Areej Le Doré Cuir de Russie

Cuir de Russie, the upcoming S6 release from Areej Le Doré puts me in a tricky spot as a reviewer. On the one hand, it is one of my favourites out of the new S6 collection when worn on skin, evoking at different stages Roja Dove‘s Fetish Pour Homme, Jacques Guerlain‘s aesthetic in old vintage classics, and even Serge LutensCuir Mauresque for a brief moment.

On the other hand, Cuir de Russie should NOT actually be worn on skin, due to its core ingredient of crude birch tar which is deemed inadvisable and unhealthy when in contact with the skin. In fact, the use of crude birch tar is flat-out prohibited in any fragrance that is intended for the skin. (Only rectified birch tar can be used, and in highly regulated levels at that.) Consequently, Russian Adam calls Cuir de Russie a “garment fragrance” and explicitly advises that it should only be applied to fabric. I did not follow the advisory and wore the fragrance both ways. I doubt I will be the only one to do so.

Which brings me to my dilemma: How do I write about a fragrance that is a singular monolith when worn in the way that is advisable and when that description would entail three short paragraphs but when the inadvisable, health-dangerous way would yield thousands of words of enthusiasm?

Photo: NASA, the Horsehead Nebula.

What makes the analysis even harder here is that I have always found that fabric and paper scent strips flatten, to my nose at least, a fragrance’s nuances, development, their aromachemicals, and their prominence. And I have always detected a fragrance’s tonalities and changes better on skin.

A related problem is the fact that, in my experience, scents develop in slow-motion on fabric and everything is extended or delayed to ridiculous extremes. I’ve sprayed favourite scents on scarves or sweaters, only to come back 2 months later to find whiffs of them lingering on. What may develop and morph in 3 hours on skin may take 12 -24 hours on fabric; and what may be a typical Areej Le Doré drydown after 18, 24, or even 30 hours on skin will end up, by circumstance, being 5 or 10 times that long on a scarf.

I suppose the only way is to give you both versions, along with multiple warnings about how you should stick to the health advisory. I am not recommending that you do anything which could be a health risk. I will only share my personal experiences; as adults, the rest is up to you and your free will.

I’ll begin with a long, detailed analysis of what Cuir de Russie smells like on skin, when I’m wearing it in violation of the rules, and then briefly summarize the more limited, singular, linear bouquet and the glacially slow development which occurs on fabric.

Russian Adam describes Cuir de Russie and its notes as follows:

Cuir de Russie, 30 ml parfum.

CUIR DE RUSSIE 30ml – Garment Perfume (to be used only on cloth)

 

Hugely animalic, floriental leather, featuring unique, vintage birch tar and beaver tail oil. Cuir de Russie is for scenting clothing, not skin.

 

Top notes: crude birch tar from 1920 – 1930
Heart notes: antique violet attar from 1930, blue lotus accord, rose and jasmine absolute
Base notes: beaver tail oil, natural wild Siberian deer musk and amber accord

 

I – CUIR DE RUSSIE ON SKIN:

On my skin — and never have those words “on my skin” been more applicable — Cuir de Russie opens with dark, musky, smoky, and resinous birch tar leather enveloped within a cloud of clean, fresh, slightly sweet, and powdery pastel floralcy. The flowers smell of violets in the manner of old-fashioned makeup powder, but they also smell of rooty, slightly fusty iris. In the old days, orris was used as a fixative in makeup and lipsticks, adding a violet-like scent, sometimes accompanied by rose, to result in what we now consider to be the “old-fashioned or vintage make-up smell.” In Cuir de Russie, however, it is not a major or powerful part of the core opening scent and it is pushed to the sidelines even more when, moments later, the deer musk arrives, smelling musty, fusty, and dusty.

Art: Ryan O’Neill & Rostudios Etsy Store (Website link embedded within.)

If I were to focus on the broadest scent characteristics of Cuir de Russie’s opening moments, I’d describe the debut bouquet as: leathery, powdery, dusty, fusty, smoky, floral, and, above all else, musky. The floralcy in the early moments is a mere abstraction that teases at violets and flowers, but it’s a suggestion that is largely subsumed within the vibe of orris makeup powder slashed with a dab of 1940s lipstick rose-violet.

