Leather

An often overlooked family of fragrances centered around dry, woody notes that recall the aroma of leather. It is important to note that these fragrances do not contain leather; rather, they are composed of materials that have been traditionally used to cure and scent leather. This fragrance family has its roots in the tanneries of France during the Renaissance. During this time, leather was treated with nitrogenous waste used to make the hides supple and kill bacteria. In order to mask the unpleasant aroma of the curing and tanning processes, the hides were scented. It is these materials with which the hides are scented that are responsible for the characteristic leather aroma with which we are all familiar. Each region had their own recipe for scenting tanned hides. In Italy, musk, civet and orris butter were used; in Spain leather goods were scented with camphor and ambergris; in France leather was scented with orange blossom, orris, musk and violet. During this time, leather gloves were very much in fashion and the Gantiers (the Guild of Glovers) used this scented leather to produce gloves for royalty and nobility. These scented gloves proved so popular that clients began to request personal fragrances with the same delightful aroma which gave way to the modern perfume industry in Grasse. While the popularity of scented gloves has waned, the rich history of the region lives on in the Leather fragrance family.

In addition to straightforward leather fragrances, this family also contains smoky fragrances that recall the aroma of charred wood and fragrances with dominant notes of tobacco. Fragrances in this family are characterized by their intense dryness—they possess a decidedly parched quality. That being said, there are many sub-categories within the Leather family including leather fragrances with citrus accents, green accents, gourmand accents and white floral accents. The Leather family is also home to the iconic Russian leathers: leather fragrances that have a smoky character due to the use of birch tar. Russian leather gets its name from its country of origin—during the tanning process, the rectified tar of the birch tree is used in order to imbue the leather with a natural water-resistant quality. Following the Russian revolution, Europe experienced a vast influx of Russian émigrés. Russian leather came to be associated with a faraway land, travel and adventure. This idyllic view of Russia was further reinforced by the Ballets Russes, an itinerant ballet company based in Paris that performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe. As a result, almost every fragrance house offered a Russian leather or Cuir de Russie fragrance.

ICONIC LEATHER FRAGRANCES  Aramis, Aramis; Aromatics Elixir, Clinique; Bandit, Robert Piguet; Bulgari Black, Bulgari; Cashmere Mist, Donna Karan; Cuir de Russie, Chanel; Déclaration, Cartier; Eau d'Hermès, Hermès; Knize Ten, Kinze; Montana Parfum de Peau, Montana; Polo, Ralph Lauren; Tabac Blond, Caron; Van Cleef & Arpels Pour Homme, Van Cleef & Arpels