Life sometimes is surprising. Just when you think that you have a fragrance figured out something happens and you see it from a different perspective. This happened to me yesterday. The scent in question was Cuir Ottoman (Parfum d’ Empire). The contributing notes according to the perfumer are: leather, iris, jasmine, cistus, burned styrax, tolu balm, benzoin, vanilla, tonka incense. According to my classification system it smells like an old black leather bag that a lady used in the 30’s to carry her cosmetics and perfumes when she was going off to trips in spas, but is now used by a car mechanic to carry his tools. Instantly I get the leather. It is a thick, strong leather but it doesn’t have much in common with leathers like Cuir Mauresque or Knize Ten. Cuir Ottoman (CO) makes those seem floral and feminine. The leather in CO has a distinct note of petrol. The emphasis is on the tanning process rather than the animalic qualities. But at the same time and with equal strength a soft iris contradicts the butchness of this leather with its powdery qualities. I have always filed this fragrance under: warm, cozy, but not quite… There was something that was still hidden in this fragrance, not completely mapped out.
Yesterday I had a fight with my significant other. Big one. Over the phone. I felt angry and hurt and I decided to go out for drinks as I couldn’t stand still. It was a fresh summer night so I decided to wear Fougère Bengale (Parfum d’ Empire) but I was obviously too angry to concentrate so I grabbed the wrong bottle. Before I knew it I was wearing a generous spritz of CO! And then I got even angrier. For me ending up wearing a fragrance by mistake is the equivalent of dressing up to go out and spilling your Bloody Mary on the first bar you go to. But it was already too late so I played along… three more sprays.
Then it hit me. The darkness of the leather in this scent with the contradicting softness of the iris run side by side for the entire wearing. I felt like two opposite forces pulling me to different directions. Artificial, used, old leather made me want to kick and scream and ethereal, sweet, innocent iris made me want to kneel and cry. My feelings that have been running inside me entangled in a knot slowly softened and stood opposite each other, ready to be dealt with. The mystery of the fragrance was solved. Beauty through contradiction. The web of my feelings was not constrictive any more. Two clear options. An easy decision.
Now I am calm and secure. Everything smooth and warm. And the night out was a complete success: we partied till six in the morning.
Actually WE (all human beings), more than life are full of surprises.
Maybe it’s time to accidentaly throw a bottle of Beyond Paradise into your collection and wait until the next “mistake” happens.
There are limits to what I expect to be surprised by (what a contradiction in terms) and Beyond Paradise (Estee Lauder) is Beyond Me…. 🙂
I enjoyed reading your true story. Can’t add anything on the topic since I’m not familiar with two perfumes mentioned, but didn’t want just to pass by silently.
How nice that a perfume could resolve upset feelings like it did here. It sounds like the leather and iris would be really nice together. Breath of God by Gorilla Perfume has a similar quality in that, the smokeiness of camphor, black pepper and vetiver are contrasted (maybe not complimented as you say with iris) with neroli and citrus oils. It’s a stunning smell. But I like somkey and leathery smells too. Not nearly enough of them!
And the upset feelings somehow resolved the meaning of the perfume.
Breath of God sounds very interesting and the price looks good too! I will have to try this one. I read in the company’s site description that the opening is medicinal. This makes even more interesting.
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That’s wierd I don’t get the petrol note in Cuir Ottoman. In fact, I only discovered it recently and have been craving for a bottle since. But rumour has it MY other half is getting it me as a Valentines day gift, as I think it’s the only fragrance that they have ever complimented me on!
Fougere Bengale is also fantastic, but the curry notes come out too strong on my skin and out-do the lavender and such.
But yes, back to CO, it’s probably the most unique, plush and creamy leather after the drydown I’ve ever smelt, and I love the opening so much, it’s like a much richer and dirty Dzing! – which on me just fleets away quickly into vanilla and hay.
Awesome review thank you 😀
Welcome aboard Freddie and really happy to read your first posts. You are very lucky for getting this as a Valentine’s present!
Leather has so many nuances and sub-categories. To me CO is the new, black, automotive leather. I get the petrol and I love the way it lingers and mixes with the powdery iris. Be sure to check out Suzanne’s review of this. She gives a nice, carnal perspective to it.
Thanks for the welcome!
That was a very interesting read thank you, an unusual take on it. Cuir Ottoman seems to work so differently on everyone.
It is without a doubt the “sexiest” perfume I’ve smelt, I’m not too sure why, the list of notes makes it appear nothing particularly outstanding, but there’s something about it that just works with me and my nose perfectly. Match made in heaven!
It’s suprising how I came across it too. I posted a small introduction of myself on basenotes a good few months back when I first joined, must be about 7 months ago now. I basically listed fragrances I liked which included general designer fragrances like VW Boudoir, Kenzo Amour, things like that, named a few I had been testing such as Putain des Palaces, and was mentioned my desire for a powdery floral that gives way to a raunchy animalic/leather.
I had about 3 replies instantly saying “Cuir Ottoman”. I didn’t like the look of the bottle, and ignored it for months and months – I gave it a quick spray in store after remembering the recomendations and was smitten! I love finding a perfect match.
Sorry to essay up your comments with a life story here :’)
I love personal stories around perfume, after all this is what this blog is about, so feel free anytime! CO is a very sensual scent and what is more interesting is that it manages that without ever choosing a gender. Suzanne of Eiderdown Press has reached to a similar conclusion on this and her post is a great read.
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Thank you for this review, Christos. I’d been kicking myself for missing this fragrance while it was still being made. MiN NY had it on sale at one point, just $80 USD for a 100ml bottle. However, I’ve since acquired a few other leather focused fragrances to include Knize Ten. To me, Knize Ten is a delight. It is bold and masculine enough to make me content. Knowing that Cuir Ottoman would be more visceral and rough, I don’t think I’d be happy with it. So I’m on my merry way with Knize Ten, Bel Ami, Elsha 1776, Perry Ellis For Men (1985), Versace L’Homme (1st release), Charles Revson Braggi, and Midnight in Paris for my leather experience.
I am happy to tell you that Cuir Ottoman is still in production. What has changed is that there is no longer an option to buy directly online from Parfum d’Empire, which is sad because they had a very attractive sampling program. Cuir Ottoman is very different from Knize Ten, very different from most other leather scents, it has probably managed to create a new leather sub-genre. If you get a chance to sample it do not miss it.