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I’ve never been able to describe exactly what leather smells like. More often than not, the word leather brings certain images to mind instead—James Deans on a motorcycle, my favorite pair of Michael Kors boots and the Madewell wallet I keep saying I’ll get, but let sit in the cart instead, for example. But ask me to tell you what each one smells like and I’ll probably say, “it smells like…leather?” Needless to say, I’m intrigued anytime a leather fragrance comes across my desk because it means someone has found the words I couldn’t and apparently, a smell I didn’t know existed either.
Normally, I would complain about getting so many versions of seemingly “one” thing, but since I am obsessed with fragrance (an understatement, TBH), the variety is a welcome reprieve from other predictable smells. According to most product labels and descriptions, leather notes are created by either blending other notes together or extracting oil from actual leather. If it’s the latter, you can expect leather from a very specific and exclusive location that isn’t being used elsewhere. And like the heaviness of leather material used to make clothing items, the leather note is used more often in colognes that are generally marketed as heavier and “masculine.”
As of late though, we’re beginning to see leather infused into perfumes or gender-neutral fragrances that aren’t all cedarwood and vetiver. With that being said, the mystery of leather scent continues to leave me in perpetual confusion and bliss. Ahead, some of my favorite leather fragrances; perfume and cologne included.
Atelier Cologne Gold Leather
A unisex scent grounded by leather and oud accords.
Byredo Black Saffron
Partly inspired by the founder’s Indian upbringing, the combination of this scent’s saffron, Blonde Woods, vetiver (and more) notes will give you major leather vibes.
Floral Street Iris Goddess
Leather, peach and orris are the standout notes of this vegan fragrance.
Hermes Kelly Caleche
This light scent is meant to be reminiscent of a visit to the brand’s leather storehouse.
Jo Malone London Bronze Wood & Leather
For the scent and feel of a heavy cologne, grab this woody scent which includes leather as a base note.
Le Labo The Noir 29
Le Labo’s homage to the tea leaf is made up of light (bergamot, fig) and heavy notes (cedarwood, vetiver) that evoke the feel of leather.
Maison Margiela REPLICA Jazz Club
A scent that will immediately make you think of the places that inspire you to throw on a motorcycle jacket: tobacco lounges and jazz clubs.
Malin + Goetz Leather
In addition to including actual leather notes, this fragrance includes “muted florals that mirror the smooth elegance of leather” and “rustic wood notes that bring to mind the softness of a well-worn vintage find.”
Memo Paris Irish Leather
A “wind of leather” fragrance inspired by an early morning in the hills of Ireland.
Tom Ford Tuscan Leather
A fragrance inspired by Tom Ford’s love of fine leather with notes of black suede, leather, saffron and more.
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