Perfume Directory

English Leather (1949)
by Dana (originally by MEM Company)


English Leather information

Year of Launch1949
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 171 votes)

People and companies

Originally byMEM Company
Parent CompanyPatriarch Partners > Dana Classics

About English Leather

English Leather is a masculine fragrance by Dana. The scent was launched in 1949

English Leather fragrance notes

  1. Top Notes
  2. Heart Notes
  3. Base notes

Reviews of English Leather

One of the first leather scents that I had discovered growing up as a kid. I would sneak into the medicine cabinets of family or friend's fathers to unscrew that sexy wooden cap and tap some of the liquid onto the back of my hand to sample. Truly a bold, aromatic musk with the starchy goodness of cedar to evoke a leathery sensation that I as a kid was fascinated by!

Since then, as a teen I would apply a couple dabs of English Leather on my face and revel in the "grown up" charm of this aftershave. A chypre par excellence, moving from citrus to mossy goodness and into a warm foundation.

As an adult, I have plenty of personal choices in my collection to use following a shave. However, whenever I want to enter into reverie for the days of old, I'll splash on some English Leather and reminisce to when my cologne sensibilities were young and developing. I'd say this is still a great, no-nonsense masculine scent even for today's man.
04th September, 2018
To me, this is an odd scent that strangely has me coming back for more.
I liked the deodorant, which to me, had a fresh musk scent, perhaps a little like Paul Sebastian mixed with Old Spice.

I later got the English Leather aftershave and it smells very different. The box says it's made by Dana in the USA. My first impression was a spacious, musty 80s hotel lobby covered in carpet. There's dimmed lighting, carpeted staircases, wood and gold fittings and the slight smell of stale smoke.

The next thing it reminded me of was carpet that had just been professionally cleaned.

The smell wasn't bad, but I couldn't imagine it smelling attractive or sexy. So I wrote it off for a while. Still, it has a strange allure and it smells almost comforting or nostalgic. I'm not sure where to place it. I've worn it a couple times just because I find it intriguing.

I don't know whether it smells like leather. It definitely doesn't smell like a new wallet, though. Perhaps it's meant to be a more raw form of leather. I don't get an 'old person' vibe, but that all depends on your association and what older people wear in your region. I have never seen it available in my country, so I doubt many older people are wearing it here.

All I can say is, it's not expensive, so give it a go and see if you like it. Remember, I'm talking about the aftershave, not the EDT, so I wonder how different the EDT might be.
17th April, 2018
English Leather was initially called "Russian Leather" as the story goes, and was launched sometime in the 1930's alongside a glut of other similarly-named scents, but when the Danish company MEM jumped shores to the US and relaunched it's scent globally from there, they found it wiser to re-name it "English Leather" for it's 1949 relaunch to prevent Americans avoiding the stuff due to cold war paranoia associated to anything calling itself Russian. I honestly think it was a good move in the long run, since even after the cold war ended, there really aren't very many scents calling themselves "English Leather", but there are simply tons going by the name "Russian Leather" or "Cuir de Russie" if using the French. English Leather, much like the earlier Old Spice (1937) and later Brut (1963), would also become so undeniably popular (and thus common), that like the aforementioned, sort of became a victim of it's own economy of scale after a point, gradually getting reformulated to oblivion in the name of profit margins long before IFRA ever made any imposed changes. English Leather was just as good a leather masculine as any in it's heyday, and remained in pretty stable condition until Renaissance/New Dana picked up the property from a failing MEM corp and proceeded to re-orchestrate it as they did Canoe (1936) from the old Dana portfolio they also acquired. From there on out, English Leather became every bit the Walmart-quality scent most know it to be now, and only got worse after IFRA restricted the oakmoss in it's base. This review is based off of 80's MEM (towards the end of their existence), but I've also owned various Dana iterations throughout the years and have smelled the newest, so they'll be touched upon a little further down. Suffice it to say older is better here, but as long as you don't buy stock any newer than early 2000's, you'll at least get to experience the true leather chypre it's supposed to be. Anything after 2011 for this stuff is pure tragedy however, but more on that later.

English Leather in it's original form is another strange example of both chypre and fougère thought processes merging into one. MEM and Dana have always called it a chypre, and it does mostly smell like a chypre to be honest, so we'll keep it at that. Lemon, bergamot, and orange meet with very pale lavender in the top, and the stuff already sets us up for the classic rigidly masculine dryness that most other aromatic citrus chypres in the late 40's through the 50's possessed. Rosemary floats into the picture alongside some iris in the middle, but the base comes on pretty fast afterward. Some sites list a honey note being in the middle but I can't for the life of me sense it. The base is oakmoss, cedar, vetiver, the tell-tale leather note, tonka, and a tiny puff of musk. The leather and cedar give this it's bite throughout, and the oakmoss alongside the vetiver in the vintage give it the thrumming staying power it's known for having. Overall English Leather in all MEM iterations stays bright, a tiny bit soapy (but nothing like an aromatic fougère per se), then gets a tad darker in the end with the vetiver, moss, and tonka, but never gets sweet with that tonka or musk due to the cedar counterbalance. No aldehydes or heavy florals in this leather scent, which may make it seem a tad crude next to other leathers past and future like Knize Ten (1924) or Aramis (1965), but considering this was made to be an affordable signature for the working man, I don't think the unknown nose behind it really was trying for sophistication. The original tag line for this was "Wear English Leather or Wear Nothing at All" so I can see this was just meant to be "the cologne" and not some kind of major artistic statement. It smells as it sounds, of a saddle-quality leather, with the bright opening and dry finish keeping it squarely in a no-nonsense leathery mode throughout the wear. It isn't the best, but it's easy to see why it was popular. Unfortunately, this is where all the praise ends for the original, affable, simple, but effective "everyday leather" scent for men, because once it became a dynasty, things slowly went downhill.

