Aide de camp… Cuir de Russie by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter


He is an angular officer of the Tsar’s cavalry mounted on the back of a black thoroughbred horse.

Worldy, sensual, rough and exotic.

Yet at once, so you like to imagine, he has his vulnerabilities.

Imperceptible to others, he offers you, you fancy, glimpses of tenderness, hints at a struggle within vast and unending as the Russian Steppes themselves.

He is hide: black, burnished, animal and unclean.

He is not the polite, precise, bridled up leather of French equipage: a decorative saddle or bag fit only for fops on manicured ponies.

He is military leather, hardened by battle and burned birch.

A boot of a man, impervious to the elements and sentiment, unyielding and unconscious of compromise.

But wait, something does indeed reside beneath that apparently impenetrable surface.

With St Petersburg and the unconquerable splendour of Empire so too must come the soft underbelly. The Caucuses, the conquered kingdoms of Mohammedans, Cossacks and Stans.

A stolen kiss deposited at the back of his neck finds it redolent of the souk: cardamom, the charcoal burner of the water pipe and its sweet and flavoured tobacco, a slow cooking stew of meats and fruits and spices.

Retrace his steps. In your mind retrace his steps.

Travel through the bazaar of boots and belts and bags, cured to disguise from whence they came. Beyond the army supplier’s oleaginous smiles and eternal deals, without the Medina’s walls: here resides the truth.

The Tannery.

It’s filth, it’s excretia, it’s putrefaction. Its peerless beauty.

The inevitable and unbearable pain that brings forth such beauty.

And it is all too much amongst the stink of the skins.

He raises a pomade of flowers and bergamot to his nose, hoping hopelessly to ward off the evil.

Spinning on sculpted heal, turning his back on what actually is, he lights an old pipe with Spanish tobacco and departs in search of solace, anonymous sex and narcotic amnesia.

He will be yours for a moment, an hour, a day perhaps.

Then the next he will be another woman’s, another man’s and then another’s.

And so it goes on, inevitably, the decline into dust.

He is the angular officer of the Tsar’s cavalry mounted on the back of a black thoroughbred horse that every man and every woman wants to be or be with.

Cuir de Russie, even in its current, tamed, “dressage” form is an epic among the cuir class of scents.

Smoky, spicy, dirty, animal, burnt, hurt, floral, haunting.

This is perhaps the most anthropomorphic fragrance ever created.

A portrait in perfume of a leather-clad lover from the last days of imperial Russia.

A hopeless, joyous, pyrrhic but not-at-all pointless passion.

Perverse passion.

As with every aristocrat of a declining Empire, this officer is open to offers from anyone… at the right price.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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17 responses to “ Aide de camp… Cuir de Russie by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Dear Dandy, Cuir de Russie is a dream, is travel back in time, at the era of the Tsars. But tell me, where I can buy perfume version? Hugs from Chile 🙂

  2. rosestrang

    One of my all time favourites, I love it! Funnily enough a couple of friends were visiting recently and I asked them what smells they liked, my male friend liked the smell of coal tar, so I duly ran off and returned with Cuir de Russie, which inevitably smelled great (who does it not smell wonderful on?!)

    This passionate, stern and militaristic man you describe is redolent of all the romance and rough edge of Cuir de Russie, and I see what you mean about holding a pomade to his nose – a great touch Sir T.P.D., because I definitely see this pomade as the classic, slightly bourgeois (though never suburban) signature of vintage Chanel.

    Oh how I love Birch tar! I still haven’t found one as good as Cuir de Russie, and must buy Cuir de Lancome, though I’d be surprised if it’s as good as this!

