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.