English Leather 
Dana (1949)

Average Rating:  59 User Reviews

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English Leather by Dana

Fragrance Overview Where to Buy Reviews Community Ownership

About English Leather by Dana

People & Companies

Fragrance House
MEM Company
Original House

English Leather is a men's fragrance launched in 1949 by Dana

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

Where to buy English Leather

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Reviews of English Leather by Dana

There are 59 reviews of English Leather by Dana.

I have always been a fan of English Leather toiletries for decades. The first time I came across English Leather shaving lotion came in plastic bottle when I must have been in the 9th grade in high school. My American classmate who had access to US military PX facility in Japan wore it. The scent of English Leather was very natural and never over powering and I immediately took a liking to it.

He was kind enough to buy me one from the PX.

To this day I saved and kept my English Leather Cologne (wooden top), After Shave lotion, and Shower powder from the 60s and 70s.

Assuming English Leather company was no longer in biz, I had kept and guarded these preciously.

I understand from the net that a company called DANA took over the company. I have not tried the new English Leather but I hope the scent remains the same.

*This is a review of the vintage English Leather Cologne by MEM.

English Leather opens with an aromatic lavender and bergamot tandem before transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the aromatic lavender remains, joining natural smelling lemon, and orange, woody-green petitgrain early, then gradually adding a play doh-like accord with musky green oakmoss and hard leather late that as time passes eventually takes the fore. During the late dry-down, the play-doh accord and aromatic lavender vacate, as the remnants of the hard leather join significant sharp woody vetiver in the base that becomes co-star, with the musky-woody oakmoss accord now once again in support. Projection is below average, but longevity is quite tenacious at an excellent 12 hours on skin.

I have fond, vivid memories from my childhood where one could browse the grocery store personal care aisle and find many "drugstore" aftershaves and colognes like British Sterling, Jovan Musk for Men, Aqua Velva, Chaps... and of course, English Leather. There were testers galore, and while I had little money to buy just about anything, I always looked forward to sampling every one - again, and again. Fast forward to present day, with not having worn English Leather (aftershave or cologne) for at least 35 years and only my nostalgic memories to lean on, I decided to buy a vintage English Leather Cologne to see how the real thing measures up. Well, the top notes definitely are missing the nose piercing bergamot I remember from my youth (almost certainly burned off due to age), instead the bergamot, while present, is quite diminished in comparison to the aromatic lavender. I also don't remember the play doh-like accord in the heart, that when combined with the relatively hard leather gives off an overall smell not so unlike the current formula of Or Black. About two and a half hours in, the composition returns back to what I remember, as it morphs into its final sharp woody, leathery focus through the finish, with the vetiver giving the woods a piercing quality. Like most things it is almost impossible to live up to nostalgic long since past memories, and it holds true here too. That said, I don't regret the "cheapie" purchase, and still enjoy the stuff. The bottom line is the under $15 per 55 ml bottle English Leather Cologne (MEM version) may not live up to its impossible nostalgic heights, but the "good" to "very good" 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5 rated composition shows it holds up well nostalgia withstanding even after many decades, earning a solid recommendation to classic "old school" composition lovers who value getting excellent "bang-for-your-buck."

One of the first leather scents that I had discovered growing up as a kid. I would sneak into the medicine cabinets of family or friend's fathers to unscrew that sexy wooden cap and tap some of the liquid onto the back of my hand to sample. Truly a bold, aromatic musk with the starchy goodness of cedar to evoke a leathery sensation that I as a kid was fascinated by!

Since then, as a teen I would apply a couple dabs of English Leather on my face and revel in the "grown up" charm of this aftershave. A chypre par excellence, moving from citrus to mossy goodness and into a warm foundation.

As an adult, I have plenty of personal choices in my collection to use following a shave. However, whenever I want to enter into reverie for the days of old, I'll splash on some English Leather and reminisce to when my cologne sensibilities were young and developing. I'd say this is still a great, no-nonsense masculine scent even for today's man.