Roughly 15 minutes in, however, the dynamics gradually begin to change. The deer musk swells in volume, becoming an airy, light, but slightly musty, slightly powdery cocoon within which everything else operates. The birch tar emits more smokiness and tar, while the rose awakens, becoming less of a side-note suggestion in the background and gradually starting to take shape as thing solid and floral in its own right. As the rose-orris/violet floralcy grows in prominence, it adds further to the vintage makeup powder impression. At this point, the jasmine isn’t a factor in any clear, unambiguously jasmine sort of way, but it is unquestionably adding a very sticky, syrupy, musky, and indolic touch to everything else.

The cumulative effect, roughly 20 minutes in, is a far cry from the stereotypical Chanel -style Cuir de Russie bouquet that has, for better or worse, become so widely entwined with anything bearing the words “Cuir de Russie.” Chanel’s goal seems to have been a transformative twist on Russian Cossack boot leather by combining smoky birch tar (the key material that Cossacks smeared on their boots to make them water-proof and durable) with the most streamlined, cleanest, most aerated floral-aldehydic scent possible (along with a touch of woods and vetiver). To be clear, other fragrance houses had Cuir de Russie leather compositions at this time or long before. In fact, Aimé Guerlain released a Cuir de Russie fragrance in 1872, while Oriza L. Legrand pre-dated that by creating a custom Russian birch tar leather fragrance with iris and violets for the actual Russian Czar (Alexander II) in 1862, a whole 64 years before Chanel. (Violettes du Czar is still available, by the way, in a version close to its original formula, though it has been lightly tweaked for modern times and regulations.) And, of course, there is also Knize‘s famous leather, Knize Ten, which was released near the same time as Chanel’s, although Knize Ten has very different notes and combines chypre elements and spices with a much wider, broader range of florals.

But it is Chanel’s version that, in my opinion, has become the most famous and the most emblematic of the “Cuir de Russie” name and of what such fragrances are meant to smell like, in the popular imagination at least. Working with Ernst Beaux, a revolutionary nose, to grab the limelight and to create a “Cuir de Russie” fragrance inspired by her affair with a Romanov prince, Coco’s fragrance mixed her signature and then-innovative Chanel floral-aldehydic minimalist aesthetic with Cossack-style smoky birch tar leather to become the representation of the “Cuir de Russie” style. Luca Turin gave it five stars in his old Perfumes: The A to Z Guide, comparing its leather to the scent of the leather interior of an old Bentley and admiring how it was not “too sweet or too smoky.”

I’ll be blunt: I absolutely loathed the version of (reformulated) Chanel Cuir de Russie that I tried, though, admittedly, I seem to have had quite a different experience than the norm. As Luca Turin’s description indicates, most people find Cuir de Russie to be a highly refined floral leather that isn’t too smoky, butch, or animalic. In fact, it’s almost a clean iris-y floral leather by many accounts, thanks to the large dose of aldehydes, with a highly modulated, minimal smokiness and whiff of animalics. On my skin, however, Cuir de Russie consisted almost entirely of frothing aldehydic dishwashing soap atop piles of hot, steaming horse manure and a definite whiff of sour, sweaty horse. I’m sure the original version back in the 1920s was more appealing and that my skin is to blame for my atypical experience with the 21st century reformulation, but Chanel’s version of Cuir de Russie well nigh put me off leather fragrances completely until Serge Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque. (More on Cuir Mauresque in a moment.)

Bruno Paolo Benedetti Artwork, “Contrasts of the Nature,” at absolutearts.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

Putting my experience to the side, I think Russian Adam’s Cuir de Russie doesn’t have a great deal in common with the typical, normative description of the modern Chanel fragrance when the ALD version is taken as a whole, from start to finish. Sure, there is an initial whiff of aerated, clean iris in the beginning but, even in the beginning, there is far more going on, from the deer musk to a far richer, more multi-faceted, and more oriental-skewing floralcy with its indolic, musky, syrupy jasmine. To put it another way, this Cuir de Russie feels like an oriental take on leather while the Chanel version felt like an aldehydic floral leather. The genres are different. But so is their feel and aroma. Chanel’s leather in its reformulated modern version skews quite clean, thanks in part to its aldehydes and iris and, let’s be honest, none of the prohibited crude birch tar. The result reported by others seems to be much like brand-new Italian leather shoes or burnished car leather with a only a light smear of industrial tar and imbued with an industrial, office-like cleanness.

