Leather perfumes, or leather fragrances, have a long and colorful past, and their olfactory family has always been atypical and rarer than others.
Usually synthetic or naturally derived in the state of the art laboratories of our hallowed halls, leathery notes can differ vastly from one another, ranging from smoky, woody, feral, floral, fruity to burnt or shaded tones of tobacco.
These scents are marked by characteristically pungent notes and aromas reminiscent of cured hides and leather goods.
They stand apart from other fragrance families because they are paradoxical in nature.
Their aspects are masculine yet feminine, wild yet gentle and potent yet fragile.
Birth and Evolution of The Leather Fragrance
The link between leather and perfume dates back to about 2000 years before the birth of Christ.
Asian perfumes were created by rubbing leather with the bark from fragrant kumquat tress, and then later in Spain skins were treated with diverse scents such as earthy musk, warm amber or sharp savory camphor.
Italians perfumed their leather scents with aspects of sweet almond, fruity iris or pungent, radiant and velvety civet.
Since the glory days of the Renaissance (14th to 17th centuries) leather became the symbol of refinement, and the wealthiest people spent enormous sums of money to buy the most beautiful tanned items, especially gloves.
The 16th century Florentine noblewoman Caterina de Medici is considered to be responsible for introducing perfumery to the French court.
She was well known for her love of perfumed gloves both for herself and allegedly poisoned varieties, which served as lethal gifts to those whom she believed were her political enemies.
This century also marked the birth of Italian leather that was perfumed with a base of almonds, among other things, which was a discovery made by Marquis Pompeo Frangipani.
In the 17th century, the city of Grasse in Provence, and its rival, Montpellier, were the epicenters of the tanning industry, which cured the leather hides using urine, dung and other highly unpleasant liquids.
There was a brisk trade between them and buyers from Italy, mainly Genoa and Pisa.
The smell of the tanned leather was so unpleasant that the French noblesse did not like it.
To soothe their harsh character, Grasse added the essence of wild flowers that bloomed in profusion across the countryside, which fragrantly transformed its character.
In Spain, leather was also perfumed with a mixture of herbal and flower oils and a scent known as Peau d’Espagne (the skin of Spain) was born.
Leather and the art of perfumery spread from France to Russia, where the Russian Cossacks and ballet dancers of the time made their precious boots and slippers shiny and waterproof thanks to various floral essences.
Popular facets included: sweet woody and green birch and sugary styrax with smoky, tarred scents, and notes of spicy licorice and herbaceous and slightly mossy tobacco as well.
Tradition vs Modernity
Down through the passage of time and even to this day, the blend of leather and fragrance remains one that lies between tradition and innovation.
Since 2001, leather perfumes have officially been considered as an olfactory family in their own right.
With the rise of niche perfumery, leather scents are making a resurgence from their former disuse since the 1980s, when they fell by the fragrant wayside of consumer demand for fresher scents.
Leather has become a distinct element in perfume compositions, revealing itself as silky and velvety facets that render the sensation of floral and apricot tones.
These perfumes are for everyone, as this fragrance family is loved by both men and women.
They can also be tough, elegant, animalistic or seductive.
Introducing Leather Notes To A Fragrance
Classic perfumers, such as our teams at Alpha Aromatics under the watchful helm of master perfumer, Roger Howell, formulate essential oils that create the illusion of leather, as it is impossible to obtain it from the material itself.
A leather accord in a perfume renders a unique touch to any fragrance because it evokes potent associations with the smell of coats and jackets, the inside of leather bags and even the recall of an old long single-breasted coat with a velvet collar once known as a Chesterfield.
A perfumer can create a leather accord in a number of ways, such as: with birch tar, castoreum, styrax, oud, labdanum or quinolines, or with synthetic accords.
These warm, animal notes are powerful and serve as a base for leather scents.
Some flowers also have leathery facets, particularly warm, honeyed and balsamic cassia.
Birch tar essence is obtained by a long dry steam distillation process, which results in the olfactory sensation of a wood fire.
The warm, smoky scent of birch tar was the main ingredient used to create a leather scent until it appeared on the IFRA restricted list in 2014.
It has been supplanted by the more popular family of aromatic synthetic chemicals known as quinolenes, a family of aromatic, volatile chemicals that were incorporated into many of the masculine fragrances that were popular in the 1980s.
They were used primarily to develop dry leather marked with green notes.
Floral aspects such as iris, can be a pleasant accompaniment to leather fragrances as well as vanilla, which serves to soften odors.
What Does Leather Smell Like?
The leather accord in perfume formulation features elements with a wide range of expression ranging from dark, deep leather to soft and velvety suede.
These fragrances are often said to retain a woody dryness. In somber leather perfumes, notes such as: smoky, almost burnt (birch tar), animal (castoreum), salty, woody (oud) and balsamic (styrax) aspects are easily recognized.
