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Cuir Pleine Fleur - NOT just another leather (October 20, 2010 New Fragrance Listing)

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A commenter on Gwen’s Ambre Russe blog this past Monday said “Not another leather!” and bemoaned the fact that she would have to order yet another sample, since she’s on  a leather kick recently. I hope she waited to place her order because as Gwen pointed out in her response, it’s now leather weather and she should stay tuned to the blog. Why? – more leathers, of course, like Cuire Pleine Fleur, which is definitely NOT just another leather.

The literal translation “leather full flower” actually means Full Grain Leather, the outer layer of the hide with all the scars and marks, but as Luca Turin points out, the name is also a clever play on the word “fleur” because this fragrance is a floral leather, rare in the perfume world. It was created by James Heeley, a perfumer whom Gwen and I really admire – he‘s one of the few owner-founders of luxury perfume houses in Europe (see our posts on Cardinal and Iris de Nuit). His creative style conveys a confident, uncluttered, refined quality - see his work at

When we were in Paris this past spring, we met with James to talk about perfumes and, of course, buy some new scents. He gave us interesting insights into his creative process, the perfume industry, and his scents from the Heeley range, and I left his Passage du Désir studio with two bottles - Iris de Nuit and Cuir Pleine Fleur.

The listed notes are: violet leaf, bergamot, mimosa, acacia, hawthorn blossom, aubépine, suede, castoreum, vetiver, birch. In James’ words, this fragrance is leather, but it is leather re-worked into the sensual luxury of fine, soft leather, which he achieves through the inspired pairing of the leather notes with soft cool florals, rather than the traditional animalic notes such as labdanum or musk, or herbal patchouli, or spices. The result is miles away from uber-masculine leathers, and into the realm of true originality.

When James spritzed me with his bottle of Cuir Pleine Fleur, I immediately smelled violet - which I happen to love - green woods, sweet mimosa, hay, so I said “Oh – floral” but then he said “Wait!” So we talked for another while and when I was allowed to sniff my wrist again, there was the leather heart. But this wasn’t the leather note I was expecting. I’d just bought Knize Ten so I knew that leather smelled strong, pungent and masculine, kind of a clubby or car interior kind of leather. Not this one – this leather smelled refined and rich. Kind of like the leather I smelled once when I visited a country estate, and walked into a perfectly maintained tack room in the equestrian barn – expensive polished leather mixed with meadow and woodland scents, and beautiful groomed horses.

Mixed in the heart notes, I could identify the violet, floating translucently through the leather and woody birch. Later, in the Metro back to our hotel, I sniffed my wrist and there was Act lll - smoky vetiver mixed with the birch and leather, adding a crisp bright airy elegance to the drydown. And still I smelled the violet, soft purple notes in the green vetiver accord.

So the violet note and the vetiver are the keys to Cuir Pleine Fleur, keeping this fascinating leather scent from being too sour, too sweet, or too heavy – keeping it perfectly balanced, and just right. Experiencing Cuir Pleine Fleur reminded me of watching a play. I was interested in Act l but it wasn’t what I expected. If I’d left the performance early, I’d have missed a really original plot that developed in Act ll, and which resolved with a dramatic ending in Act lll.

Cuir Pleine Fleur is refined leather elegance for both men and women, another totally original "Goldilocks" creation, in three acts, from James Heeley. Even if you think you don’t like violets, or vetiver, I recommend that you go see it sniff it! It is definitely NOT just another leather.


Cuir Pleine Fleur is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.