Sunday, May 03, 2009

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque

Leather is:
a Birkin bag (why not start at the top?)
saddles, horses, the whole barnyard
and the cowboy
the inside of a lady's purse with the mysterious powdery smell and a red lipstick
fetish gear and a dominatrix corset
heavy furniture
old, important books
and perfume.

I have leather perfumes representing almost each and every one of the above (and really should get a bottle of CBIHP In The Library). The leather note is often paired with iris, smoke, ripe fruit or violet and I love them all. But my favorite is the one less easily defined (and probably most controversial), Cuir Mauresque by Serge Lutens.

It has the weirdest top notes. It starts with a medicinal and somewhat perverse note with an almost sweet turpentine-like quality that strangely agrees with my skin and feels extremely sensual before the main course of hardcore leather arrives. At times I could have sworn I smell oud, but maybe it's just an interpretation of that crazy opening. The leather itself is even sweeter and has an ambery transparency (ambery as in the appearance of the resinous but scentless Baltic stone, not the vanillic perfume note). Cuir Mauresque has the Lutens signature of spiced dry fruit (I get some cinnamon and maybe candied citrus peel), though thankfully without the cumin and sewage of Arabie, and it's prettified by a sheer white floral note that stays mostly in the background but is quite detectable in the drydown.

The result is extremely sensual. Like many Lutens perfumes, Cuir Mauresque is neither feminine nor masculine, it has its own identity which happens to work brilliantly with my skin chemistry. It's a scent better dabbed than sprayed, with a very modest sillage after the first hour and an all day longevity. I find it easy to wear just about anywhere and any time. Unlike Bandit, for example, which screams of naughty things, Cuir Mauresque is more discreet when worn by itself. But it can be taken to a whole new level if layered with a white floral. When I add Fleurs d'Oranger it feels like I can take Manhattan (and possibly also Berlin). If you tried pairing CM with the other white florals (I'm thinking A la Nuit or Un Lys), please tell us how it went.

While I can't get enough of Cuir Mauresque and tend to murmur sweet nothings at my bell jar, others have a completely different take on this juice. My favorite scathing review is by Nathan Branch. I think I want to smell it on him.

Cuir Mauresque (75 ml, 110 €) is a Paris exclusive, which means you can only buy it directly from the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido. I bought mine when I was there last summer, but if you live in Europe you can order it either online or by phone. They do not ship elsewhere in the world. Samples are available from both The Posh Peasant and The Perfumed Court.

Image: Scène de harem (Femme mauresque à sa toilette) by Théodore Chassériau


  1. "While I can't get enough of Cuir Mauresque and tend to murmur sweet nothings at my bell jar . . . "

    LOL! I cannot, for the life of me, understand the attraction to this juice, but it so obviously makes women go weak at the knees.

    These are the times I wonder if straight women might have a little bit of dirty gay biker bar secreted deep in their hearts. ;)

  2. Well, I like this one a lot, but on me I think it's a bit too close to Tabac Blond for me to go through hoops to get it. If it shows up as an export, however, I am there.

    As a gay man of a certain age I can state with first-hand knowledge that there is little if any eau du backroom at the Spike in there. At least not on me. But heck, I'm not scared by Miel de Bois sooooo..

  3. I didn't like Cuir Mauresque until I tried wearing it dabbed instead of sprayed. A little bit of this stuff goes a long way.

  4. Nathan, some straight women have really dirty secrets. That's what makes us able to wear Miel de Bois...
    I don't think I ever met a leather scent I didn't like, and this one hits all the right spot for me. But I can also sense it can easily go wrong.

  5. Tom, I love Tabac Blond and really should work on getting some of the vintage stuff. The new juice leaves me cold because in my memory it's so much better.

  6. Tara, I agree and I find it to be the case with many Lutens scents: MdB, MKK, Borneo and even NdC.

  7. Thanks for the dab vs. spray tip. I have a bottle of Vetiver Oriental that I love but rarely wear because it sprays on so big and loud -- I'll try the dabbing method and see what happens.


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