I love leathers and I love iris. The name of this scent seemed to be a perfect come hither promise of fulfillment in these two areas. The best iris around is of course Lutens' Iris Silver Mist with its abundance of orris butter, which creates the impression of a soft Italian leather in glove, jacket or purse.
Cuir d'Iris has a smoky harshness to it (the Oud, Patchouli, and Cedarwood), which reminds one of coal tar. It is not warm, sweet and enveloping as a great leather needs to be. It balances a line between a rough, uncured leather and uncured tobacco leaves. The use of the iris is very restrained but constantly present. A warm leather requires some violet in its make-up, but that is not present here.
Some of the early "cuir de russie" scents from the late 1890s and the early 1900s had this harsh, smoky, uncured effect, which made sense in those days of unhygienic body odors permeating society on all levels. This doesn't work for me, but it's a perfectly fine scent for those who want their leather this strong.
CUIR D’IRIS AND A PLEA TO PERFUME PRODIUCERS
Perfume evokes. It doesn’t recreate nature and it doesn’t tell stories. Successful perfumery creates richness and a complexity that allows for many possibilities, for varied experiences among wearers.
At the center of Parfumerie Generale’s Cuir d’Iris is an active imbalance, a contest. From start to finish there’s never a blend or compromise. The oil and the water never quite mix. I’m not speaking about the notes, iris and leather, but the forces that motivate this perfume. Together the potent tannic quality of the leather and the forceful, make-up feel of the iris give the scent a playful cruelty that simultaneously draws me in and keeps me at arms-length. Cuir d’Iris implies the savage civility of a kempt, bourgeoise western woman of the 1950s. Hair, make-up, perfume, attire and fur. Maintenance of appearance is just the stage dressing, a simple part of the toolkit of social ambition. For the woman that Cuir d’Iris pushes into my imagination, the fur is pivotal. It doesn’t suggest the necessities of a cold climate. It connotes a symbolic viciousness, the conquering vulgarity of wearing a prize. It’s the draping of status on the body. It’s a warning.
But forget my insipid fantasy. What does a well made perfume do for you?
I tend to love the bolder leathers that others might call harsh. And perpetually forgetting the logic of Knize Ten, one of my favorite fragrances, I imagine the ‘floral leathers’ won’t appeal to me, since the flower will diminish the boldness. Cuir d’Iris is another reminder of this blind spot. I don’t have a specific test to judge a perfume’s success. I’m willing to be convinced. If I had to find the common thread among the successful perfumes, though, it’s that they remain interesting and appealing over hours and years. Each wearing is an interesting experience from start to finish and the perfume keeps me coming back over the years. I might have a story in my head, as the above fantasy/image. I could be relishing a mood. I might simply be enjoying the pleasures of a well-crafted object. The perfume doesn’t supply a narrative, it’s simply rich and well constructed. It’s loaded. Connotation is the key, not story-telling. Cuir d’Iris has a complexity of construction and a range of dynamic qualities that suggests symbolic violence to me---the threat of a slap to the face. It’s enticing. It’s the lure of dangerous pleasure---that something beautiful that just might come back to bite you.
And so, my plea to the perfume producers. Give us perfumes with a richness of ideas. We’ll take care of the rest. I’m far more likely to respond to (note: and buy) a perfume that springs from artistic creativity. I want to get taken for a ride by the perfumer, not the test-marketing group. There is a place for formula and strategy, but they should be tools and not goals. Forget briefs that boil down to: ‘find the balancing point that offends the fewest and that a majority will tolerate.’ Give me the arresting, give me the subtle, but give me a perfume that instigates and inspires. I want a perfume that says more than, “Hey.” I want legibility and nuance. Maybe the preliminary threshold in producing a perfume should be a riff on Tania Sanchez’s rationale for wearing perfume: that it be significantly better than nothing at all.
My plea is for better perfume, not more elaborate marketing. I love Cuir d’Iris though I’ve never seen any advertizing for it. I’m very impressed with Calvin Klein’s CK One Shock for Men despite its perfunctory, factory-formula promotion strategy. Niche perfumery doesn’t solve the marketing dilemma of the mass markets. I see no distinction between the marketing of Beyoncé Pulse Summer Edition (“Life is a flirt. Love is a game.” 1) and Penhaligon’s Sartorial, with notes that, “create the perfect illusion of a tailor’s workroom. 2” In both cases: words and perfume, no intrinsic association.
I recognize that there are market considerations and that on one level, Parfumerie Generale likely wanted a floral leather in their line. Iris aromachemicals were readily available and iris perfumes were in demand. But Cuir d’Iris works not because it filled the right slot. It works because perfumer Pierre Guillaume was in the position to make a perfume composed of precision-made parts and dripping with ideas. Cuir d’Iris is a gorgeous perfume that embodies both the steely and the extravagant. It lunges at you at the outset and although it cozies up to your skin quickly, it growls at you when you don’t expect it.
To summarize, thank you Mr. Guillaume. As I hope you can tell, I’m having a blast with Cuir d’Iris. It captures exactly what I love about perfume.
30th May, 2011 (last edited: 27th April, 2012)
Wow, I'm no leather expert, but this fragrance has a BEAUTY of a leather note! I do smell the orris, especially in the opening, but this is much more cuir than iris to me. And that was fine, as I love iris notes as stars and as supporting players.
