Hey guys, I’ve been backed up for a long time. I have a ton of perfume samples waiting for review. I’m sorry if I haven’t gotten to yours. I’ll do the best I can.
I have a lot of samples from Siren PR for MEMO, a French company that just debuted at Bergdorf’s. Founders Clara and John Molloy started their company in 2007. IFF-trained perfumer Alienor Massenet is their nose.
I want to write about their leather collection first, because leather has always been one of my pet notes. The press material for their Cuir Nomades collection gave me an interesting history lesson: back in the 17th century glovemakers would use oils to mask the scents of animal hide. Glove perfumers eventually became quite sought-out in French courts. So much so that tanneries in Grasse (then known for leathermaking) started cultivating fields of flowers to scent the gloves. When the leather trade started declining due to higher costs and competition, Grasse became known for perfume.
The Molloys put the “nomades” in Cuirs Nomades because leather is known for going everywhere. And if you think about it, that’s true. It’s used for briefcases, luxury car seats, and motorcyclists’ gear. (Can you tell I’m having a lot of fun with this press material?)
The first thing I jotted down is that it’s a rough leather. Sort of like a work boot. I wrote that there’s an Earl Grey-ish note too, and if you’re in the right mood it also smells like smoky tobacco. This is one of those fragrances that comes off a little different each time you smell it.
But I just now sprayed some on my shirt and got a rich, heady whiff of green medicinal goodness. That must be the clary sage. On skin, Irish Leather changes in subtle, interesting turns. But on fabric you get that chilly blast that Irish co-founder John Molloy wanted to evoke. It definitely smells like “one of those icy, biting mornings” as described. The drydown smells the same as the start.
When I test perfumes I try to spray them without looking at the note list first. That way I can pick out which notes actually stand out to me instead of just making myself smell what I’m supposed to. I’m proud of myself for picking up the tea note, even if it isn’t Earl Grey. Yerba mate is a South American tea that you’re supposed to drink with a straw while it’s still steeping.
The website’s picture describes Irish Leather’s mood perfectly.
Note List: pink pepper, oil of clary sage, juniper berry, green mate absolute, oil of flouve, iris concrete, Tonka bean absolute, leather accord, oil of birch, amber accord
My Rating: 7.5
(Annette in Sebastian’s 1956 Jaguar Roadster, from screeninsults.com)
This one smells distinctly high-quality. The materials really rise it above the sum of its parts, which are mainly vanilla and leather. The best Italian leather is soft and buttery and so is MEMO’s version. This perfume is cheerful.
I think it’s the iris effect that makes it so soft. The crisp tomato leaf comes in a minute later. It smells like a really clean-cut, preppy guy who has laid-back afternoon cocktail parties on his yacht. But there’s something dainty about it too. So it’s actually more like his girlfriend just put on his shirt so she smells like both of them at the same time. (Oooh! )
This is also a strong perfume. Not strong in the sense that, say, Poison is, but it has a natural presence. Even in the drydown, which unfortunately loses the sunny details. People will know when you’re wearing Italian Leather. They just might not know it’s perfume.
Note List: oil of pink pepper, vanilla bean absolute, black currant buds, rockrose absolute, oil of galbanum, oil of clary sage, green tomato leaf, iris concrete, oil of petitgrain, oil of sandalwood, tolu balsam resin, opoponax resin, myrrh resin, benzoin resin, leather, musk
My Rating: 7
Sticking lime, rose, and suede together has to be one of the more original perfume ideas I’ve heard in a while. And they’re not kidding: the lime really does stand out. You get all three notes in just about equal parts. But there’s a sense to this one that feels, like the press material says, “deceptively casual. Not quite nonchalant.” I see how some people would like it. It’s perfectly blended and feels very much like you’re in a French café. I picture it as a sort of rosewater soda with lime that someone’s drinking. The drydown gets more suede-y. Towards the end it starts to smell a bit like Bottega Veneta.
But overall, it just feels a little too heavy for me. I’m more into heavy perfumes in most cases, but this one I think would be served better if it went all the way into bubbly, fresh territory and became truly nonchalant.
Note List: lime essence, rosewater essence, vernal essence, sage resin, pink pepper essence, cedar essence, musk, suede accord
My Rating: 6.5
All three of these could be unisex, even French Leather if you’re bold. They could also be layered together. I have to say, the best thing about reviewing these is that all three evoked exactly the same emotions that they were supposed to. I didn’t have to squint and pull at strings trying to figure out how Irish Leather smells like cold freedom, French Leather smells like walking aimlessly around Paris all day, or Italian Leather smells like riding through the countryside in the back of a Ferrari. It just does.
(Note: I have never walked around Paris, ridden a horse for any substantial distance or ridden anywhere in the back of a Ferrari, but hey, that’s the point of perfume. It takes you somewhere else.)