There is a story of ancient horse-borne warriors which has always interested me. It is said in those cultures where they fought on horseback, they would rub the indigenous flowers into their saddles. It was probably one part camouflage and more parts taming the raw smell of the tanned leather. I’m not even sure if it is true. I only know I want it to be. I have an unreasonable desire to take a basket of a favorite flower and crush it into a leather saddle. Which is why the name of Van Cleef & Arpels Orchid Leather piqued my interest.
This is an entry in the Collection Extraordinaire series. This is the first one of these to feature leather. Perfumer Julien Rasquinet mentioned he was inspired by the subtle leathery quality of some plants as part of a way of building in additional layers. I didn’t get my flowers crushed into leather. I did get another different vision of something being added to it. The result is a richly satisfying perfume.
It opens on deep fruity plum swirled with the zestiness of cardamom. Plum can have a syrupy presence the cardamom lifts it away from that. A processed leather accord appears next. This is a very refined version. It has a waxy shine it has been so well taken care of. An application of incense adds a resinous scent over the top. The botanical leather M. Rasquinet chooses is cistus. My experience with this ingredient is it reminds me of decaying earth. I have to squint a bit to see leathery. When it shows up that type of decaying earth does harmonize with the leather. It takes it from being hung up in the tack room to being taken off after a vigorous ride. There is an animalic overtone which appears. Now I didn’t get my flowers being crushed into all of this. The replacement is the vanilla pods of the orchid they grow from. This saddle is treated with vanilla pods rubbed into the sweaty leather accord. It adds in a contrasting sweetness without overwhelming everything.
Orchid Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
We have had a few cold morning warm days in this early part of spring. I ended up wearing this on both of those days. I usually wear my leather jacket this time of year, but it was warm enough I didn’t need it. Orchid Leather allowed me to wear some leather on my skin anyway. I still haven’t got my flowers and saddles, yet. I must say vanilla pods and leather is a pretty good substitute.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Neiman-Marcus.