Best Leather perfume. What a paradox, when you consider that originally perfume was used to mask the scent of hides used for gloves, boots and garments. And the long, exalted history of leather glovemakers scenting their creations that evolved into perfumery itself. Leather is a difficult note to recreate in perfume and is usually trumpeted in fragrances for men, often in the name (English Leather (then), Tuscan Leather (now) while women’s leather-centric scents usually (but not always) tuck the leather note in the fragrance and leave the perfume name to the imagination. Perhaps because, to the non-perfumista leather = Unladylike?? I don’t know if that’s a proven fact but I can tell you that on more than one occasion I’ve been complimented on my perfume (let’s say Cuir de Russie parfum, shall we?) only to have the complimenter recoil, when told it’s LEATHER, as if I’d just butchered a cow in her living room. Done right, leather scents can be stunningly gorgeous. Done……well..underdone? undone? …they can give you nightmares for weeks! But that’s a personal thing so I’m going to steer clear of bashing – I’ll just categorize them as they appear to me (a couple of them fall into more than one category). Feel free to argue the point – but leave the whips in the drawer, okay? I’m beat up enough!!
Normal rules – Leather centric, not just be a supporting note. We will do a giveaway of all/most of the leather perfumes referenced in this post, and this will include some vintage treasure that you definitely want to have a shot at winning. Details on how to enter (more than once!) at the bottom of the post.
Bucket List Leathers: I thought I would have a whole bunch of hard-to-find vintages on here but with the exception of vintage Diorling & Balmain’s Jolie Madame parfum, all the rest are current and have not suffered to horribly in reformulation. The Gold Standard: Chanel Cuir de Russie PARFUM. It is the epitome of perfection in leather perfumery…or any perfumery, for that matter. It doesn’t scream ‘leather!’ – it whispers ‘quiet elegance’, like a vintage Hermes Kelly handbag or a vintage Packard automobile. Do not confuse this with the Exclusif version which, though lovely, is a totally different animal, lighter and thinner, with all the notes right up front, then boom! you’re done. The parfum takes its sweet time unfolding, with a burnished gold base that carries through for hours on end. Get a sample. See what all my fuss is about. If you hate it, send it on to me! Piguet Bandit. Just because. Germaine Cellier audaciously combined leather and jasmine (which, in her composition, reads as ‘lemon’ to my nose) to create one of the most compelling leather perfumes of all time. Love it or hate it, it’s one you must try. The vintage is stunning but current Bandit still has enough structure to make it worth your while. Mainstream Marvelous (Easier, Breezier Leathers) I’m no perfume snob but I confess to being stunned at the number of extremely well done leathers in upscale mainstream perfumery (I’m defining ‘mainstream’ as being largely available in department stores like SFA, Nordstrom, etc. (Barneys doesn’t count – they have 9 stores). Here are some of my favorites: Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather. This gets a lot of love from women and men – and deservedly so. Smooth leather, with a touch of ‘rough and ready’ sliding underneath. Hermes Kelly Caleche. This is one of the more ‘ladylike’ leathers around, a floral-scented handkerchief in a Kelly handbag. I spent a lot of time trying to sneer at this one because I felt I should (don’t ask). In the end, I gave up. It’s pretty. It’s also pretty interesting, too! I found out something else kinda interesting: you cannot wear too much of it. Something about Kelly Caleche melds with skin – I put 4, then 8 healthy spritzes on El O…and it was there but always as a thin veil of scent. Not so Estee Lauder Azuree (the original – I have not tried the flankers)..a gorgeous leather chypre. I am wearing the current (last 3 years) iteration as I type this and, another leather/jasmine combo, it is stunningly gorgeous, with a Bronze Goddess in the Sun vibe (yah, I did the tie in). Typical EL, Azuree is a whole lotta lotta – administer with caution. Two Armanis Prive: Cuir Noir and Cuir Amethyste. I would happily wear the Amethyste with the candied leather violets note – it’s Jolie Madame’s glam beauty queen cousin. Cuir Noir gets a bit messy – there are better rose/leather combos out there but it’s still pretty – applied sparingly this could be a great ‘office leather’ scent.
On the Hoof (Hardcore)
Some leather scents just say ‘oh, feck it’ and go straight for the skin(s). Still on the animal? No problem! L’Artisan Dzing! takes you Way Past Cow, throwing the whole circus in the bottle, laughing like fiends all the way through – and you can’t help but laugh right along with ’em! Fun as it is, Dzing! is NOT an office-friendly scent, btw. Unless you work for Ringling. Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories is a moonlit sky on the range, wrapped in a buckskin blanket. Two Demeters: Leather and Russian Leather, go straight to the point. If you want to smell what leather smells like, this is the place! Bulls to the Wall? Etat Libre d’Orange Vierges et Toreros – this is one that should be eased into, like a matador’s pantalons. The hybrid? Italian leather. i Profumi di Forenze Cuoio di Russia, more commonly known in my world as Espresso Leather. High octane stuff! PhD (Seriously Advanced) Leather: Keiko Mecheri Bespoke Cuir Fauve. Knize Ten. (this should be on the Bucket List as well – it’s definitely a Try).
