I read Angela’s review ages ago (or months) and because I Luuuvvvv leather. Love Tabac Blonde (1 star from Turchez??? what????)and that TF Tuscan Leather is nice- I have a few samples that I was blending with florals, but the Cuir does pretty much the same thing all by itself for 1/10 of the price…

    • March says:

      Turchez gave it one star? but that must be one of those, ain’t what it used to be deals, right? And I read their review of Lancome Cuir this morning after someone mentioned it, and it made me smile.

      • helenviolette says:

        I will read it when I get home from work 🙂

        And yes, they were lamenting the old juice, but still- the current incarnation is still worlds better than so much out there. Grrr.

        That candle sounds divine- luckily for my “sac” it can’t be found on this side of the pond…

  • Divalano says:

    My favorite leather this winter has been Prada Cuir Ambre. I was super not wowed by the Lancome Cuir so I haven’t much to say about that. What I DO have comment on is that candle.

    Excuse me, but sitting on your desk for a year? Gah. I bought a gorgeous, GORGEOUS Claus Porto Vanille candle this winter to scent my living room & it is still in its equally gorgeous box because I am afraid that exactly one week after I take it out it will be covered with a deep coat of cat fur. Seriously. I can’t burn candles easily because of my sweet little into everything felines & even leaving a candle out is risking instant dustball. I am seriously jealous that you can have a candle scented desk for a year without it turning into a gross fuzz monster.

    • March says:

      No fuzz monster. No cats and a non-shedding poodle-dog. Also I dust the interiors of my candles. As if you needed further evidence of my oddness. 🙂 I find the dust aesthetically displeasing.

      • I vacuum the insides of mine – I don’t think it’s odd at all (but I am a freak, as we know). If they get really ickaloid (I have Rottweilers who shed for a living) I take a Scotchbrite pad and gently rub the inside of the candle, to get the dog hair out.

        xo >-)

      • mollypenny says:

        hahaha! I too hate the animal hair and dust in the candles, but I’m so lazy I just light it and burn it off. Yes, it does smell disturbing for the first 30 seconds.

  • Catherine says:

    Now, I hope I remember this information right. I got it from one of the owners of Aedes last April. Soooooo, if it doesn’t pan out, then maybe we can blame the passage of time for the fading away of a plan. Because I’m sure I was told this. AG is making a scent specifically for Aedes. It will be packaged like the Orientalistes line. And it will be: Le Sac de le Mere. As soon as he told me this, I thought of you, March. Back in April, he thought it would come out early 2009.

    Keep your eyes open. I am.

  • chanel22 says:

    Cuir de Lancome reminds me of the original Madame Rochas, before it was ruined. It’s the soft leather approach with iris and rose. It’s the ladylike version of leather. Another great miracle to me is that Cabochard is still available, too. We can’t be prim and proper all the time! Sometimes we want to put down the Hermes handbag and pick up a riding crop!

    • chayaruchama says:

      Ain’t THAT the truth !
      [Years ago, a professor told me that I was his “Miss Julie” while studying Strindberg, LOL.
      Must have been those leather bustiers with no blouse, and riding boots…]

    • March says:

      Hm. I know I have a sample of vintage Madame Rochas around here somewhere… and it is amazing Cabochard is still in production.

      • Musette says:

        I dunno if it’s reformulated but THAT is one that is at our Maxx by the skidloads!


        • chanel22 says:

          I’m sure that Cabochard has undergone several changes since the 1950s, but the first one I knew about was in the early 1990s. The packaging changed from a white box with black stripes and the pure parfum had a grey velvet bow. The updated version was black boxes with gold accents, which is what is at TJ Maxx now. I suspect that this version, is being dumped for yet another reformulation. It seems that when the stock is almost gone, they are down to selling the little 1 oz bottles. When large bottles start showing up, it’s probably a new formula. As for Cuir de Lancome, I think everyone needs a bottle.

  • Shelley says:

    (The em dash doesn’t work here. Sorry for the lack of short dash/long dash distinction.) :”>

    • March says:

      I think it’s our fault for not upgrading WordPress more often. I’ll bug Patty about it at some point. I’m afraid to do it and blow up the whole blog. /:)

  • Shelley says:

    What in the world? I was off in my own little world, liking Cuir de Lancome (Musette will remember when the new me oh so hesitantly asked her to try it last summer), my long-debated finally-invested-in full bottle just arrived in yesterday’s mail–and then this post! I understand why Louise is saying it reads more “feminine”–to me, I think of it as smoother/ambery sweeter, kind of in the same realm as L’Ombre Fauve (CdL starts sharper, but goes similar places as L’OF) and Liz Zorn’s Journeyman (discontinued, alas). Bandit is sharper; so are Jolie Madame (which also famously has a floral note, the violet) and the Chanel Russie.

    I still consider myself fresh, if not a newbie, but I do enjoy a good leather…

    • Musette says:

      Ooooh! You got it? Congrats! I loved that fragrance. La Belle E was just asking me last night if I liked leather. Liked leather? LOVELOVE LOOOOVE Leather! And when I first smelled T42 I said it smelled like the inside of my mother’s evening bag (she was a heavy smoker). I’ll have to check out the Goutal, if it’s avail. here (sounds like not).

      Off to Peoria, land of vintage Chanel and Balenciaga ballgowns!=))


      • March says:

        I wonder whether this would register as leather to you? Did you smell Shelley’s samp? And I love the idea that Tea for Two would smell like your mom’s purse.

        The Goutal candle I am pretty sure is only available Over There. I’d mentioned it to Patty (I thought it was a room spray) and bless her, she bought me the candle.

