Which is a fragrance I've coveted for years without buying because it is a) prohibitively expensive and b) extremely madame, chic and sophisticated, so sophisticated that I've always thought I must buy a bottle now before it's reformulated and save it for when I'm 50 and very very chic and dignified. It is unbelievably wonderful and the nicest gift I've ever gotten.
Luca Turin on Cuir de Russie:
"Leather notes in perfumery are due chiefly to two raw materials, smoky rectified birch tar and inky isoquinolines, the first natural and the second synthetic. They are not necessarily used together, and Cuir de Russie includes only the former. Rectified is a polite word for "cooked", and to this day in places such as Russia and Canada where birch is abundant, the sap is cooked in large pans until it turns black and fragrant. The results are pretty variable, but always deliciously complex: a lot of chemistry happens in a few minutes when things roast. Sadly, the use of birch tar is now restricted by the European Union, and I was afraid of what this would do to Cuir de Russie. The answer is not much. This superb fragrance still smells exactly as it should: to me, just like the inside of my stepfather's 1954 Bentley Type R, in the back of which I sat alone as a child, toying with the mahogany fold-out table on the seat backs. What is remarkable is that this rich leather effect is achieved by mixing things that have nothing to do with tanned animal skins: ylang, jasmine, iris, all of which can be perceived in the top notes. There have been many other fragrances called Cuir de Russie, every one either too sweet or too smoky. This one is the real deal, an undamaged monument of classical perfumery, and the purest emanation of luxury ever captured in a bottle."It's wonderful while wearing this to think about the actual relationship of Coco Chanel (and Ernest Beaux, Russian-born perfumer, creator of both No.5 and Cuir de Russie) to Russia, to Russian emigrés, to leather trunks, and it gives the fragrance another dimension. It gives it layers and layers of story and meaning and beauty all piled up on top of this magnificent scent. Because fragrance is never just molecules entering your nose. It's also narrative, memory, imagination, dreams.
From Perfumes the Guide
There's a fabulous article on Cuir de Russie written by Denyse Beaulieu for her blog "Grain de Musc" here.