Knize Ten : Perfume Review

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Smoky leather and green jasmine… The first time I smelled Coty Chypre I was startled by its wistful aura. For months before Chypre and I finally met I had fantasized about how dramatic and roughhewn it must have been to simultaneously set a new trend and to shock its contemporaries. But as I discovered, Chypre is alluring and harmonious, if not exactly well-behaved. I fell hard for its dark leather accord, which I subsequently spotted in Chanel Cuir de Russie, enjoyed in Robert Piguet Bandit and mourned in the reformulated Parfums Gres Cabochard. Finding Knize Ten is a flashback to the first time I dabbed a few dark drops of Chypre on my wrist and discovered that leather can be devastatingly seductive.

Knize Ten was created in 1924—just seven years after Chypre—by François Coty and Vincent Roubert, and it isn’t surprising that someone who loves the early 20th century perfumes would be taken by it as well. (A perfume lab rumor is that Ernest Beaux also was involved, which makes Knize Ten one of the best collaborative efforts.) More unexpected is how well this gem has weathered the past century. Today the fragrances are reformulated on what seems to be a daily basis, and anything older than a year is likely to be altered. Knize Ten, however, has managed to survive more or less intact. As I’m writing this review, I have the current Eau de Toilette on one wrist and the 1950s formulation on another. The new version is wonderful.

The fragrance opens up on a peppery bergamot and green leafy note, hinting at the Mediterranean pantry with its medley of aromatic basil, thyme and lemons. The tangy leather is immediately obvious, and as the initial freshness is toned down, the darkness overtakes the composition. It is the scent of a well-worn leather jacket, with a hint of tobacco and musk. The rose and iris add a subtle softness; their delicate sweetness soothes the roughness of dark and smoky notes. A lingering spicy bite of carnation lends an exotic flair to this elegant, but austere perfume.

Austere and streamlined though it is, Knize Ten is far from simple and one-dimensional. The late drydown of patchouli, vanilla and smoky woods is warm and sensual, a perfect counterpoint to the raspy sharpness of leather. Knize Ten was created for the Viennese bespoke clothing house, and just like a perfectly tailored suit, it wears effortlessly. On a man, it feels sophisticated and polished, without the tired citrus and shower clean musks of contemporary masculine perfumery. On my skin, Knize Ten, like many leather fragrances, takes on a film noir aura—dark, glamorous and brooding. In other words, a perfect fantasy!

Knize Ten Eau de Toilette includes notes of bergamot, petitgrain, galbanum, tarragon, aldehydes, carnation, iris, jasmine, orange blossom, clove, leather, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, and vanilla. Available from Luckyscent.

Sample: 1950s, 1970s and the most recent one from my personal bottle obtained last year.

Image: Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, a still from Dark Passage, 1947.

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39 Comments

  • Lucy: what a mouth watering review, that style of leather and floral is an idea whose time has truly come. April 19, 2012 at 7:37am Reply

    • Victoria: I love the idea of leather softened with a touch of floral notes, makes it so much more wearable for me. April 19, 2012 at 10:34am Reply

  • Alyssa: You are inspiring me to dig out my sample and put some of this on ASAP! I need to smell it more slowly and thoroughly. There is something about the herbal facet and the “tangy leather” you mention that makes me think forcefully of new shoes–will be on the lookout for the drydown this time. April 19, 2012 at 7:38am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Knize Ten, although it took me a while to discover it. I assumed that it would be a hairchested masculine fragrance. How wrong I was! Those who love Bandit, Cabochard and Aramis will find it great. Next to Cuir de Russie by Chanel, it is my current leather goldstandard. April 19, 2012 at 10:37am Reply

  • Cristina: This splendid review makes my hands all tingly for an itsy bitsy KT bottle. For some reason it also reminded of my first days on boisdejasmin right before I became a perfume maniac. April 19, 2012 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I like discovering such gems. When I smell Knize Ten and other fantastic fragrances that in addition to being beautiful don’t force me to give up a good chunk of my salary, I know that there is no excuse behind the aspirational pricing in the niche. April 19, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

  • jtd: Victoria, i generally love to read your posts. You have such a wonderful way of not just describing a perfume but characterizing it. My special treat is when you cover one of my favorites, such as Knize Ten! Right on! Thank you.

