Whips, Chains and Feisty Dames – An Evening of Leather With Perfume Lovers London

An Evening of Leather

I have to admit that I’m not the hugest fan of leather in fragrance, mainly because I really haven’t a great deal of exposure to the note, which is why I was particularly interested in attending last week’s ‘Evening of Leather’ organised by Lila Das Gupta of Perfume Lovers London/Olfactory Events. I wanted to explore leather, deconstruct and understand it, but most of all I wanted to find a leather that I loved.

Perfume Lovers London is a Meetup Group run by Olfactory Events in conjunction with Basenotes. They have so far held two events, with many more exciting meet ups in the pipeline. An Evening of Leather was hosted by Lila Das Gupta who has a penchant for leather fragrances, was the perfect captain for our voyage of discovery of a note that is steeped in history and comes in many guises.

An Evening of Leather promised to “map out the geography of leather fragrances from the meaty to the haughty” and I’m please to say that it was an event that delivered on all counts. I may have walked into the event being clueless about, and not really loving leather but I left with a new found appreciation for the genre and a head full of leather fragrances that demanded to be explored further.


The leathers - from the historic to the maverick

The evening started in the way that all good perfume events do – with wine and chat with like-minded lovers of perfume. It was great to catch up with friends and finally meet other bloggers such as Vanessa from Bonkers About Perfume (technically a re-meet), Tara of Olfactoria’s Travels and Katie Puckrik of Katie Puckrik Smells.

Once the small talk had subsided and we had taken our seats the evening kicked off with a brief introduction to the history of leather in perfume. I found it quite fascinating to learn that leather notes in perfume stem from tanneries in Grasse, where leathers (which had been treated with such lovely-smelling substances as urine and faeces) were scented to take away the ghastly smell. Materials such as orris, civet and jasmine were used to perfume leather and as the need for scent on leather diminished people still demanded that smell that they associated with the luxury of leather, hence the birth of the leather perfume.

Historic Leathers

Cuir de Russie by Chanel
Knize Ten
Tabac Blond by Caron
Habanita by Molinard
Cuir by LT Piver

The first category of perfumes that we smelled was the ‘Historic Leathers’ and we kicked off with Knize Ten, a fragrance that I had never smelled before despite the fact that it has a huge cult following. To me Knize Ten was very sweet and slightly powdery and one person commented on how it had a distinct insect repellent-vibe and I can definitely go a long with that.

The second historic leather that we tried was Cuir de Russie by Chanel, another incredibly popular fragrance that I cannot seem to get on with (although, I wonder if I persisted like Dee of Beauty on the Outside I could learn to love it). My notes on Cuir de Russie simply read “Salty, sweet ham. Aldehydes – vaguely floral.” and my overall impression is of respect rather than enjoyment.

Lila then talked about how leather perfumes were intrinsically linked to the emancipation of women. Perfumes such as Tabac Blond by Caron and Habanita by Molinard were for daring women, women who smoked and knew how to have a good time. Out of all of these historic leathers Habanita was the most interesting, mainly because it wasn’t as bad-ass as I imagined it to be, a fact that, at first was a big disappointment to me but with time it has led me to be more intrigued.

Cheap and Cheerful Leathers

English Leather by Dana
Imperial Leather by Cussons

After a quick blind sniff of two leathers (Scent A: English Leather by Dana – Citrus, lime, woody & Scent B: Cuir by LT Piver – Pine, menthol, honey) we looked at the cheap and cheerful leathers. These two, as Lila described, were a regression from the strong and powerful historic leathers, and belonged to a genre that hinted that leather may have lost its way somewhere. This is a fact that was only emphasised by two very un-feminist (and rather tacky) TV commercials.

Before we moved swiftly onto the next category, Liz Moores of the upcoming brand Papillon Perfumer took the stage to discuss and let us test some of the raw materials used in creating a leather perfume. We tried Birch Tar, which smells exactly like creosote and Quinoline, which smelled exactly like mushy peas. These two materials smelled pretty damn awful on their own but when we waved the smelling strips together you could smell the basics of a leather accord forming.

Maverick Leathers

Lonestar Memories by Tauer Perfumes
Dzing! by L’Artisan Parfumeur

These maverick leathers could also be described as the weird and wonderful leathers. Tauer’s Lonestar Memories is a wonderfully smoky leather with the birch tar pushed to extremes – think beef jerky and you’re on the right track. Dzing! is a bonkers circus leather that smells suitably barnyard-y and like hot leather seats in the sun. Lonestar Memories is wonderful but not for me, Dzing! however is an absolute lemming. Must. Have.

The Middle Ground

Cuir d’Iris by Parfumerie Générale
Cuir de Lancôme
Cuir Ottoman by Parfum d’Empire

After the Maverick Leathers we moved on to The Middle Ground which, despite the name, showcased some rather interesting perfumes. Cuir de Iris by Parfumerie Générale with its perfect blend of sherbet, iris and a velvety smooth leather was the standout, however Cuir de Lancôme, a lovely buttery leather wasn’t too far behind. It seems that for once in the world of perfume I, The Candy Perfume Boy – the guy that loves his perfumes BIG, is happy to settle for the middle ground. There’s a first time for everything!