The leather here rapidly becomes far too thickly musky, smoky, dirty, and animalic to resemble that — which brings me to Cuir de Russie’s “beaver tail oil.” I asked Russian Adam what it was; I knew it couldn’t be castoreum because the latter comes from beaver castor glands. I’ll spare you the precise details but Adam said the materials were ethically sourced from beavers that were killed within legal limits and were not killed for perfumery, and that the ensuing, extracted oil smelled “like a castoreum times ten with a delicious faucets of fermented hindi oud…”

That last part is a key factor, in my opinion, as to why the leather in Cuir de Russie goes far beyond the more stereotypical Chanel-style birch tar leather. In effect, Russian Adam’s version not only has the much stronger, heavier, darker, and smokier crude birch tar (versus mere rectified birch tar) but it has the olfactory equivalent of Hindi oud as well.

Instead of thinking of Chanel, a much closer leather comparison, for a short time at least, would be Serge LutensCuir Mauresque in its earlier, now-vintage formula. To be precise, Cuir Mauresque with a dash of Dior‘s Cuir Cannage. Here, there is the same sort of musky, smoky, animalic, dirty leather and indolic, syrupy, sweet floralcy found in Cuir Mauresque, only it’s dusted with the Dior’s rose-violet lipstick and makeup powder. The notable difference is that there is deer musk here instead of the orange blossom and spices found in Cuir Mauresque. Nevertheless, I find that the vibe and general feel is similar: animalic, musky, smoky, orientalized Moorish leather combined with sticky florals (and a dash of vintage-style makeup, lipstick, and powder elements).

Mark Rothko, No. 3/No. 13.

The similarities don’t last for long, mostly because the duet of crude birch tar amplified further by the Hindi oud-like beaver leather oil is too powerful and soon overshadows the other accords. To be honest, the cumulative effect at the 30-40 minute mark is too blocky for me. On my skin, at a rough estimate, I’d say as much as 70% of the bouquet at this point consists of the beaver-crude-tar accord’s various aromas. It calls to mind Piet Mondrian cubist paintings where one cube is gigantic in comparison to the other, significantly smaller, cubes. Even more so, it made me think of Mark Rothko’s works where one massive, dark swathe took up much of the canvas and the eye while smaller, thinner smears lay above or below.

Mark Rothko, “No. 9.”

I like parts of it quite a bit. There are times when I move my arm and an alluring, sexy wave of smouldering, resinous, musky, and subtly ambered leather wafts by, lightly slathered with indolic, syrupy, sweet floralcy. The nebulous suggestion of rose-violet/orris lipstick and makeup powder that pops up when I smell my arm up close is particularly appealing as a contrast to the increasingly smouldering, animalic, tarry, musky, and occasionally oud-like leather. I’m also a fan of the amber base accord, smelling of toffee’d labdanum and caramel benzoin, which emerges here after 75 minutes.

But I think my feelings about this stage of Cuir de Russie would be stronger and more passionate if the composition were less Rothko-like in its ratios, if there were a better balance between its respective components, and if there the accompanying notes were stronger. Had the other elements been tweaked to feel less tangential and less abstract, Cuir de Russie could and would still have been a smoky, animalic, musky leather first and foremost, but its leather accord would have felt less like Godzilla stomping on small buildings and ant people. Thankfully, Cuir de Russie loses its blockiness eventually and develops into something more complex and, to my surprise, quite Guerlainesque.

Source: Roja Parfums website.

