There are a bunch of great collections which hum along in the background of perfumery. One of my favorites are the perfumes of David Jourquin. He creatively directed a set of seven fragrances from 2011-2016. All of them are different variations on leather in perfume. M. Jourquin’s first two releases were a set designed for daytime and nighttime wear by men. He worked with perfumer Cecile Zarokian for both of those. Three years later he would again collaborate with her on a similar pair designed to be worn by women. It contains my favorite of the collection David Jourquin Cuir Altesse.
Regular readers know I am not swayed by whatever the brands tell me about the gender of a fragrance. I can make up my own mind. Back in 2014 As I tried both of these, I kept thinking of the old Secret deodorant commercial’s tagline, “strong enough for a man, made for a woman”. It is a dopey concept to be sure. Cuir Altesse may have been imagined achieving that. It is as much a shared perfume as any I own.
It opens with one of my favorite cardamom centric top accords. Mme Zarokian uses orange and baie rose as the other pieces. The fruitiness of the baie rose and the juiciness of the orange form the underpinning of the cardamom giving it depth and presence. As it heads to the floral heart, I guess the jasmine was supposed to be the focal point of it all. Except this is where the idea of assigning a perfume to a gender goes sideways. The jasmine is indolic and she ladles in cumin to resonate. This is the sweaty cumin many are wary of. She quickly counters with rose and patchouli which tames the cumin while allowing it to delightfully strum those indoles of the jasmine.
All these perfumes are built on a leather accord in the base. The one fashioned by Mme Zarokian uses vanilla and benzoin to pick up on the sweeter aspects of refined luxurious leather. It makes it softer until a bit of amber and oakmoss add some texture in the final stages.
Cuir Altesse has 12-14 hour longevity and average siullage.
Before writing this column, I confirmed that the entire line is still available to be sampled. This is an example of the amount of great perfume which fell through the cracks in the deluge of releases the last decade. All the David Jourquin perfumes deserve to be on your radar, especially if you like leather.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
David Jourquin released his first two fragrances in 2011, Cuir Tabac and Cuir Mandarine. I only became aware of these fragrances in the middle of 2013. The main reason I sought them out is they were leather fragrances and I like leather fragrances. M. Jourquin asked for a pair of leather based fragrances for a man to wear, one for the day and one for the evening. Cuir Tabac was a well-composed straightforward leather and tobacco composition. Cuir Mandarine showed off a bit of insouciance. With the titular mandarin a fizzy champagne accord was added and if your nose didn’t tickle enough a bit of black pepper was added for good measure before leather and tobacco form the base again. Now three years later M. Jourquin has asked perfumer Cecile Zarokian for two more leather fragrances but this time for a woman and again one for daytime and one for nighttime. The daytime fragrance is called Cuir de R’Eve and the nighttime one is called Cuir Altesse.
Cuir de R’Eve is, I believe, Mme Zarokian’s first fruity floral and it opens with a load of fruit but before it gets too sweet Mme Zarokian takes clove and pink pepper to add a bit of orthogonal spice. The fruit is ascendant but the spices make it more interesting. The heart is a pairing of orris and patchouli; some heliotrope adds a bit of bright floralcy especially for a daylight fragrance. The leather arrives with running mates of vanilla and musk. The vanilla is an interesting counterpart to the tobacco in the previous fragrances as it adds a similar sweetness without the bass lines tobacco adds. There is a pleasant lightness throughout the construction which seems appropriate considering the brief.
Cuir Altesse kept reminding me of the old advertising tag line for Secret deodorant, “Strong enough for a man, made for a woman”. Cuir Altesse was designed to be worn by a woman in the evening but this has everything in it this man could desire in a leather fragrance, from my first sniff I was smitten. Since wearing it a couple of times I am no less enamored of it. I think if I was ever to ask for a bespoke perfume from Mme Zarokian the structure of Cuir Altesse is where we would start. Cuir Altesse starts with cardamom bolstered with orange and pink peppercorn. The cardamom is what stands out and it leads down into a heart of mainly jasmine and cumin. The jasmine is indolic and the cumin is its usual pungent self. Together this should be a nightmare but instead all of these rough edges turn into a sweet dream. By using rose to pick up more of the floral character of jasmine and patchouli to blunt some of the sweatiness of cumin the heart of Cuir Altesse is alluring. Vanilla partners the leather again but this time benzoin and amber add a bit of resinous sweetness; oakmoss adds the final grace note to everything.
Cuir de R’Eve and Cuir Altesse have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Zarokian premiered many new fragrances at Esxence and what I am truly admiring is, as I get to know all of them in the weeks since the expo, her breadth of composition. The work she is doing for David Jourquin is a great example of her ability and the development of a very talented young perfumer.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by David Jourquin at Esxence 2014.