Ah leather, there is nothing quite like it in perfume, and once you have gotten addicted to the scent, nothing else will do. Hearing about tanning may be enough to turn your stomach, but the results of tanning, buttery soft sides, and the grip of well stitched handles, are one of the civilized pleasures of leaving the house. Otherwise how could Hermes have come so far?
When Jeffrey Dame sent me his Grand Cuir the first of his Parfums Retro releases, I though oh good, some dirty leather. I live in Jersey after all, and we like leather, wear leather – you know, the whole nine yards: leather with spikes, leather with grommets, leather with dust, leather with black lace, you got it.
But Grand Cuir had me foxed. It was not the heavy animalic I had anticipated. Grand Cuir turned out to be a good deal more wearable than say, Muscs Kublai Khan. Grand Cuir was leather, clean, dressed leather and something spicy in its beginning that danced up the nostrils in a familiar way. What did this remind me of? Not Brut, not Aramis? Knize Ten? I wasn’t sure at all.
The fact of the matter is that Grand Cuir reads like a leathery chypre. GC is related to others in the family, though it is not as dark as say, Yatagan. GC is lighter and spicier, and the core of this perfume turns out to be truly lathery, it reminds me of some of the best men’s soaps I’ve ever come across, and also has that undertone of masculine skin to it. Grand Cuir is a dude with a square jaw and a great build, but he does not come across as dangerous. He’s been in the saddle, but he’s cleaned up, a very successful rancher gussied up for a night out with the Missus (who was no doubt Miss Texas once) in his Texas tux.
By the way, this perfume actually does come off as a chypre with oakmoss in it, and Jeffrey deserves some kudos for pulling this off in an environment in which oakmoss sometimes is perceived as radioactive, though essential to a good chypre. Grand Cuir, with its floral heart of carnation and geranium, under a leathery headnote and its woody ending, is almost a classic chypre, even though listed as a leather. I think it’s for all those guys who enter the house reluctantly, or who simply like to remember the outdoors when inside. GC strikes me as too testosterone laden for most women; butch rather than birch, if you take my meaning.
All this reminds me of the second masculine I ran into at Whole Foods (and who would have thought it?) The brand is Maroma Men and the perfume, the best of three, was Olibanum Citrus, sold as a natural scent and also as soap.
It’s wonderful, perfectly fine on women, and is one of those true rarities a citrus oriental. Yes, up there with the likes of Shalimar and Habit Rouge, only it doesn’t cost that much, and is probably more natural than either of those these days. Truly – I mean the tester at my branch of Whole Foods was all but empty-everybody loved this stuff. Like Grand Cuir, the entire point of the perfume is an engaging cleanliness, but this is sweeter, and because of its ingredients an oriental, rather than a chypre.
Also, like Grand Cuir, it lasts. On me, a spritz of Olibanum Citrus persisted for three hours, and that for this strength (edt, I think) is very good. The next week I went back and OC repeated its performance.
We have a winner. The notes include olibanum, cedarwood, lemon. patchouli, myrrh, basil, ginger grass, juniper berry and pine. It never falls too much in with any of these potentially dominant partners, and instead achieves a fresh, sparkling individuality. This is one of the best perfumes I’ve smelled all year. Definitely, and is less than fifty bucks a bottle.
So, two soap scents for the New Year to wash clean 2013. Let’s hope next year is better.