After seeing that Guerlain's L 'Art et la Matière collection included another vanilla-dominant fragrance (in addition to Spiritueuse Double Vanille), I had to try Cuir Beluga, and on the whole, it did not disappoint.
I'm not sure I have much to add beyond concurring with the consensus---CB is, to me, a vanilla-dominant fragrance with elements of powder, leather, and perhaps even the amber note that is listed. Comparing it to SDV, CB is more limited on projection and longevity, less the burst and chorus of vanilla (that SDV is) and more so a symphony of mixed instruments, the most dominant of which is the vanilla. As others have noted, CB is safer and more work-friendly than SDV for the reason that the vanilla projects somewhat less, but CB is still a strong composition with respect to the performance expectations of a high-end EDP.
Comparisons of CB to Tonka Imperiale have less merit, given the absence of the vanilla overlap that CB has with SDV.
Overall, Cuir Beluga is a fantastic unisex vanilla-dominant fragrance that should be tried by both vanilla-lovers and lovers of SDV alike. Given that I already have SDV and TI, I'm not sure I'd opt for a bottle unless I got a special deal, but even though I love both SDV and TI, I'd still encourage others to perhaps try CB as they may like it more, especially given the cost of the items in this collection by Guerlain.
9 out of 10
True luxury never shouts. Cuir Beluga is perhaps the smoothest, richest, and most refined vanilla-dominant fragrance I own. Wearing it makes you feel like you’re being rubbed down with a silk cloth by a butler. It is rather minimalistic for a Guerlain, and doesn't evolve much, but when something smells this good, I couldn't care less. At the opening, I get a brief flash of a mandarin-tinted liqueur – Grand Marnier perhaps – before we slip into a warm bath of silky vanilla, suede, and heliotrope, a sort of luxury-car-on-cruise-control gear where the perfume will stay for most of the ride.
This is a Guerlain vanilla that’s been through several filters. It is recognizably the Guerlain vanilla used in Shalimar, but here it’s been double-strained through a muslin cloth to remove all the impurities that give Shalimar its famous ‘burning tires and soiled nappies’ edge. The heliotrope gives up its faintly almond-like flavors to the putty-like cream, but it is like a paste of pulverized almonds rather than the full-on fudge of marzipan. The almond accents here are of the most pale and refined sort – unsweetened, and reminiscent only of the naturally milky, mild flavor of the nuts themselves. The texture is both buttery and powdery, like the inside of a white chamois leather glove that has been dusted with talcum powder so as to ease a lady’s hand in without any vulgar pushing. The suede is accented with a dusting of anise, which adds a faintly savory, almost salty-metallic feel to the fragrance. These salty, skin-like notes are what conjure up the feel of a true, fine ‘cuir’ here, and save it from being just another gluttonous gourmand scent. This is a fragrance that is drop-dead beautiful, and I get a lot of pleasure from wearing it. Inarguably over-priced, yes, but I can’t seem to find anything that comes close to it.
From beginning to end, this fragrance speaks of luxury. Like white suede chamois gloves or the soft white leather interior of a luxury car, it doesn't get any better than this.
Initially I get a very delicate, sparkling mandarin orange balanced by aldehydes. The soft, vanilla-heliotrope background is joined by the dry, honey-like texture of immortelle flower. Followed by Amber and more vanilla in the dry down.
This is a minimalist composition of only 15 ingredients, this is very different for a Guerlain fragrance (most of which are very rich and complex). I think that whilst this is minimalist, it speaks of quality all the way through.
A beautifully balanced, quiet, sweet and soft fragrance which really lets people know you have taste. In a class of its own, really.
Finally I have the privilege to test on skin this heavenly rare potion, one of the great luxurious leathers of the worldwide olfactory panorama and one of the holiest examples of the Guerlain's historical "Grandeur". Cuir Beluga is holy, "palatin" and aristocratic, the best quality of smooth immaculate (extremely polished) leather around which is in this case treated, depurated and gentled by a magic whiff of historical Guerlinade as it uses to perform "soaked" of indolent hesperides, starring eliotrope, nobiliar patchouli, star aldehydic dust, may be orris root and luxurious amber/vanilla in to an ideal mix combining all together the original Heritage, the new Shalimar Parfum Initial, Etro Heliotrope, a touch of Derby, a tad of Grossmith Phul-Nana, a whiff of the vintage Habit Rouge's (and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle's) final patchouli veined powder and the Chanel Cuir de Russie's sacre dry down. Probably secret hints of almond, rose, iris, musk, petitgrain and ylang-ylang take harmonically part to the swirling dusty/translucent liturgic ceremony. Yes, the leather is not hefty or animalic (you don't feel the tannery atmosphere) but almost shy and silky like the best quality of chamise. The luxurious powder is immensely complex, spicy, oily, leathery, incensey, floral, balmy and rooty-earthy and "shipwrecking is so sweet in all that sea". The leather unveils by soon its vaguely liquid/hesperidic/salty magic undertone, makes along the trip itself to be caressed and cuddled by all that classic white dusty Guerlinade standing finally out as the most velvety example of balmy-eliotropic suede ever inhaled. This fragrance is over the top.
This opens with a gorgeous creamy vanilla coupled with a leather suede note. Within this are hints of the citrus mandarin note and I must say this is lovely.
As time passes a amber note gives the vanilla that extra full body sweetness but never overwhelms. Also within this beautiful composition floral notes can be detected. Giving the fragrance a extra layer of complexity.
To sum up a exquisite enigmatic amber vanilla fragrance that has hidden facets of leather and florals just waiting to be explored.