Leather Perfumes and Glamour

Whenever I browse the accessories racks in vintage shops, I furtively sneak a whiff of the leather purses. They are always full of surprises, these old handbags, still bearing traces of melted lipstick and ink on their silk linings. Their worn leather can smell smoky or sweet, reminiscent of salty tobacco or spicy wood. I trace the cracks in the leather with my finger and imagine the places where the purses accompanied their owners. Had this beige minaudière decorated with pearls seen many a cocktail party? Did the faux crocodile leather doctor’s bag conceal important documents—or love letters?

Leather accented perfumes inspire similar daydreams for me. Though leather accords have the reputation of being dark and brooding, the versatility and range of leather notes lend them to many styles, including romantic.

One of the leather classics, Chanel Cuir de Russie, is considered to be the gold standard for a smoky interpretation, although in comparison to modern perfumes like Comme des Garçons Black, it seems mild. Its leather accord is based around a birch tar note, a material reminiscent of sweet smoke and incense. Aggressive and sharp on its own, birch tar nevertheless pairs so well with florals and musks that it can be made gentle. Indeed, in Cuir de Russie, the leather is merely the backdrop for an intricate composition centered around iris, a cool note that evokes both woods and flowers. A lingering accent of sweet tobacco finishes the composition, calling to mind the elegance of Art Deco and its flair for the unconventional.

Similarly unconventional is the leather collection of Serge Lutens. The line has a number of fragrances with leather accents, whether Sarrasins, with the interplay of leather, jasmine and musk, or Fumerie Turque that weaves leather into tobacco leaves and rose petals. Cuir Mauresque, however, makes this tanned note its star player.  It is buttery and rich, oscillating between the darkness of amber and the spicy bite of clove. What makes its leather tender and luminous is the clever addition of orange blossom and mandarin. Inspired by the ancient tradition of perfuming gloves with fragrant pomades, Cuir Mauresque conjures up vintage handbags and well-worn armchairs in old libraries.

Another elegant leather is Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman. The creator of the collection, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, seeks inspiration in history, from Ancient Greece to Japan. Cuir Ottoman tells a tale from the days of the Ottoman Empire, and while the story that accompanies the fragrance focuses too much on the orientalist tropes of “the mysterious East” to inspire this perfume lover, the perfume itself is anything but stereotypical. Cuir Ottoman blends the dryness of leather with honeyed amber and balsams redolent of vanilla liqueur and caramel. The juxtaposition makes for a dramatic and yet tender effect, as if the leather of a motorcycle jacket turned into suede.

Finally, if Cuir Ottoman seduces you, but you crave even more indulgence, I recommend Guerlain’s Cuir Beluga. Its leather is burnished to such softness that it feels silky. The leather at the heart of the composition is illuminated with citrus and immortelle, a flower of the dunes that smells of spice and maple syrup. The composition then falls onto a cloud of sweet vanilla and bitter patchouli, another delicious contrast. Leather remains present throughout, lending Cuir Beluga boldness and glamour.

What are your favorite leather fragrances?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Nikos: I guess I’m here to spoil the party, I really don’t like leather in perfumery. Actually I don’t agree with many notes that are much used in perfumery when they are very prominent. Vanilla is another one that seems to be everywhere now.
    I wouldn’t think there is a straightforward leather in Sarrasins (still nowhere to be found in Lutens EU site and there is only a tiny drop left in my sample). But I understand its leatheriness now that you made me pay attention to it. A leather in disguise, and such a dramatic disguise as this, I wouldn’t mind. But when a perfume is being compared to bags, shoes or car interiors I run. As far as possible! March 11, 2024 at 8:44am Reply

    • Nenda Inasa Fadhilah: Same here, leather (and oud) just not vibing with me. I can appreciate Cuir de Russie enough but I don’t think it’s wearable for me March 11, 2024 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s not a note for everyone, for sure! My favorite leather fragrances are on the soft side, but I appreciate different styles too. March 11, 2024 at 4:03pm Reply

  • Roberts Lorna: Lvnea in Montreal has one called Cuir Fetiche that I quite like. I admire Cuir de Russie and Cuir Beluga very much. I am now inspired to try Cuir Ottoman. The leather perfumes make me feel confident and on top of the world – like things are going my way. March 11, 2024 at 9:27am Reply

  • Heidi Czerwiec: I love the ones you listed—Chanel’s Cuir de Russie is my favorite. To the list of elegant leathers, I would add Cuir de Lancôme, Cabochard Gres, and Jo Malone’s Artemesia & Leather. There are so many vintage leather and leather chypre scents that are gorgeous, but getting harder to find: Diorling, Jolie Madame, and Bandit. March 11, 2024 at 9:32am Reply

    • Aire: Rose & Cuir Frédéric Malle.
      Quite green and arid.
      No sweetness. Nomasks. Somewhat light on the rose. Absolutely versatile. Retro.
      Love this fragrance from Jean-Claude Ellena. March 24, 2024 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Tara C: I love Cuir Ottoman, Sarrasins, Fumerie Turque and Cuir Mauresque. Francesca Bianchi has several lovely leather scents as well. I wish I had a vintage bottle of Jolie Madame, one of my favorites. March 11, 2024 at 10:40am Reply