MEM had made a mint on English Leather by the 70's, and had greatly abused the name for an ever-expanding waistline of flankers, much like Shulton did with Old Spice around the same time. I won't bother listing all the various flavors English Leather came in, but there was over a half-dozen of them and they had the same effect of making English Leather seem like a brand unto itself rather than a standalone iconic fragrance, which I feel hurt it in the end. By the 80's English Leather was becoming quickly irrelevant, and so was MEM, which lead to it's acquisition. The first "New Dana" iterations of English Leather were fairly close to the original stuff, just a little brighter with heavier top notes and dwindled base notes, likely for frugality. The first major re-orchestration in mid-2000's made English Leather very powdery and shrill, reducing the base further and removing the soap, giving it that "nursing home talcum" quality that younger people associate with the stuff, damaging it's reputation with potential new buyers. I think the oakmoss was also quietly replaced with generic "tree moss" at the time too. All bets were off after 2011 however, with "Dana Classic Fragrances" as they were calling themselves at this point thinking that they could just substitute a proper mossy chypre base with a super musky and synthetic one from their recent English Leather Black (2007). This last change majorly shifted the scent from chypre back into fougère territory by not only restoring the slightly darker, soapier edge of the original, but by making it dominate, having the base almost entirely musk and coumarin alongside the cedar and vetiver. The top remains mostly unchanged but the end result is a version of English Leather that goes on similarly, but dries down all wrong, smelling like weird leather variety of Axe body spray. There's plenty of vintage left to ensure a proper English Leather experience, but don't expect it to knock you socks off in any form, and being a fan of dry mid-century men's chypres is still a prerequisite to fully enjoying this. In a nutshell, English Leather is a decent "when all else fails" casual/work leather scent, but only in vintage form.
17th April, 2018
A relative of mine gave me an English Leather(by MEM at the time) giftset one year for Christmas.They wore this cologne and I thought it smelled good,so it was to be my first scent.So likewise, probably five or six years in a row...always an English Leather giftset was under the Christmas tree. I'm not usually a disciple to vintage formulations except a few but English Leather is one of them.

The current formula has lemon oil, a lot of wood, a little bit of fresh leather. This does break down and take on a powdery form just like the original and that same cherry sweetness.

The vintage formula by MEM is more unique. I get bergamot filtering through a lot of old leather creating a tarnished effect. A little bit of lavender and a temporary hint of vetiver. Some wood to this fragrance. This fragrance has an alcohol edge to it which the current formula has as well. Then you get this mild cherry sweetness that reminds you of aromatic pipe tobacco. This fragrance becomes a musky and woody powder with the hints of that cherry and leather coming through. It smells old-fashioned but it's masculine and enjoyable.

Both formulas are low in projection and lasts 6-8 hours. The original formula by MEM gets good marks because it smells like how it was marketed which was being at the horse race track...captures the atmosphere quite well. The current formula makes you feel like you're sitting in a leather chair in a lounge with the wooden tables just freshly polished with Old English. It's not really surprising Dana ditched the older saddle and jockey hat image to a coat of arms to reflect a more men's club look.

English Leather is still a good fragrance but I can't emphasize enough to get your hands on a bottle of the MEM formula if you can. This is a classic and conservative styled men's fragrance- aquatics, fresh, and gourmand fans don't even bother. Go back to your bubble gum scents, neon car lights, and rap music.
10th January, 2017 (last edited: 12th October, 2019)
mkpunk Show all reviews
United States
I tried this about a year ago after seeing it was still around as I remembered the "some guys have it all" commerical playing in constant rotation for ESPN. The first time I tried it, I didn't like it. So I did few more times to see if the bad smell from my first trial was simply bad luck, however I found it wasn't. This is the definitive "wet dog" cologne. I'd only suggest it if your body chemistry works with it. Mine don't.
22nd May, 2016
It's such a simple old-school lemon/bergamot top, a little bit of oak moss in the middle, and a cedar-y leather base.

It's really easy to overdo it with the cologne, which has been stated by several reviewers. My technique is to splash the aftershave (after shaving, of course) and put small dabs of the cologne behind the ears and on the wrists. That's all you need for a full day of awesome scent.

No geritol, cardigan wearing, velcro shoes and liniment, just a classic manly smell (when done correctly).
08th September, 2015

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