    I’d like to put in a bid for an unappreciated Knize fragrance: Sec. It’s a frankincense/leather. Quiet where 10 is boisterous, beautifully balanced. April 19, 2012 at 9:32am Reply

    • Victoria: When a perfume has so much character and personality, writing about it is such a pleasure. I just love the aura of Viennese elegance about Knize Ten. But most comments I got on it were along the lines of “it smells unusual and sexy.” April 19, 2012 at 10:46am Reply

  • Blacknall Allen: Amazing that they’ve kept the formula so true over time. This is one that – gotta admit – I’ve missed. Yet I love Bandit and used to double love Cabochard, so I may have to try this. Close to pre-IFRA Tabac Blond in your opinion? April 19, 2012 at 10:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Tabac Blond is sharper, smokier, darker. Knize Ten is all about soft leather. But in spirit, it is close–same film noir aura, as I think of it. Elegant, but brooding.

      The formula is not identical, of course, and I have to take into account the aging that takes place in my old bottles (an older perfume might smell thicker just because of age). But overall, it is true to the original. April 19, 2012 at 10:57am Reply

  • Kurt: Knize Ten doesn’t work our on my skin, it turns out a very dull and timid incense, no leaher. Same problem wit Cuir Mauresque… :-(. Gomma is what I reach for when I want leather. April 19, 2012 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I need to resmell this Etro. Is Gomma dark and smoky on you? April 19, 2012 at 11:04am Reply

      • Kurt: Not really, it’s more clean and sheer. Etro encourages layering and they are right. I layer it with Cabaret, grey Flanel and I have a bit of birch tar EO in a 1% solution that I sometimes use with it to make Gomma a bit darker. April 19, 2012 at 11:25am Reply

        • Victoria: Your layering combinations sound very good. I would be tempted to try Etro Vetiver with Gomma. It’s a simple vetiver, but elegant and polished. April 19, 2012 at 5:40pm Reply

    • silverdust: Have you ever tried EL’s Azuree? I also love the smell of leather and Azuree is described as a leather chypre. Its formula has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. April 19, 2012 at 3:08pm Reply

      • Victoria: Ah, I was just revisiting Azuree the other day after I was reading Angela’s review of Aliage on NST. Azuree is a beautiful leather chypre, and I can definitely see a relationship to Cabochard and Aramis. April 19, 2012 at 5:45pm Reply

  • Joan: Great review. I have a sample of Knize Ten Golden Edition, which is brighter. Never smelled the original, and I’m dying to. April 19, 2012 at 2:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with you, The Gold Edition is more herbal and citrusy. If you liked it, you will definitely enjoy the original. I prefer the original for its richer leather. April 19, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Undina: For whatever reason I haven’t even considered testing Knize Ten until I read this review. Now I’m curious. If I try and like it, it’ll be totally your “fault”! April 19, 2012 at 5:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: I would be happy to take the blame on this! 🙂 April 19, 2012 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Michael: Knize Ten was one of the first leather fragrances I sampled when I first became more interested in perfume about 5 years ago. It is probably still my favourite leather. On my skin it translates as quite strong and full of character. I’m not sure what formulation I have but love it anyway. April 20, 2012 at 4:26am Reply

    • Victoria: It is a testament that you still wear it and rate it so highly! I am sure that you come across many great leather fragrances.
      It took me longer to try it, but once I did, I knew that I found my ideal pure leather. Cuir de Russie by Chanel is more of an iris leather. Hermes Doblis has been discontinued for ages. Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque is beautiful, but at times turns too sweet on me. Knize Ten is perfect. April 20, 2012 at 7:06pm Reply

      • Isis: Hi! I am not sure that you read a comment on a review from last year, but I´ll try anyway 🙂 . I would like to ask how you think Knize ten compares to the current version of Diorling. I am still looking for a great leather and Cuir de Russie aswell as Knize ten are not easy to find for me. I’ve tried the new Diorling and while I do really love the soft, warm and luxurious feel of its leather, it is a bit straight forward and after half an hour, to be honest, it bores me a little. Your review makes me wonder if Knize ten could be the perfume that I wanted the new Diorling to be but that it isn’t. July 14, 2013 at 6:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: Knize Ten is much better, but Diorling is a different animal. It’s greener, more floral, more classically feminine. But today I would go for Knize Ten, because it has more character and more facets. July 15, 2013 at 3:51am Reply

