Peau d'Espagne is yet another outstanding, totally unique fragrance from Santa Maria Novella. If you're the kind of person who hates any and all sweetness in your fragrances, then this is for you. I don't think I've ever smelled a perfume so barren of sweetness as this. It's also, hands down, the driest and darkest leather fragrance I have ever smelled. Kolnisch Juchten and Trussardi Uomo smell like A*Men by comparison.
Besides smelling great, what stuns me about Peau d'Espagne is how it's able to create a totally authentic smelling leather accord with herbal notes almost exclusively. Almost all leather perfumes rely heavily on the smoky, petroleum-like smell of birch tar. However, as far as I can smell, there is little or no birch tar in Peau d'Espagne, even though birch wood is listed as an ingredient. If PdE contains birch tar, then it's a minor ingredient, used only to provide a very small touch of smokiness to the scent.
Peau d'Espagne's herbals are extremely harsh, dry and bitter, and when you first put this on, it smells awful. It's a mentholated, medicinal scent that smells exactly like Chloroseptic mouthwash spray, the kind that numbs your throat when you spray it in your mouth. For the first four or five minutes, you will wonder if Santa Maria Novella poured the wrong perfume into your bottle, because it doesn't smell anything like leather. I can't say these are legitimate top notes, since I can't imagine anyone enjoying the smell. I think it's merely the initial blast of herbal oils hitting your skin that creates the vicious medicinal smell; after five minutes, you can smell the herbal notes starting to meld with one another, as the leather accord is being constructed in real time before your very nose. It's sort of like if you shot a hundred birds out of a cannon into the air - at first, the birds will be flying in a frenzy all over the place in all directions, but give them a few minutes to get their bearings and they'll all be flying south, in perfect formation.
Peau d'Espagne smells like warm, black leather. It has a semi-meaty smell, which makes it smell particularly authentic. There's also a subtle smell of smoke in the accord as well, which adds even more to the leathery aura. I don't like smoke notes in perfumes, but here it's restrained, way in the background, and doesn't make the fragrance smell like beef jerky.
The drydown, which arrives about three or four hours after application, is an herbal fragrance lover's dream come true. The leather smell is still there, but it takes a backseat to some very strong, dry herbal notes that are extremely masculine smellling. In fact, at this stage Peau d'Espagne smells sort of like SMN's Marescialla, only without the smell of shaving cream. The herbs here don't smell green, but are much darker and drier than that. I smell patchouli here as well, and it intensifies the aromatic smell.
Peau d'Espagne smells like no other leather fragrance I know. It is very strong, but not heavy. It lacks the weight and smoothness of Knize Ten, but smells just as leathery. Though I somewhat prefer Knize Ten, due to its greater complexity, Peau d'Espagne smells more masculine. Don't get me wrong - Knize Ten is a very manly fragrance, but I can also imagine it being a good woman's fragrance. Peau d'Espagne, by contrast, would make a terrible woman's perfume, due to its meaty and bone-dry scent.
If you love leathers and want to add something unique to your collection, you're really missing out if you don't give this perfume a sniff.
MY RATING: 8.5/10
Fragrance House: Santa Maria Novella