Christian Dior La Collection Privee 101- Five to Get You Started

Christian Dior was late to the trend of creating an exclusive niche line of fragrances apart from their mainstream offerings. They really didn’t jump into it wholeheartedly until 2010. Prior to that there was a collection of three fragrances only available at Dior Homme boutiques. In 2010 Francois Demachy took two of those perfumes and added seven new perfumes he composed to create the La Collection Privee. In just five years the collection has grown to 20 perfumes. This is one of the great underpublicized collections in all of perfumery. If you haven’t tried any of them here are five to get you started.

Bois D’Argent by perfumer Annick Menardo is probably my favorite honey perfume of all time. After smelling this I made a special trip to Las Vegas to buy a bottle. Mme Menardo keeps a light tone throughout as she starts with a transparent incense into a fabulous heart of orris, honey, and myrrh. It all ends with a soft leather and patchouli base. The whole composition is so opaque it defies the weight of the components.

Eau Noire by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian is one of the more fascinating studies of immortelle on the market. M. Kurkdjian uses it as the spine of Eau Noire. Clary sage on top turns it herbal and incense-like. Lavender enhances the floralcy of it in the heart. In the base vanilla brings out the inherent maple syrup sweetness. Immortelle can be a hard note to love but Eau Noire makes sure you experience everything immortelle can bring to a perfume.

cd mitzah

Mitzah by perfumer Francois Demachy is a fabulous resinous rose Oriental. M. Demachy uses a spice swathed rose as foil to a very concentrated frankincense. A bit of vanilla and patchouli add some nuance but this is the rose and incense show all the way.

New Look 1947 also by M. Demachy takes an expertly balanced heart of three of the heaviest floral notes and makes something powerfully heady. Jasmine, Turkish rose, and tuberose form a heart that one can get lost inside of. A pinch of baie rose on top and some benzoin and vanilla in the base provide some contrast.

Oud Ispahan also by M. Demachy takes the classic rose and oud combination and gives it a Dior spin. This is a Western version of that classic Eastern staple. M. Demachy keeps it simple. Allowing the rose and oud to carry on throughout the development. They are pitched at a much lighter level than most of the other ouds on the market and it allows for the labdanum, patchouli, and sandalwood to provide some texture to the power duo.

As I mentioned this is not the easiest of collections to find. If you do find it the five choices above are great places to start.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood- The Lion Sleeps Tonight

If there is one perfumer who I trust to give me something different when he chooses to work with oud it is Francis Kurkdjian. He is a perfumer who has put oud through its paces and realized specific visions not only for his own Maison Francis Kurkdjian line but for other lines as well. M. Kurkdjian reminds me a bit of a lion tamer at the circus surrounded by all of these snarling rambunctious oud notes. Like that lion tamer he summons one to the center of the ring and begins to form a perfume. In 2013 he took my favorite, Laotian Oud, and created three tactile versions of oud using it; Oud Cahmere Mood, Oud Silk Mood, and Oud Velvet Mood. Like my metaphorical animal wrangler M. Kurkdjian put that Laotian oud through its paces. The only thing that was missing was the warmth that accompanies that particular oud I wanted one which was also warm. The new Oud Satin Mood is what I was looking for.

What makes Oud Satin Mood so very different is most of the time perfumers allow oud to gallop headlong over the horizon trailing whatever can keep pace with it. In all of the Oud Mood collection M. Kurkdjian makes sure the exquisite Laotian oud does not get lost in the need for power. It takes a perfumer with an innate feel for his raw material and after four perfumes it seems pretty clear to me that when it comes to Laotian oud and M. Kurkdjian he has found his king of the perfumed jungle. Oud Satin Mood is when that royal presence wants to rest indolently in the sun as M. Kurkdjian wraps his oud up in a warm blanket of notes.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

Oud Satin Mood opens with a less metallic violet accord as M. Kurkdjian puts forward the candied sweet aspects over the edgier facets. The oud begins to rise as the violet seems to sprinkle itself over it. As the oud become more prominent a rose mixture of Bulgarian and Turkish varieties also rise. Rose and oud are a classic pairing and if the rose continued to increase in intensity this might be one of those perfumes. M. Kurkdjian has a different destination in mind and for that the rose needs to lag behind the oud. The final phase of development is a cuddly warm mixture of the oud, benzoin, and vanilla. M. Kurkdjian pulls this all together into a plush slightly floral comfort perfume. That it has one of the strongest ouds out there and it can still be called comforting tells you what a good job he did in balancing this.

Oud Satin Mood has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’m not sure if M. Kurkdjian has more tricks to teach the Laotian member of his menagerie. I am hoping if there are more Oud Moods to come that he calls forth the Vietnamese version. The sweet and spicy nature would be very interesting to see what he would create. If you want to try one of the most comfortable oud perfumes on the market head to your local Maison Francis Kurkdjian stockist in May.

Disclsoure: This review was based on a sample provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Mark Behnke

Under the Radar: Indult Tihota- Resurrected Vanilla

This should have been a story for the Dead Letter Office series. Indult Paris released three perfumes at the beginning of 2007, Isvaraya, Manakara, and Tihota. A year later a fourth, Reve en Cuir would arrive and two years after that the brand would be out of business. The perfumes reached a sort of legendary kind of acclaim over the next few years. Then an angel appeared. One fan of the perfumes acquired the rights to the formulas and resurrected the line in 2013. Original perfumer Francis Kurkdjian ensured the new versions were identical to the original versions. All four perfumes in the collection are very good but for me there is one which stands out, Tihota.

tihota

Tihota is the word for sugar in Polynesian. M. Kurkdjian really keeps the construction simple as it is vanilla over a grouping of musks which make a skin accord. Over the years M. Kurkdjian has frequently explored multiple iterations of musk in his perfumes. Tihota is one of the rarer cases where he eschews the cleaner musks for the richer more sensual ones. This is a vanilla that also leaves behind the overly sweet versions that appeal to adolescents.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

M. Kurkdjian uses a rich source of vanilla and he allows it to come to life over time. This is done by adding in each musk gradually. Early on the vanilla reminds me of vanilla bean custard. As the first musks appear it becomes more vanilla sugar cookie. Once the musks form the skin accord underneath the vanilla does not remind me of dessert, it leans much more carnal in nature. Another thing about this is many vanilla perfumes can be very intense and almost cloying. Tihota does not do that. Instead it creates an aura which radiates warmth and sensuality.

Tihota has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

It is very unique thing that something that fell off the radar completely has found its way back. It is even more unique to find its way back unchanged and unaltered. Everyone involved has treated these perfumes as the jewels that they are. Seek all of them out but if you are a vanilla lover start with Tihota.

Disclosure: This review based on a bottle I purchased in 2007 and a sample of the 2013 version provided by Luckyscent.  

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian A la Rose- Rose Squared

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.

rose harvest in grasse

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.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Maison Francis Kurkdjian feminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel- The New Classics

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.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Maison Francis Kurkdjian Ciel de Gum- From Russia With Love

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.

Goum_1893

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.

francis kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian

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.

Mark Behnke