Roughly 1.75 hours into its development, Cuir de Russie’s secondary and tertiary elements realign themselves around the leather core. The amber accord emerges, wiping out the dusty, fusty deer musk and muffling much of the rose-violet makeup powder and lipstick. At the same time, the amber, in conjunction with the floral syrup —which is the only significant, observable aspect of the jasmine on my skin at this stage— sweetens the tarry, musky, smoky leather considerably. The cumulative effect reminds me a bit of Roja Dove‘s Fetish Pour Homme, only concentrated, muskier, more resinous, and without the spices, chypre elements, or the perianal/ass whiff which that fragrance, bizarrely, had on me.

Cuir de Russie shifts 3.25 hours in, starting its transition into its long main stage. The leather becomes more floral than it ever was before, coated with jasmine and a subtle violet, orris-y, lipstick rose. At the same time, vanilla and tonka start to stir in the base, adding a touch of creaminess. The overall effect feels like a mash-up of Fetish-style leather with a more vintage Guerlainesque floral oriental. As some of you recall, birch tar leather, rose, jasmine, musky castoreum, myrrh smoke, amber, tonka, and vanilla were mainstays of Jacques Guerlain‘s classic masterpieces in their original formula, even L’Heure Bleue with its pastel floralcy and its whiffs of floral makeup powder. Cuir de Russie isn’t that powdery, but it feels strongly influenced by the great Guerlain tradition, stylistically, aesthetically, and thematically.

I am absolutely head over heels in love with what follows when Cuir de Russie embarks on its long heart stage. It begins at the end of the 5th hour and the start of the 6th, and it lasts so long that, when it was still going strong in the 16th hour with little to no change, I mistakenly assumed that it was the drydown. Little did I know then just how incredibly long Cuir de Russie lasts on my skin. (Spoiler: well over 36 hours.) Cuir de Russie’s opulent, sumptuous heart consists of creamy floral leather with jasmine, rose, amber, vanilla, campfire smoke, and oud-ish muskiness, all subsumed within a sheer cloud of deer musk.

At the end of the 8th hour and start of the 9th, my god, is the leather gorgeous: creamy, satiny, velvety, buttery, and practically tactile calfskin slathered with a vanillic, ambered, almost ambergris-like floral custard. It’s so damn sensuous that I’d like to take a bath in it. It makes me think of warm, velvety, heated skin, both clean after a shower and musky after sex; it makes me think of the old fairytale of the princess and the pea, sleeping on a mountain of mattresses, only these mattresses are piles of buttered leather; and it makes me think of the apocryphal tale of Jacques Guerlain using peach and musks in Mitsouko to try to replicate the tactile feel of his mistress’ musky, golden skin after they had made love.

Photo: Stocksy via Elle.com

There is a similar tactile voluptuousness and sensuality to the leather in Cuir de Russie. What I find interesting is that, to my memory, it differs in quality, feel, or intensity from what I’ve previously encountered with birch tar. Birch tar often dissolves into softer, milder suede in its later stages but the leather in Cuir de Russie still feels like leather, only it’s creamy and thickly buttered as if copious amounts of ambergris, sandalwood, vanilla tonka, dark musks, and butter Co2 had been mixed in. It’s less the sort of thing that one encounters with birch tar’s drydown than with a complex Hindi oud accord. Remember the beaver tail oil? Russian Adam compared it to Hindi oud, and I think it’s responsible for the immense tactile richness of the leather here when combined with the vanilla, amber, and other materials.

“Modern Gold Abstract Art Fluid Painting Slash By Kredart” by Serg Wiaderny on Fine Art America. (Direct website link embedded within.)

What I can’t understand, however, is the pronounced citrus aroma — like bergamot and/or lemon with a touch of green lime — that also appears, and it does so both on skin and on fabric. I asked Russian Adam if the vintage violet attar contained any citrus elements and he said, to his nose, it did not. I’ve pondered this citrus aroma through four tests now, two on skin, two on clean, unscented fabric, and I’m completely discombobulated. There is no question that both of my Star Trek DS9 and Borg/ “Resistance is Futile” t-shirts bear a citrus aroma amidst the Guerlainesque floral leather, as did my arm, so I can’t be hallucinating it.

