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).
One could argue that Francis Kurkdjian, the enfant terrible of the perfume industry, is not averse to playing with fire. He regularly crafts bold creations and dares to tread where many other perfumers do not. I truly believe that he is one of the great perfumers of modern times, up there with the likes of Dominique Ropion and Jean-Claude Ellena. The work he does for designer brands is often bold and trend-setting, resulting in many of the modern classics we revere today, fragrances such as Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Le Mâle and Narciso Rodriguez for Her. For his own brand, Kurkdjian crafts accessible designer-style fragrances with high quality materials, elevating the genre to its highest point. His latest creation, Baccarat Rouge 540, feels like a departure from his radiant MFK style and is instead, an essay in contrasts, olfactory shocks and unconventional luxury. It serves as further proof that he is at the cutting edge of the industry and the very top of his game.
Baccarat Rouge 540 came into being in 2014 when Kurkdjian was approached by the legendary crystal maker to create a limited edition fragrance housed within an exquisite Baccarat crystal flacon (you can see that here). The Baccarat Rouge 540 we see today is the much more affordable, but still rather luxurious, Eau de Parfum incarnation. For his inspiration, Kurkdjian looked to the house’s signature red crystal, a colour that features in many Baccarat designs, with one red crystal included within each and every chandelier since 1987. It is the red crystal of Baccarat that this fragrance presents in olfactory form.
The fragrance is crafted around three accords, each of which celebrates an integral facet of the manufacturing process for Baccarat crystal: mineral, fire and craftsmanship. Kurkdjian stated that he wanted to create a “graphic” fragrance that represents both the density and transparency of crystal, and also the modernity of the brand, which is moving back into the fragrance market following an extended break. This is a fragrance that Kurkdjian created to be representative of the future and that is exactly what he has done, “starting from the dry down and building up like a house of cards”, a perfume that is entirely new and positively futuristic.
What do you get when to you take Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Mâle to the gym and tell him to avoid manscaping for a few weeks? Well, you get Ultra Mâle, that’s what. Ultra Mâle is the latest incarnation of Gaultier’s beautifully buffed sailor boy, and this time our beloved seafarer has gone rogue. Launched to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Le Mâle, and created by the perfumer Francis Kurkdjian (the same dude behind the original) Ultra Mâle brings the (timeless) barbershop fougére bang up to date and places it in a more oriental setting, and a thoroughly rugged one at that. To read my full review on Escentual, simply click here!
Oof, this is a big one, dear readers. I have been tentatively putting this guide together for nearly 12 months and, after lots of tantrums and rewrites, I finally feel that it is ready to share. The notable thing about rose, and the reason for my drama, is the fact that it’s such a wide genre, with so many different interpretations and styles of just the one ingredient. In truth, I could put together a guide for each type of rose, covering the gourmand rose, or the oriental rose etc. in great depth. But that’s a level of detail that would take a lifetime to perfect and with tradition in mind, I have compiled a Guide to Rose that can be a starting point to the genre – an essential overview that highlights the very best of the many styles of rose.
Now, if you’re new to The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to series, here’s a little overview of what to expect. The series is an award winning olfactory guide to the popular notes found in many of the perfumes we love and wear. Each instalment takes a look at a singular note, its odour profile and the ‘must sniffs’ (i.e. the reference fragrances) that are essential members of that particular family. So far we’ve traversed the domains of; Tuberose, Orange Blossom, Lily, Jasmine, Lavender, Violet, Oud, Chocolate and Vanilla. Today, it’s time for rose, rose and nothing but rose.