Perfume Reviews

Positive Reviews of English Leather by Dana

Total Reviews: 37
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.Looking back on English Leather I'd say men born between 1950-1985 came in contact with this cologne from their dad,uncle,or grandfather.Though it was significantly cheaper than say Aramis,Dunhill for Men, or Polo's still in the foundation of masculinity that forged a man's fragrance.

English Leather by MEM:
Out of the bottle and when this cologne dries smells very nice!Drying down though it's one to be patient with.On initial splash you'll get white soap and aged leather,a bit of lemon oil,and wood.But you get this odd smell in the mix that reminds me of a cross between a rubber band and hay until it dries.After that it remains constant of leather and gets much lighter in soap and the citrus becomes a ghost so to speak.Develops a warmer character to the wood and gets a little powdery.Not baby powder though as it gets a little sweet...possibly a hint of vanilla.Strangely with the wood it has a kind of pipe tobacco tone to it that reminds me of an old smoke shop.I got about 6 hours from English Leather,but it was a low projection scent.I could smell it very faintly,if the breeze hits just right,or someone close was beside me.

English Leather by Dana:
I don't get soap from this one,but a base of lemon oil.Still a good amount of leather and wood though.The Leather is a tad different as it seems to be fresh and new leather rather than an aged form like the MEM formula had.Either that or the lemon oil lends a cleaner form to it.It still develops the wood and slightly vanilla powder stage,but I think the leather gets a little lighter in the background...yet the citrus is still detectable as a light note.In my opinion Dana's formula doesn't last longer than the MEM formula.But I do find the juice is just a little bit stronger in projection.Dana's formula has a different feel.You're in a empty Victorian era house and the hardwood floors were just cleaned with lemon oil.You sit in a leather chair and notice the end table's finish is worn off and can smell the wood with the sunlight beaming down.On that table is a marble ashtray supporting a pipe with freshly lit Captain Black pipe tobacco in it that you smelled the moment you entered.

I think when it comes to both versions of English's hard to say which is better.If Dana's formula was the original English Leather?I'd be just as happy with it.The MEM formula though I liked that under the soap resided a dirty and dark leather.Dana's formula is fine...but try the original English Leather by MEM if you get the chance.
10th January, 2017
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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english leather is the best of the drugstore colognes out there along with pierre cardin which is the strongest I have worn. english leather is a very masculine strong fragrance that last for hours. it has a macho sex appeal to it that one can't help feeling in a sexual mood. it's a classic that seems to hardly changed unlike other drugstore colognes I have tried.
06th January, 2014
Haven't used this stuff in a while(since the '70s, when I was a child....TWICE!!!), but it's certainly a classic!
06th December, 2013
Ahem!, my first review on Basenotes...

This review is for the MEM company after shave. First off, I'm quite enthusiastic about this after shave for it has absolutely no burn, therefore it has little alcohol content. Some alcohol is good in an after shave for it's anti-septic qualities but too much alcohol in an A/S can feel like liquid fire. Anyways, this is absent of any appreciable amount of alcohol

In the opening going on I get a light lime (citrus) note, some leather and what smells to me of sandalwood. Could be the leather and moss playing together. Through the dry down the woods come out to mingle with the rest of the cast. Just lovely IMO. Longevity isn't there for me nor should it in a discreet after shave
25th April, 2013
This is based on the English Leather after shave or cologne of 1976, whatever an awkward teenager would borrow from his older brother for his first semi-formal dance.

I was the awkward kid's dance partner, and I remember snuggling my head onto the lapel of his suit and smelling sandalwood and something else comfortable and mossy that made me want to keep my head there all night. It might have made me think of a library in an old house - leather and pipe tobacco? I don't remember any citrus notes. According to other kids he told later, I kept saying he smelled good, then sneezing.

