Reviews En Bref: Cuir Garamante & Cuir Venenum

I thought I’d take a brief look at MDCI ParfumsCuir Garamante and Parfumerie Generale‘s Cuir Venenum in today’s mini reviews. As always, my Reviews En Bref are for fragrances that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant one of my more detailed assessments. In the case of both of these perfumes, neither one was actually a “leather” fragrance on my skin, and both were extremely simple scents at their core.


Source: Luckyscent.

Source: Luckyscent.

Cuir Garamante is an eau de parfum that was released in 2013. According to Fragrantica, its notes includes:

pink pepper, nutmeg, saffron; rose, cyperus esculentus [cypriol], leather, vanilla, labdanum, incense and sandalwood.

Cuir Garamante is virtually identical to LM ParfumsBlack Oud on my skin. To be precise, it mimics the first 6 hours of Black Oud in an unswerving line, with only minuscule differences in the amount of saffron and Norlimbanol that show up. In fact, Laurent Mazzone’s fragrance — released a year before — was the first thing that came to my mind when I tested Cuir Garamante, followed by Puredistance‘s 2013 BLACK which is also very similar to the opening phase of Black Oud. All three fragrances begin with an extremely spicy, dark, woody bouquet dominated by saffron, pink peppercorns, rose, syrupy purple fruit-chouli, woody notes, and smokiness. None of them are genuine leather fragrances on my skin, but center instead on an oud-like note, whether from cypriol, Norlimbanol, or some other woody-ambered aromachemical

Photo: My own.

Photo: My own.

The primary differences between the three fragrances involve the changing role of the rose note, the Norlimbanol, and the drydown. On my skin, Cuir Garamante is a largely linear scent that spends hours wafting a blend of spices, purple patchouli, fruitchouli-rose, oud, and dry, woody-amber, flecked with darkness and the subtle suggestion of some vaguely “leathery” undertone. At times, the latter feels drizzled with honey in a way that’s very appealing, and strongly reminiscent of both Black Oud and LM Parfums’ Hard Leather.

In its middle phase, starting roughly in the middle of the third hour, the Norlimbanol grows stronger, slowly overtaking the very jammy rose. At the same time, the other notes turn more abstract, particularly the saffron and spices. With every passing hour, the scent turns drier and the notes melt into each other. Cuir Garamante slowly turns into a simple woody-amber scent and, in its final moments, is nothing more thana blur of slightly sweet woodiness.



I did side-by-side tests of Cuir Garamante, Black Oud, and Puredistance’s Black, and all three fragrances are incredibly close in their opening stage. Cuir Garamante simply keeps that stage for several hours more than the other two fragrances. I think it has more Norlimbanol or cypriol than Black Oud, but significantly less rose and patchouli than Puredistance’s Black. The latter diverges the most in terms of the drydown, has the longest focus on the fruitchouli-rose note, and is the most aromachemical of the three on my skin. It is also the weakest in terms of projection and longevity. Of the three, Black Oud is the least synthetic, the smoothest, the most “black” in visual nature, and the most refined.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Yet, if you ignore the small differences in terms of the secondary notes or tiny fluctuations in the nuances, Cuir Garamante is essentially, by and large, identical to LM Parfums’ Black Oud on my skin. They have the same great longevity (well over 14 hours) and similar sillage, but they differ in terms of price. Black Oud costs $225 or €195 for a 100 ml bottle of what is essentially a pure parfum extrait. Cuir Garamante costs $250 for 75 ml of eau de parfum. (Puredistance Black costs almost $600 for a 100 ml extrait, and is definitely not worth the price, in my opinion.) As noted, I think Black Oud is a smoother, less synthetic, higher quality fragrance. I also think it is much less linear, if you consider the nuances. While all that comes down to a question of personal taste, the bottom line, though, is that there is such a substantial overlap between the fragrances that you only need one of them.


Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Cuir Venenum (or “PG03 Cuir Venenum“) is an eau de parfum that was released in 2004. Despite the “leather” part of its title, this is a fragrance that is largely centered around orange blossoms. In fact, Fragrantica categorizes Cuir Venenum as a “floral, woody musk,” which is quite accurate, in my opinion. The site says Cuir Venenum’s notes include:

lemon, orange blossom, coconut, leather, myrrh and musk.

Parfumerie Generale, however, lists only:

Orange Blossom, Leather , Cedar, Musk and Honey

Orange Blossom Syrup.

Orange Blossom Syrup.

Cuir Venenum opens on my skin with extremely syrupy, extremely sweet orange blossoms, infused with a plastic vanilla note and such an intensely fruited element that it strongly resembles like fruit-chouli. Clean white musk and a tinge of coconut complete the picture. The whole thing is cloyingly sweet, but also smells like something that you’d find at Bath & Body Works, thanks to the perfume’s soapy, clean streak. None of that is a compliment. At niche prices, one expects a little more than a generic, sweet fruity-floral concoction with screeching orange blossoms, plastic-y undertones, soapy cleanness, and cheap white musk.

On my skin, there is not an iota of actual leather at any point in Cuir Venenum’s lifespan. Not one shred of it. Parfumerie Generale’s website says this about the leather note in the perfume:

Sombre, heady and opulent leather is generally an inevitable component of men’s perfumery. Reinterpreted, modernised – even feminised – it shows a new oriental and erotic facet that gives it depth and mystery.

Concord Grape Jam. Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

Concord Grape Jam. Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

Not on my skin. There is no leather — neither opulent, heady, modernised, feminised, refined, nor any other kind for that matter. Instead, there is what feels like a hell of a lot of purple, grape-y, fruit-chouli molasses that further amplifies the syrupy nature of the orange blossoms. The cause probably stems from the grape aspect of the orange blossoms’ naturally occurring methyl anthranilate, but I wish it had been toned down by several decibels.



The best thing that can be said for Cuir Venenum is that it eventually gets better — though it’s rather a relative matter, if you ask me. At the start of the 4th hour, a soft, golden warmth diffuses its way through the flowers, and softens the orange blossoms. It helps to muffle and tone down the reign of sickly fruitiness, even if it’s just by a hair. It also alleviates some of that revoltingly cheap white musk. I suspect it stems from the myrrh, though I don’t detect either its usual anise-like facets nor its incense, dusty ones. There is a muffled whisper of some vague nuttiness in the background, but it is very muted. What is more noticeable is a growing touch of waxy coconut that slowly starts to rise from the base.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

In its drydown, Cuir Venenum finally turns creamy, soft, and less sweet. Roughly 6.5 hours into its development, a milky quality appears, thanks to the coconut. There is also a softness that almost feels like some vaguely clean, new suede — but not quite. It lacks the untouched, pristine cleanness or powderiness of some suede scents, many of which are recreated through iris. Here, the note is more akin to a soft, smooth suppleness with a certain creaminess underlying it. The fruited orange blossoms still lie over everything, but they are heavily muffled now and no longer drip with a cloying, almost gourmand sweetness. In its final hours, Cuir Venenum emits a vaguely clean milky softness that is almost suede-like and sprinkled with the mere suggestion of orange blossom.

All in all, Cuir Venenum lasted just a hair over 8.25 hours. The sillage was generally soft, projecting initially about 2 inches above the skin. It felt very gauzy, wispy, and lightweight, despite the gooeyiness of its dripping syrup. Cuir Venenum turned into a skin scent on me by the end of the 3rd hour, which I found to be rather a relief. I didn’t find any of it to be a sophisticated scent of luxurious quality, nor a hugely complex, morphing, twisting one, either.



