Perfume Review: Guerlain Cuir Beluga
Cuir Beluga is a part of L'Art et la Matiere collection of scents created for Guerlain by perfumers Olivier Polge, Francis Kurkdjian, and Daniele Andrièr. Each perfumer was more or less given a carte blanche and asked to come up with a scent based on a “noble” ingredient. Kurkdjian has chosen rose, Andrièr angelica and Polge leather. Not any old calf leather, mind you, but Beluga leather. …Seriously though, the name "Cuir Beluga" baffles me. Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) is a small toothed whale; surely, this scent was not inspired by a sea mammal…or was it? “Beluga“ also more or less means “the white one” in Russian (Beluga Whales are also called White Whales), so perhaps the creators simply meant white leather? Then why not just call it Cuir Blanc? Perhaps the Beluga part of the name is referring to beluga caviar, arguably the best kind of caviar, thus emphasizing the exclusive and expensive aspect of the scent, the Beluga of all Leathers … There are all sorts of unusual perfume names out there, from Latin phrases to long book titles, and they certainly are fascinating and fun, but sometimes one gets a little frustrated when facing a meaningless, bizarre name like “White Whale Leather”.
I tried to understand the scent just as hard as I tried to understand its name. After many attempts, I must regretfully admit that I just don’t get it. On me, Cuir Beluga is a blurry, hazy composition heavy on heliotrope and vanilla. The only interesting feature here is an immortelle note, an accord, which, to quote Luca Turin, has “an odd, fenugreek-like smell halfway between curry and burnt sugar.” In Cuir Beluga, in contrast to the understated sweetness of other notes, immortelle actually smells sharp and dry, bringing to mind patchouli and well-brewed black tea. Unfortunately, immortelle alone is unable to withstand the gentle but relentless pressure of heliotrope and vanilla. The two overtake the composition somewhere in the beginning of the middle stage and no amount of amber or aldehydes can penetrate their foggy sweetness. Why don’t I mention the leather accord, you might ask. Well, that is because I smell no leather in Cuir Beluga. Not a tiny little bit of leather, however hard I try. Fans of leather scents, attracted by the name of this perfume, are bound to be disappointed. I would however highly recommend to all lovers of Etro Heliotrope to give a try to Cuir Beluga. Cuir Beluga smells a little rawer and a little less sweet than Heliotrope, but those who like the soft fluffiness of the latter are still bound to be pleased with the former.
Cuir Beluga is available at Guerlain’s boutique at Bergdorf Goodman, $190 for 75ml.