English Leather Black (Dana)

I have but one simple question: how is it that after sixty years of success with the original English Leather, the brain trust at Dana felt it necessary to release a "black" flanker? When the MEM Company issued the original it was followed by a few flankers, including EL Lime, and every one of them went bust. Seems this brand's flankers aren't in demand, except perhaps Lime, which is missed by a few wet-shavers. Incidentally, Lime's ghost lives on in the recent reformulation of EL, which is rather lime-heavy in the citrus department. There was also a yellow-bottled "Spiced" version, a "Musk" version, and a mysterious "Classic Form" version, which no one seems to know anything about. Funny how these things have their day and then disappear, never to be heard of again. I've read that EL Black is a rehash of MEM's Wind Drift (which wasn't attached to the EL brand), but somehow I doubt that's true. Dana's effort in this scent feels remarkably like every other drugstore brand's attempt at "black" versions of popular things. I'm starting to wonder if there's a synthetic base, like one of the famous Schiff bases, labeled "BLACK" for easy, one-stop use.

EL Black is basically the dry-woody original overlaid with a piercingly sweet fruity musk note, which blares and blares for all of ten minutes before settling into a nondescript and suedey "leather" base. It gets points for having an ambitious approach to "black," one where crisp citrus is meant to marry metallic blackberry and yield hi-fructose offspring in meadows of manly musk. Yet I award a few demerits for being meretricious, offering virtually no material of interest over the course of thirty minutes, despite its rather playful and inviting introduction. Naturally the budget clocks in at around a dollar an ounce, and I'm speaking for the perfumer here, not the buyer, although he isn't expected to shell out any more than that either. Final verdict: try it and see - if you like that fleeting snap of berry enough to forgive the same-old, same-old drydown, there's surely no shame in it. I'm thinking the original is still the only one for me.


  1. The current iteration of English Leather on shelves smells better than it has in years, but I must say that I find the Black bottle to be mercenary in the extreme, which is to say that it offers little to the EL fan, in my opinion. It has that "Black" grape-bubblegum note so prevalent today (Stetson Black does the same, for example) and it's cheap and dull. I found a bottle at Sears for $5 on clearance, so even the money-grab approach by Dana appears to have failed. Your perceptions are probably more honed than mine, because I don't see much resemblance to the family patriarch. I admit I might be skewed by my considerable respect for the original.

    1. I smell a direct relationship to the original (now reformulated) version of EL, but the "black" thing they threw on top of it is strong enough and cheap enough to understandably obliterate one's recognition of it being there. I can't help but wonder what would happen if the perfumer was given an Amouage-style budget with which to execute this sort of thing. We might all deserve to try something like that, after decades of these miserable "black" fragrances, which are mostly masculines.


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