Skip to main content

Cuir Mauresque – The brilliance of dab, not spritz (March2, 2012 New Fragrance Listing)

Photo - Wikipedia - Mosque of Cordoba, Spain, 1996


How do I decide which perfume to write about every week? I bet you’re just dying to know the answer to this question – NOT – but here’s the answer anyway. I don’t decide. My nose decides.

Of course, I have some influence on this decision process. I read in the Ozmoz interview with Serge Lutens that he rarely wears fragrance when he goes out, but when he does he wears only Cuir Mauresque, which he applies liberally. It was one of the few Lutens that I didn’t know well, but after sampling and wearing this frag over the past week or so, I can understand his choice. And since this frag is a leather, it’s obvious why my nose chose it. I LOVE leather.

Cuir Mauresque means Moorish Leather, and Mauresque refers to its Spanish/Arab roots. The Moors, who were Muslims, occupied Spain from the 8th through the 15th century, leaving a rich legacy of science, architecture, and colourful culture that became modern Spain. The inspiration for Cuir Mauresque, which was created by Christopher Sheldrake in 1996, comes out of this exotic past, and the Arab tradition of perfuming leather with citrus, musk and attars. Cuir Mauresque also echoes the iconic big- leather scents such as Tabu from the 1930’s, and Habanita from the 1940’s, but is very different. It’s classified as an Oriental Leather-Animalic, with listed notes of amber, myrrh, burnt styrax, incense, cinnamon, aloe wood, cedar, civet, nutmeg, clove, cumin, musk, mandarin peel and orange blossom.

One of the things I love about Serge Lutens perfumes are the “surprise” notes. Many of his scents have a note, usually a top note, that is strange, weird, so unexpected and out of context it makes you wonder “Why, why is this note in this perfume?” and then as the scent develops and the many layers unfold, the weirdness becomes magic, and stunning beauty emerges on your skin, and you understand. At this point, I say “Ahhhh” and enter a state of bliss.

The "surprise” note in Cuir Mauresque is right up-front in the first spritz. I get a blast of plastic, acrid and artificial, like the distinctive resinous smell of a new vinyl shower curtain. What has plastic got to do with leather? It’s the burnt styrax, the leather note which is resinous and smoky, mixed with the aloe wood (oudh), which smells sour and dusty, I’m guessing. It forms a strange accord and this weirdness hovers for a couple of minutes then recedes, settling quietly under the sweetened citrus notes of mandarin peel and blossoms mixed with the aromatic dark spices. 

Jasmine shines through, and then the leather heart starts to emerge slowly. With hints of the resin and the smoke, Cuir Mauresque transforms into a soft floral leather, not too sweet or sour, not too bright or dark, not too raunchy or subdued. A leather that becomes your own skin, softened with amber and civet, scented with woods and incense, which stays with you for hours with a soft sillage but which remains very much alive. A personal scent.

That’s why I bought Cuir Mauresque, yet another leather but different from all my others. It’s an easy-going leather, not masculine like Knize Ten, or classic like Cuir de Russie, or seductive like Habanita, or chic like Cuir de Lancôme, or modern like Cuir Pleine Fleur, or elegant like Bottega Veneta. For both men and women, it’s easy to wear, discreet, and quietly intriguing, and I can now understand why Serge Lutens prefers this one scent from his collection to wear in public.

And I’ve discovered something else about Cuir Mauresque. If you dab the juice, instead of spritz it, the weird note hardly appears - its there, but not in-your-face. For those of you who find Serge Lutens fragrances too strong or too strange for your nose, this dabbing instead of spritzing could be your “Open Sesame”, the solution to appreciating his art. I always wondered why the atomizer was separate from the bottle in his packages. With my giant brain, I’ve finally figured it out – it's not whether or not we prefer the physical act of dabbing versus spritzing - he’s allowing us to choose how we experience his perfumes.

And that’s part of his brilliance, and why I love Serge Lutens perfumes. Especially Cuir Mauresque.

Cuir Mauresque is listed in our Decant Store, Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.