    • Dearest Rose
      Yes, yes!! There is something bourgeois about all the great Chanel perfumes and they work best, I feel, when there is a tension between that conservatism and their inherent brutishness. Whether that be almost aggressive sexuality of No.5, the assertive green thrust of No. 19 or as in this case the nearly sado-machismo of Cuir de Russie.
      As for Lancome’s Cuir… let’s just say I own more than one bottle and that a review will appear over the next few weeks!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • rosestrang

        Hurray, a Cuir de Lancome review – I look forward to that! Chanel No.5 sadly doesn’t have ‘aggressive sexuality’ on me! I’ve never really ‘got’ N.5, but do love Arpege which is slightly warmer. Cuir de Russie though – S&M? I’m laughing away here, I’m so not a lingerer in Soho after hours, yet I love CdR! Also Chanel 19, which I’ve always found strangely gentle – maybe because of all the walks in the countryside as a child – anything with galbanum and vetiver is relaxing to my nose. It’s a pity contemporary Chanels don’t have that tension you describe, I’m hoping they’ll have a new, more experimental ‘nose’ there one day soon

      • Dearest Rose
        Arpege is warmer, quite heated actually and Van Cleef and Arpels’ First even more so to my nose.
        I do find Chanel 5 very sensual, in a knowing, authoritative way. But it is a perfume almost impossible to unpick from its own myth.
        I agree with you about galbanum… with the leather family one of my most favourite notes. However, I fear that whilst Chamade or Eau de Campagne may be comforting to our noses, others feel the chill wind of the Ice Queen’s approach whenever they are near.
        Vetiver… one of the great sadnesses is that Guerlain discontinued their brilliant ‘Pour Elle’, fortunately though it is perennially in fashion and new varieties are always emerging.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  3. It’s so intriguing that from these bottle of scent you have, stories of desire, and the kind of sex that infuses and drives our being, just flow… I have to write you an email tomorrow and see what’s going on with you, literary-wise 😉 .

    • Dearest V
      In this case there is an element of review copying art.. Coco had the perfume created in dedication to her Russian lover…
      Though is trip through the souks is more in my mind than either of their lives.
      I will look forward to that mail… but only if you have the time now!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Lilybelle

    I don’t know Cuir de Russie. Someday I will try it. There are several Chanels I’ve yet to be introduced to. My favorite Chanel is No. 22, which I imagine is as far away from Cuir on the Chanel spectrum as it gets. You’ve got me in the mood for stories from Russia now, Mr. D. I enjoyed your review very much, as always. Warm regards. L.

    • Dearest Lily
      Oh yes haha… No. 22 and Cuir de Russie are poles apart in some senses, though I, like you adore them both.
      Come to think of it, they do share a quality in common… they the logical conclusions of olfactory genres.. leathers and aldehydes.
      Funnily enough No. 22 has barely been recommended for me to try, perhaps this will all change when the Hit Parade starts again this week (technical hitches and telecom companies willing).
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Lilybelle

        I was searching your site here last night to see whether you had reviewed 22. I didn’t remember your doing so, and I couldn’t believe I would have missed your review of my favorite Chanel (so far). So I’ll propose No. 22 for a review when the hit parade starts up again. I’d love to read your review on it. Fluffy clouds of aldehydes, creamy florals, and slow burning incense, airy heaven-bound scent.

      • Dearest Lily
        Your vote is received and counted and who knows No. 22 could be on the ballot papers very soon indeed!
        “Fluffy clouds of aldehydes” sound splendid as we ease through the change of season.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  5. Daniela

    It has been a long time since I have read something as poignant, as vibrant and as sensual as your post on CdR … awakening melancholy and longing of Slavs, vast Russian lands, the glory, the decay, the loss … bottled inside a scent dedicated to a lover! Exquisite!

    • Dearest Daniela
      Welcome to The Dandy’s! I do hope you’ll make yourself at home. ‘The glory… the decay…” how eloquently you put it.
      And what a wonderful perfume CdR is.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Cuir de Russie (EdT, I haven’t had a chance to try the extrait version) is my favorite perfume and the only full bottle from this collection. Thank you for the inpiring review!

  7. Pingback: Laughs, Lemmings, Loves – Episode 37 | Undina's Looking Glass

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