The leather was not harsh, but instead, very much a leather glove or purse type smell. Just lovely. It finally faded after about 4-5 hours into something with a hint of amber and/or maybe even some vanilla. The hint of orris stayed around almost until the end, but very much in the background and very much a lifter or support note.
I continue to be impressed with Parfumerie Generale's take on notes. They are modern, some of them semi gourmand, but all are interesting and well done of the ones I have smelled. I'm enjoying exploring this house, and my wish list keeps growing.
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I always feel at a bit of a loss when I'm writing a review that follows such creative, wonderful input from others who have a vernacular and understanding that I'm still striving to achieve. What I hope is to do this fragrance justice with this review.
PG Cuir d'Iris is the winner of the PG line from what I've tried thus far (most of them). Some had said it could be difficult to warm up to the top notes but to hang in for the dry-down. What I get in the top notes is a brisk (but not sharp) fine, fine leather - probably one of the most *accurate and comfortable* renditions of leather I've tried. This is what expensive leather smells like, most definitely. Cuir d'Iris is truly a masterpiece - it achieves such a divine, realistic leather with a perfect blend of other notes without, for a second, smelling cheap, synthetic or contrived.
Even after having a bottle for a couple of months and a sample for a month before that I'm still finding gorgeous notes in Cuir d'Iris after subsequent wearings. Could this be one of the best applications of iris in a fragrance to date? Possibly. I don't find there is much powder to it - it is smoky and it does have a gorgeous amber in the dry-down. Longevity is spectacular while sillage is comfortable and just about right.
This is an absolutely elegant, refined and classy leather fragrance that almost defies categorization as a "leather fragrance" when comparing with others out there. I'm not sure I would call this one a dark leather, like vintage Antaeus. There is no dark, earthy vetiver to anchor it and give it darkness. Instead it is a warm, sensuous amber and yes, gourmand notes. I feel ambitious and confident wearing Cuir d'Iris, and I seriously doubt I'll ever grow tired of it.
Cuir d'Iris is one of the most interesting leather fragrances on the market. Deep, dark, complex, and unique - what more do you need?
Like most leather fagrances, Cuir d'Iris uses another note to imitate tanned hide - here, castoreum, and a lot of it. It's the first thing noticeable on application, and forms the core of this fragrance. Restraining the animal warmth is a dusty iris, cardamon, and a peculiar dry tannic quality PG used also in Iris Taizo. The effect is smoky and mysterious, forgoing the oriental voluptuousness many fragrances temper their leather note with. A faint vanilla is discernible in the base, lending a touch of calming warmth.
This juice is very powerful and long lasting, so it's best to apply to with caution in order to appreciate its subtleties.
Parfumerie Generale Cuir D'Iris
Pierre Guillaume has really done an incredible job of creating a number of different scents in his Parfumerie Generale line. Over the course of these creations it is clear that he has a particularly deft hand with gourmand notes and with leather. In the 2008 release Cuir D'Iris, part of the Private Collection, he perhaps creates his most intense leather to date. Right from the top you get leather and it is the leather of a fine leather arm chair. At first that seems to be all that is there but then ever so subtly you smell the vase holding the bouquet of irises that is next to this armchair. This is a powdery iris which is delicateley added around the edges of the leather. I'm not sure I would've placed iris in the name of this scent for all of the heft it brings and the length of its stay. The heart of this mixes a little chocolate in with the leather this is the cocoa powder version of chocolate which comes across less rich and compliments the leather center. The base is all amber and leather and this is exquisite in its depth as the rawer edges of amber rough up the leather and make for an excellent ending to this scent. If you're an iris lover and not a leather lover I wouldn't bother with this one because the iris is really only there for a short time. If you are a leather lover this is a must try because it is one of the finest pure leathers out there, to me.
A dark, rich, and refined leather/iris fragrance that's balanced from top to base with vaguely gourmand notes and powdery amber.
If you read the male fragrance message board, you already know that this is one of my holy grails of perfumery. Although leather is prominent in many PG fragrances, this is 'the' leather fragrance of the line. Further, I collect any and all leather fragrances, and this is by far the best of all of them.
Strong leather is present from top to base, and in each phase of development there are different accords and notes balancing the leather. The leather note is dark and rich. Powerful - not like a leather jacket but rather being inside a Bentley with its 27 cows worth of corinthian leather. Iris presents itself not as a distinct note, but as powdery top-note to balance the intensity of the leather. As with many PGs, there are hints of gourmand notes, in this case raisin and cocoa notes, that present themselves in the heart of the fragrance and become more prominent in the base, at which point cocoa and light fruit notes are joined by a lightly vanillic amber. There are *no* distinct spicy or woody notes, though these may be present to create the leather accord.
The gourmand and amber notes are very subtle unless you over-apply, which I like to do. One spray and you're surrounded in a leathery aroma. Two sprays brings out more fullness of the fragrnace, and with three sprays you can really notice the cocoa and raisin notes. Be warned that with three sprays you will smell of rich leather for the next 20-24 hours and there won't be anyone within a few feet of you that won't notice. True leather nirvana.
As with most of the PG line, expect this to last on your skin for about 24 hours under normal conditions. If you like leather fragrances and haven't tried this, you're missing out.
Powdery leather. After a while, the powdery notes become pure leather and spicy woods. A little subtle but it's a leather with a smoky bite.