Prada No.11 Cuir Styrax (2011): Refinement, in the Words of Prada {Fragrance Review}


The fragrance opens on a delicate, yet sensual leather accord infused with neroli conjuring up the warmth, glow and smell of rum, thanks to the "surabsolue" of vanilla. The leather impression most closely resembles that of Dzing! by L'Artisan Parfumeur, only more toned down.

Here, the leather is gently textural as if you were smelling the flesh side of the tanned animal skin, the part opposite the grain, which is less polished and more porous. A mid-toned amber subtly envelops the scent. Discreet animalic accents act like sprinkling of spices...

The styrax or benzoin is used almost just to sweeten the fragrance and bring out some soft fruity nuances rather than create a smoky, incensey impression. Woody, oaky tonalities create an impression of damp wine oak barrel as ephemeral as if you had caught it while going out the door of a wine cellar. The neroli is never obvious but very nuanced.

The composition, which is signed by perfumer Daniela Andrier of Givaudan, is an exercise in subtle, elegant body language.; not a note gets uttered out too loud or out of sync, yet the whispery scent is very present.

One comes away with the sensation that this could be a leather variation on Escentric Molecules 01, the modern showcasing window of Iso E Super. It has that same sense of elusive, yet tangible filling-out of empty space.

The perfume moves with you, invisibly ; like a talisman, you know it is with you, you wear it, but it remains partly hidden next to your skin.

No. 11 Cuir Styrax is a fragrance for those who relish understated elegance, not for those who are looking for statement perfumes, or even artistic, or dramatic compositions.

Daniela Andrier has been working for some time on creating a language of olfactory refinement for Prada. It is perceptible in perfumes as varied as Prada L'Eau Ambrée, Prada Infusion de Vétiver and Prada Candy. The boutique Collection des Essences Exclusives housed in near-extrait-sized bottles (30ml) shows this tendency pushed further with a licence to overdo it. It is a reminder that once upon a time, it was more commonplace to see customers buy 30 ml bottles of extrait. Only - for those new to the fragrance house - instead of offering a debauchery of essences in the classical, expected manner, Prada's upscale collection shows how luxury is more about getting rid of the superfluous and the gaudy.

The higher plane of luxury, in the words of Prada, who says that the spirit of the fragrance is meant to exude subtle yet deliberate self-confidence, is about avoiding showiness at all costs.

Notes: neroli, styrax, leather accord, Serenolide (a white musk), surabsolue of vanilla.

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