The transitions between light and dark that happens twice every day carry a special magic to them. Folklore would suggest that magic is literal in those moments. Perfumer Francis Kukdjian was looking for perfumed inspiration from those same times. He has released two new fragrances from his Maison Francis Kurkdjian brand Petit Matin and Grand Soir.
Petit Matin (Little Morning) is inspired by that moment when the sun has cleared the horizon and its light fills the world with brilliant points of light as it reflects off windows, water and buildings. There is that moment in every early morning where it is pure light. That is the effect M. Kurkdjian goes for with Petit Matin.
Petit Matin opens with two sources of lemon. One is a typical lemon essential oil. The other is an evergreen shrub called litsea cubeba. Litsea cubeba is made up mostly of the lemon scented molecule citral. That gives the essential oil a really different scent profile of bright lemon along with an undertone of green shrubbery. Together they provide that mixture of doubled up lemon brightness with the green providing the smell of dew-coated leaves. The heart is when the flowers of the day wake up as M. Kurkdjian combines orange blossom hawthorn, and lavandin. The lemon remains as the flowers peek out. It comes together in a sun-drenched floral accord which is where this morning stays for hours. It eventually moves along to a starched white linen mix of musks with ambrox.
Petit Matin has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Grand Soir (Big Evening) is that moment just after the sun has set and the dark takes hold. There is that anticipation of what the night can bring. This is the moment when the moon provides the shadows and light works hard to find purchase.
Grand Soir is a tightly composed mix of just four notes: benzoin, labdanum, tonka bean, and vanilla. In the early moments it is the benzoin which predominates. This is a high quality benzoin which displays its vanilla character. Which allows the actual vanilla and tonka something with which to form a particular vanillic chord. The labdanum picks up on the resinous aspect of benzoin forming an incense-like vibration. Together they form the anticipation of an evening swathed in vanilla and incense.
Grand Soir has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I give a hat tip to M. Kurkdjian for accurately capturing these magical times of the day in both Petit Matin and Grand Soir. Petit Matin is my favorite by just a bit because when it all comes together with the citrus and the floral notes it is expansively beautiful and luminous. Grand Soir is going to be a great fall choice as the air chills and the nights get longer. In any case you can wear this pair from dawn to dusk.
Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the elite perfumers working currently. He burst upon the perfume scene in 1995 as one of the perfumers behind Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male. His career would only trend upwards from there. M. Kurkdjian has made a large number of perfumes I think rank among the very best. In 2009 he started his own line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. From the initial seven releases to a collection which now numbers twenty-seven fragrances it is one which has always had my attention. I have realized over the last couple of years that it is with this brand where I will start somebody off who is dipping their toe into the niche perfume sector. The perfumes which make up the collection carry a baseline classicism which I think is why they are such appropriate entry level choices into niche. These are the five perfumes I usually take someone through when introducing them to this brand.
One of the first seven releases Aqua Universalis lives up to its tag line of a “A scent for all things”. This is the best clean musk perfume I own. M. Kurkdjian uses a selection of citrus matched to lily of the valley as his come-on. The base has a few sheer woods along with a blend of white musks that M. Kurkdjian has become known for. In Aqua Universalis it all comes together. When I am showing this brand to someone new to niche this is the bottle that most often is purchased.
The masterpiece within the Maison Francis Kurkdjian collection is Absolue pour Le Soir. That is not where someone new to the brand should start. Instead the precursor release Cologne pour Le Soir is a great introduction to themes which will be intensified in the later release. Absolue pour Le Soir is an animalic feral beast with honey. Cologne pour Le Soir is a domesticated feline with honey. From a spicy opening into a lilting incense heart down to cedar sweetened with vanilla. In the original seven this was the one which captured my attention the most.
In 2012 the oud craze had reached its heights. Every time I saw oud in a new release I inwardly said, “Please no more”. The problem was the early oud fragrances were using oud as something to represent exoticism. 2012 would see the end of that as some of the best perfumers began to use oud in constructs which showed its versatility. The simply named Oud was one of those. M. Kurkdjian has a way of tweaking something classic and making it seem contemporary. With Oud he was able to take a note which had usually been used as a wrecking ball, transforming it in to something less pulverizing. By using saffron, cedar, and patchouli along with a Laotian oud which imparts a more delicate profile; containing interesting grace notes which M. Kurkdjian teases out. Oud will make you believe the wrecking ball has become a brilliant fragile crystal ball.
Masculin Pluriel is the best example of M. Kurkdjian’s way of re-interpreting classical styles. Here he takes the fougere and makes it his own. It starts with a single source of lavender that is herbal and green as well as floral. It is so good M. Kurkdjian keeps the rest of the development simple. Cedar, patchouli, and vetiver are the usual fougere components. The fabulous leather accord also present is not. It is that which contemporizes Masculin Pluriel.