  • AndreaR: My heart belongs to Bandit. March 11, 2024 at 11:15am Reply

  • Filomena: I like Cuirs by Carner Barcelona and also Cuir Ottoman and Chanel’s Cuir de Russie. March 11, 2024 at 11:25am Reply

  • Mark Bieraugel: I love leather fragrances and although they can be assertive, I like their complexity and uniqueness in the perfume world. It takes a steady hand and smartness to use leather in a composition. I like KNIZE TEN for its leather/strawberry combo. Hermes CALECHE is a nice one too, although I’ve only used the vintage version. March 11, 2024 at 11:55am Reply

  • Karina_NL: Few leather perfumes work for me, but I love the few that do. My favourite ones are Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours and Robert Piguet Visa,. The latter has many notes, but the peach-leather combo can be well perceived and is very elegant. Recently I have also discovered Cuir Beluga from a sample that I’ve got and I agree that it is beautiful and glamorous. March 11, 2024 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Perfumatrix: I am not a leather aficionada–Knize Ten sends me scrubbing every time–but there are a few.

    Cuir Fetiche by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier is an ultra-femininine, rose-and-violet-laced glove leather. Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade (one of the best 21st-century leathers according to many) is a winner (though it is admittedly an intense handful of a scent). Tabac Blond by Caron, despite the name, is a gorgeous, sophisticated classic leather and is probably my day-into-evening go-to leather fragrance.

    My easy-wear “day” leather scents are Memo African Leather, Bottega Veneta EDP (violet suede), and Tom Ford White Suede and Ombre Leather (love the cardamom note).

    For evening, I favor Colony by Jean Patou (a unique smooth leather with pineapple top note), and Heretic Parfums Dirty Violet (violet, leather, patch, strong, pour le soir).

    Cheers, Friends. March 11, 2024 at 12:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also should have mentioned Hermès Violette Volynka. Have you tried it? March 11, 2024 at 4:06pm Reply

      • Tatiana Owen: I have, and I love it. I wish it weren’t so expensive. March 12, 2024 at 1:45am Reply

  • Emily: You’ve inspired me to spritz Cuir Ottoman today & gosh, it’s elegant. That iris up top, entrancing.

    Would love to own more than a sample of Sarrasins but it’s become so elusive.

    Second Tara C above in re Jolie Madame, which I’ve only sniffed as a vintage EDT that my skin devours almost immediately. But what a magical ride. Ballerina on a motorbike.

    Out of all the lovely leathers, though, my heart most belongs to Papillon’s Anubis, jasmine mummified into raw burgundy suede. Pure sorceress. What I wear when i want to feel powerful. What I wear when I want to transform. March 11, 2024 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Aurora: What a lovely article! Diorling, both vintage and modern is probably my most worn leather along with Arquiste Infanta en flor and I enjoy very much Jolie Madame which I have in EDT and extrait. I’m rather a wimp when it comes to leather so I like what I call modern baby leathers mostly, Bottega Veneta and Mauboussin Histoire d’Eau for eg. March 11, 2024 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like all of those too! March 11, 2024 at 4:05pm Reply

  • Abby: I love leather, and love all the ones you mentioned. But I am curious, why you chose Sarrasins and not Boxeuses? I think of Sarrasins as a jasmine fragrance, and don’t really feel any leather there. Other than that, I also love Gucci Guilty Absolue,Bandit, Bulgari Black, Cuir d’Ange, Lancome’s Cuir and many others I can’t think of at the moment. March 11, 2024 at 3:40pm Reply

    • Victoria: Jasmine accord in that fragrance has a gorgeous leather note. I mentioned it specifically to draw my readers’ attention to it, since it’s easy enough to focus on jasmine and miss another important element. March 11, 2024 at 4:05pm Reply

      • Abby: I thought that might be it. I will have to try Sarrasins again and look for the leather. March 11, 2024 at 5:53pm Reply

    • Patricia: One of my perfume treasures is a bell jar of Boxeuses I bought on a trip to Paris many years ago. Love it! March 11, 2024 at 10:18pm Reply

  • carole: Beautiful article, Victoria! I really like leather fragrances. Here I some from my collection:
    Hermes Galop-I freaked when it was gone from their website, and bought the 125 ml refill for my bottle from a discounter. This is a beautiful and easy to wear leather. Can’t believe it’s pure parfum in a spray bottle. BTW I love the bottle.

    The different Company: I Miss Violet, which is violet over suede, and it’s really nice. I swapped for it-the purchase price was stunning (not in a good way)

    Prada Cuir Ambre, which my brother bought for me at Winners. Such a deep leather scent, and I love its perfect small 30 ml size, complete with bakelight cap. Hilary Mantel loved it, too.

    SL-Daim Blond, which is apricot over suede. So beautiful I bought a back up bottle.

    Hermes again-Cuir d’ange. I have the 4 ml sample and it’s gorgeous. Intexture I find it a bit more rough than Galop- more like raw silk in texture.

