A few months ago or so, I sat down with iconic perfumer Francis Kurkdjian to chat perfume. This was my second time meeting Francis but my first interviewing him and he was as ever, candid, fun, cheeky and fascinating. You see, I’m a bit of a Kurkdjian fan boy and interviewing the man himself was a bit of a pinch myself moment, after all, I had spent much of misspent youth dancing in gay clubs surrounded by an atomic cloud of Le Mâle, and there I was meeting the very man that made that perfume. As you can tell from the ensuing conversation, he did not disappoint.
It was an interesting time to meet Francis Kurkdjian too – just after the launch of Gentle Fluidity, a duo of fragrances that are inspired by gender fluidity and share the same materials in different proportions. It was also the tenth year of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, his eponymous brand which was acquired by luxury conglomerate LVMH two years prior. Francis and I talked his new fragrances, not fitting in, the innovative products within his Maison and how social media is impacting the beauty industry and his favourite pair of leather trousers – it was an eyeopening discussion.
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!
“I’m always crushing on something scented or other. My nose knows no limits. Candy Crush is where I showcase the beautifully scented things I’m crushing on right now so you can hopefully develop a crush too.”
Every now and then I like to revisit a perfume that I’ve not smelled in a long time. I find that one’s tastes can change dramatically over time, especially as the nose becomes educated more and more. I often find that fragrances I have dismissed previously leave a completely different impression when sniffed many years later. I’ve even owned bottles of perfumes and swapped them away because they weren’t ‘me’. But as I change, what I enjoy as a fragrances changes also. In certain cases I simply think that my nose wasn’t ready to appreciate what a fragrance has to offer.
So as part of my regular Candy Crush series (where I showcase scented things that are my latest obsession) I’m going to include the occasional fragrance that I’ve recently revisited and I’m crushing over. My tastes change so much over time and something I’d written off as ‘not for me’ years ago can be my latest obsession. My nose just wasn’t ready but now it is. So this week’s Candy Crush is just that: a perfume I’d previously ignored but I have found new love for. Enter Miss Charming by Juliette Has a Gun.
There have been a ton of big launches in the first half of this year, one of which is the eye-catching (pun intended) Kenzo World (created by none other than Mr Francis Kurkdjian). Check out my review on Escentual now.
I have a very high level of respect for the Elie Saab fragrances. Unlike lots of fashion brands that head into the market at this late stage in the game, Elie Saab has a very clear olfactory vision that feels inextricably linked to their design aesthetic. What’s more, the brand has worked solely with one perfumer (the incomparable Francis Kurkdjian) to ensure that their scents all carry the same threads, resulting in a beautiful, luminous style that is undeniably Elie Saab.
In Elie Saab’s Essence Collection, Francis Kurkdjian really gets to stretch his legs and create scents that don’t share the style of Le Parfum, Saab’s signature scent. So far they’ve done wonderful things with oud, rose, gardenia, musk and now, for the latest addition to the collection, two materials get to take centre stage: almond and tonka bean. Essence Nº10: Amande Tonka is a delicious oud to two of perfumery’s most delectable notes and guess what? It’s really tasty….
“Almond essence blends with tonka bean to weave a voluptuous and subtle palette of almond nuances.”
Being a Francis Kurkdjian fan-boy I am always excited when Captain Kurk launches a new fragrance, whether it be for a designer brand of his eponymous line, but especially when it is one for his own brand, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. So I need little encouragement to get excited about anything that bears the name of this incredibly talented perfumer, especially when the word ‘aqua’ is involved.
The latest launch from MFK is Aqua Celestia, which comes after Aqua Universalisand Aqua Vitae as the third in Kurkdjian’s ‘Aqua’ collection. This collection celebrates fragrance that is bright, buoyant and musky in a brilliant, breezy and bubbly way. Aqua Celestia takes the collection in a new direction, moving away from summer refreshment to something icier and more ethereal.
“Aqua Celestia forms a seamless bond between the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea, forging a path toward absolute serenity. A heavenly freshness, an emotional journey lulled by the harmony of the senses and the mind.”
I’ve always seen Francis Kurkdjian as a perfumer of light. The fragrances he creates for his own maison and the many brands within the designer arena often possess a radiant and glowing quality that burns much brighter than many other fragrances on the market. Through the use of familiar, yet top quality materials, Francis Kurkdjian captures ultra violet rays and bottles them, making fragrances that glisten but are also approachable, effortless and exceptionally well made. What’s not to like?
His latest fragrance, Petit Matin (which has been launched as a duo with the yin to its yang, Grand Soir) is inspired by the lights of Paris during the early morning. It’s a dewy, optimistic scent made in Kurkdjian’s unmistakeable spacious and solar style, boasting citruses, florals and musks in perfect equilibrium. It’s just the thing if you fancy a fragrance that simply smells good and is neither too bland nor too demanding – something that’s just right (Goldilocks would be all over it).