1776 by Elsha - Tar & Smoke {Perfume Review & Musings} {Men's Cologne of the Week}


1776 Cologne by Elsha, a Throwback Cologne to Imperial Russia ©The Scented Salamander

1776 is the name of a Russian leather fragrance issued by Elsha which has a confidential yet certain cult following among fragrance aficionados. The information provided by the brand site Elsha.com is rather succint. They offer a background chronology for the cologne and the data provided is a bit fuzzy. One thing you can certainly retain is that it is a cologne "...steeped in history and romance..." with emphasis laid on the second term. According to Basenotes, Elsha also marketed two other perfumes called "Golden Eagle" and "Liberty Bell". There are rare and explicit mentions of "Elsha 1776 Russian Leather" in the press from the 1950s and 1960s...

The Elsha website's narrative stops short of providing a description of the notes for 1776 reinforcing the aura of mystery and confidentiality surrounding the juice; however, the brand does offer an explanation of its main leather accord writing,

"...Alexander the 1st was noted as a gallant and romantic cavalier. It so happened that during his reign the first large perfumery was established and word went out from the palace to the chemists to create a fragrance that would match the odor of the leather of the boots of the Royalty. These boots were made of special leather created from the skin of small animal named Hucht. This rare animal was found only in the constantly frozen regions of the extreme northern part of Russia where there is only three or four hours of daylight. Only members of the Royal hunting parties were allowed to hunt the animal. They made many lavish and exciting trips to the cold northern regions for this sport".

You can read the rest of the story here.


"Elsha the Aristocrat of Perfume and Cologne" - A tag line which is a reference to pre-Communist Russia

1776 is a warm, balsamic, and woodsy cologne reminiscent to me of perfumes of the late 1910s and 1920s like Caron Tabac Blond (1919) or Molinard Habanita (1921). In as much as Zibeline by Weil is an unadvertized Russian leather scent, 1776 resembles it too.

If you compare it to another Russian leather cologne like Kölnisch Juchten (the vintage version) they offer similarities but the latter is more floral - also soapier and drier - while 1776 is much more balsamic, woody, and sweet. They both smell of tar and smoke, but 1776 does not have the rubbery facet of Kölnisch Juchten.

The Elsha cologne also resembles Royal Secret by Germaine Monteil in its depth and warmth and in that a myrrh note is apparent and pronounced in both cases.

The nuances I thought I could discern are the following: clove; tarragon; citrus; perhaps orange; ambergris; sandalwood; a very dirty musk; cinnamon; orris; oakmoss; birch; myrrh; soft woods - perhaps rosewood.

The development starts with a smoky, tarry, and sweet balsamic impression. This is followed by some well-blended herbal and hesperidic notes adding lightness to the scent. There are spicy clovey and cinnamon facets.

The piscean, fishy smell and slightly metallic edge of ambergris are noticeable; sometimes a very dirty musk emerges suggesting some unwashed, sweaty and unmentionable parts of the body. The blend is spicy and becomes slightly hazy later on when the orris kicks in. All the while the resinous, balsamic character of the cologne appears quite marked. It is softly woodsy and generally smooth and enveloping. The long drydown has a caramel/burnt sugar facet to it.The lasting power is good, if not great.

If you like hard-to-find olfactory signatures with a retro feel and a fur-coat-scent personality about them, you can give it a try. The perfume itself is not that opulent but it gives that impression as much emphasis is laid upon rich base notes. Once it reaches that plane, the perfume stops evolving in any marked manner becoming simply a warm skin scent evocative of old-school leathers.

An 8 oz. bottle retails for $38 on Elsha. You can find a 4 oz. flacon for $19.99 on eBay.

Photos ©The Scented Salamander

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15 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. This was the perfume that New Yorker writer Maeve Brennan always wore. It was one part of her spellbinding attractiveness back in the 1950's. They say her office smelled of a blend of this cologne and tobacco and co-workers loved it.
    Well, of course I have been wondering what it smells like (on me) and if this is the same or close enough to the formula Maeve always wore.

  2. Thank you JB for opening this great window into the past. That is such an interesting detail; it makes the perfume become more alive and evocative.

    You definitely need to try it. I suspect that the formulation has little changed if at all given the retro feel of the perfume. Testimonials on the Elsha website seem also to point to persistence of the same composition. One person says that it smells today like it did 40 years ago.

  3. I can assure you it is exactly the same as 80 years ago.

  4. Thank you for the input.

  5. This is by far my most favorite cologne and I would not have discovered it but by chance through an antique bottle in my father's old things boxed away in the attic.

    John Stankosky
  6. Ich möchte "ELSHA 1776",ehemals "Russisch Leder"kaufen.Können Sie mir weiterhelfen,wie ich es erwerben kann.

    MfG RB

    Roland Brückner
    • You can purchase it here for $38:


      I once bought my own bottle on eBay but I don't see it sold there anymore. I think they were sold there by the brand itself.

      Hope this helps!

      Chant Wagner
  7. The Russian Leather (not to be confused with "Russian Leather II" which was ABYSMAL!) I used in the 60's was made by Cosmetco in Long Beach, CA. even after I was unable to buy the stuff I managed to get Cosmetco to make me up a small bottle since they had some of the essential oils left over.
    1776 is a very close match, and worth the price.

    Dusty Baker
  8. I have worn Elsha 1776 for the past 20 years. It's at the insistence of my wife, who is crazy about it. I always have some in the bathroom cabinet. This is a good one to wear when you are tired of all the rest. Excellent for a nice evening out.

    M. Bodily
    • M. Bodily,

      That's loyalty! I believe you just revealed the existence of a woman-magnet kind of a scent :)

      Chant Wagner
  9. I have been a fan of Elsha for over 40 years now. And the ladies still love its scent on me.

    Rand H Kelson
  10. i started wearing elsha in the early 60s
    and still wear it today in my early 60s
    can still buy it locally. what a great memory scent. everytime i put it on it reminds me of the good old days.

  11. Thanks for this wonderfully informative and entertaining review. :-)

    I have met and corresponded with people who have known of Elsha colognes for many decades, and only one of them said that the current Elsha 1776 is a little different from the original (not lesser, just a subtle variation). I can believe it. The first thing that comes to mind when I smell it is "old world"... but in a good way.

    This is a unique fragrance. I've not seen anything else like it. The bottle and label is so simplistic and the Elsha website so horribly dated, it makes you feel like this would be some nasty cheap cologne. Far from it. Actually, I'm glad it has a small cult following. It just makes wearing this fragrance more unique. If the owners of the Elsha cologne recipe would rejuvenate the brand and upgrade the bottle to something fancier, the cost would go up. At $38 plus shipping from Sampter's for an 8oz bottle, it's a bargain!

    Gary near NYC
    • I agree wholeheartedly with you. Those perfumes that have a small cult following are extraordinary in unsuspecting ways. It's one of the charms of perfume discovery, to come upon a brand that believe in and rely so much on just one perfume, and to wear such a unique perfume with a unique history.

      Chant Wagner
  12. I bought my bottle at the Brigham Young University men's shop for $20 in 2013! Apparently it had a cultural vogue among older Mormon men in Utah and Idaho.

    It is excellent in the coldest weather. Don't wear it in summer!

    I was given to understand that it has birch tar as a base.


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