Blog post by Gwen

Russian Leather – green and leathery and woody


Photo: Courtesy of Fraser Clark

When I first came across Russian Leather from Parisian niche fragrance house MEMO at Saks, I was instantly taken with this forest fragrance. Back at home, I checked it out online where I found the brief for the fragrance:

‘Fougère, frost, the call of the forest, lavandin, echo, large herds of reindeers, basil, no compass, pine needles, guided by the song of the thrush, running free, a carpet of rosemary, on the watch, clary sage, minus 48 degrees, courage, mint, ardour... A caravan suddenly looms on the distant horizon, tonka bean, without a sound, patchouli, sea of blue snow, palace of ice, tall cedars, burning light, hand hovering knife, lichen, ever ready for a fight, wolf leather, pride, a Siberian smile on the lips.’ I had to have it. 

MEMO was founded in 2007 by Clara and John Molloy, and Russian Leather is part of the Cuirs Nomades series, which ‘explores the leather note through six emblematic destinations, from Africa to Italy.’ For the Molloys, it’s all about the journey.

Russian Leather opens with a green, herbal, mint-tinged note of basil. Its camphourous facet makes my nostrils flare. This is followed by a beautiful Fougere accord: lavender, medicinal and anisic; it amplifies the basil. A note of lichen smells earthy and mossy, while coumarin adds its distinct hay-like smell to the mix. Together they usher in more green notes: clary sage, fern and pine. Top notes blend to give Russian Leather a green, slightly sweet-smelling start that is soothing and surprisingly seductive.

As it settles, it gets richer and woody from cedarwood, but what I really get is a gust of cool bracing Arctic air blowing owing over it all. It comes from a note of refreshing green mint. Rosemary, camphorous and herbal and spicy-sweet nutmeg stop the mint from wandering into mouthwash territory. Now the stage is set for the Russian leather, and it’s a beauty: the rich, sensuous smell of supple, worn leather boots. Guaiac Wood, smoky and tar-like, provides a campfire. Sweet, dark, earthy patchouli is the perfect base for this EDP to rest on.

The dry-down is green, slightly sweet, woody, and so sophisticated. It is green-forward more than it is leather-forward because this is the exploration of a leather note from a journey through the forest in winter, after all.

I once had a contract to work in Yellowknife, located in the North West Territories, just north of the 60th parallel. I liked Yellowknife, the first few times I went there in spring and summer, but it wasn’t until I went there in the winter that I loved it.  It was, to me, the land of gold and diamonds, polar bears and caribou, ice roads, dog sledding and deep, wild, frosty forests. You can see the dancing Northern lights, hear the howling of wolves, smell the pine forest and take in the cold Arctic air, all while standing in the middle of town. Add the comfort of relaxing in front of a cozy fire after a long day, and you'll get how evocative Russian Leather is for me.

Russian Leather isn’t the sweaty smell of trekking all day in the frozen forest. It’s the romantic idealization of it which makes it the perfect scent for winter and one of the best forest fragrances made.

Check out Russian Leather in our Shop.