2 Polite Leather Perfumes

If I had to pick two scent families that really work for me, I'd have to say that I almost unfailingly fall for chypres and leathers. I love the rich, earthy base of the former - but mostly when oakmoss is used, the heavier the better. The latter I love in almost every form.

I have no compunctions about wearing whatever I want, almost any time I want. There are exceptions, of course. I will wear close-to-the-skin scents around those who are allergic or sensitive. I will wear "polite" scents in offices and at funerals. I will not wear anything dirty or skanky when doing someone's makeup. But those are pretty much the rules. Other than that, I'm an olfactory free-for-all. Sweats and a t-shirt? That won't stop me from wearing a Big White Floral. Jeans and a turtleneck? What, you think my vintage chypre is too much? So what! Antiquing on a rainy Sunday? A skanky nose hair-singer suits me, even if it makes no sense to you!

My scent choices are mostly driven by mood. Sometimes, they're driven my someone else mentioning a recently-ignored bottle, too. Perfumed friends are good for that!

When I wear one of my badass leathers,
this is what I look like (inside). 
At times, my mood calls for leather. OK, a lot of times my mood calls for leather. There are lots of nuances to this mood and perfume genre, so it's not really straightforward in my convoluted, perfume-addled mind. Take, for example, "the barn leathers" that smell of saddles and horses and maybe even cowboys. Then there are "the boot leathers", often heavily dipped in birch tar and smelling of old-fashioned, sturdy and shiny leather. I can't forget "the purse leathers" that remind me of a new handbag in an exclusive boutique. Some of what I think of as "purse leathers" are often what others would classify as scents reminiscent of the scented gloves of yore -- but not all of them. Basically, if you sniff that perfume and it smells like sticking your nose in an expensive and brand new handbag, that's a "purse leather" in my book! And there are a select few leathers that are just a little bit more naughty. Those remind me of a confident, sexy woman walking purposefully through life in her knee-high boots, dressed all in black. A little goth, a little sexy, and all woman. She's got that air about her that has just a little undercurrent of "naughty", which is thrilling! Those are my "badass leathers". I love those the most. There are a few other leathers, and even some scents that others call leathers that don't speak to me of leather at all. The nose is a funny thing.

Some times that I'm drawn to what I call "my polite leathers". These are perfumes I can wear anywhere without offending anyone. They are close-to-the-skin. They are lightly floral. They are feminine. They are not at all badass.

Here are two of them...

  1. Cuir de Lancôme
    I have no idea what Lancôme is thinking, burying this baby at the discounters and not featuring in prominently on the line's counters! This gorgeous scent was created in 2007 as part of the La Collection. Named after a vintage leather, it apparently smells nothing like the original (also called "Revolte", a name that is unfortunate at best). Maybe that's why it has been tossed aside? Or maybe the decision-makers at Lancôme are too busy focusing on lipsticks and eye shadows? For whatever reason, this beauty is underrated even by the company who produced it. Very sad.

    Cuir is not a ball-buster leather. It's not going to make anyone think of S&M or punk rock boots or even saddles and horses. The only image I get when I sniff it is the beautifully-worn suede interior of a perfectly-preserved vintage handbag.

     The top notes are brief and gentle, the mandarin present in a delectable way. The florals are feminine and gentle and the patchouli is a silent partner the best I can tell. The soft, smooth, and slightly-dry leather base goes on and on and on without ever overstaying its welcome. Some leathers are a bit medicinal, even eye-wateringly so, but that's not at all the case here. Cuir is too ladylike for that kind of behavior! Nor is she powdery; she's a little too butch for that!

    I can't think of any place where this perfume would not be appropriate, unless perhaps the temperature were terribly high. But really, one wouldn't choose leather in those circumstances, anyway.

    Topnotes: mandarin, saffron, bergamot 
    Heart notes: patchouli, hawthorne, jasmine, ylang Basenotes: orris root, birch, styrax

  2. Bottega Veneta
    If Cuir was our flashback scent, Bottega Veneta is clearly the new kid on the block. Born just last year (2011), the work of Michel Almairac, Bottega Veneta is solid where Cuir is soft. The Lancôme scent is vintage leather, softened with age. It has a slight coziness about it. Bottega Veneta is a stiffer leather, newer and... fresher, perhaps?

    The opening notes of the famous leather purveyor's signature scent vibrate a bit, as if in anticipation of what's to come. The florals are well-placed and share the spotlight well with the leather. Neither is pushy, neither takes over. Angela at Now Smell This describes both Bottega Veneta and Cuir de  Lancôme as exhibiting "good breeding."1 I can't think of a better way to put it!

    This perfume is a subtle but well-behaved trickster. The notes hail Lily of the Valley, patchouli, and jasmine as key players, but I can't find them. Sure, there's that floral-leather combo working hand-in-hand, but I can't pinpoint the flowers specifically. That's good. I like a well-blended mystery! Many people praise the fruit notes in Bottega Veneta, which you'll not find in the official notes listing. I've seen plum, apricot and peach called out. I smell them, too, especially the apricot/peach nuance. And then there's the controversial oakmoss... Yes, it's there but not in that overdose way (that I, for one, love). Instead, it's a soft padding in this supple leather handbag.

    There is without a doubt a softness about this perfume. Maybe "a fuzziness" as some people have noted. It has no hard edges, no angles. It is not shiny or black or stiff, rather it is supple and warm and even has a little glow.