Cuir Venenum has received mixed reviews on Fragrantica, though the majority are negative. Usually, I don’t get into comparative assessments in my Reviews on Bref, but the horror and snark on Cuir Venenum are simply too good to pass up:

  • Smells bizarrely of rotting garbage, specifically of when people collect soda cans in garbage bags for recycling and you can smell the sugary soda fermenting and rotting. Do smell leather, too. Tried it again. My final verdict: a weathered drunkard sits down on a badly tanned leather sofa that’s been discarded on the sidewalk. He opens his quart of Mad Dog 20/20 and starts guzzling, spilling quite a bit down his front. He then passes out and pisses himself. This stuff smells like his crotch. Truly awful.
  • Stale malt liquor with addition of one marinated cigarette butt.
  • Grape snowball syrup squirted into a bowl with huge feet soaking in stanky wine and vinegar, and then placed into leather boots with no socks. Basically, it smells like a clown working in a leather tannery.
  •  All I could smell was… cigarette smoke! No, it wasn’t tobacco; it was pure nicotine! Wearing Cuir Venenum feels like entering cold, empty smoking-room. It feels like standing next to someone who’s been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for twenty years now and tries to kill their smoky smell with some kind of cheap perfume.
  • All in all, to me it is a smell of a dark, freshly draught beer with a slight cigarette undertone.
  • I actually thought that I was testing a mislabeled sample, so different was my perception from the official notes. Top notes of vinyl and acrid grape cough syrup, followed by a whiff of cow dung (possibly the “leather”?), all leading into a persistent candy-sweet-powder drydown of maligned orange blossom. Very synthetic in character. I dislike this on me and would find it abhorrent on a man.

Parmegiano Reggiano cheese. Source:

For Dr. Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids perfumery, there was no rotting garbage, cow dung, beer, a man’s crotch, or stale cigarettes, but, instead, “parmesan cheese” mixed with grape candy, leading her to end her review with a question: “what were they thinking?”

One of the most bizarre openings I’ve smelled in a long time. The predominant – no, overpowering – note is artificial grape candy, accompanied by what I will tactfully refer to as parmesan cheese. There’s also a little civet skulking in the background. It’s an odd combination if ever there was one. Since orange blossom is listed in the notes, it’s possible that the accord was hugely overdosed with methyl anthranilate or some similar “grape” aromachemical.

I kept waiting for the grape and “parmesan” notes to make a graceful exit, but they refused. Instead, they just turned the intensity down a notch, or I slowly adapted to them. I could have scrubbed, but my morbid curiosity had kicked in, so I waited to see what else, if anything, this perfume had to deliver. Apparently there was nothing. After a few hours, all that was left was a light, sugary grape scent on my skin along with something vaguely musky.

“Venenum” is a Latin word meaning venom or poison. […] Cuir Venenum goes into the curio cabinet to serve as an example of a perfume that raises the unanswerable question, “What were they thinking?”

As you can see, a lot of people experienced a fragrance that was much worse than the banal, screeching, cheap Bath & Body Works fruity-floral that I encountered. In all fairness, however, there are people on Fragrantica who actually like Cuir Venenum and its orange blossom blast. They are not many, but they do exist. And some people even experience a leather scent, though few of the ones who do actually seem to like it. So, if you’re a huge fan of orange blossoms (and a glutton for punishment), I suppose you should check out Cuir Venenum. Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky….

CUIR GARAMANTE Cost & Availability: Cuir Garamante is an eau de parfum that comes in a 75 ml bottle called a “tasselled” bottle which costs $250 or €215, and a fancier bottle with a bust statue on it in the same 75 ml size for $375. There is also a Discovery Set. You can buy Cuir Garamante from the Parfums MDCI website, which also has an exclusive deal involving their discovery sets. Apparently, if you order either of 2 discovery set (set of 5 or set of 8), that amount is credited towards the purchase of a full bottle. In the U.S.: Cuir Garamante is available at Luckyscent, along with a Discovery Set of 8 different MDCI fragrances in a 12 ml size for $210. Regular sized samples are also available. Osswald also has both versions, but sells the basic bottle for $263, not $250. Outside the U.S.: you can purchase Cuir Garamante from Parfums MDCI, First in Fragrance and other retailers.
CUIR VENENUM Cost & Availability: Cuir Venenum is an eau de parfum that comes in a variety of sizes. Luckyscent sells the 50 ml bottle for $125. You can find the smaller 30 ml size for €62 on PG’s European website, as well as at Osswald NY in the U.S., and many other vendors. Samples of both fragrances are available from a wide variety of sources, including Surrender to Chance.

