Ramon Monegal Cuirelle: Sueded Enchantment

Ramon Monegal Cuirelle eau de parfum can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $185. My review is based on a decant of Cuirelle I received from my blogging friend Ines (All I Am – A Redhead), whose luscious review can be found here. (Ines, if you’re reading this, I can’t believe how similarly we characterize this perfume. I just re-read your review for the first time since you originally posted it, and it hits on the same themes as mine. Thanks for introducing this to me!)

Image, top of page, of actress Polly Walker (playing Lady Caroline Dester) and Joan Plowright (as Mrs. Fisher) is from the 1992 film, Mike Newell-directed film, Enchanted April, based on the novel of the same name. Middle image is also of Polly Walker playing Lady Caroline.


Bottle image is from Luckyscent.com.



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My only reservation about this analogy is that it might lead you to assume that Cuirelle has a retro, vintage-y composition when in fact it’s modern. Modern in the sense of uncluttered and not overly cosmetic. As such, kindly replace any thoughts of leather gloves and flapper regalia with an imagined remake of Enchanted April, in which Lady Caroline is wearing suede leather boots in a pastel shade like violet, since there is something sexy about this perfume without it ever coming close to being over the top. And imagine, too, that we are at the stage where the magic of the month-long stay at San Salvatore has had its curative effect on the women in attendance there (Enchanted April is actually a story of four women of different backgrounds who experience a profound shift of values while embracing the natural beauty of this paradise) leaving Lady Caroline at peace, able to accomplish what she set out to do: To leave behind the trappings of her own physical beauty. Not the fact of her pulchritude nor the enjoyment of beautiful things, but the way her beauty and wealth have shackled her into leading a superficial existence. If this statement seems at odds with my asking you to imagine her in sexy suede boots, then recall (if you’ve seen the film or read the novel) that Lady Caroline doesn’t ditch her beautiful clothes and stop bathing during her stay at San Salvatore. At the conclusion of Enchanted April, she is as exquisite as she is at its start, only all the more so because now she’s operating from a soulful level. Similarly, Cuirelle strikes that rare balance, whether one is talking perfume or talking about character (which is how I think of perfumes), between the politely mannered and the assertively confident. Whenever I find this combination, I conclude that a high degree of intelligence is in attendance, as it’s a fine balance to pull off.

"Strength and texture. Not the essence of leather, but an interpretation of it. Cat-like flexibility and musk sublimated with shades of honey and incense and balanced with green Cedar and Vetyver grass,” is how the Ramon Monegal advertising blurb describes Cuirelle, and to a large degree, I concur.

While the word “strength” is not one that comes to mind for this scent in terms of its actual smell, it fits it conceptually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I did compare Cuirelle to Lady Caroline, who does indeed possess a “cat-like flexibility” that is a statement of strength. And in terms of texture, it’s truly there, if you spend time examining this perfume in the close manner that perfumistas do when they are trying to parse notes. Doesn’t matter that I guessed the notes for Cuirelle all wrong (to me, it smells like suede achieved via an accord of iris, heliotrope and jasmine – notes that would also account for its fruity nature – and a veil of chypre notes that might include bergamot, saffron, oakmoss and patchouli). Doesn’t matter that I mostly can't detect the actual notes that Ramon Monegal lists for Cuirelle (those being olibanum, Indonesian patchouli leaf, bourbon vetiver, Virginian cedar, cinnamon and beeswax). What matters is that this incredibly suave perfume, when studied closely, has depth. Reiterating what I mentioned at the start, for me its textures are the combined whiffs of suede leather, sea air, vague florals that merge to become a tropical pineapple married to a base accord that is too delicate to be called rum-like, but which nevertheless echoes the butter-rum scent of a pineapple-upside-down cake.

Wearing it yesterday, I got an unsolicited compliment on it from my hairdresser, which surprised me considering Cuirelle's languid nature. It does have some sillage, but for the most part it’s a perfume that acts a bit like Lady Caroline when she first embarks on her Italian holiday. It’s content to keep its own company and to grin at passers-by like a Cheshire cat.

I’d forgotten that my friend Ines (All I Am – A Redhead) had sent me a decant of Ramon Monegal Cuirelle, and though I had worn it once or twice when she initially sent it last year, enough time had passed that I’d forgotten what to expect from it, apparently, as reacquainting myself with it has been a surprise. Firstly because the name Cuirelle had me expecting a full-on leather scent – which it decidedly isn’t – and secondly because it’s the exact sort of perfume I’ve been craving over the last year: the soft kind. Cuirelle is a delicate, gourmand-like approximation of suede leather, and if I were allotted only one sentence to describe it, I’d draw a verbal picture of a beautiful young woman in suede go-go boots eating a slice of pineapple-upside-down cake somewhere sunny and spring-like. It’s an Enchanted April kind of scent: a scent that puts one in mind of Lady Caroline Dester luxuriating in the Italian countryside, when the temperatures are warming up, and everything is in bloom, but it’s not sultry yet. The ocean is down a winding path, more or less a stone’s throw away, and Lady Caroline is in the polite company of her English traveling companions, so naturally some kind of polite, fruit dessert is involved. Why pineapple-upside-down cake? I include it as part of my description because five or ten minutes after application, attendant with the smell of suede leather, delicate florals and ocean mist, there is a whiff of pineapple (an imagined pineapple, as there is no fruit listed among Cuirelle's notes) in an accord that also smells brown-sugared and creamy. Equally fitting with the vibe I get from this perfume, there's a warm whimsicality to said dessert. It’s casual and unfussy and the kind of thing one might be served in the countryside, far away from the city and its patisserie shops. Cuirelle shares that appeal: elegant, loose-limbed and relaxed, it’s a fragrance that strikes me as feminine and pretty (perhaps its name is a combination of cuir, the French word for leather, and elle, the French word for “she”?), and not overly dramatic or serious. Any perfume that smells softly of leather, and softly of tropical fruit and dessert, is a perfume that must be said to have a sense of levity or humor about it. If the perfume was deeper, either in terms of its leather or its fruit, it would be a different matter, but this one isn’t balanced that way.

July 2, 2015:

Suzanne's Perfume Journal