Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cuir Caucasien by Geille A Paris- a tale of Vintage Leather

I can't say how thrilled I was to acquire another creation of  the mysterious 1940s perfumer Frédéric Geille. From the Seine (district?) of Paris, Geille is damned (or rather, any fruitful Internet search on the man is damned,) by anonymity. There are too many Geilles and too many Seines, to yield anything more than a passing mention of his name.

But after finding and falling in love with his superior Vrai Chypre last year, I learnt of one other Geille scent- the seemingly more famous (funny to call it's fleeting appearance fame)- Cuir Caucasien (CC). We have a lovely reference photo of a gorgeous presentation bottle of CC from  from Barcelona's Museu Del Perfum; it is the second bottle from the left.
I really never expected to see another example of this rare perfume, much less to have one fall into my hands, but a little less than a year after finding Vrai Chypre (VC), a pristine, sealed example of the Caucasien landed right there.

My own bottle of the Cuir is nowhere near as fancy as the one shown above... but it is comfortingly identical, although smaller in size, to my bottle of Vrai. Unfortunately the stopper on the Cuir was (sealed) frozen in place and the pressure of popping it open caused an ugly fracture to appear in the glass. I quickly decanted the contents into a couple of empty bottles I had laying around but it really was a shame that it happened.

By the way, I really love these square shouldered bottles with their hand-stamped and cut labels- so many WWII vintage perfumes were relegated to these plainer style bottles. They also remind me of the simpler 1920s style bottles, too... sort of old fashioned and almost barber-shopy.

But never mind about the outer details, what about the juice? Well, folks, this one is all about LEATHER (yes, it's that intense- it has to be in full on caps!). I already knew from my experience with the Vrai Chypre, that Mr. Geille bottled only a high quality perfume (not anything weaker, like an Eau Toilette) and his perfume was preserved well with both an amazing sillage and superior longevity. The Cuir is no different, a strong perfume with plenty of birch tar that scents paper strip and fabric for days. It smooths and silkens in the air and with time it becomes a pliable but thick second skin. However at the first, it is quite aggressive. No other way to put it, really. Even in the now empty original bottle, I can detect the BBQ, smoky and almost bonfire-y aspects of CC. Yet there is a delicate underside to this perfume at the same time, decorated with tenacious floral notes that smell to me by turns of lily of the valley and violets (tempered by rose).

I adore the scent of Cuir Caucasien clinging to scarves and fabrics and such. But on the skin, and for my taste, I find it really benefits from anything with a touch sweetness or amber in it. At this point in my relationship with CC, I need that addition of something sweet to help me find the spaces in between all that LEATHER. It is however ideal for layering when a strong does of pure leather is required. I also dotted some on my husbands arm and predictably, it read as slightly more floral on him but still very LEATHER!

In case you're wondering, I picked this bottle up from a junk-shop clearance house for under $10 dollars, and the stopper was correctly tied, frozen in place so I'm highly inclined to believe the contents are exactly correct... But I'm blown away by the style of this perfume, which make many (all?) of the niche leather perfumes of today seem wan and weak by comparison- Was it considered impossibly edgy and masculine, or perfectly lady-like and wearable back in it's day? Sadly, I can find no advertising imagery. So for now, we have a story of vintage leather unlike any I've experienced before (and as wild as it is, it's definitely what I'll be wearing this Halloween;)...

And here's a quickly little summary of how a few of my other vintage leathers compare -

Chanel Cuir de Russie- purrs like a kitten, a dream of iris refinement in softest leathers (and fur), for me the reference leather, never harsh, always a lady.
Cuir de Russie de Vonna- a lesser known example for sure, a very powdery violets and rose rendition, an almost cosmetic style mauve toned leather, and perhaps just a touch too shy when you're wanting a full-on leather.
Bandit- almost cruel, like crunchy, shiny patent leather cat suit but in a mossy shade of green; I love this one mostly for it's dank herbal kick.
Jolie Madame- a violet-leather chypre, more similar to Bandit in style (for me, at least) than the others but more of chypre than a true leather.

Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.


Scarlett Johansson - Iron Man promotional shot (from Google search)
Perfume Bottles from Museu Del Perfum
my own image of Geille perfumes

Cat Woman - Google images


jacques235 said...

i would appreciate any kind of information about Mr Frederic GEILLE ans his family, we were neighbourgs near Paris city (France)around the 1945 years, but i lost the contact since!
thanks to everybody for help

Amelia said...

jacques235: I'm happy to post this link for you- and I hope someone responds! Did anyone in your family know anything of the family connection to perfume? I did considerable research looking for information but alas, too common a name for me to find anything!