Image lifted from Philip-Lorca diCorcia.
Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian.
Some notes are easier than others. Not to create, but to accept at face value. Vanilla is one. People recognize ‘vanilla’, whether it’s a vanilla bean, veratraldehyde or ethyl vanillin.
Leather requires a little more work. ‘Leather’ is more a range of olfactory tones than a specific note that can be emulated. It is a fantasy note built from a chain of associations. Once a neurological association is made, our minds don’t perceive the steps in the process, just the connection. Whether we see the links or not, they are there for the perfumer to play with, making leather a playground of abstraction.
The goal of creating a leather perfume isn’t emulation of leather, though perfume marketing has historically spun piles of bullshit about leather opera gloves, black leather corsets and the innards of Birkin bags. Leather is the inspiration, not the goal. There are as many strategies to composing a leather perfume as there are sub-genres. See: Vierges et Toreros’s lucite leather. S-Ex’s subliminal musky leather. Bandit’s inky leather. Bel Ami’s gasoline leather. Cuir de Russie’s iris leather. Cuir d’Ange’s herbal-soapy leather.
Reve en Cuir’s approach isn’t novel but it is effective. It creates a hissy topnote similar to the violet-leaf gasoline of Dior Fahrenheit and its predecessor, Bel Ami. The topnotes sharpen, coalescing into a cool, sweet, clove-like heart. Reve en Cuir’s richness comes from intricacy and what it lacks in projection it makes up for in evolution and duration. It balances richness with precision editing and, though it smells like no particular leather object, it is perfectly coherent. Exemplary of Kurkdjian’s best work, it isn’t radical but it is inventive and intelligible.