Friday, 27 September 2013

Persolaise Review: Cuir 28 from Le Labo (Nathalie Lorson; 2013)


Those who take an interest in such matters will be aware that Le Labo mentioned the arrival of its Dubai exclusive quite some time ago; at one point it seemed certain that the scent would be released in early 2012. The year came and went with no sign of the perfume and some of us began to wonder if the project had been shelved. Clearly, those fears were unfounded: Cuir 28 has now poked its head above the dunes. What's more, the fragrance has emerged during Le Labo's biennial free-for-all, during which its entire 'exclusive' range is available at all its boutiques. So far from being a low-profile release tucked away in a corner of Dubai Mall's Paris Gallery, it is temporarily within reach of pretty much everyone with access to the Internet*.

But what of its composition? Well, for once, its name isn't misleading: there's enough animal hide to justify the 'Cuir' tag. Indeed, there are more than a few echoes of two top-notch leathers: Antaeus and Epic Man. As soon as the peppery opening fades away, a granite-like, monolithic tannery emerges (calling to mind Chanel's 80s behemoth) right next to a well-stocked timber yard (redolent of Amouage's masterpiece). Vetivert, smoky cypriol and warm spices are present too, hovering a few inches above the skin like a heat haze reflected off gleaming metal.

Sure, these elements are worthy of excitement - and Cuir 28 is highly enjoyable throughout the main phase of its development - but there's something about its construction which stops me from giving it my full endorsement. Maybe I detect a lack of imagination in its drydown: an ambergris-like synthetic (almost certainly Ambroxan) linked to musks and a none-too-subtle dose of sandalwood substitutes. It's certainly a finer set of base notes than most which are inflicted upon us, but for one thing, Ambroxan is becoming a niche cliche (several perfumers have told me that they feel the material has lost its usefulness) and for another, the individual constituents haven't been stitched together convincingly. The seams between them are visible, which may imply that the formulation was rushed, which may, in turn, be related to the apparent troubles with the release date.

Perhaps I'm being too picky. After all, Cuir 28 is mostly very good indeed. And I concede that the idea of a well-muscled, 80s leather, made cleaner, more translucent and more modern isn't unappealing. But the execution falls short of being thoroughly impressive. And like all Le Labo's city exclusives, the scent is overpriced and devoid of any engaging commentary on the soul or the spirit of the place to which it's linked. By all means, sample it if you can. But each time I think that it costs almost £280 for a 100 ml bottle, I tell myself that I'm perfectly happy sticking with my stocks of Antaeus and Epic. And for the price of two bottles, I could just fly to Dubai, stand in the section of the gold souq where the smell of the nearby spice market mingles with the breeze from the creek, and soak up an atmosphere that's much more unusual and memorable than that captured by this piece of work.

[Review based on a sample provided by Le Labo in 2013.]

Persolaise

* On the 12th of October, it reverts to being exclusive to Dubai.

UPDATE 6th October 2012: As many of you have pointed out, the Le Labo counter at Paris Gallery in Dubai Mall has been closed for some time. According to the brand's press office, they hope to open a new counter in Dubai "in the next few months". Until that time, it's likely that Cuir 28 will not be available anywhere.

13 comments:

  1. Great review, I can't wait to smell this Dubai exclusive. I just have no idea where it will be released since the Le Labo boutique in Paris Galleries Dubai Mall had been closed for almost a year (I don't blame them, I don't think PG ever did them justice). And I was in the store just yesterday and there was no hint of its return. It is quite the mystery to me, where they will release this once you can't get it worldwide. But somehow I feel you will be correct, I'm sure I can find plenty of other scents to spend my money on. Still, I am sure there is a huge market here for it.

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    1. Dubaiscents, thanks very much for your comment. It seems I've been misinformed about the availability of the perfume in Dubai. I'll have to look into this...

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  2. An enjoyable insight on a fragrance I'll never know. I must try the Chanel ones you mention. I used to wear their Vetiver in the 1980s .
    I know I'll get the young lady at their counter who is brainwashed.I will reach for a man's tester ( ooo that sounds horrible!) and she'll skate over waving at me thinking that Woman wears Woman. I't not worth the discussion so I'll creep around until some poor woman arrives.

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    Replies
    1. Angela, if you've never tried Antaeus, you've got a real treat in store!

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  3. I love it but the mystery is that it is not available in Dubai at least until Le Labo opens a boutique which they have not yet but presumably may do so soon. Your idea of flying to Dubai for the price of 2 bottles is an idea I must explore.

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    1. Jordan, yes, the price of this stuff certainly gives pause for thought! Thanks for the info about the Le Labo boutique.

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  4. I'm happy to hear perfumers are moving away from Ambroxan, or plan to -- it's easy to overdose and then it feels like a spike to the brain.

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    1. Elisa, I guess any material runs the risk of becoming a cliche if it's overused, right?

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    2. I suppose, like oud these days. I just find this particular material really grating, not because it's common but because I just physically don't get along with it.

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    3. Ah, well, you have my sympathies then. It's horrible when a scent really gets under your skin and bugs the hell out of you.

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  5. I've updated this post with some info about the likely opening of a Le Labo counter in Dubai. Please see above.

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  6. Harvey Nichols Dubai.
    now also at Saks everywhere.
    I love wearing Cuir 28, the more I wear it the more enjoyable it becomes. The bottle is finally opening up and revealing it's secrets.

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    1. John, thanks very much for the helpful info.

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