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The Chanel Project: Cuir de Russie

kittypawI don’t want to lie to you. To me Cuir de Russie smells exactly like vintage Chanel No. 5, with no aldehydes and with the woods amped up and with some leather added.

Sorry. Short review.

Part of Les Exclusifs collection of Chanel, Cuir de Russie is not easy to get one’s hands on. If you decide to try, especially with a decant, make sure you’re getting what you want, as “Russian Leather” apparently not that unique a name. Creed makes a Cuir de Russie too (or did), and vintage-wise there was also a Guerlain Cuir de Russie as well as versions from other classic perfume companies. One imagines that they weren’t all inspired by Dr. Zhivago. Russian leather was apparently a “thing” long before the 1965 movie, perhaps even before the 1957 novel. (Yes, Virginia, making movies based on known successes from other media is not just a new thing.)

I admit I went looking for Cuir de Russie because of the way perfumistas rave about it on the web boards. It’s not difficult to see why they do. The rich, well-blended, elegant scent has touches of orris, that earthy, yet royal floral scent, along with the jasmine and rose of No. 5, and it dries down (on me) to the creamiest, smoothest sandalwood one could ask for. Dating to 1924, this predecessor to modern florientals is rich, feminine (I never say “feminine”, but this baby is feminine), and, as it is so often called, cozy.

Without the punches of aldehydes and musks (it may have some, but they don’t stand out to me), it doesn’t have the clean or fresh vibe of Chanel No. 5. Clean and fresh?? you may say, if you have ever smelled vintage No. 5 (or even the modern). Yes, No. 5 is clean and fresh, especially compared to something else of its era. Cuir de Russie’s party buddy is Shalimar, with its citrus/vomit/vanilla combo. None of the notes are similar to my nose, but both of the perfumes seem to call for a fire and perhaps sex on a fur in front of it. Where Shalimar is edible, though, Cuir de Russie is emphatically not. I feel that if I lived in one of those spacious pre-Depression mansions one sees in classic movies in black and white, with flowers from my hothouse standing two feet high in a wood-lined drawing room where someone had laid a tidy small square fire but not yet lit it, if I were to wear leather boots into the room, about to ride to the hounds, I would recreate the inspiration and perhaps the actual smell of this perfume.

Sex on a fur in front of the fire, once lit, would also be called for.

I don’t much wear it, because as I say, its sandalwood drydown (which also might have a touch of vanilla), reminds me so much of vintage No. 5. Do you have perfumes you find beautiful that you don’t usually wear?

Image is “f***k off, stupid paparazzi! 🙂“, by ilexxx, on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.

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What do you think?