        • Musette says:

          Yes it was Shelley’s and it did register as leather but very softly. You know how some leathers just smell like leather (d’oh!)? LC smells a bit more girly. I remember that Tarantella – on the drydown I got such a smack! of leather. I’ll have to revisit that, see if it happens again (that’s the one from Australia).


          • Shelley says:

            I was waiting for you to speak up. :d/ (Well, maybe more :-\”) I remember you saying “that’s… … nice…” #-o Then you hastened to add, “no, really, it is…” and I was all /:) or 😐 because that was NOT the proper reaction to a successful leather. #-o

            >:d< I remember when I was a young perfume explorer, trying to find something to please the dynamo who flashed me a Shocking forearm when I first met her. ;))

    • March says:

      Okay, so … basically y’all knew about this and I am a dummy. :”> I should have been paying more attention. Also, I really need to get ahold of Jolie Madame.

      • Louise says:

        page me…:d/ I got me some powerhouse vintage J.M.

        • March says:

          I am KILLING EVERYONE AROUND ME with Ta’if right now. I am a veritable force field of Ta’if. They backed away in the post office. Or maybe it was my hat. Hard to tell.

  • chayaruchama says:

    At the risk of a stampede, I’ve gotta side with you all.

    I’ve stockpiled this; so what if it ain’t skanky ?
    It’s gorgeous.
    I wore it to work, and one very shy gent stammered:
    ” You smell JUST the way women OUGHT to smell,”-
    Then blushed furiously and slinked away, LOL.
    Poor man.:d

    How beez you, Marchele ?

    • March says:

      That’s it exactly. It is the way a woman ought to smell. I have nothing quite like it. Tabac Blond is much more masculine on me.

  • Wordbird says:

    A darling friend sent me a vial of Cuir to try and I love love love it, but here in Switzerland I can’t seem to get hold of it. I am sooooo jealous of you US cousins with TJMaxx!

    • March says:

      I wonder if online discounters would ship? I don’t know who does Europe… the thing is, I was under the impression from Angela and elsewhere that the release was bigger in Europe than here, so I’d think it would be somewhere that would ship.

  • Louise says:

    I really enjoy this Cuir, though of course on me it wears lightly…:d/

    Although a man could easily wear the Lancome, it reads much more feminine than many of my favorites..Knize Ten, Cuir Ottoman, even my very vintage Tabac Blond (whoa, there’s a slap of saddle!-Luca is completely correct on the dramatic shift here, though I enjoy the modern as well). One of my most powerful leathery scents is Narcisse Noir parfum-on my skin, it takes hours to even get to a hint of the orange blossums and sandalwood. Yum:)

    As with CC and others, I think Lancome Cuir presents a strong case for evaluating reformulations as new perfumes. Many are pleasant, and easily enjoyed without reference to the originals (and many not). Another example-I adore my vintage Dioressence, but really like how the new plays on my skin.

    Oh! Am eagerly awaiting my samp of Reve en Cuir-I wonder if it really is all that (and the bag of Nachos)?

    A quick shout-out to an (almost) newly arrived DC area perfumista-Erica-hey there

    • March says:

      Aiyiyi — DYING to smell Reve. Want to get together for coffee after your samp gets here? Where’s my eye-batting emoticon? 8-|

      I would think the Lancome Cuir would be very light on you? But gosh it’s lovely. And I think your point is well taken — to give a fragrance a shot on its own merits.

      Narcisse Noir is so gorgeous.

  • carmencanada says:

    I was with Patty when she got you that candle last year! This year I’ll be crossing the street to Goutal after she and I meet up, possibly to get the Encens Flamboyant candle (with the edp, which has got me addicted).
    I bought Cuir when it came out, review it for Helg’s Perfume Shrine before I had a blog (the link is up on Grain de Musc) and really, really like it. I also have the vintage Cuir, which can’t be compared: they’re entirely different scents. Really should do a new review: thanks for giving me the nudge!

    • March says:

      I saw this little set of AG Orientalist candles online that looked gorgeous. And they have some other lovely-sounding candles too. The throw from that unlit candle is extraordinary.

      And I will have to go read your review! I didn’t find it… the ones that popped up were Marina’s and a couple on Basenotes/POL.

  • Nattygold says:

    I love Knize Ten, Cuir Mauresque, Cuiron, Cuir Ottoman, vintage Tabac Blond. I like Lancome Cuir and so does Luca Turin, giving it 4 stars and a rather lengthy review.

  • sweetlife says:

    Ooph, think I’ll find time for a TJ Maxx trip a little more often if that kind of thing shows up there…

    March — hooray! I’m so happy for you that you found a fragrance to match your candle, and I too, remember that post very well. Sometimes that universe throws up a gift, no?

    • March says:

      Yes, it does. I (hangs head) wasn’t even that excited to try something called “Cuir.” And now it’s looooooooooove….

      Our TJ Maxx is terrible. And the only time I used my credit card there, Citi had to cancel it and issue a new one due to some sort of employee-related fraud at the store. So I only use cash there.

  • AngelaS says:

    I’ve been dreaming of that candle ever since you mentioned it! Now that I know it smells like Cuir, I’ll dream of it that much longer. You describe it well.

    A few people have commented on my post that they were able to buy Cuir at TJ Maxx. So keep an eye out.

    • March says:

      TJ Maxx?!?! :-w TJ Maxx full of Cuir on clearance while Macy’s stocks Britney Spears.

      I wouldn’t be so bitter if our Maxx ever had anything other than Caesar’s Woman.