18 thoughts on “Reviews En Bref: Cuir Garamante & Cuir Venenum

  1. I’m not sure why, but these reviews gave me a case of the giggles (just the silliness of perfume names and categories sometimes), and is an excellent example of why I tend to avoid “leather” scents much of the times, as they often seem brutal and ugly or not leather at all to me. I love Cuir Mauresque as you know, but I’m still not sure it really has more leather than, say, Bal á Versailles on my skin. I also adore Hard Leather, but it’s way more about woods on my skin than overt leather.

    I’m really tempted to give vintage Jolie Madame a try, because the combination of violets, leather, and a chypre type base DOES sound nice. But I’m also a little scared, as a number of scrubbers have been in the leather genre….

    I especially liked “banal, screeching, cheap Bath & Body Works fruity-floral” because I know exactly what you mean! lol, I do like some of PGs scent, especially Bois de Copaiba (which smells more like a syrupy cousin of L’Heure Bleue to me than anything remotely “bois” and they don’t even list violets despite the huge dose of alpha ionone in the scent) and Coze, but the tendency to soak everything in koolaid and shampoo gets on my nerves and I tend to avoid sampling their fragrances unless someone with similar tastes to me recommend a particular one.

    For now though, I’ll just sit here marinating in Bal á Versailles 😉

    • Hard Leather is the same way on me, too. Primarily about the woods and animalic musk, more than actual leather. And I agree with you on Bal à Versailles vs. Cuir Mauresque also. I have BaV in vintage cologne form (a 1960s bottle) and it’s slightly more leathered than the Cuir Mauresque, while the small sample I have of the parfum is even more so. (My God, both are so fantastic!) I have good memories of vintage Jolie Madame, so I think you should try it if you can find a sample at STC. BTW, it is a favorite of my mother’s who also loves vintage BaV and Cuir Mauresque, if that tells you anything.

      As for Parfumerie Generale, I hear you. “Koolaid and shampoo” made me laugh, but I know exactly what you mean. 🙂 Coze is my favorite from the line, but I haven’t had much success with the others because they’re either too ridiculously gourmand sweet, use too much ISO E Super, or both. This one, though….. gah! At least the others smelled niche, like the very interesting, really appealing Indochine which I liked quite a bit except for the strong ISO E Super. That has a super cool, rare, unusual Thai wood note that feels like like a lovely cousin to sandalwood, so you may want to look up that review to see if anything about it sounds appealing to you. Then again, ISO E Super isn’t your friend, either, so….

      • BaV is indeed gorgeous, I have a 60’s EdC like you, a tiny bottle of parfum, and a huge bottle of EdT. I know the EdT is considered least desirable, but I still consider it gorgeous and certainly far superior to the average modern oriental.

        Good to know about the Jolie Madame, especially considering how very choosy your mother is!

        I recall your lovely Indochine review, and I have a sample of it that I’ve tried. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience with the headache. So much of a headache that it distracted me from the lovely smell, which is a shame, I do love honeyed scents…. but I am also utterly sick of that chemical fake pepper Iso E Super smell, meh. Even some perfumes that I used to be able to wear with it in it, I can no longer deal with. ~grumble grumble~

        However, there are so many breathtaking perfumes in the world, many of which you have introduced me to, I really don’t have much of anything to complain about! 😀

        • Indochine gave you a headache, too? 🙁 Well, Pierre Guillaume really did seem to use a lot of the ISO E Super in that one, though Djhenné was ten times worse, if you ask me. The one saving grace of Cuir Venenum is that he didn’t toss in that synthetic to go with the cheap white musk. That would really have been the end of me.

