I recently ordered a sample of Cuir, one of three in the new series by Mona di Orio, which also includes Ambre and Musc. I was quite excited to try this, as I am usually a fan of leather fragrances. I'm not sure what I was expecting - perhaps something a bit like Cuir Ottoman or Cuir de Russie. Instead, di Orio's Cuir is an unabashed leather monster, at least on my skin. The Non Blonde recently reviewed this very favourably, emphasising that although this wasn't biker leather, it was certainly quite animalic. I agree on the animalic assessment. However, on my skin this is unapologetically leathery, with more than a touch of birch tar. Cuir wears dry and smoky, without ever a hint of any sweetness or variation on my skin. At one point it is so intensely leathery that it starts to smell a bit like plastic, almost burnt in a way. This phase is the most unpleasant for me, when it smells a bit synthetic. This eventually moderates somewhat, but that smoky fierceness never goes away. Cuir has got to be possibly one of the most linear leather fragrances I have worn. It doesn't vary much after the top notes fade, which in a way is nice, in that if you like leather, you are going to get a lot of it, for a long time. On the other hand I was hoping for something else to creep in, perhaps some vanilla, or patchouli, or incense; I don't know. When I was younger, I had the misfortune to have to go to a tannery for my work (the joys of being an auditor, I tell you). We were counting inventory of hides and skins, many of which were still in quite a raw state and lots of others at various stages of the curing and tanning process. The smell was very leathery, but with a metallic bloody smell. To a small extent, Cuir reminds me of this smell, and thinking about it, that slightly plastic, blood smell I get is not that far removed from Vierges & Toreros, by ELDO.
Now I know that this review might seem to be painting Cuir in a slightly negative light, but actually, that's not what I'm trying to do. What I am saying is that Cuir, on my skin at least, is quite uncompromising and severe, and extremely leathery. Depending on your point of view, and your tolerance on the leather-skankmeter, this will either appeal to you or repulse, I think. I have a feeling that this is very much a skin chemistry thing. What I do know is that I don't find Cuir feminine at all, yet at the same time it is not really butch and masculine either. Nor do I find this sexy or kinky - in fact, I can't make up my mind about this and will need to test Cuir some more. What I do like about Mona di Orio is that she is isn't afraid to release some big, bold and frankly, sometimes some scary, skanky perfumes. I think if you do like leather, definitely give this one a go.