Grand Cuir, the first (and so far only) offering from Parfums Retro, comes galloping at you on his horse, bringing with it the scent of a well-traveled steamer trunk, an old cape, mossy forests, and mystery. It's Mr. Rochester's first scene from Jane Eyre, showing confidence and vulnerability at the same time. It needs to be worn in the open air or while moving around from place to place. I've found that closed spaces stifle Grand Cuir and don't allow it to take shape and cast its shadow properly. It's also too romantic for the simple and definite "masculine" label (Luckyscent's gender spectrum places Grand Cuir at the extreme masculine end).
Grand Cuir opens with a blast of aged leather and dry flowers. It reminds me of some versions of vintage Cuir de Russie (Chanel), where the leather is almost soapy yet layered and complex. Parfums Retro's leather develops very dry, though, moving between the great outdoors (lots of birch tar and clary sage, only slightly more restrained and civilized than Lonestar Memories) and the gentleman's quarters where a valet has just brought the shaving supplies to his master. I concede that this part of Grand Cuir is definitely masculine, but despite the steam and lavender, when the perfume is free to interact with the skin there's a lot more there than my father's old shaving brush. I smell hay and moss, wood and a purple bouquet, and above all: a slightly animalic leather that feels warm and soft, welcoming me home yet guarding a secret.
Garnd Cuir is a treat for leather lovers with a taste for vintage perfumes. Leather notes can be an acquired taste, especially when they lean towards the not-so-fresh side. I'm a sucker for these, though, and have no problem wearing Grand Cuir. Men? Horses? Bring them on.
Notes: Cistus-labdanum, birch tar, clary sage, orange flower, lavender, carnation, rose, violet leaf, geranium, cinnamon leaf oil, tarragon, pine moss, sandalwood, rosewood, patchouli, musk, rosewood.
Parfums Retro- Grand Cuir ($155, 100ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent. This review was based on a press sample sent for consideration.
Photo of Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester from the 2011 Jane Eyre via michaelfassbender.org.