    And a vote for the Diptyque candle Cuir. About 15 years ago I could buy this candle at Holt Renfrew, then quite a few candles were available for purchase once Diptyque had actual stores here. Cuir was my first purchase. Clean clear deep scent-I love it! March 11, 2024 at 4:07pm Reply

  • carole: one more thing-does anyone else remember the Gutal candle La Sac deMa Mere? Was based o the inside of Camille Goutal’s mother’s handbag. Smelled like violets, leather, and expensive perfume. So evocative and so beautiful! March 11, 2024 at 4:08pm Reply

  • Patricia Torelli: Cuir Beluga is a long-time love of mine. The leather and vanilla goodness never gets stale or feels out of fashion. x P. March 11, 2024 at 10:14pm Reply

  • Tatiana Owen: My favorite is Cuir de Russie. I sparingly use my big bottle of vintage eau de toilette. Second favorite is one that I’m surprised was not mentioned — Floris Mahon Leather. March 12, 2024 at 1:50am Reply

  • Alityke: Oh Sarrasins where art thou? Available in the US & France but not the European site. I might have to book a trip to Paris! Or need a mule.
    I missed out on a UK eBay partial.
    Boxeuses, I own & love. All plummy suede goodness & another that has disappeared. BV Eau de Velours plummy leather, shinier than Boxeuses, also gone as are the suedes of BV & BV Eau Legere. Back to SL for the mama of stoned fruit leathers Daim Blond, as mentioned jammy apricot & suede. These are my preferences, supple fruity suedey leathers.
    I’m surprised no one has mentioned EL Azuree. Bergamot, sunshine & hard, shiny leather. Her brother Aramis too. Bernard Chant’s best creations. The Legacy version of Azuree is incredibly polite. Like tanned, lithe Azuree has been sent to a terribly posh Swiss Finishing School to be taught European manners & have her hairy chest waxed smooth! March 12, 2024 at 4:23am Reply

  • Klaas: Cuir d’Ange is my absolute favorite leather fragrance. Well actually, it’s one of my favorite fragrances ‘tout court’. It’s so perfect and so very wearable. Makes me feel like a millionaire! March 12, 2024 at 1:48pm Reply

    • la_ninon: Also love CdR, Cabochard, and Jolie Madame. Another more recently d/c favorite is Cuir Cannage. March 13, 2024 at 2:15pm Reply

      • la_ninon: Oops, wrong place. I still need to sample Cuir d’Ange 🙂 March 13, 2024 at 2:16pm Reply

    • Hamamelis: Mine too…that lovely hawthorn note (also present in Cuir de Lancome)! Unfortunately it seems to be discontinued, on the Hermes site you can order the 10ml travelsize but not the big bottle. Maybe you can find intel in the Hermes shop in Amsterdam (I seem to remember you live there) and report back? March 25, 2024 at 9:49am Reply

  • Andrew: It took a while for me to find my favorite leather fragrance, but I finally found it this year: Hermes Bel Ami. I usually find leathers too sweet, but I think the vetiver note tempers the sweetness. (Anyone else have a similar reaction?) Bel Ami wasn’t available when I checked the U.S. Hermes website or the French one, but I managed to snatch a bottle on sale at a discount site. I am so glad I did-it has become a new favorite cold weather scent! March 13, 2024 at 9:05pm Reply

  • Jamal: I adore Chanel’s Cuir de Russie but perhaps am most moved by Jolie Madame. People often describe it as a violet leather but methyl octine carbonate that gives that crunchy cucumbery feel to the violet accord is important as well as the cresolic facet. A hidden gem from our times is Prada’s Desert Serenade which is a honeyed IBQ accord with cumin and cypress. It’s just the right touch of sweetness. March 14, 2024 at 7:37pm Reply

  • Valentyna: My most recent fascination is Rauque from Roberto Greco collaboration with Christopher Sheldrake – built around daffodil accord, and inspired by childhood memories of Roberto, this equestrian style leather is certainly outstanding and very niche: bold, layered, uncompromising and with great performance. It has a classical structure, which I adore – many stages of development. March 20, 2024 at 2:20pm Reply

  • k: i love a lot of leather scents, but favorites are bandit, bottega veneta, amouage memoir woman and cuir beluga. March 21, 2024 at 12:38am Reply

  • Hilde: There are so many perfumes mentioned here that I have become eager to try them, especially Serge Lutens Daim Blond and Anubis from Papillon.

    In fact I am not very familiar with leathery perfumes. In the ninentees I was given a bottle of Grès Cabochard. I never used it and got rid of it in no time. Maybe I was too young to appreciate it at the time.

    However, time has changed and there are some leathery perfumes I like, such as I miss Violet from The Different Company and the nostalgic Violettes du Czar from Oriza L. Legrand. I also enjoy Sylvaine Delacourte’s Ozkan. The latter has a recognizable saffron note that gives it a smooth daim feeling, which is completely the opposite of Violettes du Czar that has a robust waxy leather smell.

    The Belgian perfume house Miglot’s Formula 58 is als worth recommending. The leather note is very subtle and the grapefruit and daffodil make it a perfect spring time fragrance. It will be my next perfume purchase when I am in Ghent. March 26, 2024 at 10:17am Reply

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