Since I was awkward too, we both just waved goodbye, and that was the end of things. The smell of his suit still makes me happy after 36 years. It's just now occurring to me that maybe he never put on the English Leather himself. Maybe he borrowed the suit from his big brother, and I was just getting the leftover scent from the week before.
19th December, 2012
English Leather is a nice old, masculine, grandfathery cologne. The first impression I got was of alcohol and fake lemons. But after a few minutes it warmed up into a very nice mossy, pencil shaving scent. Woodsy. There remained a bit of a synthetic feel though. But what makes English Leather great is that cool down when the wood and moss fades out and then it's leather, leather, leather. Some reviewers say that if you like this cologne you don't know what leather smells like, but I grew up in the country around saddles and boots and fresh leather and that's what this is- fresh leather. Not old saddle leather, but if you bought a strip of belt leather to tool, that's what this smells like. Pretty good for a cheapo scent, and they are my standbys.
16th November, 2012
Swanky Show all reviews
United States
English Leather is a comforting fragrance. For men of a certain era, whose fathers came of age in the 50s and 60s and wore this, a bottle of English Leather represents a certain masculine ideal. We scions have rebuked our fathers' racism and sexism (at least most of us have) while maintaining a kind of brand loyalty to a notion of manhood ever vanishing. Fragrances such as Old Spice, Clubman and English Leather provide a sense memory, a memory of school plays, graduations, barbecues, baseball games and the smell of Dad. On this Father's Day, it is appropriate to remember a classic symbol of Man in all of his facets.

English Leather is a rite of passage and an underrated mainstay in a masculine arsenal. For those who believe history began with Nirvana, who only follow trends, and who scoff at anything preceding their birth, it's a pity that you'll break the lineage. Odds are that one of your forerunners had this on his skin when he slid across his first car's seat to kiss that girl, which eventually led to your advent.

What other fragrance smells like it? To this day, it is an individual. In an era when lockstep is advised, it's refreshing and commendable that English Leather still beats its solitary lime and leather drum.
18th June, 2012
Very heavy scent. Smells completely different in the bottle than it does on my skin. It smells like just pure manly, spicy leather out of the bottle. I only notice the citrus on my skin.

Don’t really get the middle notes here. Seems to fade straight into the woody & leather base notes.

The scent’s not bad per se. It’s in its own class in a way. Other scents are ‘English Leather’ scents – it’s hard to put this in a category. It’s extremely cheap & saying that EL is ‘nothing fancy’ is an understatement. It’s very base & cloying – but not altogether in a bad way. It’s not that bad of a scent, but it is also very mature. Using it for a couple hours (very lightly mind you) is fine, but after a couple of hours on me – there’s just something that tells me that I’m much too young to be wearing this. There’s a bit of old mannish-ness to this. The scent itself would probably get a thumbs-down if that was all I was considering. It’s tolerable if you’re going by scent alone IMO.

Dies down after about 6-7 hours on me, so it’s got pretty decent longevity. The sillage is good. You barely have to splash any on this stuff is so strong. It also has the ability to be offensive if you’re wearing too much. I imagine that EL is a bit of an acquired fragrance. All in all, probably a cog in anyone’s fragrance library; not the best, but a must-have, especially for the price. A thumbs-up from me reflects EL’s history, notoriety, price, and decent scent.
02nd May, 2012
Just a f---in' manly scent. A no-nonsense, rugged, but gentlemanly type of scent. It's not a high brow scent, but it's got class. I mainly wear it when I'm doing something active (physical labor or sports).

