Leather fragrances are some of the most challenging to wear. They are can be rough and rugged, and at the same time refined and gentle. Mona di Orio Cuir is a perfect example. It's a scent of masculine sophistication that hides roughness under its polished surface.
Twenty minutes after I first smelled Mona di Orio Cuir I decided that this must be the scent of the Dos Equis guy. It is the fragrance of a man defined by worldly sophistication who has also been around the block a couple of times. He is divorced of any pretence because he has been there and done that. He's seen it and has done it all. He knows how to treat a lady and how to throw a good punch. This is how I imagine the man wearing Cuir.
Now, even for a minute, don't think Mona di Orio Cuir is a perfume for geezers, albeit sophisticated ones. It is quintessentially masculine without being cliche. You have the leather, a hint of barbershop soapiness and a soft resinous accord. Cuir has a classic feel and yet it is different.
What I like the most about Cuir is that it makes me feel comfortable. I feel at ease smelling it. I usually wear leather fragrances (e.g. Tuscan Leather, Cuir Andalou) when I mean business. Leather scents could be very authoritative and communicate gravitas and power.
Mona di Orio's Cuir, however, makes me feel at ease. I imagine myself well groomed, in a light grey tweed suit, sitting in an old leather chair. It is the same feeling I get from Masque's Montecristo. The difference is that Montecristo is a leather scent dressed in hunting gear, not a suit.
What Mona di Orio Cuir Smells Like
Cuir opens with a fresh herbal accord. It is slightly astringent and reminds me of anise. I get some smoke, the kind you get from smoldered woods. The smoke doesn't dominate. It lends some sharpness to the opening.
20 minutes in, the leather starts to emerge. It is smoky and slightly bitter, reminiscent of a worn in leather armchair. The leather here is not sharp and astringent like the one in Aoud Cuir d'Arabie.
Some reviewers write they detect a cigarette smell. The kind you get from an unlit of freshly lit cigarette. I don't get any cigarette smell but the leather, whose presence becomes stronger, is definitely smoky.
"Cuir smells really really good". - Gaia Fischler, The Non-Blonde
As Cuir slowly drifts into its middle phase, a soft soapy accord emerges. Combined with the smoky leather, this part of the fragrance reminds me of a high end old school barbershop.
The retro barbershop accord of Cuir is partly a result of the cade. The smell here reminds me of L'Occitan's Cade shaving cream minus the spices.
Cade is often described to have a harsh, smoky, tarry scent. In Cuir's composition it accentuates the leather accord and makes it smokier and more herbal. The heart of Cuir, however, has a soft, almost balmy feel to it. I attribute this to the cardamom and the resins that blossom in the dry-down.
This combination of smoky leather and creamy cardamom creates a perfect balance between rough and soft. On an aesthetic level, it makes Cuir appear sophisticated and masculine.
As the dry-down progresses, opoponax sneaks in. Opoponax is a resin that smells warm and balmy with a touch of sweetness. The opoponax in Cuir stays in the background. It supports the cardamom in building up the soft side of Cuir. Had there been a touch more of it, and the fragrance would have taken a more oriental direction.
Slowly, Mona di Orio Cuir turns into a soft resinous skin scent. It lasts solid 16 hours but in the last four of them, it is detectable only at a close sniff.
Where to Rock It
Cuir is an interesting fragrance and as is usually the case with interesting scents, its versatility is limited.
For me, Cuir is a fall fragrance. It evokes a feeling of mystery with a touch of melancholy. Not the kind you get when you are mourning but when you are celebrating of a well lived life. Cuir evokes one of those moments when you sip on a single malt whiskey and with a smile you recall the glorious days of the past.
Fall is a season of change that induces in me feelings of reflection and life examination. Cuir puts me in a similar mood and maybe that's why I see it as a fall fragrance.
Leaving the sentiments aside, Cuir will perform well in almost any weather. I'm skeptical if it will be the best choice for a hot summer day but other than that, the composition lends itself to a wide range of temperatures.
Cuir is a fragrance of subtlety. I find that instead of sitting on your skin like many perfumes do, it creates an aura around you. In a sense, the fragrance becomes part of you. I have the same experience when wearing Mona di Orio Oudh Osmanthus. It makes me wonder whether this is a signature feature of all Mona di Orio fragrances.
I see Cuir as a good option for the office. After the first twenty minutes the fragrance quiets down and projects at approximately half to a full meter from my body. The projection is enough for someone talking to you to detect the scent without getting overwhelmed.
Casual events where one favours comfort is the time to wear Cuir. It is an extension of the tweed jacket and the soft driving shoes as you go for a ride in the country side.
Every time I write about the age appropriateness of the perfumes I like, I catch myself being old. I haven't verified it statistically but I get the sense that most of the fragrances that appeal to me are most suitable for old people.
