Ormonde Jayne Cuir Imperial : Perfume Review


A certain type of leather scent is guaranteed to catch my attention. Dark, spicy, with a hint of birch tar smokiness. Think Chanel Cuir de Russie on the elegantly austere end of the spectrum or Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque on the opulent dimension.  Ormonde Jayne Cuir Impérial falls somewhere in between. It places a trimmed down and polished leather accord against a Nezami garden of pleasures–rose, sandalwood,  saffron and iris.

Cuir Impérial reveals all of its treasures readily, and its opening is exciting. The blend of spicy and lemony notes makes for a bright start, and if you wonder how a spice can be zesty, try crushing a pod of cardamom. The lemony bite in the top notes of Cuir Impérial is fueled by cardamom, along with a dose of bergamot and pink pepper.

Like most leather fragrances, Cuir Impérial is marketed for men, but it’s another instance where one should trust one’s nose, rather than conventions. Leather, for instance, marries well with soft notes, and even the most hair-chested examples like Aigner Black, Guerlain Derby or Knize Ten have a touch of floral sweetness to tame the sharpness. Cuir Impérial, on the other hand, is as suave as Cary Grant, and a perfume equivalent of this means that it can be worn by anyone who cares to be caressed.

While the combination I listed above–rose, sandalwood,  saffron and iris (and don’t forget the cognac note)–sounds high-calorie, Cuir Impérial is unexpectedly airy. Make no mistake, it’s a rich perfume, but it’s balanced well and its arrangement of accords is intricate without being overly complicated. It reminds me of grand parfums like Guerlain Vol de Nuit or Knize Ten without smelling like a knock-off of a classic.

Two elements give me a pause, however. One is that Cuir Impérial is a limited edition. And at 223 euros, it’s not cheap. The second is the drydown. After the fanfare of the opening, the finish is elegant but a touch too plain–a perfectly nice woody amber held in place by musk. Then again, I’m nitpicking.  It’s a striking fragrance, and those who enjoy the smell of leather jackets, vintage purses, and a dose of fantasy will find it memorable.

Ormonde Jayne Cuir Impérial includes notes of cognac oil, clary sage, bergamot, cardamom, pink pepper, leather, iris, freesia, tonka bean, sandalwood, patchouli, cedar, vetiver, incense.  223 euros.

Top image by Bois de Jasmin



  • dn: Have you tried cuir absolu by Elie Saab? Wonderfully simple Russian leather accord, like the drydown of antaeus or cuir de Russie isolated. September 10, 2018 at 10:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I have, but only once so far. Your description is spot on. September 10, 2018 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Severine: Wow! Big compliments on this one! A comparison to original Vol de Nuit! I do “care to be caressed” so I am hunting this one down. September 10, 2018 at 11:38am Reply

    • Victoria: It doesn’t smell like it, of course, but they share a similar velvety feel. September 10, 2018 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Carla: For 223 euro you can be picky about the drydown! September 10, 2018 at 3:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty good. Many of OJs have lowkey finishes, so Cuir Impérial is in a similar style.

      Mostly, I wish that it were part of the permanent collection. September 10, 2018 at 4:22pm Reply

  • Patricia: I can’t wait to start wearing my beloved leather fragrances! This one sounds like a winner, Victoria. September 10, 2018 at 6:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can imagine why, but the moment I smelled it, I thought of you. It has a beautiful leather accord, and the other notes accent, rather than mask the tangy, smoky facets that the leather aficionados enjoy. September 11, 2018 at 3:30am Reply

      • Victoria: But the limited edition! At first, I didn’t plan to review it, because it’s a tease. On the other hand, it’s beautiful and worth being mentioned. September 11, 2018 at 3:31am Reply

  • Marc: Leather and saffron sound beautiful together! Do you have a favorite perfume from this brand? I’ve tried only Ormonde Jayne Man. September 11, 2018 at 2:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like their Frangipani, Ta’if and Champaca. The last one is probably my top favorite. September 13, 2018 at 3:46am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hi Marc, I second Ta’if (a lovely rose that would also suit men); it might also be worth trying OJ Woman and Tolu. OJ also have a discovery box with some 12 to test out (before you decide). September 13, 2018 at 2:12pm Reply

  • KellyC: I love leather fragrances so much. Will have to try this one, it sounds wonderful. September 14, 2018 at 4:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: So do I. It’s such a great genre. September 18, 2018 at 3:02am Reply

  • Qwendy: Oh no, this sounds perfect for me, so rarely one comes along that does …. must try to find a sample somewhere! That drydown could be make or break with my perfume eating skin ! Xxx September 15, 2018 at 3:15am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, get a sample first! September 18, 2018 at 3:01am Reply

  • Qwendy: Darn UK Delivery only from Harrod’s …. any ideas? September 15, 2018 at 3:28am Reply

  • Austenfan: Ormonde Jayne doesn’t get mentioned as often as it used to, does it?
    I never totally fell for the house although I love Woman and greatly enjoy Frangipani. I remember when I tried the sample packet all those years ago that all the drydowns resembled one another and were not that exciting.
    Your review has made me wonder how this one compares to Cuir by Lancôme. September 17, 2018 at 4:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I think that it’s a fair critique. Many fragrances smell similar in the drydown. I suppose that it’s their signature. The ones I prefer are those that differ the most.

      You’re right, there are not as many reviews these days. They’ve recently released a fair number of scents at once, but I’m still smelling them. And they have a candle collection, which is pricey, but the scents are beautiful. September 17, 2018 at 11:58pm Reply

      • Austenfan: You must be right. I guess the fact that they struck me as too similar as probably due to my not really liking the OJ drydowns so much. If you do like it, the similarity will be welcome I suppose.

        That said, this one does sound interesting. I might actually give it a sniff. And thanks for the comparison to Cuir! September 18, 2018 at 4:36am Reply

        • Victoria: It does get repetitive, if you’re not much of a fan. I September 18, 2018 at 9:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Cuir de Lancôme is drier at first, but it gets sweeter in the drydown. Overall, it has a different character. September 17, 2018 at 11:59pm Reply

    • Michael: Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that Geza Schoen authors many of their fragrances and he is known to be a fan of Iso E Super? November 18, 2018 at 10:01am Reply

  • Alicia: Come this autumn this Cuir will be mine. I love leathers, and wear Cuir de Russie and Knize 10 very often in the colder seasons. Lovely review, Victoria.Thank you. September 25, 2018 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Sam G: I’m a Knize 10 lover and anything leathery and animalic handled well tends to get my attention. Have to say this is one of the few modern leathers that has captured my heart totally – and today I’m the proud owner of a bottle of this gem. Unlike many bad purchases in the past I’ve been trying this first on card, and more recently on skin, on many separate occasions. I knew today how much I love it and it has always received good comments. Now today I’m wearing it properly for the first time having acquired a bottle this evening. Currently its in an incense/suede/patch powerplay with the odd floral accent joinging in. June 17, 2019 at 8:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: So happy to hear this! June 24, 2019 at 5:20am Reply

    • Lawrence: Just ordered a bottle (and pleased to see that reservations on reviewing this—because, as a limited edition, it wouldn’t last—were unwarranted 🙂 This week ALL of the bespoke fragrances are available directly from OJ and at a considerable discount. Pulled the trigger on this and the intriguing (and illusive) Montabaco Verano. Looking forward to exploring this. April 12, 2020 at 4:57am Reply

      • exxellence: Hey Lawrence! So how is Cuir Imperial? I want to test it so bad but I can’t find a sample.
        Verano is great. One of my favorite but again I love the all Montabaco line. May 1, 2021 at 3:31pm Reply

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