Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Etro Gomma: fragrance review

Why is it that leather fragrances often produce the effect Frau Blücher's name does to horses in Young Frankenstein? Many otherwise accomodating perfume enthusiasts report some leather fragrances smelling pungent, sour or just outright harsh, admitting defeat and throwing the towel. But Etro, bless their joyful Italian hearts, have come up with the right answer for those cuirophobics: a friendly modern leather to eclipse fears and ignite desires instead.

Unlike "Blucher" which (does not) mean glue in German, "Gomma" means rubber and one would expect the "hot tires accord" and elastic that is purported to be at the heart of Bulgari Black (I say "purported" because the rubberiness of Black is actually quite vanillic and smooth to me, rather than acrid as one would imagine). There is a dose of it at the top in Gomma, but nothing to frighten the horses, if you will allow the pun.
Technically a "woody chypre", but more acurately an ambery leather, Gomma is among Etro's most successful creations, if only because it's distinctive (in the Knize Ten mould) and at the same time user-friendly. Composed by legendary perfumer Edouard Fléchier, it would be, wouldn't it? Not only does it layer well under simple soliflores, if you're after that sort of thing (try it with an iris or a carnation, or even better a lush jasmine to compliment its own floralcy), but it lends itself to easy wearing throughout the day and lasts rather well on my skin and on clothes, despite it being only an Eau de Cologne concentration. I can only imagine just how satisfying an Eau de Parfum version would be.

The secret of Gomma's success? A sheer pungent leather base that is more like birch tar (Cuir de Russie, Tabac Blond) than pike-harsh green quinolines (Bandit) and most reminiscent of Knize Ten (quite close in fact, although the Knize is brassier, fruitier, with lots of castoreum). But the theme is rendered via a diaphanous treatment with a slightly herbal-soapy tonality and a pleasurable sweet accent of indefineable white flowers. It's therefore the perfect leather fragrance for summer wearing or for the office without betraying the insouciant character that a cuir fragrance brings to its wearer: You won't stand out like a sore thumb, but you will leave others wondering what is that indvidual (and delicious) smell.
Staying power is average on the whole especially taking in mind the concentration, while warm weather seems to extend the sillage/trail left behind. And as to who can wear it? "I don't know if it's a masculine, a feminine or a unisex scent." the Non Blonde proclaims. I concur. Even inanimate things take on a new 5th dimension in it!

Notes for Etro Gomma:
citrus, artemisia, spices, leather, jasmine, amber.

Etro has revamped their packaging recently, making all caps silver instead of gold and rendering the boxes a graphic black and white instead of the old paisley (which I prefered). You can see both versions in the pics.
A 3.4 oz/100ml bottle retails for $165, on Amazon it's 143$ but sometimes it can be found discounted.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Leather series (everything about leather in perfumery & leather scents reviews)

Photo of old-style Etro Gomma bottle by Elena Vosnaki (click the pic to enlarge). Newer packaging via


  1. I "second your emotion..";-)

    This is an unsung pleasure of subtlety and excellent quality
    [ingredients and blending, both !].


  2. A happy coincidence: A leather review on a day during which I'm wearing a leather scent! (Chanel Cuir de Russie in my case) Gomma is another beautiful one that doesn't get the attention that it deserves.

    Tiny quibble: "Blucher" doesn't mean glue in German. That's a myth that started with that movie. The German word for glue is Klebstoff.

  3. Me too. I'm wearing cuir de lancome. It must be one of those leathery days. I haven't tried Gomma, but it sounds fabulous!

  4. Ida,

    it is fairly unsung, isn't it. Glad you like it too!

    Hope everything is fine and you're well, dearest. :-)

  5. I tried this in a shop some time ago and I was left unimpressed.
    I have a package of excellent stuff for you but I might hold it and send you a sample of Profumi di Firenze's Cuoio di Russia. That's a leather fragrance I dig and it will make your eyes water. Also, Dzongkha in large amounts - I wish this one was made in extrait. I'm all for rough leather. (Maybe I'm the evil twin, tee hee)

  6. E,

    thanks for the correction! Shows you how much the film industry influences my references instead of the dictionary! LOL
    But now my pun is semi-destroyed, oh well. (will fix it)

    Cuir de Russie is spectacular, especially in extrait de parfum. You smell so good!

