When I hear that something is a leather fragrance, almost always my first thought is, what kind? Leathers can be as oily and potent as a motorcycle gang’s garage hangout, or tender and soft as a well-used chamois. They can be salty or sweet. Sometimes the leather blends so well with the rest of the fragrance that it’s barely discernible, and sometimes it wallops you straight from the bottle.
Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman is a rich, comfortable leather with a soft but durable texture. If it were a leather article, it would be a saddle leather handbag you buy for its practicality, not glamour — despite how expensive it is — then wear so often that it becomes a part of you. Parfum d’Empire’s founder, perfumer Marc Antoine Corticchiato, created Cuir Ottoman and released it in 2006. Its notes include iris, Egyptian jasmine, styrax, tolu balsam, benzoin and incense.
Cuir Ottoman doesn’t spend much time with vaporous top notes, but plunges straight into dry, buttery leather. After a few minutes, once it has proven it’s a leather scent, it relaxes, and jasmine steps forward to hum along with the leather, but not to turn it into a floral scent by any means.
As Cuir Ottoman wears on skin, the ambery waft of tolu and benzoin rise to balance the leather’s dry edge. The fragrance gets a bit sweeter and more powdery over the hours, but to me it continues to smell like soft leather right up until its end. (Many leather scents seem to lose their leather halfway through wear.) Dabbed from a sample vial, Cuir Ottoman has good sillage, and it lasts easily from breakfast until dinner.
The leather in my collection I find closest in style to Cuir Ottoman is Lancôme Cuir de Lancôme. Both fragrances are smooth and easy and tread the line between suede and leather, with Cuir Ottoman a bit drier. Also, Cuir Ottoman has more shape with its jasmine high notes and subtle scratch of incense, while Cuir de Lancôme stays more watery-cool with shades of summer flowers. Cuir Ottoman also wears at least a third longer than Cuir de Lancôme.
In my opinion, every perfume collection needs a core of well made, non-freaky fragrances you can wear easily. For the days you’re not up to the attitude of a leather fragrance like Piguet Bandit, you can reach for Cuir Ottoman with confidence.
Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman Eau de Parfum is $145 for 100 ml. For information on where to buy it, see Parfum d’Empire under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is detail from Sultan Suleiman I taking control of Moldova. Ottoman miniature painting from the Hünername, kept at the Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi, Istanbul, via Dariusz caballeros (full image available at Wikimedia Commons).