Mona di Orio Cuir is no exception. In general, leather-centered fragrance tend to be more mature and challenging. To be clear, I'm not talking about scents with a leather note in them. I am speaking strictly of fragrances that are built around a leather accord.
Even mature people have second thoughts about wearing some leather scents. I've heard reviewers calling Tuscan Leather a hairy, ballsy fragrance. In the family of leathers, however, Tuscan Leather is rather civilized.
When it comes to age, Cuir is for someone over 35. The smoky leather, the tarry cade and the balmy resins would not work for a younger guy, no matter how seriously they take themselves.
Cuir is officially classified as a unisex fragrance. For me, however, it is decidedly masculine. I'll be curious to see how a woman would wear it. Given its profile, I might be left with my unsatisfied curiosity.
What the Other Frag Heads Say about Mona di Orio Cuir
Gaia Fischler from The Non-Blonde says that like the other Mona di Orio creations, Cuir comes alive on her skin and "morphs into shapes, feelings and memories".
Gaia's observation about Mona di Orio's perfumes morphing into shapes is interesting. It reminds me of an interview I read with Mona in which she said that each perfume she created has a shape. She knew that a formula is complete when the fragrance took a mental shape in her head.
Gaia is a big fan of Cuir. She writes,
"Cuir is everything I hoped it would be: smoky, raunchy, yet civilized. It's not as raw as a caveman or a biker dude, but also not quite the floral lined expensive handbag of Cuir de Russie."
My experience is similar to Gaia's Cuir is somewhere in between a refined gentleman and a rugged biker. Like she says, it is "raunchy, yet civilized".
The bottom line is that "Cuir smells really really good".
Thomas from The Candy Perfume Boy opens his review of Cuir by asking an interesting question: how do you wear your meat? Like some other reviewers, Thomas finds Cuir to have a meat accord in its opening. Several reviews on Basenotes share the same experience.
I revisited the opening of Cuir several times but I didn't get even a hint of an open bag of beef jerky, as one reviewer put it, or chorizo. I get an herbal anisic accord and not a touch of meat or meat delicacies.
Thomas finds Mona di Orio Cuir challenging. He writes:
"You see, Cuir and I cannot be friends, but I admire its balls. It is an extreme, maverick leather that doesn’t care about being pretty, or even pleasant, it just wants to be wild."
I agree that Cuir is a different type of leather. I'd go as far as to agree that it doesn't care to be pretty. That's what makes it unique. Where my experience of Cuir differs from Thomas's is in the "extreme maverick leather". I find Cuir to have some civility about it. As if it is a rough guy with good manner and in a nice suit.
I love leather fragrances and am drawn to their harshness and weirdness. A harsh leather to me would be Montecristo or Aoud Cuir d'Arabie, which smells like a cowhide just taken off the back of a bull.
At the time of writing his review, Thomas shares "I’m very much in the curiosity stage and full blown leather-love."
Changing my perspective and trying to experience Cuir as someone who doesn't like leather as much as I do, I concede that Cuir could come off as harsh and wild. I am also amazed how propensity for certain smells make us experience the same scent differently.
Liam from Olfactics finds Cuir "staggeringly dangerous, yet strangely inviting". To him Cuir is a rough cowboy leather. He says:
"Cuir’s richness is first presented shockingly, loud and bombastically overflowing with spices and an animalic depth."
I agree with Liam's description. Indeed, Cuir opens with a somewhat strong opening. I don't find it that spicy, however. To me, it comes off as herbal, anisic accord.
Overall, Liam gives Cuir 4 out of 5.
The Bottom Line
Mona di Orio Cuir is one of the most interesting leathers on the market. It is a very handsome leather that perfectly defines in fragrant terms the edgy modern gentleman.
Would you buy Cuir?
When I first wore it, I wasn't sure Cuir is for me. I liked how it smelled and how it played with my feelings and emotions to take me places. Yet, I didn't think it would be worth buying it. After several more wears I got to appreciate it better and am considering getting a bottle. If for no other reason, then for the fact that it is a beautifully done unique leather fragrance.
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Would I get compliments wearing Cuir?
Just like Mona di Orio's Oudh Osmanthus, Cuir is a fragrance that becomes part of you. It is not a perfume that stays on top of you, like a piece of jewelry, and smells nice. It works with your own chemistry and forms an aura around you.
This is why, people may not be able to put their finger on what exactly about you attracts them (and, believe me, Cuir will create nothing else but attraction). In this sense, you probably won't get compliments from Cuir. At the same time, you shouldn't care. Cuir is a fragrance you wear for yourself.
What rating would you give Cuir?
Cuir gets a solid 4/5. It's an interesting fragrance that get full points for originality and composition but is missing that extra wow factor that would get it a full 5 star rating.
Where to Buy It
Mona di Orio Cuir comes in a 75ml bottle. You can get it online at etiket.ca.