Taking into consideration perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï’s description1 (and name) of her new perfume and its notes list2…you might expect Parfums de Nicolaï Cuir Cuba Intense to be the scent equivalent of laying inside a new leather trunk on cushions stuffed with highly scented cured tobacco leaves. In press materials, Nicolaï raves about the aromas of dried tobacco leaf, unlit cigars, and even cigar boxes.
Cuir Cuba Intense is too sophisticated to simply replicate, literally, tobacco and leather aromas; it’s so sophisticated it barely brings them to mind at all!
When first applied, Cuir Cuba Intense smells of vibrant minty lemon mixing with anise and licorice; Cuir Cuba Intense's first hint of smokiness is provided by a rough sage note, muddled spices and dry herbs. A smooth cumin note mixes with the herbs to provide a savory gourmand “cooking” aroma in mid-development. Also introduced in Cuir Cuba Intense’s heart is an airy and fresh floral accord (smelling of no specific flower...well, maybe synthetic "magnolia"); this accord keeps the fragrance from becoming too dense or "solid" but it keeps me from loving Cuir Cuba Intense. Perhaps this flower accord was designed to add tobacco's floral element, but a natural-smelling (and indolic, not fresh) tobacco flower (nicotiana), or even rose, jasmine or iris, would have been more welcome for me than artificial, clean magnolia. (The florals last and last and become even more apparent in Cuir Cuba Intense's extreme dry-down.)
Cuir Cuba Intense’s base is subtle but long-lasting; its muskiness seems provided by tobacco leaf’s (and leather's) darker/semi-animalic aspects; I don’t detect any tobacco notes that remind me of cigars, cigar boxes or fresh tobacco leaf. (I’m from Virginia and I KNOW those aromas.) Cuir Cuba Intense’s base also contains caramelized amber notes with lots of sweet patchouli (but even those notes can't compete with the fresh floral accord).
In overall character, Cuir Cuba Intense reminds me of the Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure scents, but with added dimension and a tad more “risk”/uniqueness. My only gripe? Cuir Cuba Intense's too-fresh, too-clean, white flowers. Cuir Cuba Intense's floral accord may please YOU, so, do give the perfume a sniff. Fragrance lovers who usually don't like straight-up tobacco in fragrances may find Cuir Cuba Intense's "abstract" tobacco easier to enjoy.
Parfums de Nicolaï Cuir Cuba Intense Eau de Parfum is available in 30 ml ($65) and 100 ml ($185). For buying information, see the listing for Parfums de Nicolaï under Perfume Houses.
2. Listed notes of lemon, anise, licorice, magnolia, ylang ylang, sage, lavender, geranium, mint, cumin, coriander, patchouli, iris, tobacco, hay, cedar, musk, civet.