Grasping at straws, my guess is that it comes from the deer musk. The Siberian deer musk pods that I’ve held and smelled never had a citrus aroma, but a few compositions with the grains did take on an aroma similar to what encounters with elemi (a fresh, lemony, smoky, incense-y wood) in that it has a woody, earthy bouquet with a tinge of a subtle piney undertone. Maybe something similar is going on here, or maybe I’ve lost my mind completely after this wretched year, but I swear to you that Cuir de Russie has a noticeable, unmistakable citrus aroma on my skin during its long late stage and that this same citrus aroma appears right from the start on fabric.

Photographer Andrew Yee for How to Spend It Magazine. Source: Fashion Gone Rogue. (Direct website link embedded within.)

I’m spending time on this point because the citrus is not minor on me, it adds to the very Guerlainesque vibe of Cuir de Russie during this stage, and it is, in fact, one of the reasons why I loved the fragrance so much on skin. The crisp, fresh lemon-bergamot aroma works beautifully with the jasmine-rose floral cream and it also works to add a lift to the heaviness of the oud-style leather, animalic muskiness, smoke, and darkness. It’s not major enough to ever rise to the bergamot levels in Shalimar, the Guerlain fragrance in which Jacques Guerlain added the greatest percentage of bergamot, but it definitely resembles my 1930s L’Heure Bleue in which a lower and somewhat evaporated level of bergamot merges with the syrupy jasmine, the honeyed rose, and the pastel heliotrope powder that sometimes resembles floral-scented makeup powder. That said, the actual vanilla-coated smoky leather in Cuir de Russie is much closer to the one in vintage, 1930s-1950s era Shalimar parfum.

J.M.W. Turner, “Light & Color, the morning after the deluge,” via Pinterest.

Cuir de Russie doesn’t change in any significant olfactory way for hours and hours, although the notes do grow blurrier and start to melt into each other. Sometimes, the musk and smoke are stronger, sometimes it’s the floral cream of leather; sometimes the deer musk seems to disappear completely in a wave of ambered goldenness and warmth, sometimes it’s just as noticeable; sometimes the Roja Dove Fetish Homme is a stronger vibe, sometimes it’s the vintage Jacques Guerlain. The ratios of the individual components alter respective to each other, but Cuir de Russie’s fundamental core and its very vintage feel do not. The result is, in my opinion, sexy, sophisticated, complex, cozy, and inviting all at once.

Art by Mark Molnar via creativebloq.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

I’m less bowled over by the actual drydown, once it does finally appear around the 25th hour. (Yes, I said 25th!) Like all drydowns, it’s a simplified, uncomplicated, and very hazy, linear scent — which, again, is completely normal and typical— but the primary, central facets of this one are less interesting to me personally: the vast, vast majority of Cuir de Russie’s bouquet consists predominantly of dark musk and smoky aromas.

It comes down to the wholly subjective issue of how each person feels about the main, driving focus of a bouquet: I adore amber notes, so I love Russian Adam’s almost signature amber base in his oud fragrances with its sweeter, semi-gourmand tonalities laced with smoke and musk far more than I enjoy smoky muskiness being the driver with underlying tonalities of leather, animalics, and just a minor hint of ambered goldenness.

That said, I could see people with different tastes and less of an enthusiasm for lots of amber preferring Cuir de Russie’s drydown which, to be clear, is perfectly nice and has some enjoyable aspects to it. The muskiness isn’t purely animalic so much as it is warm and heavy, like dark leathery velvet imbued with smoke and, on occasion, with a light whisper of something a little more urinous, similar to civet. There are occasional bursts of ambered goldenness that rise to the surface before ebbing away like the tides. And, on occasional, there is something almost like creamy suede lurking underneath.

Again, it’s all very nice but, fairly or unfairly, I’m a little bored by it because first, smoky muskiness isn’t, by itself, my catnip and, second, it’s nothing that I haven’t seen many times before from oriental attars and, in particular, from Russian Adam. To be fair, when you have a strong affinity — nay, a passionate love — for certain types of raw materials like oud, musks, and oud-leather which you frequently combine with an amber base, then it’s inevitable that you’re going to get a certain repetition during the most simplified stage of the composition, the drydown.

