Cologne Review: Francis Kurkdjian
For my first cologne review I have chosen to highlight Francis Kurkdjian, whom many consider to be one of the most exciting and gifted perfumers in the world today. However, unless you routinely shop in Paris or at stores like Neiman Marcus, you probably have not heard of him, which is tragic because he creates scents that are exquisite, unique, and altogether captivating. He has a long resume and has created fragrances for well-known companies (Dior, Elizabeth Arden, Davidoff, Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani, Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent, etc).
A short bio is in order, Francis grew up east of Paris and met with a number of setbacks when, as a teenager, he aspired to become a dancer, then a pianist, and then a fashion designer. None of those endeavors worked out, try as he may. Undaunted, Francis’ attention turned to making colognes and perfumes, and at 15 years of age, he had found his life’s calling.
An artist whose masterpieces are created with fragrance notes, one simply has to try one of Francis Kurkdjian’s colognes in order to understand how their delicate balance, harmony, highlights and crescendos surround the wearer in a glorious symphony of scent.
Today, I will review three fragrances from his men’s line: Absolute Pour le Soir, APOM, and Amyris.
Absolute Pour le Soir
Pour le Soir translates into ‘For the Evening’ and is an apt name for a men’s fragrance with such bold and mysterious notes. This Eau de parfum is so complex that it resists being compared to anything one might encounter on a normal day, so I will have to paint a picture….stay with me.
Imagine being seven years old, when one day, out of the blue, you hear a peculiar-sounding knock on the front door of your parent’s suburban house. You are naturally curious because it is about 8pm and this looks like a good opportunity to stay up late. When your parents open the door, standing with a broad smile is one of their old friends from university–European naturally–whom no one had seen since graduation nearly twenty years ago. After the stubble-faced man enters, he makes a brief stop to the bathroom, then sits down by your fireplace, where he shares his story.
As he talks, your mother’s eye glimmers in a way you have never seen before, but she soon catches herself and looks quickly at your father who is staring at the fireplace, as transfixed by the narration as the flame.
It turns out the new house-guest had spent most of his life traveling through exotic coastal towns in countries like Montenegro, Albania, and Croatia, while living off of his substantial trust fund bequeathed to him by a grandfather who was the last notable member of a crumbling European dynasty. You say something about a trip to Disneyland last year, and the adults grin.
He shows you a couple photos in his wallet of the old Mercedes 190 Fintail he has been driving for as long as he can remember; faded paint, sun-baked leather interior, a coffee cup resting on the dashboard. Like him, it has a unique patina that one can only acquire when spending time off life’s beaten path.
He is in the States for just a week to talk with a vintner friend about purchasing vintage wines for his collection, but says he plans to return to Europe soon where he has a little place in Dhërmi, within walking distance to the Adriatic Sea. Just as you notice that he wears his well-aged handmade loafers without socks, he catches your gaze, grins and simply says: ‘from a trip to Morocco’…and then segues into a joke about smuggling frankincense that goes over your head.
You have never met someone like this before; people in your community drive Fords, eat ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread, and for excitement, see a film once a month in the theater and get frozen yogurt afterward.
There is a reason why men like this do not live in suburbia–they are too feral. Yet it is obvious that your parents admire him because they still have the small bottle of bourbon he gave them as a gift that day, as if they hope, by holding on to it for all these years, that he will return again to make their lives a bit more exciting, albeit vicariously.
I paint this picture for you because one day while trying on Absolute Pour le Soir Eau de parfum, I invited my four-year-old son to smell the fragrance, but instead of remarking with an exaggerated ‘sniffffff……ahhh’, as is his usual custom, he recoiled from it for a split second with a confused look, as if he had no olfactory category in which to place Pour le Soir. His reaction is insightful because it is completely honest and unfabricated, and for this reason, if you plan to wear it at the office, please, no more than one or two sprays, otherwise the ‘maintain the status quo‘ types you work with may find your bouquet to be an existential distraction. This is not a middle-class American scent…if you wear it, you will stand out.
Pour le Soir is like meeting that mysterious middle-aged friend of the family in the story: Exotic, unassumingly wealthy, comfortable in himself. In short: one spray transforms you into the most interesting man in the world, or, at least, the room.
You can (and should!) purchase Absolue pour le Soir Eau de Parfum here on Amazon, or here, from his online shop.
APOM is a clever acronym that stands for “A Part Of Me” and according to Francis Kurkdjian himself, refers to that bit of ourselves that we leave with others after getting together…there is a mystical sense in which we are all affected by one another, memories, happy milestones we share, transitions, coming of age, and even in the commonplace. None of us lives in a vacuum, and APOM is a way of celebrating that sense of togetherness and unity by trying to capture it in a bottle.
Kurkdjian’s inspiration for APOM came shortly after visiting Lebanon and seeing this human dance and interplay in the kaleidoscope of colors, fragrances, sights and sounds. The fragrance is a robust mix of citrus and cedar where the interplay of orange blossoms and woods makes for a long-lasting, complex and balmy men’s Eau de toilette.
It clothes the wearer in a warm, fresh, and calming wake of orange/amber-ish/sandalwood/cedar, that is designed to linger for a moment after one moves from place to place.
APOM leaves its audience with a powerful, but elegant impression of what it means to be alive without always needing to be the center of attention. It makes its presence known in a: ‘Hmm, I wonder what he’s wearing?’ kind of way…magnetic and colorful, without insisting upon itself.
The fragrance itself gets its name from the tree in Jamaica of the same name. The top notes are of mandarin orange, powder, and traces of tonka bean–quite sweet–but within minutes of the dry down, it takes off this mask to reveal a manly, woodsy and ever-so-slightly aquatic scent.
The experience is a bit like eating that last section of orange before going for a leisurely stroll into a maturing, resinous forest that seems to go on for miles. There are hints of coffee, cream and chocolate in the middle notes, which then lead into oud as it settles down. AMYRIS is a unique and convincing men’s fragrance–ideal for summer and those with oily skin–that takes the mind to a therapeutic destination…perfect for those days when you need to escape from the conventional into a happy, relaxing place.
To learn more about ‘FK’, or to get better acquainted with his fragrance line, visit his site at http://www.franciskurkdjian.com/.