          I lust for a decent-sized bottle of vintage Bal à Versailles in parfum form. The majority sold on eBay are all so tiny, though, that I know I’d feel too afraid to use it. But I probably will succumb sometime soon. It’s too beautiful to really resist.

          • Those bottles ARE so tiny, and mine is nearly empty! It seems to me that BaV (and especially the parfum) is getting rarer and more expensive over the last few years, so I’ve been looking around now to try to find something before it’s even more difficult.

            Also, cheap white musk makes me shudder ~huffs civet laden arm to dispel nausea~ 😀

  2. I love a floral leather, and people keep suggesting I try Cuir Venenum, but I was put off by the orange blossom (which tends to go very soapy on me), as well as a friend’s description of it as “grape Slushee on my suede boots”. And so far, all the PGs I’ve tried have smelled like variations on something I smelled elsewhere. Ehhh. Think I’ll pass.

    I adore Jolie Madame parfum, though. Galbanum and leather and a ton of flowers? YES PLS MOAR PLS NAO. At the moment I’ve got about six little extrait bottles, all slightly different because they’ve all aged in various ways. Which fascinates me.

    • A “grape Slushee on suede boots” sounds like quite a positive experience compared to what some have described…. It could be quite worse. Imagine, God forbid, there were cow dung, parmesan cheese, beer, and stale cigarettes to also go with that combination. 😉

      • Well, I like Parmesan. 🙂 Though not with grape Slushee, and as for the rest of it, um, NO.

        I hear that if you really want the skankified version of Bal a Versailles, you want the vintage eau de cologne. I had a tiny bit of PdT, and it was only a little skanky on me, and the (modern) parfum hardly at all. I should get that stuff out and wear it…

        • I have a bottle of vintage BaV’s eau de cologne, and it is gorgeous. You’re right in saying it is not as sharply skanky as the parfum, which, on my skin, is much smoother. The EDC is softer, more floral, less dark, less indolic and leathered than the vintage parfum, so the latter formulation brings different elements to the table which I enjoy just as much. Which version were you now inspired to take out and wear? 🙂

    • They are pretty hilarious. I feel almost grateful for the experience that I had, comparatively speaking. lol

  3. This is odd, because I am 99.9% sure I tried Cuir Venenum and really liked it! But I also know I wouldn’t like it if my experience had been anything like what you had written. So either I tried something different, or it really manifested itself differently on me. I didn’t find it mindblowingly good, but it was definitely something I liked a lot when I tried it and I would wear it regularly. I may have to dig around and see if I still have a sample, because now I fear I’m losing my mind!

    • Dig around and let me know. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who had a simple, nice orange blossom musk with some suede bits? Either way, I’m happy you didn’t experience what a number of people on Fragrantica recounted, because some of those descriptions….!

      • That’s more along the lines what I recall – mercifully, since grape and Parmesan cheese would be a sad, sad combo indeed! All my perfume is currently en route to Los Angeles (let’s say a prayer to the perfume Gods that it arrives safely!), but once I’m unpacked I think I need to do a bit of sample rotation so I can try the ones I’ve been ignoring!

        • Well, I didn’t have Parmesan cheese, either, thank God, but definitely an excessively sweet, fruity floral. I’ll be curious to see how it appears on your skin when you have the chance to test it again, but, frankly, I’m more concerned about all your perfume bottles arriving safely and unbroken after their long trip! You have to let me know how they fare once you arrive and get the chance to unpack your boxes!

  4. Those Fragrantica review’s made me laugh so hard!! I read them out loud to my hubby when he asked why I was laughing so hard. God, we both needed that laugh. Thank you for saving me a trip to try these. I feel secure that your reviews eliminated any necessity to try these…. thanks Kafka!

    • The tone of horror in one of those accounts made me laugh at loud, too. 🙂 So did the thought of smelling like parmesan cheese with grape candy. Somehow, I draw the line at Parmesan more than rotting garbage or some of the other descriptors. I feel almost lucky to have experienced something merely banal and syrupy in comparison. lol

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