When the arrival of Cuir Cannage was first rumoured, the story went that François Demachy wanted it to represent his memories of his mother's handbag. This very personal anecdote now seems to have been cast aside by Dior's PR machine, but of course, the reference to the brand's accessories line has been retained and pushed front-and-centre by the name of this latest addition to the Collection Privée. And rightly so, because the fragrance is perhaps the most overtly, most realistically leather-like piece of work in Dior's current portfolio. Granted, Leather Oud and Oud Ispahan spend a great deal of their time languishing in North Africa's pungent tanneries, but they also stop off at various wooded groves and flower gardens. Fahrenheit incorporates a marked leather note, but the essence of its identity is, of course, the greenness of violet leaf. Diorling was the brand's first composition to fall into the 'leather' category, but it features a prominent floral facet as well. Dear old Eau Sauvage flirts with a thin, suede jacket, but it reserves the bulk of its affection for dewy citruses. And then there's Jules too - the scandal-mongering rapscallion in the range - but, for one thing, it's rarely seen outside France, and for another, it focuses mainly on pungent herbs and aromatics.
No, Cuir Cannage is the only bone fide, through-and-through leather. A close cousin of the masterful Knize Ten, it luxuriates in the dangerous sensuality that comes from an encounter between the human nose and a piece of material that once covered the body of an animal. It relishes that moment when you bring your oh-so-civilised new gloves towards your face and their sharp, near-bestial smell plunges you into primordial memories of a time when human nature wasn't the terribly refined construction it is now. It lingers over the sensation of picking up a satchel from a shop shelf, burying your face within its interior and letting that curious alchemy of hide, glue and acid exert its very particular spell.
That said, Cuir Cannage is also modern - I fancy sociologists would have a thing or two to say about its non-gender-specific take on purses, clutches and other related accoutrements - and supremely elegant. Without compromising the integrity of its central leather note, Demachy has made it both radiant - through an expert use of citruses - and velvety. This latter effect has probably been achieved with the help of a pronounced ylang ylang facet. The link between white florals and leather is far from novel, but here, the ylang maintains its own curious, spicy, banana-like identity, whilst bolstering the darker, more carnal aspects of the overall construction. It rests at the heart of the perfume like a faithful, petal-scented lipstick that has made itself at home in a trusted shoulder bag. It endows the perfume with a striking personality and - magically, without diminishing its unisex credentials - it harks back to that notion of a much-loved Mum, fixing her make-up before facing the world with sassy self-assurance.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Christian Dior in 2014]