Traces of tar and tobacco can also be sometimes detected. Warm wood, rich amber and bittersweet and nutty almond notes are blended to create the sensation of softer suede.
A Few Of Our Recently-Formulated Leather Perfumes
Our teams are often asked to create formulations that feature the fragrance of leather in new and innovative ways, and it’s always a welcomed challenge to craft modern, inspiring medleys that help scented products and product lines stand out against their competition.
The following represent a few of our more recently-designed leather fragrances.
Calabrian Bergamot And Suede
This delightful fragrance opens with a fruity stream of tangy and woody nuanced raspberry, spicy, teasing and complex bergamot and fuzzy soft apricot.
These facets soon fold into a redolent heart note featuring intense and haunting jasmine, potent, hot and herbaceous thyme and delicate, feminine lily-of-the-valley.
The fragrance finishes with base note elements of soft, pungent and musky leathery-suede, dark, honeyed amber, passionate, earthy musk and balsamic, woody cedar.
Black Leather Coriander
A burst of citrus streams through the introductory notes of this unforgettable Alpha Aromatics’ fragrance with aspects of clean, refreshing and light bergamot, sharp lime and lush succulent orange.
These aspects soon meld into a mellow heart note marked by fresh, slightly pungent coriander, grassy, light and smooth green tea, soothing, redolent lavender and waxy, creamy tuberose.
The scent concludes with base notes brimming with dark, honeyed amber, woody, dry cedar, soft, pungent leather and noble, sugary vanilla.
Tonka Bean And Leather
This summery fragrance whispers of dazzling white beaches and the lingering aroma of clean, fresh linen.
It opens with aspects of mildly spicy, and refreshing bergamot, sour-sweet lemon and sharp, grapefruit-infused pomelo.
These elements soon acquiesce into an aromatic floral heart note consisting of bitter, herbaceous and light neroli, delicate, sugary muguet and intense and intoxicating jasmine.
Base notes of tropical, milky coconut, creamy tonic bean, mellow, pungent leather, slightly mossy and somewhat sugary tobacco leaf, creamy sandalwood, noble, lush vanilla and warm, honeyed amber complete this memorable fragrance.
Aged Leather Amber
Opening facets of sophisticated, citrusy and bitter bergamot blend with uplifting grapefruit, sour-sweet lemon and succulent, sugary tangerine.
These elements soon fuse into a heart note of fresh, slightly pungent coriander, fruity iris and creamy, rich and smooth gardenia.
The scent finishes with a delectable stream of base notes featuring dark, rich amber, dry, woody cedar, earthy musk, pungent aged leather, buttery sandalwood and elegant lush vanilla.
Leathered Peony Leaf
Facets of spicy, citrusy bergamot, velvety peach, bitter, herbaceous pink grapefruit and tangy, woody raspberry open this floral / fruity bouquet that soon folds into a heart note of potent, rosy peony, powdery, vanilla-like orchid and creamy, mellow gardenia.
Aspects of soft, pungent leather, earthy musk, woody, powdery and velvety sandalwood, noble vanilla and sensual, passionate patchouli complete this fragrance.
Dark Spiced Leather
This compelling scent opens with streams of mild, floral and fruity-nuanced bergamot, uplifting grapefruit and succulent orange.
These introductory notes soon fade into a heart note bouquet of piquant, biting pepper, warm, inviting cinnamon and slightly sharp and earthy vetiver.
Swirls of soft, pungent and pliable leather, woody, slightly green and mossy tobacco, warm, dark amber,
slightly sugary and musky patchouli and lush, elegant vanilla finish this intriguing scent.
Why Turn To Alpha Aromatics As Your Fragrance Supplier?
With routes stretching as far back to the aftermath of World War II, we have since maintained our leadership within the perfume industry, constantly innovating and implementing eco-friendly techniques that protect the environment.
We are a leading force within the industry and create fragrance formulations for every industry under the sun, including but not limited to: cosmetics, personal care and beauty care products, scented candles, industrial air fresheners and more.
Our edge over competitors is largely due to our unique, in-house Technology Center, which boasts 85,000 square feet of space situated in the heart of suburban Pittsburgh, PA, and a team of experts equipped with the best equipment that money can buy, including the latest in gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and head space analysis.
The ingredients we use are all safe and pure and guarantee that resulting fragrances are all superior to all others in the modern market place.
We stand behind all of our fragrance formulations, which far exceed industry standards and represent both individually and collectively our company’s success as well as that of the clients we service.
If you’d like to add the smokey, burnt, feral notes of a leather fragrance to your product or product line, contact our teams today!
Final thought on fragrance: Fragrance is the sharpest trigger of the memory, a transport into forgotten worlds. ~ Anne Rice
Photo Credits: Pixabay