    As I can't imagine a situation inappropriate for Cuir de Lancôme, I can't imagine a time or place where Bottega Veneta wouldn't suit. Of these two soft-spoken leathers, Bottega Veneta is the softer. I find it hard to believe one could wear "too much" of this one. Spray with wild abandon! In fact, feel free to layer up, from shower gel to lotion and body cream to eau de parfum.

    Top Notes: Pink peppercorn, Bergamot, Lily of the valley Middle Notes: Jasmine, Leather, Patchouli
    Base Notes: Oakmoss

    ETA: Well, ok then! There's jasmine in this here perfume. I realized it as I sat here virtually basting in Bottega Veneta (yeah, I really like it). The wind kicked up as I went to get the mail and I smelled it on myself and yup - that's jasmine. Interesting that it took massive overdoses of the perfume to pick that out (or at least for my nose to pull it). But that's that. Jasmine. Yup.

So maybe what I consider to be "polite leathers" are sueded leathers? Whatever you want to call them, they are luxurious, smooth, elegant, and pretty.

Psst... did you notice? Both of these scents are "mainstream" and not hard to find. And they won't make your wallet bleed, either. Whoa! 

I wanted to ask you about leathers! Do you like to wear them? What kind? Do you have odd little names for the different categories, like I do? What other "polite leathers" might you suggest for me?


  1. Gotta say it...few things get me going quite so well as ...leather. My favorites tend toward the rather less than polite, but if I have to be polite, the ones that tick those boxes would be ...Chanel Cuir de Russie, Serge Lutens Daim Blond and yes, Bottega Veneta, which is indeed lovely. I just wish it came with a Bottega Veneta handbag. ;-)

    Ah, but if we're talking the Big, Bold, Beautifully Bad...my number one badass leather would be Piguet's Bandit. Closely followed by...Caron's Tabac Blond, vintage Grès Cabochard parfum (keep your eyes peeled if you find any while antiquing! Look for the grey velvet ribbon around the neck) and another Lutens...Cuir Mauresque. And the undiscovered marvel for all diehard leather fangals that is Ayala Moriel's Fetish. Oh. one more most unusual leather - at least, it goes that way on me - Amouage Memoir.

    Things are about to get really hairy now, though. Because I have a little Knize Ten coming my way...:-D

    A bad girl can never have too much...leather! ;)

    1. I had suspected I would hear from you on this one! I am definitely into the naughty leathers. My favorite is Jolie Madame (vintage) and Bandit (because, well... duh). I have to tread carefully with leathers as I do not care for too much birch tar (it makes my stomach go all wooblie) and some leathers sneak in a tobacco that hates me.

      Something tells me there's a Grès Cabochard vintage mini up in ye olde cabinet. I don't think I've tried it. Tomorrow!!!

      Can't wait to hear about Knize Ten. I meant to order a sample and forgot. It's on The List. ;)


  2. I've heard so many good things about Cuir de Lancome and it's sold at such a great price that I almost decided to buy it unsniffed but then a friend offered to send me a sample - so I'm waiting for it to arrive soon and hope to like it enough to buy a bottle.

    My favorite leathers are Chanel's Cuir de Russie and Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather. And if the first one is definitely of a "polite" kind, Tom Ford's leather is much more aggressive.

    1. I know I replied to this days ago. I guess Blogger ate it. GRRRRR.

      Attempt #2: Did you get the Cuir? What are your thoughts?

      Cuir de Russie is just too birch tar-y for me, at least at this stage in my leather exploration. (That sounds delightfully kinky and totally not what I meant!)


  3. Bulgari Black is actually similar to Cuir de Lancome in that it pairs leather with a sweet balsamic notes (styrax in CdL, vanilla in BB). I'm not sure how polite it is -- I mean it smells like rubber! -- but is wearable.

    Another polite leather is vintage Jolie Madame, all crisp with violet.

    1. I haven't tried Bulgari Black yet, Elisa. The rubber note doesn't sound appealing to me, but SO MANY people love it. I need to give it a whirl at some point.

      I think vintage Jolie Madame is a more naughty leather! I love the violet note, but the leather seems a bit tough. It's one of my badass leathers. Funny how perceptions are so different! Vintage Jolie Madame is my absolute #1 leather. :)

  4. Can't wear the Big Leathers - I only like Polite ones: Jolie Madame (vintage parfum, please) and Cuir de Lancome. They're just floral enough along with the leather to make me happy.

    Bottega Veneta has a raspy-powdery baby-aspirin cast that just destroys me, plus allllll that patchouli. Bleargh.

    1. Mals, I think Jolie Madame is a naughty girl, not polite! Something about those innocent violets draped over that tough leather... not so polite at all!

      I don't get a lot of patch off of BV. Hmmm....


  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I have vintage Jolie Madame ($26 on eBay!) and indeed it isn't polite. It's really animalic to my nose. I love it though!

    You're right, Jen: Bottega Veneta does smell like one of their handbags. That was a clever move on their part. I don't adore BV, but I do like it and find it eminently wearable.

  7. I think I'm gonna like this Cuir de Lancôme and the bottle design looks nice like the scent of the perfume. Will forward this post to my friends. :)
    pheromones for women


I am so glad you chose to comment! I appreciate it. :)

Sorry for the stupid verification things I had to add to the Comment Section, but I am being bombarded with spam.