It is a very simple fragrence. It comes on strong with the turpine, tar, and citrus notes on application. On the dry down, the woods start to work its way through. The tar and turpine notes start to evolve into a creamier, oakier note along side the woods. The citrus notes eventually lose their sweet and acidic tops, but they linger on through the bitter peel zest notes in the heart, which temper the creamy oak notes.
24th February, 2012
An old gentleman, English Leather is one of the few vintage colognes to stand the test of modern retailer and consumer taste and time and is a stalwart at Christmas in drugstores and discounters across North America. Of all the Dana Classics readily available, this is by far the most accessible to all ages and tastes. Enough has already been said about the reformulation and I won´t dwell on it, but despite the move towards a less leathery and barbershop cream scent and towards a more direct, dryer creation, English Leather offers one of the best bargains in fragrance around.
The notes in this one pretty much sum up its simplicity, but don´t confuse that with a lack of sophistication. This is one of the nicest dry-downs around, revealing a wonderful sandalwood layer that overtakes the early lemon and lime top notes that flicker out relatively quickly. It can border on cloying for some because at its core it is very synthetic and Dana takes shortcuts in the ingredients that the original did not.
Still, an essential purchase with very decent longevity and projection compared to much more expensive and lower-performing frags on the market. Can be found in gift sets after Christmas in abundance for cut-rate prices at most bargain discounters, hold out for the larger spray cap bottle if you can, projects better and seems better blended than the smaller sample viles.
02nd March, 2011
This review is for the vintage, since I haven't sniffed the current production.

My memory of the topnotes was confirmed by the old 'MEM' bottles I have, circa 1980... kind of soapy, citrus and a bit musty. Not very 'leather' really, but immediately recognizable and true to my memories.

But the drydown... what a surprise! Once the topnotes fade, the vintage Old Leather leaves you with a very rich sandalwood. In fact, it's one of the best sandalwood scents I've ever smelled.

For those who enjoy sandalwood, vintage EL should be a 'must have'.

21st January, 2011
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I love it! It's a beautiful perfume for classics men, is a "jazz" of parfumes!
19th January, 2011
My favorite aspect of English Leather is the classic smells-like-it-sounds name that is seldom if ever employed in the modern industry. If you've smelled this one before, you hear 'English Leather' and associate with it leather, lime, moss, countryside, affable, courteous, utilitarian, reliable, everyday, familiar. He's always been around and no one seems to mind the company.
04th January, 2011
I have an entirely new found love and respect for this cologne. I found some in my drawer, but it's no longer going to be there.. it's out of hibernation, and on the dresser with all the others.

What I get out of it that I never got before, is a very fresh opening; citrus and limes, the lime note is amazing, but doesn't last long, nor does the citrus top. It smoothly blends into the mossy notes, which are sweet, dry, resinous and somewhat earthy. The middle becomes a bit powdery, which is not something I love, but the mossy notes eventually cancel it out before it once again very SMOOTHLY switches into the leather base. I'd say the leather in this is a bit synthetic smelling, and not very modern, but still delightful, and a pleasure to wear.

This should be a staple in every man's collection. I just wish they made an EDT spray, with better longevity and projection.. but then again, that would ruin the legend that English Leather is.
06th December, 2010
shamu1 Show all reviews
United States
It is true that this does not smell like the English Leather I remember my father wearing in the 1970s, but to say that there's no leather in English Leather anymore is nonsense. Yes, English Leather obviously has been reformulated, and I would go so far as to say that it's a completely different fragrance than from 40 years ago.

The difference now is that the leather accord is much more subtle, and that citrus and wood notes now play just as much of a role as leather does in the current English Leather. English Leather now smells like a more concentrated classic eau de cologne, with wood notes and leather acting as fixatives and adding color to what would have otherwise been a bland cologne. It is not sweet like the original EL, and has an overall very dry feeling.

I won't go so far as to say that English Leather is improved over the earlier version, but it is just as good, even if it is very different. I look at the new formulation as a reinterpretation of the classic leather fragrance. I like this scent very much.
11th February, 2010
The review by vintage*red is on the mark, regarding the new (Dana) English Leather versus the original (Mem Company) English Leather. Those of us who survived the 60's can surely remember the creamy, saddle-soapy fragrance of original English Leather cologne. The reborn Dana version seems only like a distant cousin to the original. I have a chicken-and-the-egg dilemma: does English Leather really smell like saddle soap, or does saddle soap kindle memories of English Leather as how saddle soap should smell? Now I'll toss and turn as I ponder that one...