Ultimately, the response comes down to the wearer’s personal tastes. I enjoy the repetition found in the drydown of ALD’s Russian Oud category of fragrances with their strong, primary, semi-sweet amber focus but I know others, however, who struggle with the intensity of the caramel or the amber in those fragrances and who would far prefer dark, smoky muskiness instead. There are also those who enjoy the more hardcore masculine qualities of dark musks or the drydown of pure oud oils. If Cuir de Russie developed on their skin as it does on mine, I see much in the drydown to appeal to true oud, musk, and oud-musk lovers. (And, honestly, I think it could be pretty sexy on a guy’s skin and neck.)

Cuir de Russie’s longevity was exceptional but its sillage and projection depended. I had to be a bit miserly in my dosage or application if I wanted to eke out my sample for a number of tests, so I never used as much as someone with a full bottle who could apply with abandon. And you need to be aware that quantity makes a big difference in the scent, tonalities, and longevity of a fragrance. Having said that, with a few squirts from the atomizer, roughly equal to 2 sprays from a full bottle, Cuir de Russie lasted 42 hours on me until I finally gave up on bathing with one arm raised in a tub and insisted on a full shower. Granted, the fragrance coated my skin like a glove at that point and I needed to put my nose deep into the skin to detect it, but there was no mistaking that smoky, oud-ish muskiness. (I should note that, even after a shower, I could still smell traces of Cuir de Russie on one tiny patch of skin.) A second test of the fragrance went much the same way, only a smaller application equal to one spray from a bottle resulted in roughly 34-36 hours of longevity.

The sillage and projection were never as beastly. In fact, no matter how much or little I applied, Cuir de Russie’s opening sillage was actually more in line with a strong attar than with a typical or commercial spray fragrance. The equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle initially gave me a scent trail of about 3-4 inches and projection off the skin of roughly 2 inches. However, once the materials melted into the skin and bloomed, about 40 minutes in, the scent cloud around me suddenly shot up to about 7-8 inches and the projection rose fractionally to about 4 inches. The sillage dropped near the end of the 4th hour and the start of the 5th, but I could still detect a trail behind me when I walked. This is one concentrated, rich, intense scent, even if it doesn’t have the reach of a fragrance with aromachemicals. No, unless you’re spraying generously from a full bottle, I think you’ll experience a scent that tempers itself after 6 or 8 hours. It won’t be a skin scent until much later, but it will be more intimate given the number of the heavy, concentrated, dark raw materials as compared to a fragrance with aromachemicals or a lot of bright, lifting, top notes.

That said, there is no doubt that Cuir de Russie is a strong, potent, mega-rich fragrance and that it takes quite a while to become speak sotto voce. After 12 hours, it hovered closer to the skin; after 18 hours, I had put my nose right on my arm. Cuir de Russie became a skin scent on me around the 24th hour but it only required effort to detect after the 34th hour (the 28th hour with a lesser dose). Even so, I only had to dig my nose into my arm after the 40th hour.

To put it quite simply, this fragrance lasts a heck of a long time, even if you need some effort to detect it after a (ridiculously crazy) point in time, but I doubt that its highly concentrated base materials will ever give you a beast mode fragrance like what you might experience with a fragrance filled with nuclear amber-woody synths unless you apply a lot of sprays.

II – CUIR DE RUSSIE ON FABRIC:

Photo: Zedge wallpaper.

I will never cease to be amazed by how Guerlainesque Cuir de Russie is right from the start on fabric. On two different, clean, unscented t-shirts, the aroma which greeted me was very much a Guerlainesque floral leather or floral oriental atop leather. The opening consists primarily of strong gusts of bergamot or lemon-lime fused with a plethora of powdery, sweet, pastel violets, pastel pink roses, sweet jasmine, and clean iris. The whole vintage-skewing floral bouquet lies atop a light, soft base of smoky birch tar leather coated with amber. Far, far stronger than either is the cloud of earthy, dusty, slightly musty deer musk which surrounds everything like a force-shield in one of my Stargate Atlantis episodes. This deer musk combines with the orris-y, rose-violet makeup powder and lipstick aromas to create a very vintage feel to the overall bouquet.

