Tag Archives: Leather

Rhinoceros, Beaver and Panda by Zoologist

Zoologist is a Canadian niche house whose creations possesses two commodities that we could do with more of in Perfumeland – novelty and wit.  The man behind this concept is Victor Wong who cleverly decided to commission indie perfumers to author each animal inspired scent. However, it should be noted that no animal products were used in any of the fragrances.

I tried the inaugural three perfumes which were launched in 2014. My interest has been piqued enough to want to try the latest additions, being the delightful sounding Hummingbird by Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes and the intriguing – not to say award winning – Bat by Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids.

The bottles are fantastic with the illustrations being reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows.

 

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Rhinoceros

Top Notes: Rum, Bergamot, Lavender, Elemi, Sage, Armoise, Conifer Needles. Heart Notes: Pinewood, Tobacco, Immortelle, Geranium, Agarwood, Chinese Cedar Wood. Base Notes: Vetiver, Sandalwood, Amber, Smoke, Leather, Musks

I thought Rhinoceros would be too much of a beast for me to handle but while it’s not my usual style, I really enjoyed testing and wearing it. It’s a strange mix of booze, smoke, oud and pine which swirls across my skin and holds my attention. The subtle pine accord, along with the other aromatics, make an interesting contrast against the more  upfront combination of alcohol, tobacco, oud and leather.

The oud is the most pronounced component of Rhinoceros on me and while we are not short of oud frags to choose from, this one is particularly urbane, being nicely refined with sophisticated tobacco and leather.

The aromatics and rum recede in the base, but it remains as arid as the desert plain throughout.  It would be attractive to those who like the idea of a “gentlemen’s club” style scent with a twist.  In opposition to the tough hide of its inspiration, Rhinoceros is surprisingly smooth with a distinguished air.

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Rhinoceros was composed by Paul Kiler of PK Perfumes, as was Beaver.

 

Beaver

Top Notes: linden-blossom, Fresh Air, Musk, Light citrus. Heart Notes: (Synthetic) Castoreum, Iris, Vanilla, Smoke*, Undergrowth. Base Notes: (Synthetic) Animal Musks, Ash*, Cedar, Amber

*I have a sample of the original version but the website states that the formula has been modified this year with the removal of the smoke and ash notes, redesigning of the linden blossom and the addition of light leather and more musk.  A limited number of bottles of the original formula are still available.

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Composed by British perfumer Chris Bartlett of Pell Wall Perfumes, this fragrance was largely inspired by the beaver’s river habitat but also uses a castoreum-style base to represent the mammal’s musk.

First we get sparkling, juicy lime bringing to mind a rushing river in bright sunlight, but this is soon undercut by a light plume of smoke and something vaguely metallic.  I don’t get the dirty facet others seem to, so I’m guessing this is yet another case where my nose is failing to pick up a certain type of musk. The muskiness I do pick up in Beaver is of the sheer, woody musk variety and flows nicely with the aquatic citrus accord.

As time wears on the watery aspect fades to a faint backwash overlaid with a cottony musk drydown.  I find it subdued – especially compared to Rhinoceros – but no doubt this wouldn’t be the case if I got the intended “beaver musk”.

 

Panda

Top Notes: Buddha’s Hand Citron, Bamboo, Sichuan Pepper, Green Tea, Mandarin, Zisu Leaves. Heart Notes: Osmanthus, Orange Blossom, Lillies, Mimosa, Incense. Base Notes: Sandalwood, Pemou Root, Cedar, Fresh Musk, Bourbon, Haitian Vetiver, Damp Moss

Panda is a full of lush green vegetation filled with sap on the inside and dampened with rain on the outside. It makes me think of misty, verdant mountainsides and clean air. However, I’m thrown by something that verges on the medicinal.  I can best liken it to a drop of potent cleaning fluid on wet leaves.

This distracting facet calms down in the drydown when the whole scent becomes a darker shade of green, mimicking dense undergrowth.

 

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I really admire what Victor Wong is doing with this house and all three fragrances exhibit a high level of quality and excellent longevity.

I would be very interested to read your own experience of any of the Zoologist perfumes in the comments.

 

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Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur

 

Bring on the dancing horses…

 

Notes: Leather, Ginger, Tonka Bean, Musk, White Woods, Caramel, Saffron,

Toffee, Candy Apple and Cotton Candy.

 

When I met up with lovely Esperanza of Esperessence a while back, she kindly gave me a decant of Dzing! I was really pleased with this because although I’ve found it a little too skanky in the past, I thought it was a fantastic perfume which I really wanted to write about.

