There’s no getting around it, you really have to like birch tar to like Cuir de Russie. Historically, the bark of the birch tree has been cooked-up and used to cure leather. The synthetic birch tar accord used in perfumery today is deep, dark, resinous and animalic. If like me, you are fond of inhaling smoky aromas, chances are you will like leather perfumes.
Fragrances with prominent birch tar can be rugged like Tauer’s Lonestar Memories or intense like Le Labo’s Patchouli 24, but Cuir de Russie is a smooth and elegant take on leather.
Other notes include aldehydes, orange blossom, bergamot, mandarin, clary sage, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, carnation, cedar, vetiver; styrax, amber and vanilla.
However, despite the aldehydic start, the floral heart and the ambery base, it’s really all about the leather. Bold and beautiful, it oozes sophistication and more than a little edge.
Cuir de Russie was originally created in 1927 by Chanel’s Master Perfumer, Ernest Beaux at a time when all things Russian were fashionable. He created this provocative perfume for the emancipated “Roaring Twenties” woman who was out drinking, smoking and voting. It’s conception becomes more intriguing once you learn that during the 1920s Coco Chanel was having a love affair with the Russian Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (the cousin of Tsar Nicholas II). In her book “Coco Chanel: The Legend and The Life” Justine Picardie describes Cuir de Russie as the “bottled…essence of her romance with the Grand Duke”.
Reformulated by Jacques Polge in 1983, Cuir de Russie is now part of Les Exclusifs. Known as a perfume for grown-ups, it’s hard to imagine it appealing to your average teenager. It feels decadent, and sensuous, with just a hint of darkness. Its smoky warmth makes it an ideal perfume for autumn and winter and perfectly suitable for men as well as women. It wears very close to the skin, coating you with an olfactory shield of leather. Considering it has such a strong personality you won’t be surprised to learn that it is extremely tenacious, resulting in outstanding lasting power.