Tag Archives: Leather

Our Very Special Agent… Cuir de Lancome The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter 

Too suave, yes suave, a manly word for a woman just so: urbane, debonair, gallant.

Too suave for run of the mill family affairs and conventional celebrations, she turns up only where she feels she might be needed, only when she can be ‘of use’.

Unannounced, of course.

She ran around the world for forty years as the Empire gently unravelled, almost a diplomat not quite a spy, keeping our irons in the fire, giving lie to the James Bond idea of espionage.

The model of sophistication, an apotheosis of self-possession.

Above all, poised.


Now she arrives after a difficult birth or a messy divorce, to quell an unruly teen or bring an errant husband back into line.

She smoothes things out as she has always done: an iron will against the creased fabric of human existence.

These days she brings her force to bear on the domestic front.

Once it was in once grand hotel bars stranded in warzones like beached art deco liners. She rubbed shoulders with foreign correspondents and well-oiled middle aged men in import export. She quaffed fake Scotch and evaded unwelcome advances expertly. She retained her elegance though pressed against imperial oak panelling by the tiresome and overbearing flotsam and jetsam of the ex-patriati.

Today it is a cottage in Wiltshire, a flat at West Hampstead, a commuter’s semi in Altringham or a retirement villa in Aldeburgh.

The locations may have changed, the attitude and accoutrements remain the same.

Effortlessly polite to the point of insouciance, immaculately turned out in clothes one knows were made for her alone.

Her voice has lowered with age but her intonation is a pointed and brittle as it was when Britain still ruled the bulk of East Africa.

Her luggage is a wonder, her accessories, all leather, worth salivating over.

She travels in the manner of an aristocrat traversing the Atlantic to marry a tycoon before the great depression ruined everything.

A trunk in saffron scented calfskin that transforms into an armoire come dressing table complete with the aroma of antique make up. A second stowaway containing everything else she could possibly require.

One enormous, shapeless hide sack made soft and shiny and sweetly spicy with age and wear and care. The gold crest is almost invisible now, the words ‘Diplomatic Baggage’ nearly worn right away.

It may take two men to move her, but once installed, wherever she may be she relies on no one.

She is an island.

Removing her mandarin coloured driving gloves, she reveals their real fur insides and in turn her pianist perfect but ageing hands.

Tanned by endless exotic summers, the liver spots are joining up to form a single continent that will soon cover the entire surface save the pillar box red lacquer nails.

Hers is an elegance without any means of visible support that cannot exist forever.

In a day, maybe a week or two, conjugal crisis or intergenerational trauma resolved, she will disappear to no one knows where.

Will she be back?

Everyone always assumes so.

One day they will all be disappointed.

Cuir de Lancome by Lancome is possibly the most refined and elevated of birch tar perfumes ever created.

It is a leather scent with a presence and poise that seems almost entirely absent from the modern fragrance lexicon.

Sweet, deep, complex, aloof, alluring, floral and animal.

An entrancing set of contradictions held together by a thread of perfectly woven paradoxes.

Saffron and orange, both slightly sharp and sweet sparkle briefly at the opening.

The saffron broadens into an earthy floral accord with jasmine, ylang ylang and most recognisably to me hawthorn.

Both opening and pre-heart are quickly contained by the unspeakably rich leather of the base, which is not a base at all but serves as both structure and true heart to the fragrance.

This birch tar is like almost no other for it balances a lucid bitterness with luxurious resinous styrax benzoin and a sprinkling of fine maquillage powder iris.

These components and the floral accord then begin a conversation that lasts on the skin for several hours. At one moment the talk is all floral and saffron petals come to the fore, then there is a sweet smoked sensation the next a more familiar thigh length boot from Italy bought with a summer’s worth of savings smell.

It’s hard to say which part wins out in the end for, intriguingly, the perfume seems to conclude differently each time.

Indeed, though the effect of each individual element is entrancing it is the interplay between them that is quite exceptional.

Exceptional, there’s the word.

If Lancome’s Cuir were a woman her correspondence could bring down governments and the autobiography would be unstoppable, unputdownable.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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Dark night, Green Knight… La Nuit by Paco Rabanne The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

All Hallow’s Eve.


Four hundred feet tall the hall and twice as long again.

A human being hoard gathers beneath hammer beam ceiling to celebrate the old day’s death and the coming of the dawn bringing with it the return of holy souls.

At the upper table sit the twelve on their dais.

Joined only by England’s fairest rose. A rose queen fit for Camelot’s King.