Even when I didn’t think it was something I could wear, I still admired Dzing! from afar. I loved its brilliant “Ta-dah!” name and its novel circus concept.

 

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First released in 1999, it’s a brilliantly executed fragrance. This is down to perfumer Olivia Giacobetti who is a masterful ringmaster. She orchestrates this clever composition so that it is both cohesive and evolving.  To experience Dzing! is a thrill and more than likely to raise a smile of recognition.

When I sprayed my newly acquired decant, I held it close to the back of my hand, the way I usually do with samples and decants. As expected, the most prominent note on my skin was sawdust with eau de elephant. Not scrub-worthy but not something I’d want to spray properly.

The next day I sprayed it on the same place, but at a bit of a distance. The difference in scent was remarkable. This time, after a bright orange opening, I got soft creamy saffron, old books and a layer of sawdust concealing something only mildly animalic. There was also a hint of leather from the horses’ saddles and the lion-tamer’s whip.

In the base, Dzing! has a fabulous fur-like quality; warm and silkily textured.  The sweetness of the toffee, caramel and cotton candy (candy floss in the UK) comes through and the balance of this with the last traces of the departed animals is perfect for me during this final encore.  The sugary treats are also kept in check by hay and vanillic cardboard accords.

Lasting power is excellent and I’d put the projection at moderate.

Dzing! Is that rare beast; a truly unique fragrance. L’Artisan Parfumeur deserve a standing ovation for continuing to produce it.  It’s a good reminder of why we need niche perfumery and where it excels.

 

marilyn

 

Please let me know  your thoughts about Dzing! in the comments, or if there is a another quirky perfume which you really admire.

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1805 Tonnerre by Beaufort

Twisted firestarter…

Notes: Lime, smoke, gunpowder, blood, brandy, sea water, amber, balsam fir and cedar.

 

These days when I hear about a new perfume house it tends to wash over me. That is unless it’s mentioned by a friend.

Tina G of Australian Perfume Junkies told me about Beaufort and specifically the scent 1805 Tonnerre. What especially got my attention was when she said the man behind the line, Leo Crabtree, had played drums with The Prodigy. Apparently he has had a life-long love of fragrance and his inspiration for Beaufort is the dark side of English history, particularly in relation to the sea.

The brand name comes from the Beaufort wind force scale of measuring the intensity of the wind: a system still in use today. The website states that it represents “a kind of framework within which we can understand ourselves: The wind is constant, enduring, but ultimately changeable and potentially destructive”.

So when I met up with fellow blogger Esperanza at Bloom perfumery during her recent trip to London, I suggested we try the line. We both enjoyed testing the three fragrances released last year in the inaugural Hell and High Water Collection because they were so distinctive. Whether they’re to your taste or not, it’s interesting to try something that isn’t bland or you’ve experienced a million times before.

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1805 was the year of the Battle of Trafalgar, which Admiral Nelson won but during which he lost his life. The fragrance, 1805 Tonnerre attempts to re-create the scent of the battle and is an arresting clash of lime and gunpowder. The lime is bright, fresh and tart while the gunpowder is smoky, leathery and almost meaty. The two are surprisingly well matched, with the lime slicing through the powdery smoke in the opening stage.

The citrus fades over about an hour leaving a woody/ashy drydown with a little salt spray and a pleasing handful of pine needles thrown in.

Of course there should be no gender restrictions in perfume but 1805 Tonnerre feels assuredly masculine to me and I can envisage it being attractive on a guy with a bit of an edge. I can also see women who like bold, smoky perfumes going for this one too.

Tina told me that as well as the Eau de Parfum, the scent is available as a candle and that medium appeals to me most.

Projection is explosive to begin with but mellows out.  I found it to be fiercely tenacious – as if it had seeped into the skin – even surviving a bath.

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It’s one of those fragrances that is best appreciated at a bit of distance. If you press your nose in close – as is our wont – it’s too intense and jarring, but that’s not how we experience fragrance in day to day life anyway.

Give it room to breathe and 1805 Tonnerre can become an uncommon pleasure.

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Tango, Terralba, Luci Ed Ombre and Montecristo by Masque Milano 

Welcome to the Masquerade Ball

It might not have met my high expectations but I did enjoy trying Russian Tea by Italian niche brand, Masque Milano. It had an atmospheric mood and an appealing (if fanciful) backstory. I liked it enough to become intrigued by the other releases from the brand.

Below are my impressions of the four other fragrances currently in the line-up.

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Tango 

Notes of amber, jasmine sambac, Turkish rose, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, tonka bean, benzoin, sandalwood, guaiac wood, cedar and melilotus.

