CUIR MAURESQUE by Serge Lutens
Let's talk about the always interesting and very controversial, Cuir Mauresque by Serge Lutens. This fragrance is pure genius, and the name suggests that it was inspired by Moorish leather. Many people find it hard to wrap their minds around its structure, but you have to like this classification to enjoy its benefits. It was originally introduced in 1996 as a non-export, bell jar exclusive but was made available as part of the export line in 2010. It is a warm, rich leather scent and one of my top choices from Serge Lutens.
Serge Lutens seems to enjoy the element of surprise in his fragrances and Cuir Mauresque is no exception. You are first slapped with the essence of plastic, or perhaps even a petrochemical overdose. The opening proves to be terribly medicinal and even unbearable at times, but the harshness does eventually subside. What exactly is all this unpleasantness in the opening? It seems to be the combination of fragrant orange blossom, intensely sweet mandarin peel and the richness of straight-up leather. These notes create a dried fruit like sweetness, comparable to the sweetness and sharpness that you sense when smelling a holiday fruit cake after the ingredients blend. The leather note in Cuir Mauresque is there right from the start. As it takes the main stage, it is met with a familiar spicy culinary combination of nutmeg, clove and cumin, which season this fragrance. Burnt styrax, myrrh and incense make perfect companions for the luxe leathery richness this scent conjures up. The resinous quality, blended with smoky myrrh and incense, adds an interesting complexity to the fragrance's background. Cuir Mauresque turns into a compelling soft amber and cinnamon scent with a hefty leather structure once in the dry-down stage. The use of woods is an interesting one in Cuir Mauresque. Aloe wood and cedar seem to be playing more of a structural role, giving the leather history. The woods give a feeling of a store filled with antique books and artifacts, that scent that buries itself in the recesses of your memory. The light floral, spicy elements and husky leather with harmonious woods give Cuir Mauresque a character unmatched in the fragrance world.
Cuir Mauresque doesn't seem to elicit opinions in the middle ground; people either love or hate this fragrance. Leather fragrances, in general, do not take center stage in mainstream perfumery for this very reason. Cuir Mauresque embodies all that a leather fragrance should be: warm, spicy, slightly floral, deep, resinous and comforting. There is some stiff competition in this classification and many different themes, but Cuir Mauresque is probably the most successful at fostering a beautiful, luxurious, warm and comforting ambience.