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Cuir de Lancôme – A leather to love (February 10, 2012 New Fragrance Listing)

Photo - Wikipedia - Campfire by Emeldil at en. wikipedia

Your nose knows. You either like a certain smell, or you don’t. The fact is, if you give 10 people a specific thing to smell you’ll likely end up with 6 different descriptions of it, which are all correct.  Yes, that’s right, they are all correct, because how we respond to scent is dictated by our culture, our own experiences, the sensitivity of our nose, and our ability to translate what is fundamentally an emotional experience into words.  All of those influences make up our personal sense of smell, which is why smelling perfumes, and reading and writing about them, is such an infinitely fascinating process. Are you really smelling what I smell? If I smell citrus, does it smell the same to you? Impossible to say, I say, which leads me to Cuir de Lancôme.

Cuir de Lancôme is a floral leather scent , launched by Lancôme in 2007 as part of La Collection, which included several of their vintage formulas from the 1950’s and onward.  The original Cuir formula was  adapted by Calice Becker and Pauline Zanoni, and what they achieved is a wonderful leather scent, one that has a vintage feel but a very modern style.  The notes are bergamot, mandarin, saffron, Jasmine, ylang-ylang, hawthorn, patchouli, Iris, birch, styrax.

The opening moments of bergamot and mandarin are bright and sunny, but they don’t last long. Saffron, dusty and slightly sour and medicinal, and creamy sweet ylang, make a buttery mix for a minute or so, and then WHAM – I smell smoke!  Smoke with a tarry edge, a campfire at night – not Lonestar Memories but more Eau du Fier – it’s the birch and styrax notes. The smoke rises as Cuir moves into the drydown, and then floats away to the edges, replaced with patchouli and iris, earthy and floral.   Cuir de Lancôme deepens into a golden scent, becoming more woody as the smoke dissipates, and the end result is a warm smooth leather, scented with dry flowers, with hints of caramel. For a leather, it has a light touch – its elegant sillage stays close to the skin but lingers for hours.

Cuir de Lancôme is really a niche scent that ended up in a non-niche market.  It was sold through the Lancôme cosmetic counters, and wasn’t understood well by SA’s or by Lancôme for that matter, since it was so poorly marketed. The result was that it lasted about 15 minutes on the Lancôme counters, and now resides mostly with on-line discounters. Luca Turin’s 4-star review in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide says that Cuir de Lancôme is a very unusual and beautiful leather “devoid of the weight of ambery, smoky, and animalic notes that make most others sink on drydown. Instead, this one maintains a light, airy, woody, almost vetiver-like translucency all the way through and feels… like rich suede… feels as comfortable as the real thing. Excellent.”

I’m with Luca on all these points, except the one about the lack of smoky notes.  I’m sure he gets the smoke note, but I smell smoke from almost beginning to almost the end, a lovely soft  smoky leather, and you can’t convince me otherwise – my nose knows. 

The leather note is used  in lots of scents. It’s kind of a shapeshifter – you might not even know it’s there – and its presence adds nuance and depth to a frag. I love leather – the look, the feel, the smell – from old saddles to baby booties, I love the smell of leather. Especially in perfume. In fact, if you say the word “leather”, I immediately think of my favourite leather scents, Knize Ten, the grand-daddy of leather juices, or Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, the Grande Dame. So for someone like me, when I see the name Cuir (French for leather) in a perfume name, I can’t wait to pop the lid and spritz a little, to see if the leather note once more wields its perfume magic.

In Cuir de Lancôme, it does. My advice is to buy some, before it disappears, even if you think you don’t like leathers. I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't believe everything you think. I bet you’ll like this one – your nose will know for sure.


Cuir de Lancôme is listed in our Decant store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.