When I tried the original 2013 release Aqua Vitae I wanted it to have more heft. Two years later M. Kurkdjian granted that desire with Aqua Vitae Forte. A fabulous mixture of spices, citrus, orange blossom, sandalwood, and vetiver. It is as easy to wear as an old pair of jeans. As I have only had a year to introduce this to people when I take them through Maison Francis Kurkdjian it seems like Aqua Vitae Forte is finding as many admirers from the novice niche users as Aqua Universalis.
These five are where I think you should start but this brand has many more advanced delights once you delve deeper. It is one of the stronger collections currently on the market.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.
I first became aware of perfumer Francis Kurkdjian as most did from his groundbreaking Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male that he composed with Christopher Sheldrake in 1995. In the twenty years since M. Kurkdjian has left an impression across all sectors of fragrance. While he still works for many brands since 2009 he has also composed perfumes for his own line Maison Francis Kurkdjian. The latest A la Rose represents the 24th perfume he has made for his own brand. M Kurkdjian has one of the most distinct aesthetics in all of perfumery but when working for another brand he has to bend it to another creative director’s desire. With the perfumes he makes for Maison Francis Kurkdjian he has more freedom to make something more true to his desires. A la Rose is a good example of his sense of style.
Harvesting Rose de Mai in Grasse
A la Rose is a full-blooded rose soliflore. Actually that isn’t correct it is a rose fragrance made up of two rose varieties Bulgarian Damascena rose and Rose de Mai from Grasse. These are two of the most distinctive rose sources a perfumer can use. Damascena rose has a fresh quality to it as well as a significant fruity aspect. M. Kurkdjian uses it as the focal point in the early going. Rose de Mai has more of a sensuality to it with its honey-like character enhancing that feel. M. Kurkdjian not only uses these rose raw materials but he uses them in overdose. It really embellishes these raw materials making it easy to pick up the fruity and honey nuances. What also makes it easy is M. Kurkdjian doesn’t clutter up A la Rose with too much else so that the roses are always right out in front.
A la Rose does open with the Damascena rose. This rose is probably responsible for the entire fruity floral family as perfumers tried to capture its unique profile with lesser materials. M. Kurkdjian takes the Damascena rose and lets it unfurl like a rose bud. At first you get the unmistakable rose bouquet then because it is in such high concentration the pear facets are most readily apparent. Bergamot and orange are present to focus that pear character and make it crisp. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a rose opening to a perfume as much as I enjoyed this. M. Kurkdjian envelops you in the beauty of Damascena rose. As a sort of palate cleanser a heart of violet and magnolia start to temper the fruitiness. This leads to the Rose de Mai’s emergence. Rose de Mai is a sultry rose; in A la Rose it exists as counterpoint to Damascena rose’s genial quality. Rose de Mai has this gorgeous honey quality which only truly flowers when it is used at high concentrations. I am often disappointed at perfumers who will overwhelm that honeyed beauty with other heavy notes. M. Kurkdjian wants it to be front and center over the last part of A la Rose and so he provides cedar and a few musks to provide a clean frame to house the Rose de Mai.
A la Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Rose perfumes are everywhere and it takes something different to make me sit up and take notice. The use of these two rose raw materials and the opportunity to let one own the early hours of wear and the other the later hours makes for a complete rose experience. If you are a lover of rose perfumes A la Rose is a must sniff.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
Francis Kurkdjian is one of the elite perfumers working currently. He still takes briefs from many of the more mainstream brands but his best work has been for his own line, Maison Francis Kurkdjian. M. Kurkdjian is a refreshing personality who carries an amused smile at those of us, like myself, who take perfume so seriously. He has compared the perfumes in his Maison Francis Kurkdjian collection as pieces of olfactory wardrobe. Aqua Universalis is a t-shirt and Absolue pour le Soir a pair of leather pants. The idea being one you wear every day and the other only comes out occasionally. The latest two releases are to “complete the wardrobe” and are called feminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel. If I understand the video below correctly these are supposed to be the versatile pieces of the collection the virtual Little Black Dress and Navy Blazer.