Sweeties. The idea of ‘leather’ and ‘sweet’ – does that freak you out? It used to freak me. But leather does really well paired with sweeter notes – done right, it can round out the edgier aspects, without turning it into a scary dessert. Among the best: Soivohle (Liz Zorn) Leather Krem, with a rich vanilla note. Serge Lutens Sarrasins has a big ol’ load of jasmine in there, that’s true…but it’s the leather and honey hat makes for a really intriguing pairing (this one should be spritzed lightly unless you’re an old hand at the sweets table). Lubin Idole de Lubin is bourbon-glazed leather. That’s a beautiful thing, btw. M. Micallef Vanille Cuir is a spicy-sweet suede that is perfect for those looking to back into the schweets. Indult Reve en Cuir is my favorite sweet leather It’s marketed as a masculine, aggressively guyed-up in a Wooden Box for Guys. They’re wrong. This is perfect for a woman! And…oooh! a new whip on the block! Naomi Goodsir Cuir Velours: Brandy Alexander in a leather goblet, which sounds disgusting but only if you had to drink it. It’s divine to wear! Flowers Pretty much all the leather perfumes have some flowers in them (well, duuuh, Anita)…but there are a couple where the flower is..leatherized. Kelly Caleche, of course.. Neil Morris Leather Garden, a cool, rainwashed leather bouquet. Soivohle Cordovan Rose which gorgeously juxtaposes lush red roses on Ricardo Montalban’s rich, Corinthian Leather car seat. Thierry Mugler Angel Fragrance of Leather is flowers in a leather vase. Smooth Operators If I were introducing someone to leather and I wanted to make sure they fell in love, this is where I’d start. And I’d start with Daim Blonde (Blonde Suede – he is NOT swearing at blondes! I swear!) Luscious apricot-sueded leather, it’s a soft, classy, warm scent, very accessible. It’s got just enough of that cool Serge note to keep it from being ‘too’ friendly. It’s my favorite of the smoothies. Cuir de Lancome is another lovely, warm scent – this time without the cool edge. It’s one of those you reach for time and again without really knowing why – then you take a minute to really sniff it and you realize it’s a perfect leather skin scent. This is one you can wear to the office, even if you have a crabby coworker who hates perfume. Christian Dior La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Leather Oud. This is typically elegant Dior, smooth and composed. The Cool, Smooth Operators: Christian Dior Eau Sauvage. It’s been around since The Flood – and with good reason. It’s a perfect classic masculine that never puts a hoof wrong. Women smell divine in this, too (I’m joking with the ‘hoof’ – this is as far from ‘hoof’ as you can get. It’s the epitome of elegance). Caron Tabac Blond. The woman who wears this fears nothing. The man who wears this is one I want to know. How Caron made tobacco and leather smell cool without smelling like Kools is a mystery – but this is another classic that is a perfect gateway into leather scents. Serge Lutens Boxeuses. Serge does cool leather like nobody’s business – he doesn’t overplay the cool hand here, either. It’s woody leather but not all yelling in your face! Uncle Serge can be challenging, ’tis true – but not in these scents. They are gorgeous without being hyper-aware of themselves. Call me crazy but I think I could wear these to an office. Then again, I haven’t worked in an office in awhile… Once you are out of the office you might want to slip into something a bit more….S Perfumes S-eX says it best (though you can wear this in public, too – with a tailored suit it send an intriguing contradictory message), Signature VIP Room! MPG Cuir Fetiche…like rolling around in leather sheets.
Exotics. These are the WOWZAs of Leatherworld, those scents that don’t persackly fit into any other category but are so stunningly different/weird/quirky/fabulous/wackadoodle that they need to be KNOWED!, y’know? Some of these I love, some of them give me the heebejeebes…but all of them are worth getting to know. Here are a few of my favorites: AbdesSalaam Attar Cuio Tartaro (Tartar Leather). With a name like that I was expecting Cossacks to come stampeding out of the bottle – instead I get a rich, complex scent that softly tickles the underside of animalic. Montale Oude Cuir d’Arabie – this one doesn’t know whether to purr at you or bite your arm off! That indecision is part of what makes it so interesting. Nasomatto Duro. I don’t like their bottles (those wooden tops are a hazmat waiting to happen) but this scent is just….stunning. Leather, woods, spice – on a man, it goes buck-wild! I put it on El O and it’s a damn shame he’s pissed me off so bad cuz…well, you know! He coulda got hisself luck-ayyyy!
So that’s my list of best leather perfumes. I’ve left a ton of scents off this post but I figured your eyeballs are dried out now – I know my fingers are worn out, as is my nose! I’d love to know how you like your leathers. Are there any Sacred Cow scents out there? (you know I couldn’t resist).
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photo: longhorn cattle www.assadtexaslonghorns.com