This is the fourth year I’ve been in the realm of perfume obsession, but the first year I’ve come to realize that some perfumes really do behave better in certain seasons than others. So, particularly in the last month or so of relatively high heat and humidity in New England, I’ve been testing brighter, more classically “masculine” fragrances such as Hermès Terre d’Hermès and finding that I have a hard time describing them. They land in the “woody” genre and yet I’m too distracted by the aromatic notes (is it just a conjuring trick by citrus and spices?) to identify wood.
Incidentally, my other half and I were browsing a TUMI store the other day to look at backpacks and I noticed that they had an array of fragrances on display. Confirmed they were a new addition to the luggage brand’s offerings. The cap design was very innovative in my opinion, with a metallic dial that could be turned to unlock and lock it onto the bottle—aligned with their aesthetic. Without warning, the question slipped out of my mouth: “Do you know who the perfumer is?”
It’s funny, because I don’t normally ask that even at places where they would know. The ambushed sales associate hesitated before replying, “The… perfumer? What do you mean by ‘the perfumer’?”
Of course she didn’t know (what was I thinking?!), but she was able to tell me that it was a New York company. Sure enough, I turned the bottle upside down and the label read in tiny font “The Fragrance Group,” New York. The perfumer(s) is/are not credited on Fragrantica either.
Not surprisingly, the fragrances smelled very generic, mostly in the woody-amber register. Not dissimilar to other luxury brands that have nothing to do with perfume but can prioritize their fragrance-budget dollars on eye-catching bottle designs that look like accessories to the main product (my favorite of these are the Mercedes-Benz perfume bottles).
Today, for no specific reason, I reached for my sample of Le Jardin Retrouvé Cuir de Russie eau de parfum that I had gotten with a purchase at Perfumology in Philadelphia. I had tried it once before, about a month ago, and it seemed more powdery then. Leather perfumes can be hit or miss for me—heavier ones such as Jeroboam Vespero and Tom Ford Ombré Leather Parfum work really well and keep me wanting more, but lighter ones, which often have Cuir in the name, end up smelling like wet wipes on my skin.
(This phenomenon seems to be validated by my reaction to leathery aroma materials. Suederal LT and isobutyl quinoline [IBQ]—in moderation—as well as birch tar essential oil, I find satisfying; Cuir HF and labdanum “push back” against me when I sniff them, with something sour and dissonant.)
Originally created by perfumer Yuri Gutsatz in 1977 and later revived, Cuir de Russie opens with a beautiful floral bouquet that smells very natural—each flower dances in turn and in harmony, forming a lovely chorus and choreography. Top notes are supposed to be lemon, aldehydes, lime, and petitgrain, but I don’t detect these; they must be camouflaged as outlines of the flowers. I get the listed ylang-ylang and violet prominently, joined briefly by rose and also tuberose, which are not listed. The perceived tuberose reminds me of Le Jardin Retrouvé Tubéreuse Trianon, dense and chewy. The petals soon melt away to reveal a creamy suede, with a touch of something animalic (likely the styrax).
For a short while, I think the warmer weather has helped to eliminate the trace of powdery or wet-wipe effect, but alas, not so. Eventually, I can smell the skeleton of IBQ, but it is not overwhelming.
Overall, Cuir de Russie does not last very long, although a faint base remains after the flowers have gone home. I reapplied it several times throughout the day to relive the opening, which the brand seems to have anticipated with this line in the marketing copy: “You wish that this moment could last forever.”