Miss Marple, where were you when I needed you? Late last summer I stalked department stores in search of Cuir de Lancôme, a then-recent addition to Lancôme's La Collection range of vintage reissues. The word on the street was that it was supposed to be released in the United States sometime in early fall 2007. A sales associate at Saks Fifth Avenue rifled through some Lancôme sales packages and found something claiming that Cuir should have been released in spring 2007. Another sales associate, this one at Nordstrom, looked at me like he believed I was making it all up and proffered a bottle of Lancôme Sikkim with a busted atomizer. A lukewarm review over at Perfume Smellin' Things did little to chill my ardor, and news that Lancôme eventually decided not to release Cuir in the United States only made me crazier for it. I had to have a bottle of Cuir de Lancôme.
Finally, last month Cuir testers showed up at discounters in the United States, and within a few days I had a bottle in my hands. Was all the frenzy worth it? Especially to someone with six other leather-based perfumes in her cupboard? I think so.
Cuir de Lancôme is Calice Becker and Pauline Zanoni's reorchestration of a 1936 Lancôme fragrance called "Révolte", which was later renamed the more peaceful "Cuir". Osmoz France describes the new Cuir as a floral chypre with top notes of bergamot, mandarin, and saffron; a heart of jasmine, ylang ylang, hawthorn, and patchouli; and a base of iris, birch, and styrax.
Cuir is a creamy leather scent, more along the sueded lines of Serge Lutens Daim Blond or Parfum d'Empire Cuir Ottoman than the rougher, oilier Knize Ten, Caron Tabac Blond, or even vintage Dior Diorling. It isn't as austerely elegant as Chanel Cuir de Russie. I never thought of how saffron can mimic the slightly medicinal hit of leather until I smelled it in Cuir. Cuir's heart has a green, floral feel that lightens it compared to some other leather scents, but I can't pick out the patchouli. Its drydown smells to me of sandalwood and tonka or vanilla, and over the hours Cuir sweetens and flattens. I don't read it as powdery at all. Also, Cuir's sillage is deceptive. It's soft enough that you think it will cling to you, but other people will notice it. A few sprays of Cuir last all day. It would smell great on a man, too.
Overall, Cuir is a sophisticated, camel-colored cashmere sweater with a form-fitting cut that goes with jeans or a haute couture suit — sort of a Cate Blanchett of scent. I'd wear it in almost any weather, except for the dog days of summer, and it would be a great scent for travel since it fits just about any occasion. When I wear it, I feel comfortable rather than exotic, and adaptable rather than idiosyncratic, but still beautiful.
Maybe I don't exactly experience the drama of the text on Cuir's box when I wear it: "A woman steps inside the luxurious lobby of a Parisian Hotel. She embodies those women who possess infinite charm, timeless grace, a unique presence...Ethereal, almost unreal, she drifts toward a small marble table where a bouquet of flowers and a note await her...her fulfillment is absolute and unveiled." But I don't mind. I'm happy just to smell really nice.
Cuir de Lancôme comes in 50 ml Eau de Parfum, and can be found at many of the online fragrance discounters.
Note: image via cosmopolitan.co.uk.