I am fortunate to own both a bottle of *original* Mem English Leather Cologne (thanks to patience, persistence and eBay), as well as a bottle of Dana English Leather Cologne. The Mem version is so, so much better and it gives me flashbacks from the late 60's. (To avoid becoming a persona non grata, every young man just had to own this delicious cologne). The longevity of the Mem version seems considerably more abbreviated than I recall, but then the bottle is decades old and might have lost a little potency. Still, for a few hours it gives a wonderful leathery/soapy aura if modestly applied. Foetidus is correct on that point - overuse the original Mem version and it can be potent enough to fill a fair-sized arena. I probably won't use either version very often as my tastes have evolved somewhat over the years, but wouldn't be embarrassed for one moment to take another ride back to the 60's on the English Leather train. Matter of fact, while the thought is fresh, tomorrow might just be the day.
04th September, 2009
Saddlesoap and flowers, as I sometimes think of it. I think the barbershop that my mom always took me to as a small child smelled like this, and I only recently realized it. I guess it's mostly old-fashioned flowery soap with a little bit of something incensey? I struggled with whether it's so flowery as to be effeminate, but I think that this question is ultimately moot with English Leather. It's more of a clean-man than a manly-man scent, and I'm sure that's how it was intended: for fine, upstanding, well-groomed, clean-shaven gentlemen in their offices, hard at work during a time of post-war prosperity. Naturally it's not as strong as all the later EdTs, but since I'm sure this was meant more as an splash-on augmentation to one's aftershave than as a statement on its own, I won't criticize it for weakness. A fairly good cheapy.
12th July, 2009
wjlamp is sooo lucky to have discovered a vintage bottle! I used to wear this in the sixties before it was "permissible" for unisex fragrances and I loved it! There was a very rich, sexy-sweet quality about the leather note that is lacking in any of the leather fragrances that I have tried lately (although I have not tried the new Chanel). The new versions of this scent are adequate but not special. 5 stars for the old; 3 stars for the new.
03rd June, 2009
This was my Dad's cologne, I still have a bottle that reminds me of him. In fact my Mom commented how much she liked smelling this on pop. It is not bad for a drug store scent, it is artificial though. Kind of an artificial leathery soapy scent. It is very strong and lasts a good while.

Not the best cologne at the grocery store but not the worst. I give it a thumbs up simply for nostalgia and memories of my pop.
30th September, 2008
Lady Luck is beautiful but blind.

Yesterday, while I was browsing at the local bazaar, downtown Athens, I stumbled upon a pile of cheap Chinese made perfumes $3 ,a piece.
Shiny colors fancy packaging and all the assorted paraphernalia.
Excusing myself to the poor seller,I tried to get out ,carefully,without damaging the merchandise.
Accidentally,a small brown cube of glass with a round wooden cap,fell off the pile.
Yes it was an English Leather cologne.Not Dana's,mind you,It was a MEM.!!!
Holly ones, a vintage EL,in a pile of garbage...
To cut a long story short,the seller found only 4 of them in the whole lot. He asked $ 10 for all,wholesale price (sic).
Needless to say I bought them.

The last time that I had one original MEM English Leather,was in 1981,a leftover in a small,local, going out of business store,

A lovely fragrance.

As I always say,it's up to the individual. The perception of an airy fragrant wave, is always a matter of a momentarily lapse. The smell of that elixir,is heady,from minute one. As all the fragrances of the leathery kind,and I had a lot of them including KNIZE 10 , this beauty lasts on me, a good twelve hours give or take one,with no change. May be my pH is neutral,or leathery,( smiles). I don't know.