Beautifully Blended

Azurée by Estée Lauder
Quorum by Puig
Coze by Parfumerie Générale
Vanille by Mona di Orio
Cuir Beluga by Guerlain
Leather Mahon by Floris
Cuir Noire by Armani Privé
Habit Rouge by Guerlain

These were the fragrances that contained leather but didn’t necessarily let it take centre stage. As expected, this category was a mixed bag, not only of styles but also of successes. Habit Rouge and Azurée were the only ones that spoke to me (I do love my Guerlain’s and Lauder’s) but both would probably still rank as my least favourite from those lines. Still, it was interesting and important to see how leather can be used as a supporting act rather than the lead.

Soft Suedes

Daim Blond by Serge Lutens
Bottega Veneta
Kelly Calèche by Hermés
Cuir Venenum by Parfumerie Générale

The soft suedes were an interesting bunch and a very good starting place for those who may consider themselves as leatherphobes. Unsurprisingly there were no real stands out for me in this category (we all know how I feel about Bottega Veneta), perhaps because I do like a bit of oomph (that said, Daim Blond certainly has its fair share), but also because I can already get my suede-fix from Etat Libre d’Orange’s Tom of Finland and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Traversée du Bosphore.

Full-On Leather

Cuir by Mona di Orio
Cuiron by Helmut Lang
Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford

When Lila described these as full on she really meant it! Cuir by Mona di Orio is a tour de force of a leather perfume, its full of sweaty cumin and meaty chorizo-like leather whereas Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather is the perfect representation of that new car smell, a novelty that nearly everyone can’t help but love. As much as I was shocked by these two at first I cannot help but want to get to know them better, Cuir especially.

Sex God

Leather Oud by Christian Dior

The last category we looked at was the Sex God Leathers which simply consist of one perfume – Leather Oud by Christian Dior, a perfume that when smelled leads one to think of ‘downstairs thoughts’. I cannot sum Leather Oud up any better than Lila’s description of ‘Sex God’ so I best leave it there, what I will say is that it smells pants-tearingly good.

After our exploration through each category we were treated to the results of the Annual Basenotes Reader Awards, during which we, in true pantomime style cheered, booed and hissed at the winners and losers.

The Evening of Leather was rounded off with the opportunity of smelling all of the leathers as well as the Basenotes winners/losers and the opportunity to mingle with the other attendees. We were also all given a leather bracelet which we could scent with a leather of our choice, I chose Dzing! (naturally) and I haven’t taken the bracelet off since.

I had an absolute ball at the event and thought it may have been my first Perfume Lovers London meet up, it certainly will not be my last. If you are in or around London you should check the Meet Up page for upcoming events, you will not be disappointed!

For other write ups please head over to Bonkers About Perfume and Basenotes.


Both images are my own.


43 thoughts on “Whips, Chains and Feisty Dames – An Evening of Leather With Perfume Lovers London

  1. Lovely write up, thank you!! That almost made up for not being able to be there. 😉

    I am on a leather kick these days, set in motion by none other than The Great Enabler, also known as Tara. I can’t live without Cuir de Lancome any more and I love Cuir de Russie as well. I even tried my sample of Mona’s Cuir, it will always be too much, but it is very interesting and somehow very satisfying.
    Now, I have not thought of Leather Oud as a sex god perfume yet. High time to re-try it…

    • Luckily you will be there in May 😀

      Ah Tara, she certainly is The Great Enabler, and Cuir de Lancôme is very beautiful indeed. Tara also formally introduced me to Sarrasins (we had met previously but not properly) and that is one that I know I won’t be able to live without.

      Mona’s Cuir is definitely something isn’t it?

  2. Thanks very much for sharing this superb evening and post on an unfairly neglected family of scents! Definitely worth your time to discover and fall in love with.
    I do need to smell ‘Cuir’ by Mona di Orio my curiosity has been sparked!
    For L.T. Piver, it’s a shame the original ‘Cuir de Russie’ was not included as it’s an archetype in the leather family.
    Hmmm,… and ‘Habanita’ that I so much love- what a very interesting surprise that it should be classified here in the leather family. Up to now, I have always read that it’s in the woody oriental family – right next to another one of my favorites: ‘Nuit de Noël’ – a closet leather, too?

    • Cuir is either love or hate, it depends how you feel about chorizo 😛

      I do definitely get some leather in Habinta, which was much softer and prettier than I had imagined, but I don’t seem to get any in Nuit de Noël. I hadn’t though of the two as being similar before.

  3. Hello, it’s The Great Enabler here 🙂

    Excellent, comprehensive write-up! It was a really fun evening and so great to meet you. If I had found a new leather perfume to love that would have just been a bonus. The only one you’ve listed that I want to get to know better is Tabac Blond, preferrably in extrait. I’m always excited to re-try Habanita but there’s every time I do there’s something that just prevents from me falling for it. Your self-censored description of Leather Oud is too good! Nice to hear you haven’t taken off your Dzing! yet bracelet since.

    See you at the next one!

