The first time I smelled Cuir Cannage, the newest perfume from La Collection Privee Christian Dior, I immediately thought of Anne St. Marie (1932-1986), the 1950-60s model. She was one of the faces that defined that era in fashion, yet remained even more elusive and mysterious than many of her colleagues (it was a time free of paparazzi photos of models stumbling out of nightclubs). It's not that Cuir Cannage smells retro (or particularly feminine), but it does have a certain elegance that throws you back a little, the way many leather perfumes do, with a composition that blends flowers, powder, an a smooth yet animalic leather note.
Cuir Cannage opens with a strong leather note that is slightly butchier than a classic Lanvin or Chanel. It's also not vintage Diorling, which is both more animalic as well as recognizably a chypre. Cuir Cannage seems at first more related to the whip cracking side of leather perfumes, from the modern Cuir Ottoman to the classic Kinze Ten. But soon enough it becomes softer and more luxurious, a truly supple leather.
It's actually really nice to see that leather perfumes are still feasible and are not an endangered species. Especially perfumes that end up in the same ballpark as Chanel Cuir de Russie or Cuir de Lancome. It's the combination of a very sensual orange blossom note with the leather (reminds me of one of my favorite layering combinations of Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque and Fleurs d'Oranger), and the plushness of Dior boutiques, past and present.
The other noticeable hook in Cuir Cannage is iris. Iris has several possible faces; here it's free of rooty carrots or damp earth; it's much more civilized. Face powder, sweet violets, a large bouquet in a movie star's dressing room-- it's timeless, kind of like Anne St. Marie's face.
Cuir Cannage has a very polite sillage that keeps it intimate and comfortable. It lasts well, though, hangs between clothes and skin but also hovers at the edge of one's personal space. There's real elegance there, the kind you'd expect from Dior, and a satisfying sense of luxury when you wear it for long hours. Which kind of answers the age-old question: Can you have too many leather perfumes? No, there's never enough.
Dior- Cuir Cannage (4.25 oz, $210.00) is available from Bergdorf Goodman, the Dior boutique in Vegas, and dior.com.
Photos of Anne St.Marie via fashionindustryarchive.com.