What I do know, is that I have 16 oz, of an old precious juice, seasoned like vintage wine,that boldly rhymes and rhymes.
A thumbs up, I hear you say? Not only....
29th September, 2008
One of my all time favorites. This stuff is just righteous!
06th September, 2008
I gave this one a try again. And grateful I did. The after shave is smoother, not simply lighter, more balanced. This is still IMO one of those light/heavy scents where moderation is defintely the best policy. Too much of the cologne, especially on the chest, a somewhat cloying depressing effect. But 2-4 shots of the cologne distributed, at least for me, is not only fine but somewhat refined.

This is indeed an improved reformulation where in the past I never applied EL cologne with a spray but with fingertip drops. This new and improved EL (except in the minds of purists) allows for expansion/retention of the citrus (a clean mixture of maybe lemon, some orange blossom) and the woods at some point with olfactory illusions? of a kind of raw mint or sage, flashes here and there, of that "hint of mint" of a long ago promo, with also more room for what appears when passing back and forth between notes, ah yes, brief hits of leather. There are even moments before the citrus fades when things seem slightly lime.

Clean, retro with a drydown much less outdated than many other classics. The new EL evolves into a very wearable natural scent with a calculus that defies its synthetic ingredients. Slightly sweet, dry, fresh, with enough warmth.

My only edit is to add this: the new EL is one of the most underrated scents out there in any category.. Call it a poor man's everyday niche scent if you will. English Leather rocks!!!

28th August, 2008 (last edited: 07th July, 2011)
tnamey Show all reviews
United States
The first cologne I ever purchased. I must have a leather fetish and consider this a more basic scent than the sophisticated Knize Ten, the "sumptuous" Creed. It remains a standout, by any measure. Who cares if it is inexpensive and a drug store purchase. I agree it a casual, all around scent that almost everyone likes.
10th August, 2008
tanto Show all reviews
United States
This is one of my all time favorites. I wore this back in high school 40 years ago (it was very popular then). To this day, I feel very comfortable wearing EL. Yes, I have more expensive brands but EL to me is always right for almost any occasion and any time of day. It is clean smelling and very manly. Whenever I wear EL, people will always ask me what cologne I have on. Many times, the "old classics" are more favorably appreciated than the newer ones (which are often very strong, synthetic, and over bearing). If you're a guy who just wans to smell clean and fresh, English Leather will never let you down!
18th June, 2008
The first scent I've bought based on basenotes reviews - so I wanted to start with something inexpensive. What a bargain! I'm amazed that it's possible to buy such a great aftershave for £6 ($12) a bottle.

Goes on with a quite unpleasant and powerful chemical twang but this dies quickly and within half an hour is undetectable. It's been replaced by a really gentle warm scent which lasts ages and has good sillage but is not overpowering. It's clean and masculine in a nothing to prove sort of way and does indeed smell of cheap brand new leather. An easy to wear comfortable scent for days when you just want something relaxed and pleasant. At the price you can't go wrong.
18th June, 2008
This a definite classic. Think of a fragrance like Aramis, though much more complex, lively, and well-rounded. Sandalwood and oakmoss seem to dominate the base, with just a hint of sweetness. The middle and top notes seem vaguely citrus, but I cannot place the rest of them. Despite the name, I don't think it is particularly "leather" scented, it is more of a "woodsy" fragrance.
13th May, 2008
Warm, woody and masculine stuff, but minus the "gasoline" notes of Knize's leather and the price tags of Tabac Blond and REL. Am I comparing it to those giants? Not really -- only marginally, maybe, as it IS a leather frag. But for the guy seeking a "man's man" frag with excellent sillage and very good longevity? I don't know why I'd hesitate to recommend English Leather.
13th January, 2008
Nice, clean and very leathery.

Unfortunately, I can't find it ANYWHERE!


This is probably best for an at-home comfort scent, to splash around after a shower in the morning, or to freshen up in the morning.

I would not recomend it, no matter how much I love it, as an "outing" fragrance, but sometimes I wear to the shopping mall and to classes at uni.

A nice, well-rounded cologne. Just wish it were more readily available.

11th June, 2007