Their leather layered armour lined with fur is laid aside for revelry and love’s sake. No swords raised so recently in religious anger to shed infidel blood will be unsheathed tonight.

Beyond their bethroned and handsome huddle the ugly crowd, craws and cranes to catch sight of the delights and delicacies their semi-deities dine on.

Here tankards of mead, that is honey wine, wash down plates of oriental sweetmeats: preserved peaches, clove pickled oranges and lemons from the heal of Italy.

The throng contemplates such meal time majesty as among them their beasts mingle with their own offspring. The cattle, the oxen, the sheep even. Their fur, their fleas, their faeces.

The whole hall is unwashed in animal grandeur.

Yet she, Guinevere, England’s flower shines out as if from on higher still.

Her peerless note of manicured and manured rose cutting through the woodmoke, the wooden beams, the mosses of the woods just waiting to burn.

Then the gigantic green unbidden figure appears.

Unarmoured in his enormity. Unarmed save for a extraordinary axe and an holy bow in other hand.

He booms: ‘Who will accept my challenge?

Rats flee, sheep scatter, men cower and children scream.

The Queen alone remains resolute.

One man steps forward.

‘I will’.

So the journey begins.

Paco Rabanne’s La Nuit is a perfume of the darkest, starless night, almost sacrilegious in its animalistic sexual intensity.

It is a fragrance both feral and fecal, given mediaeval epic length and grandeur by a structure of heavy moss-frosted wooden lintels.

And yet, at it’s heart there is a powerful rose. Which, at first appearing innocent, is too revealed to be both knowing and corruptible.


This is a scent of labour and war like aggression taken from the brink of actual violence by the be-stilling force of a floral feminine aspect.

Sadly lost to us for now, out of print and unregarded. As long as original manuscripts exist its mythic status can only grow.

So that tiresome modern question? Male or female?

I suggest you go read your sagas for the Witch and the Knight play equal parts in this story and should in this scent too.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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The Boss… Azuree by Estee Lauder The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Pop the champagne corks people the prima donna power woman has been promoted to the top.

She enters as always in a graphite pencil skirt sharpened to a point and beautifully tailored jacket tucked at the nearly-not-there waist then angularly out to fill full broad shoulders.

One significant piece of jewellery.

She snaps a greeting to the crowd then an invitation to the few: her office, vintage fizz on ice…


This crazy French  rush her only concession to her elevation.

Yes it has been hard work. 

There were others in the field.

Too right, they fell by the wayside.

Too bad.

Not the women they used to be.

She’s twice the woman she’s ever been.

The party over before it begins. She throws her Barda bag onto a glass and chrome coffee table where today as every day a fresh bunch of red carnations dressed with green grey moss buys time in a clear cube.

A feeble nod to a futile idea of femininity in a room that is a temple to the tanner’s art.

In the vestibule cringeing would-be colleagues cower on Barcelona chairs awaiting an audience with this new crowned empress of commerce.

Ushered in they sit on couches by le Corbusier, sipping too hot, too strong herb tea from constructivist espresso coffee cups while waiting to explain themselves.

It turns out their copy is, well, just not good enough.

The men leave. They are, if not fired, not hired either.

Appointments continue throughout the day, no let up in her manner no diminution of her power.

She departs in private elevator to chauffeur driven car to private elevator and finally top floor apartment.

Only the cheap take Penthouses, and then only for the articles.

At home and undressed, alone except for powder, she is poise and self possession personified.

An ornament of amber glows warmth across her expansive inner space.

Do they like her?

She laughs.

Does she care?

She doesn’t want love, affection, gratitude, infatuation, respect or even adoration.

She simply demands that they worship and obey her.

Azuree by Estee Lauder is to the power chypre what the Apollo moon rocket is to long haul air travel.

In these days of reductive reformulation she is a monument to ambition, quality of construction, projection and longevity, in every sense of that word.

Opening in a vertical trajectory, fueled by aldehyde and super charged bergamot, this scent is heading for the stars.

The interior of USS Azuree is pure leather, no PVC and hard plastics here.

In order to retain a sense of space age decorum, the more animalic elements are banished by a good strong bunch of synthesized herbs and a modest bouquet of boiled up blooms.

The pace is maintained a million miles or more, then, arriving at it’s destination our spacecraft scent slows almost to a stop, allows the softest of amber landings.

Mission accomplished.

Can a man wear it?

Azuree could be in a crowd of super heavyweight boxing champions and still be the butchest one in the room.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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