La Habana, Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense

At the end of 2014 Patricia de Nicolai, head of a brand and perfumer behind Parfums de Nicolai was celebrating 25th anniversary of the house. Apart from releasing the commemorative book, Patricia also composed a special anniversary perfume geared towards male audience. Together with a copy of this book I was lucky to receive a small bottle of this fragrance, Cuir Cuba Intense. I needed to spend some time with this composition before I could tell you more about my impressions.

Cuir Cuba Intense begins with extremely dry, think paper dry accord of lavender. At first it feels really herbal and a tad green just as if someone picked some fresh lavender in the garden and then left it for a couple of weeks to dry. Sunlight drained all water from the stems and tiny purple flowers. The beautiful, clean and fresh smell turned into dry, herbaceous concoction with kind of ashy undertone. After around 10-15 minutes lavender note is joined by some specific sweetness. Dry at first it becomes more syrupy and dark. That is licorice, bringing this specific vibe to this new Parfums de Nicolai creation. It smells like those black chewy sweets. I never liked those. Then the perfume gets more aromatic with some hay appearing right next to lavender.

When you hear “Cuba” and “tobacco” many fragrance lovers would expect a very prominent and persistent tobacco perfume that smells kind of dirty or filthy. Tobacco accord in Cuir Cuba Intense makes an appearance around 30 minutes after applying the perfume on skin. It does smell like old, chewy tobacco at first but as it stays longer on my skin it begins to smell more like a fine cigar that costs a lot of money. It’s rather rich and smoky, definitely having more masculine vibe to it.

After some time it becomes softer and more creamy kind of tobacco, mostly thanks to assisting ylang-ylang note which appears later on. This tobacco now feels warm and slightly honeyed (no honey note in composition though) and a while later it gains soft and spicy elements coming from star anise and coriander. The first one makes it feel a little bit medicinal, antiseptic (think anise sweets for sore throat) while coriander introduces a rather enjoyable dryness that suggests a gentle smoke coming from the tip of cigar. Cuir Cuba Intense gets quite complex over time.

As we’re getting closer to the drydown Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense smells a bit more animalic. This blend contains some civet and mixed with hay accord it just smells like coumarine and reminds me of all the classic fougere fragrances. There is also a little special portion of sweetness. Not the one from licorice but the one associated with tonka beans. In the drydown the perfume feels more woody and solid – there is some cedar wood as well as spicy cumin (no sweat effect detected.) In far drydown there is also a small hint of crispy geranium and just as crispy mint. Other notes include lemon and liatris.

All in all Cuir Cuba Intense from Parfums de Nicolai is a delectable smoky-fougere fragrance (although Fragrantica classifies it as leathery composition) with lavender, tobacco and licorice as three leading notes. The opening might seem a bit harsh at first but it becomes much milder over time so that the final impression is very pleasant. Smoky lavender with a leathery vibe? Why not. It also has great lasting power of around 8 hours. Sillage is big at the start and becomes moderate after a few hours. This eau de parfum comes packaged in PdN signature bottles of 30 and 100ml.

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12 thoughts on “La Habana, Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense

  1. poodle says:

    I like most of the notes but I prefer pipe tobacco to cigar so I’d have to sample this one. The smoky lavender and licorice part has gotten my interest. If it wasn’t for the cigar I’d be tempted to blind buy.

  2. hajusuuri says:

    Very nice, Lucas! I have to check my STC account to see if I I have a sample of this. Having seen and smelled first hand the tobacco leaf curing process and cigars freshly packaged for sale, I can tell you that the initial curing weeks emit the most god-awful, tear-inducing smell but in the end, the cigar smells wonderful. I am not a proponent of smoking in any form or substance; however, I can see how people can get hooked on these things. I love tobacco accords!

  3. rickyrebarco says:

    Thanks for reviewing this lovely composition, Lucas. I just bought the small bottle of Cuir Cuba and I really enjoy it. The opening did not seem so dry to me, but then I love lavender so I probably didn’t even notice! I like the way Cuir Cuba grows warmer and softer in the drydown, that’s what convinced me to buy it. It’s yummy for many hours on my skin as well. Enjoy!

    • lucasai says:

      The pleasure is all mine. And yay, we have the same small bottle 🙂 Glad it doesn’t feel so dry on you… On me lavender turned really dry and herbaceous. Yep, it develops into heck of a nice perfume

  4. Flaconneur says:

    This one is on my sample list. Thanks for the preview, Lucas.

  5. Holly says:

    Here’s another one that sounds like an interesting composition but probably not something I’d wear. I’m not a fan of any of the listed notes except ylang ylang. I actually love licorice, but not to wear. The Dutch bitter licorice is an excellent diet aid, fyi, as nothing tastes good after you eat it!

    • lucasai says:

      I see Holly, no worries about that. Ylang is not very strong in Cuir Cuba Intense. I once tried licorice candy and it was terrible, I’ll never eat that thing again!

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