          • Isis: Thank you! Ordering a sample as we speak… :). July 15, 2013 at 5:09am Reply

  • civava: I find this perfume very nice. I gave a sample to my father to stop the continuity of Tabac ;-). April 20, 2012 at 11:01am Reply

    • Victoria: What a nice idea! Did it work? 🙂 April 20, 2012 at 7:08pm Reply

  • daniel: Knize Ten is my favourite leather and I absolutely love your review! But I don’t know why, I’ve always thought it was made by Jean Carles, are you sure of Robert/ Coty? And I thought there was also a hint of geranium besides the carnation. April 21, 2012 at 7:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, I also see the minty rose note that usually means geranium. It makes for a great effervescent top note.
      As for the authorship, according to the Osmotheque, perfume conservatory, it is by Roubert/Coty (Roubert was also the one who created the amazing Jacques Fath Iris Gris). They are usually the most trustworthy source on this sort of information. April 21, 2012 at 10:39am Reply

  • Sylvia: Never have I purchased a scent without actually smelling it much less applying it to my skin! But because of this review – I did and I love it!

    I’m so happy I broke away from my norm. October 19, 2012 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Sarah K.M.: On the strength of this gloriously written review, I purchased a 4ml sample of Knize 10 and am now exploring it with interest. It strikes me as two very different experiences–Knize 10, Hour One is completely different from the rest of its hours, at least on my skin. The brash opening is, to me, less mediterranean pantry than my great-grandmother’s powder room, if her powder room had been in a Catholic church. This unfortunate effect is likely down to my chemistry, which amplifies powdery notes and sweetness. After Hour One, I start to get the warm, musky, mossy leather, and a hint of cinnamon, which is a surprisingly not-sweet cinnamon even on me. Here the scent levels out, and it is difficult to pry my nose from my arm.

    Spritzed lightly on my scarf, Knize 10 retains the powdery orris/spicy carnation/incense note that I get at first whiff, and remains quite sweet. At very small doses, this is a touch of old-world charm I would choose to grace my coat on a dark, snowy day. December 6, 2012 at 2:03pm Reply

  • Franco: Bought it a few days ago in Vienna (I’m from Milan) Just love it! February 8, 2013 at 4:30am Reply

  • marios: Victoria, i would like to know if this in the drydown goes sweety or powdery in the old fashioned way…like the powder of an old man. because most of the leather fragrances, are ending with vanilla sweetness. Is it a real leather which smells like car leather seats? are there similarities with Bvlgari black or midnight in paris or amouage memoir? August 23, 2013 at 3:15am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s more of a true leather, but it does have some subtle sweetness. August 23, 2013 at 10:06am Reply

  • Cytherian: I’m curious, Victoria. You mentioned doing a comparison of a recent release and a vintage sample from the 1950’s. While you described the new one as wonderful, you didn’t say anything about the original. Does it hold up well? Do you find that they have much in common? Also, what was the batch code from your particular bottle from 2011? Thanks! June 19, 2015 at 6:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: The review describes the original, but yes, the 50s version holds up well. Unfortunately, I don’t remember a batch code on the bottle. June 20, 2015 at 1:46am Reply

      • Cytherian: Sorry, I presumed that your details about Knize Ten were focused on the current release. I recently encountered a vintage example, but unfortunately it had begun to degrade. The Knize DNA was there, and it did smell very nice, but compared to the current release it was a bit too soft and fleeting. Unfortunate…
        The Golden Edition is very nice, probably a bit more wearable than standard Ten. June 23, 2015 at 10:33pm Reply

  • Steve L.: Not even the power of suggestion — which I find can heavily influence my perception of a perfume’s notes — is enough to conjure up a suggestion of leather in this fragrance described by many as one of the classic leather-based scents. I find such anomalies intriguing. August 25, 2016 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Perhaps, you associate leather with something else, because Knize Ten contains more than one material that is used to create a leather accord in perfumery. In the end, that’s not relevant, and the most important thing is whether you like the fragrance. August 26, 2016 at 5:41am Reply

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