Generally speaking, there are two types of perfume labelled with the word 'leather': those which take their inspiration from the stench of a tannery and those which aim to evoke the smell of the tannery's end products. I am, of course, simplifying the matter and ignoring the many leather fragrances which exist between the ends of the spectrum, but in broad terms, those are the main categories. What's interesting is that the former appear to have retained an air of timelessness, but the latter seem to have veered into realms that are dangerously - and unfairly - dismissed with the phrase 'old ladies'. Think of the smell of belts, purses and wallets that have absorbed the scents of their owners and of the items (lipstick, cotton, coins, denim, banknotes...) with which they've been in contact. For some reason, this is an odour which Western sensibilities have come to associate with the past. Try Estée Lauder's Azurée and you'll see what I mean: you'll probably appreciate the way it's put together, but you may struggle to wear it without thinking you've stepped inside a time warp and emerged on the set of a Douglas Sirk movie.
The same temporal shift can be detected in Patricia De Nicolaï's latest release, Week-end À Deauville. In its final stages, it settles down to a mumsy, unexciting, trusty-old-handbag base that strikes me as being plain old-fashioned rather than classical. But the opening alone makes a sample worth hunting down. With a few deft brushstrokes (lily of the valley, green notes, powderiness, a touch of moss) it presents a vivid tableau of a relaxed family picnic on the banks of a stream. The parents are lying on a thin blanket surrounded by wild grass. Their crumpled white linen clothes reflect the mild sunshine. Their children are a short distance away, making daisy chains and eating grapes. A comfortable silence lulls all of them into losing track of the passing hours. It's an idyllic picture, but sadly, it doesn't last. The old-school leather appears, takes over and refuses to budge.
[Review based on a sample of the new, slightly reformulated eau de parfum obtained in 2011; fragrance tested on skin. For more reviews, please visit Grain De Musc & 1000 Fragrances.]