The closest I have ever been to Russia is the Czech Republic, on a school trip about a year ago. For a week we visited the concentration camps and ghettos of Poland; on the last day, we were given time to run around Prague. Had we been meeting under different circumstances, I would no doubt have been enchanted by Prague, with its beautiful churches and miles of luxury shopping. But after a week of Auschwitz and Majdanek, a week surrounded by unfathomable death, I couldn’t deal with Prague’s (relative) extravagance. After seeing barracks piled to the roof with children’s shoes, a block of Louis Vuitton and Versace boutiques seemed outrageous. The decadence felt all wrong.
As you may have guessed, Cuir de Russie rubbed me in rather the wrong way. There are two reasons for this. First, this highly-praised leather scent is far sweeter than any leather scent has a right to be. The sweetness was straight up bizarre. If I order a steak, I do not expect to be served dessert. CdR does become more savory as time passes, but that first half hour is off-putting.
More importantly, the leather note in CdR strikes me as much closer to the smell of furs than to leather. I had envisioned CdR as a fitted leather jacket, or perhaps a fine leather purse. Instead I find a woman dripping in furs, decked out in every jewel in her safety deposit box, wearing too much eye makeup and a garish shade of lipstick, and reeking of cigarettes and perfume that went bad years ago. CdR smells “new money” to me, like a socialite who has not yet learned that restraint can be more elegant than ostentation. It’s all too much for me.
Disclaimer: I sampled Cuir de Russie at Saks Fifth Avenue. Cuir de Russie is available for $200 for 6.8 ounces. It can be found at Bergdorf Goodman, select Saks Fifth Avenues, select Chanel boutiques, and the Chanel website.