1930s L’Heure Bleue extrait. Photo: my own.

Quite frankly, it reminds me of vintage-style Shalimar/L’Heure Bleue left days later on a scarf or sweater. There is a rich, sweet floralcy, not so much like indolic jasmine but like a mixed floral Guerlain bouquet drizzled with honey. As compared to the olfactory bouquet of one of my L’Heure Bleue bottles from the 1930s on skin, however, it’s significantly sheerer in weight and body and also includes a subtle, almost lime-like note in addition to its honeyed bergamot and its plethora of deer musk.

The key difference is the amount and effect of the deer musk. When I squirted the equivalent of one spray from a bottle, Cuir de Russie’s bouquet on one of my t-shirts had a significantly elevated amount of dusty, musty, fusty deer musk powderiness but, when I applied the rough equivalent of 2 sprays on another t-shirt, the pastel, honeyed, lemony, sweet Guerlainesque floralcy was far more prominent than the deer musk.

It’s really the only difference between the scent on the two fabrics for almost five days. Even then, the change is not earth-shatteringly different or major; it’s simply a question of degree, not of kind. All that really happens is that the Guerlain+deer musk bouquet gains a toffee’d labdanum addition on one fabric at late near to the 5th day on one t-shirt. The other one, however, continues waft a very deer musk-driven, slightly powdery, and mildly vanillic, smoky, and musky floral oriental accord.

Both are nice, but they don’t rock my boat. For one thing, the fragrances were both lighter on fabric and less hefty or full-bodied than they were on my skin. For another, they felt much simpler, less complex, and also blurrier with regard to the details as compared to how they smelled and developed on skin. Finally, they were incredibly linear. With regard to that last point and being fair, if you consider that fragrances can last weeks or months on clothing, developing glacially throughout, then judging any limited, microscopic fragment in time obviously ends up being just a snapshot and not representative of the totality.

Again, this puts me in a major bind as a reviewer. If Cuir de Russie is only meant to be worn on fabric, if it is simplistic and smells like a deer musk-infused flanker to a Guerlain on said fabric for days on end, and if ALD limited supply/avid demand issues mean that I can’t wait for 4-6 weeks to see how the fragrance may develop differently, then I can’t help but judge and report on what I have before me right now. And, frankly, it’s not particularly unique in feel and, consequently, not particularly earth-shattering to me. Then again, could any fabric/garment scent be earth-shattering given the limits of what appears on fabric? I don’t know.

Van Gogh, “Wheat Field with Cypresses,” via the Met Museum.

The better question, in my opinion, is whether the scent of any fragrance on fabric could ever possibly compare to the more nuanced, complex tonalities that develop on skin. I don’t think it can. In my opinion, what appears on skin will always be a more detailed and, consequently, a more interesting portrait. For me, fabric adds an opaque and blurry filter on the fragrance pyramid, so the result is akin to a more impressionistic scent painted in thick, broad strokes, rather than a detailed, finely painted portrait. Imagine a realistic, detailed Gainsborough landscape tableau versus an impressionistic Van Gogh, only the Van Gogh is rendered blurry through an opaque lens that is not your eyeglass prescription. It’s still a Van Gogh, but is it as striking and is it as true to the original? And can its broad brushstrokes blurred out even further compare to something more complex or with a plethora of more crisply applied, detailed nuances?

ALL IN ALL:

This brings us back full-circle to the health advisory. As a lawyer, I am absolutely not telling you to ignore the health advisory and wear Cuir de Russie on skin. I am not. I am simply telling you that its scent, on fabric, doesn’t rock my personal boat. If I buy the fragrance, I will wear it on skin, but that is a personal choice and risk that I’m willing to take because, quite frankly, I think that there is a greater likelihood of my getting Covid-19 than of eventually developing cancer or whatever from an intermittent, once in a while wearing of Cuir de Russie on skin. Besides, every week I wear vintage fragrances whose oakmoss and/or rectified birch tar levels are now banned as well, and I haven’t suffered any health issues that I know of as a result.