The box of English Leather cologne splash I got says it's made up of:
Top notes: Italian Bergamot, Kafir Lime
Middle notes: Leather, Oakmoss, Vetiver
Base notes: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Musk

To me, this is an odd scent that strangely has me coming back for more.
I liked the deodorant, which to me, had a fresh musk scent, but I then got the aftershave/cologne splash and it smells much more refined.

I got a sample cologne bottle and my first impression was a spacious, musty 80s hotel lobby covered in carpet. There's dimmed lighting, carpeted staircases, wood and gold fittings and the slight smell of stale smoke.

I couldn't imagine it smelling sexy or attractive so I wrote it off for a while. Still, it has a strange, subtle allure and it smells almost comforting or nostalgic. I started wearing it more often just because I find it intriguing.

A few years later I got a full sized cologne, and the lime note is more pronounced and the whole scent is more refined. It's grown on me.

I don't get an 'old person' vibe, but I think that all depends on the history of a fragrance in your location. I have not seen English Leather available in my country (well in the last 20 years or so that I remember), so it never became a grocery store cheapie here like Old Spice or Brut has become.

All I can say is give it a go.

English Leather was initially called "Russian Leather" as the story goes, and was launched sometime in the 1930's alongside a glut of other similarly-named scents, but when the Danish company MEM jumped shores to the US and relaunched it's scent globally from there, they found it wiser to re-name it "English Leather" for it's 1949 relaunch to prevent Americans avoiding the stuff due to cold war paranoia associated to anything calling itself Russian. I honestly think it was a good move in the long run, since even after the cold war ended, there really aren't very many scents calling themselves "English Leather", but there are simply tons going by the name "Russian Leather" or "Cuir de Russie" if using the French. English Leather, much like the earlier Old Spice (1937) and later Brut (1963), would also become so undeniably popular (and thus common), that like the aforementioned, sort of became a victim of it's own economy of scale after a point, gradually getting reformulated to oblivion in the name of profit margins long before IFRA ever made any imposed changes. English Leather was just as good a leather masculine as any in it's heyday, and remained in pretty stable condition until Renaissance/New Dana picked up the property from a failing MEM corp and proceeded to re-orchestrate it as they did Canoe (1936) from the old Dana portfolio they also acquired. From there on out, English Leather became every bit the Walmart-quality scent most know it to be now, and only got worse after IFRA restricted the oakmoss in it's base. This review is based off of 80's MEM (towards the end of their existence), but I've also owned various Dana iterations throughout the years and have smelled the newest, so they'll be touched upon a little further down. Suffice it to say older is better here, but as long as you don't buy stock any newer than early 2000's, you'll at least get to experience the true leather chypre it's supposed to be. Anything after 2011 for this stuff is pure tragedy however, but more on that later.

English Leather in it's original form is another strange example of both chypre and fougère thought processes merging into one. MEM and Dana have always called it a chypre, and it does mostly smell like a chypre to be honest, so we'll keep it at that. Lemon, bergamot, and orange meet with very pale lavender in the top, and the stuff already sets us up for the classic rigidly masculine dryness that most other aromatic citrus chypres in the late 40's through the 50's possessed. Rosemary floats into the picture alongside some iris in the middle, but the base comes on pretty fast afterward. Some sites list a honey note being in the middle but I can't for the life of me sense it. The base is oakmoss, cedar, vetiver, the tell-tale leather note, tonka, and a tiny puff of musk. The leather and cedar give this it's bite throughout, and the oakmoss alongside the vetiver in the vintage give it the thrumming staying power it's known for having. Overall English Leather in all MEM iterations stays bright, a tiny bit soapy (but nothing like an aromatic fougère per se), then gets a tad darker in the end with the vetiver, moss, and tonka, but never gets sweet with that tonka or musk due to the cedar counterbalance. No aldehydes or heavy florals in this leather scent, which may make it seem a tad crude next to other leathers past and future like Knize Ten (1924) or Aramis (1965), but considering this was made to be an affordable signature for the working man, I don't think the unknown nose behind it really was trying for sophistication. The original tag line for this was "Wear English Leather or Wear Nothing at All" so I can see this was just meant to be "the cologne" and not some kind of major artistic statement. It smells as it sounds, of a saddle-quality leather, with the bright opening and dry finish keeping it squarely in a no-nonsense leathery mode throughout the wear. It isn't the best, but it's easy to see why it was popular. Unfortunately, this is where all the praise ends for the original, affable, simple, but effective "everyday leather" scent for men, because once it became a dynasty, things slowly went downhill.