  7. LBV,

    welcome to the leather party! (oops, sounds kinkier than I thought)
    Lancome's Cuir is an excellent one. Great choice!
    Gomma is less "rich" but quite good too.

  8. L,

    ah, you should try it again in really warm weather. I think it's ho-hum in the winter. (I find the same applies to Bandit for different reasons)

    I am very much looking forwatd to what you have in store for me, oh evil twin (who is embraced)! :P

    And will respond to your mail before the millenium ends, promise!

  9. Fiordiligi22:50

    Sorry to be late in commenting. It's funny you should write about this today, my dear, as I was looking for a bottle for Mr F in Liberty's on Saturday (no luck). He loves Knize Ten and has almost finished his second large bottle so I thought I might get this as a change.

    I think the Etro scents are delightful and a bit of an insider's secret. Love the new packaging, actually, but as always, one wonders what has been done to the contents.

  10. How utterly wonderful dear D!

    It's a good choice to be sure, slightly more floral, less butch but very nice too.
    Indeed the Etros are something like a mini-cult: there are the devout and the non-devout.
    I wonder about the changes in the contents too! Info from those who have tried both, most welcome!

  11. Cuir de Russie in extrait was my Winter Solstice present to myself. This definitely sounds like a leather I must try as I love the birch tar ones, not so much the ones using quinolines.

    Thank you for yet another wonderful piece.

  12. D,

    thanks for the most kind words!What an excellent gift you chose for yourself! Great taste in choosing the far superior extrait. I LOVE this!!

  13. Alexandra15:31

    Huh, I also liked better old paisley boxes, that was brilliant design. New ones are somehow *anemic*, pale.

  14. A,

    another one then, sharing my view.
    It's not that I don't like the new, but I prefer the older. The paisley seemed to mesh with the rich fabrics of the brand too.

  15. Dear E: Chiming in a bit late here, but I just received an unsniffed decant of this today and I'm trying it on one arm. It's quite nice; I don't think I get the same hint of white florals that you describe, though it's quite herbaceous. I like it a lot and hope to wear it to the office soon -- maybe tomorrow.

    I've been on quite a leather kick these last six months or so, and loving so many of them.

    The other night I was sampling SMN Peau d'Espagne from my decant and I am really smitten with that one. Oh, la la! I think I may eventually need a full bottle.

  16. Joe,

    thanks for chiming in by all means! Opinions are always welcome, at any date!

    Glad you like it enough, unsniffed purchases are sometimes risky. I think this is one leather that is office friendly, without being boring, but do take in mind it needs heat to bloom. It's much better in the summer and in warmer climates.

    Peau d'Espagne is another story, a very rich composition including many sweet elements. Have you read this old article?

  17. Elena, thank you for this interesting review. I picked up an older bottle of Gomma, the one with the colored paisley box. It's terrific! I have a recent formulation of Knize Ten and find them very similar indeed. Actually, I have to say that if I had to choose between them I'd go with Gomma. There's just something about it that has greater appeal for me. Knize Ten is a bit harsh, and doesn't lose that until well into the dry down.
    Do you have any idea of Gomma has been reformulated? It looks like there have been 2 subsequent bottle changes (first with the silver cap, and now with this new packaging that has the purple colored band across the middle). I've heard that Etro reformulated many of their fragrances... I hope that if Gomma was touched, that its character has remained mostly intact!

    1. You're most welcome, glad it struck a chord.

      It is true that Etro reformulated (everyone does these days....argh) and I haven't yet worn the newer versions. I'm really reluctant to part with the old style bottles, they seemed so very perfect! A sample of the intermediate version ending on my lap seemed a bit less pungent (but that might have to do with it being a dab on vial instead of a spray) but mostly smelling the same to me. I really do hope this is the case.

  18. Thank you for your artistic description. I admit I was very curious to try it after I've read lot of reviews comparing it to Bvlgari Black and Knize Ten and after I did (from a new release sample) I can concur to those. Still I found it more rounded, floral and a much easier to wear leathery scent. Plus to that, I just won on an auction site a vintage bottle, I really can't wait to fully enjoy it and see the differences.


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