I’m not sure why this year has seen me notice the longevity of what I consider the pillars of independent and niche perfumery. The earliest innovators are all seeing significant milestone anniversaries is probably one reason. One which has lasted for thirty years is Parfums de Nicolai. When Patricia de Nicolai blazed her own path, leaving her family brand Guerlain behind, it was not the perfume business landscape it is today. She would build her own aesthetic and brand, perfume by perfume. At this point Mme de Nicolai has given back by being one of the guiding lights of the Osmotheque in Versailles. Preserving the history of modern perfumery for all to learn from. She remains a vital creative perfumer as her latest Nicolai Baikal Leather Intense proves.
Mme de Nicolai was inspired by the classic Cuir de Russie leather perfumes. Those are creations which mostly have a significant birch component to create the desired concentrated leather accord. Mme de Nicolai creates her leather accord from a different set of woods, guaiac and pine. This turns Baikal Leather Intense into a different kind of animalic accord which feels modern.
Patricia de Nicolai
That leather accord is where Baikal Leather Intense starts. Mme de Nicolai says she uses smoked pine and guaiac wood as the two pieces of her leather accord. The charred terpenic aspect of the pine is apparent, especially in the early going. The guaiac needs a little help gaining a foothold. Saffron along with yuzu and black pepper give it the needed assist. The saffron adds its typical warm glow to the opening while tart yuzu and piquant pepper provide framing. As they push back on the smoked pine the guaiac does complete the accord. After a few minutes a tanned supple leather appears. As that accord moves forward it is altered with a floral trio of rose, violet, and iris. This meeting of rich florals and leather is the acknowledgement of the Cuir de Russie perfumes of the past. Except the difference is this floral leather phase is kept at a much lower intensity. I wouldn’t call this transparent. I also wouldn’t call it intense. It falls more towards the latter, but it doesn’t become that obstreperous saddle leather of the inspiration. Baikal Leather Intense remains like this for hours. Very slowly tonka and some white musks provide warmth and lift respectively.
Baikal Leather Intense has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re looking for a vintage Cuir de Russie from Baikal Leather Intense I think you’ll be disappointed. I was looking for Mme de Nicolai to create something modern with her own spin. That’s what I got, her own personal Cuir de Nicolai.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.