    • Hi there Oh Great Enabler! We are happy to be enabled by you 😛

      It was lovely to meet you too Tara and I’m very much looking forward to seeing you at the next one.

      I so wanted to love Habanita, but like you it seems that it wasn’t to be. It did smell pretty good on Vanessa though!

      Tabac Blond is an oldie but a goodie! 😀

  4. I guess I am not naughty enough to love leather scents…*giggles*…although I do own a huge bottle of Chanel Cuir de Russie which I love but not so much upon first spray,I try to forget about it for a while then I smell so darn good,that I keep sniffin myself.
    I also wear Habanita but get more of a leathery smoky powder with this one which I love.
    I have tried many others mentioned but unfortunately could not tolerate the high dosage of leather.
    So for now I shall remain with my brand new leather boots and a few sprays of CdR. 😉

  5. Forget leather, I loved the reporting from the Meetup! What a wonderful event! I am currently suffering a nasty bought of envy, which can only be cured by securing a promise from you that you will continue to dish the details of future meet-ups. 😉

    Such a great post Tommy! I loved seeing these leathers through your eyes 🙂

  6. Oh mah gaaah, so jealous. I am not even joking when I say that I will be planning my visits to Drew at LSE around Perfume Lovers London events!

    I just ordered a sample of Dzing! from Luckyscent, and I too find it truly gorgeous. Can’t say I see the connection to circuses, though! And now I must try this “sex god” leather.

  7. I’m so jealous, it sounds like you had so much fun. Cuir de Russie is a wonderful leather, and the first Chanel I bought but I find that I don’t wear it very often. In my mind it’s “high fashion” leather, it’s Karl Lagerfeld, and I am lucky if I can pull off Joan Jett most of the time. When I’m feeling Joan, I wear Bvlgari Black.

  8. What a wonderfully fun event. I wish there was something similar in DC. Like you, leather’s typically don’t strike my fancy, maybe it’s because of my experience as a yound man with English Leather! I love your “sex god” definition of Dior’s Leather Oud. I’m going to have to give that a try!

  9. Wot, no Bandit?!

    Dzing! is terrific isn’t it? It was one of my first FB purchases after my perfume obsession began – I panic-bought it because I heard it was being discontinued but thankfully it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for now. I like Habit Rouge and Daim Blond a lot too, and I treasure my tiny sample of vintage Tabac Blond (from before RIchard piggin’ Fraysse ruined it) like Gollum treasured his Precious.

    I must try some more leathers from this list though – I’m not familiar with nearly enough of them.

    • No Bandit, which is quite surprising isn’t it?

      I definitely share your enthusiasm for Dzing!, I just wish it came in a 50ml bottle, the 100ml is quite pricey and us perfumistas don’t need that much now do we?

      I take it that you’re not a fan of Richard ‘piggin’ Fraysse then? 😛

      • Hehe. I think the classic Carons aren’t faring too well under his stewardship. There’s something really sickly and cloying about the current Tabac Blond especially that makes it unwearable for me.

        Yes, much as I love it I don’t think I’ll ever get through 100ml of Dzing! I wish more houses made 30ml bottles like de Nicolai does – they’re just the right size for those of us who wouldn’t dream of settling on one signature scent. 🙂

  10. I enjoyed reliving this event by reading your comprehensive and detailed report – Lila did us proud in covering the whole spectrum of leathers, didn’t she, and I am happy that you have found a new love. I was pretty surprised to find Habanita so well behaved on my skin and not overly fuddy duddy. Probably my age…

    I loved the caption “historic to maverick”, which reminds me of the motorway sign on the M40 for the turnoff to “Historic Warwick”. : – )

    And I laughed at the thought of your preferring The Middle Ground – welcome to my world! Fab to see you and Tara and Katie again, and I look forward to catching you at the one in May with any luck.

  11. A really great thorough post.
    I’m suprised they didn’t include Rien in the talk, that’s a stinker! A good one though 😛
    Cuir Ottoman is my love ❤
    And I agree with you about Cuir de Russie, I don't enjoy it at all!
    The mix of leather and aldehydes and typical Chanel florals just didn't work for me.

  12. Hi CPB,
    Thanks for the lovely report (been away for a week or would have thanked you sooner!). I enjoyed having a lively crowd in the house, that’s what makes these things such fun.
    Looking forward to seeing everyone at the Katie Puckrik event on the 19th of April.

  13. Sounds like a fun event, as someone who is a serious leather freak, I would have loved to have attended. I was surprised to see no mention of Bandit (leather queen), No 19 in it’s haughty icy beauty, Sikkim or Gucci III (dry elegant mossy leather)….
    One leather that is completely under the radar is Shiseido’s original Murasaki, in the dark burgundy bottle. It’s quite lovely, with galbanum, gardenia, lily, orris with a leather, amber, oakmoss and vetiver base. If you can find the original, do try it. It’s so beautiful and delicate.

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  17. A few of these unite my loves Leather Oud being one of them. I get a lot of peppery coriander off the top of Dzing!. How long does the fragrance on a leather band last for? Interesting that in Mandy Aftels Essence & Alchemy she notes from her research that the early perfumes for for scenting gloves.. Going to put some Dzing! on right now 🙂

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