Sunday, April 27, 2014

What are Leather or Animalic Fragrances?

Fragrances can be classified by certain olfactive families, or themes, or accords. In this guide I will briefly discuss the various themes.

Leather/Animal: 

These notes are characterized by their warm, heavy and persistent quality. These fragrances are comprised of blending honey, tobacco, synthetics, cassie flower & bark, cade oil, myrtle, and wood tars such as birch tar to create the scent reminiscent of leather. Musk, ambergris, civet and castoreum are animal notes. Most animal odors used today are made of synthetics. Leather and animal notes have been used as aphrodisiacs for centuries.



Ambergris (the synthetic is known as amber in the perfumery world) is a substance excreted by the sperm whale after eating cuttlefish, and found in lumps of varying size floating in tropical seas or washed ashore. Ambergris must be weathered for at least three years before use. Although ambergris was used for centuries as a perfume, no one knew the exact source until more recent times.

Amber notes are typically found in Oriental type fragrances. Ambergris has a sweet, woody odor.

True ambergris has not been used in perfumery in over thirty years due to the concerns of whale farming and is considered unethical and cruel. Plant sources such as labdanum resin, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam and ambrette seed have been used in place of true ambergris. Synthetic substitutes such as Ambrox, Ambrarome, Lorenox, Ambretone, Cetalox and Kephalis are used in today's fragrances to impart the coveted amber scent.




Civet is a butter like secretion taken from a pouch in the glands under the tail of the civet cat, found in Ethiopia Burma and Thailand. This odor is used to impart a musky fragrance in perfumes. Synthetic substitutes are often used in today's fragrances as the natural harvesting of castoreum is considered unethical and cruel.



Castoreum is a creamy reddish brown secretion taken from sacs in the glands on the beaver, it was first used by Arab perfumers since the 9th century AD. It is used to impart a leathery odor in perfumery. Castoreum has often been described as sharp, birch tar-like, resinous, warm, musky and slightly fruity. Synthetic substitutes are often used in today's fragrances as the natural harvesting of castoreum is considered unethical and cruel.



Musk grains are collected from a walnut sized pod in the glands of the male musk deer of the Himalayas. The strongest fragrance of all, it is said that a single drop left on a handkerchief can last 40 years. Today, most musky fragrances are made using synthetic substitutes as the natural harvesting of musk is considered unethical and cruel. Chemicals such as Cashmeran, Iso E Super, Muscone and Nitromusks lend a long lasting musk tone to many fragrances today.


Hyraceum is the petrified and rock-like excrement composed of both urine and feces excreted by the Cape Hyrax, (Procavia capensis), commonly referred to as the Dassie. After aging and petrifying over hundreds, if not thousands of years, it is a sought-after material that has been used in both traditional South African medicine and perfumery. The material hardens and ages until it becomes a fairly sterile, rock-like material (also referred to as "Africa Stone") that contains compounds giving it an animal, deeply complex fermented scent that combines the elements of musk, castoreum, civet, tobacco and agarwood. The material is harvested without disturbing the animals by digging strata of the brittle, resinous, irregular, blackish-brown stone; because animals are not harmed in its harvesting, it is often an ethical substitute for deer musk and civet, which require killing or inflicting pain on the animal.



Beeswax and honey are also used in perfumery to impart subtle musky, animalic amber notes accented with tobacco and hay like balsamic sweetness, soft traces of powdery pollen and just a whisper of delicate flowers. This ingredient is often used to enhance certain facets in a perfume, such as flowers and citrus notes. Different flowers produce honey with particular characteristics. Herbaceous flowers produce camphor-like or mint-like honey. Clover honey has a sweet, spicy carnation-like essence. Both honey and beeswax absolute are also known to have a slight urinous odor due to certain chemicals present in their make up. Because bees are in no way harmed during the collection of honey or the beeswax, these two perfume ingredients can be considered ethical.



There are subdivisions of classifications in this family and they are:

  • floral leather
  • tobacco leather
  • soft amber fougere
  • floral amber fougere
  • leather chypre
  • woody spicy leather
  • musky
  • woody amber
  • floral spicy amber
  • citrus amber
  • soft amber


Perfumes which are classified as Leather/Animal notes are:
  • Tabac Blond by Caron
  • Cuir de Russie by Chanel
  • Scandale by Lanvin
  • Baume Tolu by Esteban 
  • Feminite du Bois by Shiseido
  • Miss Dior by Christian Dior
  • Tigress Musk by Faberge
  • Caleche by Hermes
  • Antaeus by Chanel
  • Cabochard by Gres
  • Musk by Jovan
  • Moss Breches by Tom Ford
  • Bandit by Robert Piguet
  • Equipage by Hermes
  • Miel de Bois by Serge Lutens
  • Bel Ami by Hermes
  • Diorama by Christian Dior
  • Khiel's Original Musk
  • Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez
  • Desert by Fragonard
  • French Lime Blossom by Jo Malone
  • Film Noir by Ayala Moriel
  • Oud Cuir D'Arabie by Montale 
  • Aramis by Aramis
  • Avant Garde by Lanvin
  • Chypre Noir by Ava Luxe
  • Piroguier by Comptoir Sud Pacifique
  • Cuiron by Helmut Lang
  • Intreccio No. 1 by L'Artisan 
  • Boucheron by Boucheron
  • Myrrhe Ardente by Annick Goutal
  • Zadig by Emilio Pucci
  • Chai by Robert Piguet
  • Cuirelle by Ramon Monegal
  • Royal English Leather by Creed 
  • Spellbound by Estee Lauder
  • Cuir de Lancome
  • Mon Numero 10 by L'Artisan
  • Gendarme by Carriere
  • Jovan Musk
  • Dzing! by L'Artisan
  • Jolie Madame by Balmain
  • Wild Musk by Coty
  • Givenchy Gentleman
  • Derby by Guerlain
  • CK Be by Calvin Klein
  • Empreinte by Courreges
  • Daim Blond by Serge Lutens
  • Cuir Beluga by Guerlain
  • Persian Leather by Caswell Massey 
  • Jules by Christian Dior
  • Knize Ten by Knize
  • Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums
  • Cuir Mauresque by Serge Lutens 
  • Feuilles de Tabac by Miller Harris
  • Jicky by Guerlain
  • Romeo Gigli by Gigli
  • Woman by Jovan
  • Dunhill by Dunhill
  • Sung by Alfred Sung
  • Peau d'Espagne by Santa Maria Novella 

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