Opening with a liqueur-like red rose, Tango settles into an incredibly smooth and silky amber. It’s not ground-breaking but it’s seamlessly well done and high quality. There’s a nice sprinkling of spice and just the right amount of vanilla.

Tango could be worth investigating if you’re still seeking a wearable, classy amber fragrance.

Terralba 

Notes of clary sage, lemon, green tangerine, myrtle, thyme, curry leaves, everlasting flower, lentisque, juniper, cypress and cedarwood

Terralba was created to invoke the aroma of a Mediterranean shoreline where the scent of coastal shrubbery mixes with sea salt. Unfortunately it reminds me more of the old school fougères which were popular with my father’s generation.

I’m sure I’m doing it a great disservice but I find the association hard to shake. You may have better luck if you are a fan of green, herbal fragrances.

Luci Ed Ombre 

Notes of incense, ginger, tuberose, jasmine, moss, cedarwood and patchouli

I really enjoyed testing Luci Ed Ombre because it’s rather novel and the idea behind it is so effectively realised. The wearer is transported to the border of a bright field and a gloomy forest where a sense of foreboding creeps over them.

It’s brought to life using patches of moss, earth, gently indolic flowers and a touch of musty incense (which intensifies in the base).

Luci ed Ombre is the kind of white floral I can get on board with – one shrouded in darkness. My only reservation is that it’s a touch reticent.

Montecristo 

Notes of cabreuva, ambrette seeds, rum, tobacco leaves, celery seeds, cistus, benzoin, golden stone, styrax gum, gaiac wood, cedar wood and patchouli

Whoa. An opening of booze and barbecue smoke, that’s got my attention.

Montecristo calms into a distinctive smoky leather with old dry wood and a burnt facet. It’s not as harsh and manly as it sounds. There is some sweet resin in the mix, probably from the styrax, which counterbalances it.  Over time, it becomes increasingly sensual.

Interestingly, it features hyraceum (“Golden Stone”) which helps make Papillon Perfumes’ Salome so gloriously carnal. Here it feels more like animal hide than human skin.  Montecristo is chic, striking and not a little addictive.

woman wearing a venetian mask

Overall I’ve been impressed by the offerings from Masque Milano. The fragrances tend to have an intimate feel and plenty of character.

I particularly like that the line comes across as very Italian: stylish, sophisticated and sultry, with just a dash of machismo.

 

Do you own or admire any of the Masque Milano fragrances?

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My Favourite Bottled Leather – Cuir de Lancome

Hand me my leather…

Top notes of mandarin, bergamot and saffron, middle notes of hawthorn, jasmine, ylang-ylang and patchouli, base notes of birch, orris and styrax

Why was Cuir de Lancome discontinued so soon after its release in 2007? No doubt it didn’t appeal to the average Lancome customer. I know when a “civilian” friend of mine sniffed it on my wrist she didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to, the look on her face said it all. This tarry beauty was a beast to a fan of spring florals and D&G’s Light Blue.

However, to many of us who love leather, Cuir de Lancome is hide heaven. I’m sure if it had been released by a niche brand it would still be going strong. My EdP is down to about a third and I feel anxious at the thought of having to open my sealed back-up bottle.

I bought Cuir de Lancome for about £25 four years ago and the second bottle for about £35 a couple of years later. I’ve just checked on that same auction site and there’s one 50ml bottle for sale in the UK with a Buy It Now price of £90. The ones in the States aren’t much cheaper.

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For me, the reason Cuir de Lancome is so great is that combination of smoky birch tar, saffron spice and tender florals at its core. The saffron and flowers meld into the leather making it butter soft and super sophisticated. The contrast of one accord against another makes it addictive and I can’t get enough.

It leans more feminine than your average leather fragrance. It’s not a heavy-hitter but has enough throw for me to pick it up as I type – plus it lasts for ages.

Who doesn’t love the smell of an expensive leather handbag which has softened with age?

On days I wear it, like today when it feels cold figuratively and literally outside the front door, Cuir de Lancome warms, comforts and protects me.

 

You can read my full review from Olfactoria’s Travels here.

 

Do you have a favourite leather fragrance?

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Cuir Velours by Naomi Goodsir  

Peach skin suede…

Naomi Goodsir is an Australian designer whose hats look as cool and striking and as her fragrances smell.

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Cuir Velours (Velvet Leather) was released in 2012 and includes notes of leather, tobacco, rum, cistus labdanum, incense and immortelle.

Despite the “Cuir” in the name, I get a refined suede rather than tough leather. There is nothing that reminds me of tanning fumes or birch tar and I don’t get any smoke. For the most part, both the aroma and texture is akin to velvety peach skin.