You must decide what is best for you. Cuir de Russie is perfectly pretty on fabric and wearing it that way is the smart and sensible choice. I mean it. I am a terrible role model when it comes to IFRA-related matters.

Let’s move on to more mundane matters, like price and availability. Cuir de Russie is a pure parfum that comes in a 30 ml bottle and costs $190. Russian Adam told me about 800 bottles were produced; since about 100 or so bottles were sold as part of the pre-launch special, roughly 700 or so remain. Cuir de Russie will be available exclusively at first via Areej Le Doré when S6 launches. I’m guessing Luckyscent may get it later, but I don’t know when that will be. As for when exactly the S6 collection will launch, that has still to be determined. The date has been pushed back twice already. I was told that it was because of some mix-ups in orders and an issue with the sprayer leaking in some sample sets, both of which Russian Adam wanted to fix before launch. The new launch date appears to be either the weekend of September 22/23 or early October. My advice if you’re interested in any of the upcoming S6 releases is to subscribe to the newsletter to stay informed of developments.

Stay safe and stay fragrant, my friends.

Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of the company. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

10 thoughts on “Areej Le Doré Cuir de Russie

  1. Luca Turin made a point about perfume safety in one of his online lectures which really stuck with me, along the lines of, since perfume isn’t really necessary at all, the threshold for deeming a material unsafe is therefore extremely low.

    That being said, birch tar is a carcinogen, but then again, so is Diet Coke. We all have to make our own risk/reward decisions when it comes to what we put in and on our bodies.

    • Thank you for sharing Luca Turin’s point and for your other apt analogy. As someone who drinks Diet Coke, I think it’s an excellent example of individual cost/benefit, risk/reward assessments.

  2. Nice to to see you back, Kafkaesque, because this is a return, even if you deny it. Do not cover every release or new fragrance if you are tired of doing this, but be there with the essentials: Bogue, Agar Aura, Areej, Dixit & Zak, Frédéric Malle, Olympic Orchids… Your voice is welcome and necessary. The old reviewers are all gone.

    Give a kiss to your Deutscher Freund. Mine is also starting to fail.

    • First, welcome. Second, I’m sorry to hear your good boy/girl is starting to struggle. Truly sorry. The light of my life died on April 3rd, during the lockdown, after a long and terrible period of numerous major health issues. DM was the final cause.

      It’s been incredibly difficult without him, so I hope you have years to go with yours. Years and years. Please give him or her a hug from me, some chest scritches, and many kisses. Please. I miss having a GSD by my side more than you can know, esp. while dealing with the many stressers of this year.

      • I’m sorry to hear that. And I can understand you. I have a similar relationship with mine. For now, he has a problem with his right elbow and digestive tract.

        Sad to hear that all happened during the lockdown. I can imagine how difficult it was. Try to be positive. And write. It will help you.

  3. Kafka, as a recent scent obsessive, I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated finding your writings. I just wanted to let you know, through whatever drama and shittiness you’ve been subjected to through your efforts in this arena, that your thoughts stand out amongst the others and they provide an insight and thoughtfulness that’s a treasure. So, whatever you do in the future, thank you for what you’ve already done. It was such a joy to fall in love with Casablanca and then to stumble across your articulation of it… filling in the blanks where I wasn’t yet able to speak to myself.

    Thanks for sharing your notes on the Areej fragrances… another rabbit hole of discovery that your thoughts are helping to bring some clarity to potentially risky choices. 🙂

    Take care of yourself.

  4. I’m so happy you’ve been writing again lately. I have no taste in getting this perfume to try, but I will darn well read everything you write anyway! I’m so very sorry to hear about your GS crossing the Rainbow Bridge. My heart goes out to you. Sending you warm hugs and love~

  5. Thank you so much for this (and for your return!). I actually love Chanel’s CdR edt, but confirmed my dislike for the edp yesterday when I retested it (extremely floral, no barnyard). I’m mulling over the parfum as an alternative. I would love to read more about other fragrances in this genre–Equistrius is a favorite, though, on me, it’s very much a skin scent. Thanks again!

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