Please indulge me whilst I tell you a little tale that informs you all you need to know about Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I was sit in the lobby of the Soho Hotel the other day, having just attended an evening with Perfumer Christine Nagel hosted by the Fragrance Foundation. It had been a long day and I desperately needed to charge my phone (for instagram purpose, obviously). As I sat there, minding by own little fragrant business, I watched industry bods trickle past me on their way out. After about ten minutes, two journalists walked past and their conversation went something along the lines of:
“You’re wearing Baccarat Rouge by Kurkdjian, aren’t you?”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. I can smell it.”
“I’m not. I think I’d know.”
“I can smell it!”
Guess who was rocking the Baccarat Rouge? Oh yeah, that’s right, this bad candy boy right here, that’s who! I fessed up, don’t you worry. But this little tale just goes to show how distinct and unique a signature the fragrance has. In fact, I don’t think I said this when I reviewed Baccarat Rouge 540 last year, but I think it is easily the cleverest perfume composition of the last five years. For a short formula it does a lot, evoking white and red hot crystal with novel accords that feel entirely new. It’s a technical marvel but it’s also a rather unrestrained essay in excess, from a perfumer who usually brings us spacious, chic beauty with a steady hand. I’ll stop beating around the bush and just come out and say that Baccarat Rouge 540 is a god damn masterpiece, and now it comes in an even more lush and luxurious Extrait de Parfum. Colour me excited!
Top: Jasmine Grandiflorum from Egypt and Saffron
Heart: Bitter Almond from Morocco and Cedar Wood
Base: Woody Musk Accord and Ambergris
How Does it Smell?
From one spritz the Extrait de Parfum is instantly recognisable as Baccarat Rouge 540 but it’s also immediately more luxurious and dense than the original. The key difference is the addition of bitter almond, which brings a sweet, cherry-like vibe into the mix. At first, one thinks of fleshy glacier cherries with a synthetic sugariness, but with time the richness of this cherry note intensifies, taking on a frangipane nuance that is edible, but also remarkably transparent. I’d avoid saying the Extrait de Parfum is delicious because the overall presentation is much more abstract, and the cherry folds into the orange, minty aspects found the original to add a raging redness to the white heat of Baccarat Rouge 540 Eau de Parfim’s opening accord.
What makes Baccarat Rouge 540 so distinct is the clash of two materials: ambroxan and ethyl maltol. The former brings a silvery, marine-like mineral quality that is huge and diffusive, whilst the latter provides a toasted sugar, candy floss vibe that is huge and diffusive. Noticing a theme? Both of these materials send Baccarat Rouge 540 skyrocketing off into space, amplifying the fruity, minty and sugary facets in a transparent, crystalline manner. It is absolutely glorious and I’d say that these elements in the Extrait de Parfum are very much similar to that of the original, they are just more so. Everything feels amplified and weightier, meaning that actually, the Extrait clings a little closer to the skin, making for a slightly more intimate wear. But don’t worry, it’s still quite the powerhouse and people are going to continue to smell you from the far edges of the Milky Way. No worries there.
Baccarat Rouge 540 Extrait de Parfum is a real luxury. It’s largely the same as the original except for the fact that it is a lot richer, with added nuance. It’s warmer too and feels a little bit less transparent than the original, allowing it to be cosier without heading into gourmand territory or by becoming anything that compromises that famous Baccarat Rouge 540 signature. Do you need to own both? Probably not, but you should absolutely try both, because you never know which one is going to resinate with you. If you like a bit more sweetness and richness, then the Extrait is definitely your bag, and let’s face it, that deep red bottle is more than just a little bit beautiful!
As for me? Well, I’m going to wear the Extrait de Parfum and the Eau de Parfum, and hopefully I’ll continue to be sniffed out by journalists with excellent taste in perfume. Baccarat Rouge 540 will always make itself known.
Baccarat Rouge 540 Extrait de Parfum is available for £295/70ml.
Sample, notes and quotes via Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Images are my own.