MEM had made a mint on English Leather by the 70's, and had greatly abused the name for an ever-expanding waistline of flankers, much like Shulton did with Old Spice around the same time. I won't bother listing all the various flavors English Leather came in, but there was over a half-dozen of them and they had the same effect of making English Leather seem like a brand unto itself rather than a standalone iconic fragrance, which I feel hurt it in the end. By the 80's English Leather was becoming quickly irrelevant, and so was MEM, which lead to it's acquisition. The first "New Dana" iterations of English Leather were fairly close to the original stuff, just a little brighter with heavier top notes and dwindled base notes, likely for frugality. The first major re-orchestration in mid-2000's made English Leather very powdery and shrill, reducing the base further and removing the soap, giving it that "nursing home talcum" quality that younger people associate with the stuff, damaging it's reputation with potential new buyers. I think the oakmoss was also quietly replaced with generic "tree moss" at the time too. All bets were off after 2011 however, with "Dana Classic Fragrances" as they were calling themselves at this point thinking that they could just substitute a proper mossy chypre base with a super musky and synthetic one from their recent English Leather Black (2007). This last change majorly shifted the scent from chypre back into fougère territory by not only restoring the slightly darker, soapier edge of the original, but by making it dominate, having the base almost entirely musk and coumarin alongside the cedar and vetiver. The top remains mostly unchanged but the end result is a version of English Leather that goes on similarly, but dries down all wrong, smelling like weird leather variety of Axe body spray. There's plenty of vintage left to ensure a proper English Leather experience, but don't expect it to knock you socks off in any form, and being a fan of dry mid-century men's chypres is still a prerequisite to fully enjoying this. In a nutshell, English Leather is a decent "when all else fails" casual/work leather scent, but only in vintage form.

A relative of mine gave me an English Leather(by MEM at the time) giftset one year for Christmas. They wore this cologne and I thought it smelled good, so it was to be my first scent. Probably five or six years in a row...always an English Leather giftset was under the Christmas tree. I'm not usually a disciple to vintage formulations except a few but English Leather is one of them.

The vintage formula by MEM is more unique. I get a twist of lemon oil and bergamot getting a tarnished effect from an old leather note. This had a lot of wood in it though I'd say sandalwood. This comes off as a little soapy from lavender. The sandalwood and lavender notes become very powdery, and a lightly sweet musk develops while everything else becomes lighter. It's a sophisticated change for the level of formality this fragrance has.

The Dana version is similar but it's definitely reformulated. I don't get any bergamot. The leather in this comes off as a "new leather" and not an old/worn leather. The wood in this is cedar for certain which is a bright note. Together with the lemon and cedar it comes off as a little too sharp. This takes on a powdery stage like the old formula but with the note change it's not as interesting.

My thumbs up goes to the original formula of English Leather by MEM. This drugstore found classic was just a manly and clean scent offering 8 hours of light projection. While a lot of leather scents in the 70's/80's dove into amber, cinnamon, and vanilla to make richer/more colorful designs. English Leather came off as more versatile and serious-minded about it's namesake. Dana's formula will give that same feel, it's just not as good.

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