Photos: Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

Me and leather, we don’t always see eye to eye. I mean, give me a biker jacket and some Brando boots and I’m a happy man, but try spraying some Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque in my direction and I’m eekily jumping up on the furniture faster than you can say Mrs. Frisby.

Okay, maybe not quite that fast, but the point still stands.

So it was with great pleasure that I made my acquaintance with Keiko Mecheri’s Cuir Cordoba, a softly sueded fragrance with a vocabulary more rooted in the luxe phrasings of Bottega Veneta than anything to do with 19th century tanneries.

Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

Cordoba leather (aka Cordova, Spanish or Moroccan leather) is historically famed for its meticulously gilded appearance, with craftsman vying to outdo one another in tooling, embossing, carving, inlaying, incising, stitching, painting, lacquering and metallic leafing techniques. Decorative Cordoban leathers were prized across medieval Europe, even covering royal palace walls and floors, and adorning cathedral altars.

Later centuries saw the European upper classes employing the leathers as a status symbol in the form of saddles, bridles, pillows, ottomans, chairs, boxes, cups, trays, book covers, wall hangings and more. For example, Rudyard Kipling’s estate boasts a dining room wall covered in 18th century cordoban leather embossed with a floor to ceiling tropical vine and bird pattern — bungle in the jungle, indeed.

Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

“Yes, fine,” I can hear you saying. “Get to the point!” Attention spans of gnats, etc. etc.

Taking the Spanish leather artisans of Cordoba as inspiration, Keiko Mecheri’s Cuir Cordoba rises above the pack of less refined leather scents — and by “less refined” I don’t mean “less in quality” or “less in desirability”, but rather, one that’s created for different purposes.

Where fragrances like Reve En Cuir, Tabac Aurea and Cuir Mauresque appear to reference the Victorian-era scent of perfumed gloves fashioned from leather cured in vats of brine (or worse!), Cuir Cordoba seeks to evoke the feel of a painstakingly finished piece, utterly superfluous and all the more precious because of it — a decorative product crafted solely for display and treasured by a society’s cultural and political elite.

Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

The Keiko Mecheri website lists the notes for Cuir Cordoba as: suede accord (a perfume “accord” is when when 3 to 4 individual notes are blended together to create a new odor identity), iris butter (a thick oily compound obtained from the roots of the iris flower), atlas cedar and hawthorn blossoms. Iris root (or orris root) is known for its high, piercing tone, yet there’s nothing piercing or sharp about Cuir Cordoba — the entire compositon, from start to finish, is surprisingly plush for what I’d expected from a leather scent.

The website also describes the fragrance as “androgynous” (aka unisex), and I agree. Even with the musky berry note hidden in the polished, wooded base (see: Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea and Vero Profumo Rubj), Cuir Cordoba comes across as a study in posture and attitude rather than gender expression.

So are you confident and detached? Check. Do you go for luxe over bling? Right. Are you a lover not a fighter? Wait, how did that get in there? Both lovers and fighters are hot blooded, and Cuir Cordoba is for seriously cool customers only. Sexy, yes, but wild and passionate? We’ll take a chill martini in the lounge, instead.

Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

Brand director Keiko Mecheri stated in an interview with the Scented Salamander that her packaging for nearly the entire brand was redesigned in early 2009, and the redesign is an unqualified success.

The bottle is a sleek, angular beauty of heavy purple-dyed glass with a faceted bakelite cap and brushed gold metallic finishes. The spray is fine with good coverage, and the whole look and feel is one of understated self-indulgence.

Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

But back to the scent itself — the suede accord is predominant throughout the first half of the fragrance’s life span, and the scent is, genuinely, reminiscent of suede. I’d always scoffed at the concept of “suede” in perfume, as if suede had a scent that could be particularly identifiable. It struck me as more marketing babble than reality, but Cuir Cordoba really does smell like . . . suede! Skin warm and skin soft, with a pleasantly satisfying depth and texture.

As the fragrance evolves, the changes aren’t dramatic, but additional elements come through — the burnished cedarwood, the crystaline sparkle of iris root, the sea-salt floral of hawthorn — but these are gradual progressions. I don’t notice them until they’re fully present, and then I suddenly stop and think, “Oh, it’s now a wooded, leathery floral backed by a clean, berried musk. Nice.”

Keiko Mecheri Cuir Cordoba

Longevity is excellent and I’ve experienced a low-wattage sillage, even with generous application. Since Cuir Cordoba is about the pleasure of personal indulgence, it’s not about to announce your presence to the entire room.

If you’re the type that’s been burned by leather fragrances in the past, yet you’re still intrigued by the concept, the painted suede of Ms. Mecheri’s Cordoba leather could be your door into a brand new world. But leave the muscatel to bake in the oven — you won’t need it where you’re going.

***Note: thanks to VJW for the I. Reilly nudge.

UPDATE:

Michelle Krell Kydd of Glass Petal Smoke twittered me and asked if I’d ever smelled Suederol (apparently it’s an aromachemical developed as a synthetic oud-base by flavor & fragrance corp. Firmenich). The answer is no, I haven’t — but I *love* that there is such a thing! My brain is now buzzing with the possibilities: sexerol, drugserol, rocknrollerol . . . ?

I’d like simply everything to be “-erol”ed. Hurry up with that, please.

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