A wonderful surprise! It deserves more attention than the massive shrug it seems to have gotten around the Internet. It's a floral leather in the vein of Chanel's Cuir de Russie and Cuir de Lancome, but is far heavier on the birch tar than either of these, and therefore considerably smokier. The leather is also a little bit more butch, with the opening reminding me strongly of the cracked leather in Bandit. But this is a brief impression - as the scent progresses, the leather becomes this soft, supple handbag leather.
What's important to mention here is that Cuir Fetiche, while not filthy, is not exactly the clean, sanitized thing reviewers seem to paint it as either. In fact, it contains a good deal of properly dirty animal pong. The dirtiness is coming from a powerful musk that runs up from behind the opening leather note, and totally dominates it from that point onwards.
There is also quite a bit of filthiness coming from the florals, which, surprisingly for me, I can smell very, very distinctly as a very indolic jasmine and a fabulously fleshy ylang. Usually in these floral leathers, I can pick up a fuzzy outline of florals but can't really distinguish separate flowers in the mix - here I can. The florals are in clear focus here. Although I am not a big floral lover, the floral accords here are extremely enjoyable. The jasmine in particular smells like it is decaying straight off the vine and into my lap. The indoles in the jasmine act as a sort of bridge to the dirtiness of the musk, enclosing the leather accord in an aura of naughty naughty.
I really like this one. It's probably a bit redundant in my fragrance wardrobe because I already own more Cuir de Russie than I could possibly use in a lifetime, as well as a bottle of Cuir de Lancome, and a decant of Cuir Pleine Fleur. But I do think it brings something new to the table - first of all, I am not sure I have seen a leather that derives its animalic pong from a dirty musk before, and I am pretty sure that I have never seen a leather accentuated with such delineated and realistic florals either. It smells both natural and naturalistic. Definitely worth considering if you are into the leather genre in particular, and easily unisex.
If the name “Cuir Fétiche” and Maître Parfumeur et Gantier’s reputation for unapologetically blunt compositions have you anticipating a raunchy, animalic, S&M leather, you’re in for a disappointment. After a crisp, tart citrus top note, Cuir Fétiche is a straight-up smoky birch tar leather scent, with antecedents in Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, Cuiron, Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather, and the old Tabac Blond, among others. In character it’s less floral than Cuir de Russie, though also - name notwithstanding - less animalic, as it exhibits neither huge iris nor the conspicuous civet that come with the Chanel. It is also smokier and a bit harsher in texture than either Cuiron or Cuir de Russie. However, if it’s transgressive, biker bar leather that your after, you’ll do better with Montale’s no-holds-barred Oud Cuir d’Arabie.
If Cuir Fétiche’s early stages conjure echoes of its worthy predecessors, the drydown is very much a thing unto itself: a soft and civilized blend of sandalwood, a very warm, clean musk, and the very merest hint of patchouli. In case you’re wondering, Cuir Fétiche is in no way redundant to the other leather in the Maître Parfumeur et Gantier portfolio, Parfum d’Habit. Where Parfum d’Habit centers on vetiver and patchouli, Cuir Fétiche builds on an accord of birch tar and labdanum, staking out an entirely different approach to “leather” in olfactory terms. While it doesn’t deliver on the naughty promise of its name, Cuir Fétiche is a solid, appealing, high quality leather scent, and I’m comfortable recommending it to anyone seeking a versatile, unisex leather.
I think this is a really beautiful floral take on leather, and it's character is light and diffusive, no heavy sticky resins lurking here. The ylang-ylang really stands out on my skin. For me it's a very comfortable, elegant leather for day wear and quite feminine. I chose it when hunting for a new leather and after sampling every leather I could get my hands on. It was a goldilocks moment in which this one seemed 'just right'. In the past I've worn Cuir de Russie and Daim Blond, so I guess that gives an indication of the type of leather I like... not very leathery-leather!
Light leather fragrance. Soapy, floral heart. Lists ambergris in the notes, which is fascinating, yet I detect a bit of “ashtray” here, a subtle smokiness that is off-putting. Definitely won’t replace Cuir de Russie, Jolie Madame, or Tabac Blonde in my estimation.
I was expecting a bit of a leather bomb going off in my face, but it is surprisingly and pleasantly refined in it's rendition. CF is an exercise in smokey sandalwood with an undercurrent of leather + musk to keep the longevity going. If you like Rien or Knize Ten, you may find this a bit tame. Me, I love it.
PS. Santal Noble is readily available again -- it still smells like the original also.