What took Le Labo a couple of years to go from announcing Cuir 28 to actually launching it? It's as yet undivulged. Smelling the recently launched fragrance my mind is reeling into a fantasy of Chanel's Sycomore with leather and vanilla. Looks fabulous on paper but in practice it doesn't quite work as intended. Possibly because it looks like two disjointed parts, reminiscent of those kid's toys in which two rolls with images cut in half join at the middle to give you a giraffe's neck with lion's legs or a ballerina with the head of a Hell's Angel. In fact the parable of the latter isn't far removed from the reality of the latest Le Labo Dubai exclusive, Cuir 28.
Le Labo presents their leather fragrance as "Easy Rider without the sweat and gasoline — blending leather, wood and animal notes to give it a very powerful, dark and memorable personality" Specifically they mention natural vanilla absolute, leather notes (a synthetic base), woods (vetiver), animal notes (ambrox), and musks (muscenone).
Although the opening is jolting for anyone who considers the modern representatives of the "cuir" genre being cuddly and purring kittens like Guerlain Cuir Beluga or other suede fragrances (indeed these lean more to oriental than true leather scents), or spoiled by the plush iris note of Chanel Cuir de Russie, Cuir 28 is an exercise in illusion, an unusual and intriguing composition. Much like Tubereuse Criminelle before it, it hides beneath the shocking prelude a sensitive ballad. In Cuir 28 that ballad is played on the wooden wind instruments: a vanilla oboe and a vetiver clarinet, filling its other's phrases with a bridge in legato. The perfume's opening, smoky, tar-like, phenolic smelling with a touch of that cult Goutal, Eau du Fier and Band Aid worthy (oudh) pungency, isn't particularly animalic smelling, nor is it especially musky scented, but it can be a bit masculine and butch all the same. Wait about 15 minutes though (applying on the skin) and the rest of the composition in Cuir 28 becomes a sweetened vetiver scent, clean and comfortable and really fetching with its very perceptible vanilla. (Possibly there are more synthetic wood notes, like sandalwood, which provide some plush after the thrash.)
The comforting part has been a recent favorite for Le Labo judging from their Moscow exclusive, the extremely hard to come by Benjoin 19. Which beckons the question: Is the East succumbing to a Western taste?
Nevertheless, as is not uncommon with fragrances in the upper echelons of the pricing range, especially when they require a concentrated effort to get hold of as well, the dedicated perfumista might find that the effect is not worth the asking price in the end. Although I have been known to deem at least two of the Le Labo city exclusives, Poivre 23 and Gaiac 10, as worth the jumping through hoops (and have Mastercard-in-hand capitulated to one), I realize this also has to do with personal preferences, and if you're delirious about leather or vetiver, Cuir 28 is still very worth sampling and I'm glad I tested it; my sample saw good use indeed. Among the city exclusives -and the regular line as well- Cuir 28 is certainly NOT amongst the worst (Limette 27 is probably the dullest), yet it leaves me with a feeling of a missed opportunity. I'd like it turned up a notch.
Fragrance notes for Le Labo Cuir 28: leather, vanilla absolute, woody notes, vetiver and musk.
Le Labo Cuir 28 is exclusively available at Dubai as a city exclusive according to the brand, only the place that was supposed to stock it there (Paris Galley in the Dubai Mall) is closed and until something else opens (which Le Labo informs us it shall), the perfume is nowhere to be found. Fate has no doubt been harsh to Cuir 28...
Related reading on PerfumeShrine: The Leather Fragrance Series, Le Labo Fragrance Reviews & News