Patricia on her absolute favorite animalic scent.
One person’s poison is another’s…well, perfume. This is never clearer to me than when I enter the horse barn. Immediately I am surrounded by scents, both pleasant and not. Hay and leather mix with the earthy smells of manure, dirt, wood stalls, and the acrid smell of urine, all blended with the rich loamy fragrance of the horses themselves. Those who love only clean scents would not find this a pleasant place to visit, but I love to immerse myself in this world for hours at a time and enjoy all aspects of it, from currying, brushing, and bathing my horse, to riding and rubbing scented saddle soap and conditioners into my tack before putting it away.
Many of the fragrances I wear on a daily basis remind me of my time at the barn. Leather and horses go together, and leather fragrances are among some of my favorites.
The Big Guns
Robert Piguet Bandit, if not the oldest of the “old broads,” is certainly one of the most assertive. I have an old bottle of unknown concentration, but the current version is just as potent. Bandit’s combination of everything leathery and animalic needs to be experienced. I may not wear it frequently, but I unstop the crystal stopper often to breathe in its dark richness.
My second choice is Cuir de Russie by Chanel in the parfum concentration. This, to me, is a very dry and woody leather and much more wearable than Bandit. Created for Chanel in 1924 by Ernest Beaux, it opens with starchy and metallic aldehydes, takes a detour into iris and dries down to smoky dark leather. Amber and vanilla give it a warm, soothing background, but Cuir de Russie smells so much like a horse’s neck after a vigorous ride that there is no mistaking this animal for any other.
I almost hesitate to include number three, Cuir Ottoman by Parfum d’Empire, because it is such a shape-shifter. It starts out with a powerful, almost medicinal blast of amber and jasmine, with just a hint of leather. But before you assume that it’s a tame creature, it reveals its animalic, pungent side. Cuir Ottoman eventually softens to warm cozy leather and incense with a shot of tonka bean for sweetness, and while it’s a dramatic perfume, it has an elegant character.
Leather and Hay
Parfum d’Empire Azemour les Orangers starts out as a non-sweet citrus, heavy on the galbanum. After an hour or so the orange flowers, geranium, and roses bloom, all wrapped in soft suede. For the chypre lover, there is plenty of oakmoss and hay in the dry down, making me feel like I have just peeled and eaten an orange while on a hay ride.
James Heeley Cuir Pleine Fleur also has a hay note mixed with creamy leather, spices, and wood. Be warned though; if you do not like the wet, earthy note of vetiver, you will be sadly disappointed after the first 30 minutes or so. I couldn’t help but wish that the opening notes lasted longer, as the scent became quite sharp in the dry down.
I also find a nice hay note mixed with leather in Chanel No. 19 Eau de Toilette. A bit cleaner than the fragrances already mentioned, it is a very green iris going to wood, leather, and soft powder as it is worn.
Fruit and Leather
Some of the most beautiful fragrances combine leather with fruit. Among my favorites are Azemour (mentioned above) and the following. Serge Lutens’s Daim Blond is a yummy concoction of soft leather, iris, and apricot, created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake in 2004.
Lutens’s Boxeuses is another favorite. The softness of the leather is the same as Daim Blond, but it is rubbed with plum and licorice instead of apricot. I love them both.
A new kid on the block, Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka, combines leather and fig. After a strong roaring opening, it mellows down and becomes as soft as a kitten, curling gently against your legs. A different sort of beast, but charming nonetheless.
And what does my horse like me to wear? An unscientific survey has shown that his preference is for an early iteration of Chanel Cristalle Eau de Toilette, which smells of lemons, green jasmine and moss. He has good taste.
What is your favorite leather fragrance?
Photography by Patricia.