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Cuoio – Leather lust (February 28th, 2011 New Fragrance Listing)

Living and breathing niche scents, I pretty much have my next few purchases mapped out. I mean, there’s a got-to-try list, a must-have list, and a wish list. But as every sensible perfumenista knows, one always has to be open to those times when, through a little touch of fate, a fab frag finds you. That is how I ended up with a bottle of Cuoio by Odori.

I’d heard about it, was curious about it and then found it while I was looking for something else – isn’t that always the way? One try on the skin and that bottle had a new home.

On the box it says Cuoio “… is the most sensual of elements that wafts through the narrow streets of Florence where the Guild of Leather Crafters was established in 1292.”  Well, that nearly put me off. You see I used to work near a tannery and leather-making stinks. No, really. No, I mean enough to make your lunch back up into your mouth. And, in the middle ages, it was probably worse.

Skins would be soaked in water and then urine to remove hair, fur and fat. Then the hides were kneaded in a solution of feces and water to keep them supple. Finally, they would be dressed with a mash made from animal brains, dyed and stretched to dry. Leather-making was nasty and filthy. That’s why Santa Croce, the leather-making area of Florence in the middle ages, was put outside the city walls - to protect the good citizenry from the stench, the vermin and the disease created by tanning hides.

The final product stank too, which wasn’t an issue for leather used in shoes, shields and strapping in the Middle Ages, but in the Renaissance, leather started to be used for luxury goods like bookbinding, upholstery, bags and gloves. As leather moved from outside the home to inside, so did the nasty smell. Soon fragrance was used to cover it up and the profession of perfumery was born.

So really, what we experience when we smell leather in perfume is really the smell of scented animal skin and not the treated hide. Thank God!
Now, just cause I’m a sucker for leather scents, doesn’t mean I’m a fool for them, Cuoio had to win me over – and it did.

It has a zesty opening of bergamot and sparkling citrus that passes to ginger and vetiver. The ginger gives it a warm spiciness, and the vetiver gives it a bitter greenness. Ylang ylang gives it a floral note, while honey adds just a bit of sweetness to temper the bitterness. At the base, amber, birch tar and patchouli give it a leathery, earthy, dry woods finish.

Cuoio doesn’t smell like leather per se. It is not the smell of harnesses, whips, luxury car upholstery or chaps. I don’t know what the streets of Florence smelled like in 1292, but I do know that Cuoio is a gorgeous, complex fragrance that will be wafting around the narrow streets where I live.

Today we’re adding Cuoio to our fragrance decant offering. Decants are $5.00.