What M. Kurkdjian does as he has so many times in the past is to work within a very classic perfume architecture but to update it, to turn it into a new classic. Both versions of Pluriel have the classic part down perfectly as for the feminin Pluriel it is a chypre and for masculin Pluriel it is a fougere. Those forms are clearly present but for the feminin Pluriel he covers it in a delicate veil of florals. For the masculin Pluriel it is a really fantastic leather accord that transforms the fougere into something very special.
feminin Pluriel carries a beautiful bit of fragility despite being laden with some of my favorite floral notes. In truth as I read the note list before trying it I was having a hard time seeing how this was all going to balance out. I needn’t have worried as M. Kurkdjian has placed each floral as precisely as Calder does to make his mobiles attain the perfect position and spacing. The opening is the softness of orange blossom contrasted with the chill of violet. Muguet bridges the two notes and carries them down to the heart to mingle with orris, jasmine, and rose. You read all of those notes and you expect heavy pendulous powder. M. Kurkdjian delivers muted slightly powdery floralcy which comes to a conclusion on a base of patchouli and vetiver. Providing the chypre foundation underneath the flowers. feminin Pluriel really does feel as versatile as a Little Black Dress able to function from office to cocktail party to formal affair. It really does do exactly what M. Kurkdjian wants it to.
masculin Pluriel is even better as this note list is simplicity itself, lavender absolute, cedar, leather, patchouli, and vetiver. You have smelled that mix of ingredients in many other perfumes but you have never smelled it as it exists in masculin Pluriel. Lavender is often cleaned up so much in perfumes that it becomes insipid. The lavender that grows in my garden is a wonderful combination of herbal and woody components under the sweet floral. The lavender absolute M. Kurkdjian uses here smells more like the fresh lavender outside my front door and less like air freshener. The lavender absolute used is so full of nuance and texture M. Kurkdjian allows it to own the early development all by itself. The very dry clean cedar eventually comes along to pick up the woody aspects but it becomes an equal partner to the lavender absolute, making it just feel woodier. The leather accord is next and it is beautifully poised without getting too rambunctious or becoming a faint suggestion of the animalic. The accord M. Kurkdjian fashions here is a well-used and maintained leather strong but not forceful. masculin Pluriel ends with patchouli and vetiver as well but this time the balance is more vetiver, again picking up on the woody theme running throughout. This also has the same versatility as feminin Pluriel.
feminin Pluriel had 6-8 hour longevity and modest sillage. masculin Pluriel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
In the press materials M. Kurkdjian says these two Plutriels should be seen as mirror images and especially in the base there is some truth to this. I see them more as brother and sister undeniably sharing some genetic similarity but equally undeniably each is true to their own aesthetic. I really like both of them but masculin Pluriel has really blown me away as it has been a pleasure to spend the last few days with. It is one of the very best of the entire Maison Francis Kurkdjian collection.
Disclosure; This review was based on samples provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
With the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia seemingly on every channel I feel immersed in Russia and all things Russian. One thing very Russian is the GUM department store which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2013. For the occasion perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, under his Maison Francis Kurkdjian line, designed a GUM exclusive fragrance in honor of that milestone, Ciel de Gum.
GUM Building in 1893
Ciel de Gum is another perfumer’s take on what a store’s characteristics are turned into fragrant form. The press materials that go along with this say it is meant to be “a creation worked like haute couture”. I actually thought of it in a different light going back to the beginning of GUM. GUM wasn’t a department store at its beginnings, in 1893, but was instead the GUM building which housed numerous independent stores selling everything a Nineteenth Century fin de siècle shopper could want. GUM at this point was more like a modern shopping mall on three levels than a department store. Ciel de Gum captures a number of the different smells I imagine might have drifted from the different sellers. A bit of spice, some fresh roses or a jasmine scented eau de parfum, some leather goods, a sweet vanilla from a bakery.
M. Kurkdjian opens Ciel de Gum with cinnamon and pink pepper which instead of working together to amplify the piquant nature of both instead seems to have the opposite effect. Both the cinnamon and pink pepper seem like they are shadows of their normal self found in many other fragrances. It adds a delicacy to both notes that isn’t normally found. I found it had the effect of drawing me inward until I found something with some more heft to it. In Ciel de Gum that brings you to a duet of jasmine and rose in the heart. The rose is the anchor for the jasmine which is what eventually predominates although early on they are more equal in impact. A leather accord arrives after the florals and eventually it settles down to a beautiful amber warmed vanilla.
Ciel de Gum has all-day longevity and above average sillage.
When it comes to these, in essence city exclusives, I really don’t want to start a desire for most who can’t get access to them. The unfortunate truth is Ciel de Gum is the best Maison Francis Kurkdjian release since 2012’s Oud. It shows all of the best qualities of M. Kurkdjian’s skills as a perfumer. This is so good I waited to write about it until it became available through some of the reputable decant websites. I have been wearing Ciel de Gum on and off for the last six weeks and it is one of those fragrances I think is worth the effort to try especially if you are a fan of M. Kurkdjian’s style of perfumery.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample sent to me from Russia. I have recently bought a decant from Surrender to Chance.