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On opening, the muted suede is drenched in fruity, boozy, syrup. At this stage it lies somewhere between Boxeuses and Bottega Venetta. I presume it’s the immortelle and rum that’s creating this effect, but it isn’t too spicy or harshly alcoholic.

It’s all a bit too sweet and boozy for my taste, but the whole feel is very smooth and luxe. It doesn’t shout and there are no rough edges.

If you love gourmand-inflected suede scents then I can imagine it verging on the addictive. It’s easier to wear than other fragrances in this category because while it is sweet, it’s not domineering.

It may also appeal if you have a fondness for cosmetic perfumes. As it settles, Cuir Velours throws off a beauty balm like quality which now reminds me of Ramon Monegal’s Cuirelle but without the honey. It’s that face-powder-mixed-with-cold-cream-on-suede effect which adds softness and an increased level of comfort.

I start to enjoy it a few hours in, when the booze has completely evaporated and the sweet syrup has dialled down a few notches. Now it really feels velvety soft and creamy with that “Your Skin But Better” vibe. I get some labdanum in the far drydown which only adds to that feeling.

For a fragrance layered with so many traditionally bold accords, Cuir Velours winds up being surprisingly low on projection.  I have to get  close to detect it, but when I do it’s inviting and rather sensual.

 

Woman in cape and leather boots

In style alone, it’s reminiscent perfumer Julien Rasquinet’s other creation for Naomi Goodsir, Bois d’Ascese and his Russian Tea for Masque Milano. They all have a striking yet subdued profile and seem to cling to the skin.  However, I would say that Cuir Velours leans more feminine than either of those two. Longevity is very good as it quietly lingers for hours.

It’s a low-key, sweetened suede with a cosmetic twist which would be equally appropriate at the office as on a date. Perfect to wrap yourself in on cold days when the chill wind threatens to get into your bones.

Cuir Velours is a fragrance to live in and make your own, like a second skin.

 

Have you tired Cuir Velours? Would you recommend I try Naomi Goodsir’s Or du Serail?

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Boxeuses by Serge Lutens

Up for the fight…

When I was on a personal development retreat recently, one of my many favourite things was the boxing moves we did to extremely loud rap music. There was something hugely powerful and energising about it and it’s made me want to find a Boxercise class. In the meantime I listen to the tracks and do the moves in the privacy of my own home.

Serge Lutens Boxeuses

I greatly admire the 2010 exclusive Lutens release Boxeuses (female boxer) although I’m yet to fall in love with it. I keep coming back to it because I find it sophisticated and mysterious, empowering and sensual.

As usual the perfumer is Christopher Sheldrake, also as usual, there is no official notes list. However, the consensus seems to be that it contains violet, plum, anise, leather, labdanum and woods.

Boxeuses is a fragrance full of violet, plummy goodness with a hint of licorice, underscored by leather. On the face of it, it’s in the vein of Bois de Violette and Faminite de Bois but I don’t find it as intense as either of those other two Lutens creations.

In the early stages you’re hit by smoky fumes emanating from underneath the purple fruit and flowers. This is leather that’s been processed to a smooth finish. More chemical than animal. you could mistake it for plastic or vinyl.

Violet and plum stop it from becoming that typical dry, masculine style of leather: There’s a reason Boxeuses is written in the feminine form.

This is a dark, seductive little number. The fruit is not too stewed, the spice is not too strong and I enjoy the contrast with the smoky leather.

However, as it develops it becomes rather too gourmand for my taste. It’s now more about plummy, spiced caramel over woods than it is about leather. The gooey syrup laced with curry spice makes me think of immortelle, which is a tricky note for me.

The base is pure labdanum on me; fuzzy, ambery and resinous.

Usually Lutens orientals are thick and opaque, but Boxeuses feels surprisingly sheer and intangible. It bobs and weaves, staying light on its feet. It’s everywhere and nowhere.

The same way boxers sometimes hold onto one another as if in a awkward embrace when tired, Boxeuses holds on close to the wearer. At the same time it keeps its cool and remains detached, never cosy.

Woman boxing in dress

Boxeuses is a lesson in how simplicity done well can create the illusion of complexity. You can pick out the components but they combine in a way that is intriguing.

I’d like to feel at home in it because the Boxeuses woman is prepared to fight her corner.

It’s the perfect perfume to wear when you feel like you’re heading into the ring, whether it’s a workplace confrontation (see Undina’s memorable post Round One – I won) or a more personal conflict.

Boxeuses will have your back.

 

 

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