The evocative power of fragrance is known to everyone who reads this blog. Upon the first whiff, one will think (fondly or otherwise) of a friend, a place, a moment in time, a favored sweater, or even a song. But Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud is one of the only fragrances that has made me immediately think of a book. That book is the classic (love it or hate it) 1001 Arabian Nights.
Does Kurkdjian’s fragrance have oud? Yes. Saffron and exotic spice? Of course, even that. Read a description of this fragrance and you will find ingredients that might combine to produce something typical. But lest we get carried away and assume the authenticity of Kurkdjian’s interpretation of oud, we should remember that Kurkdjian embraces a distinctly European style of perfumery: Quality musks, buoyant new synthetics, and a certain wearable freshness are hallmarks of Kurkdjian’s style, blended to perfection as only a master perfumer could achieve. Kurkdjian’s Oud is not a traditional oud. This is not even something like, say, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s attempt at authentic oud with a European medium, as its fragrance “The Night” managed to achieve. Nope. This is something new, yet old. European, but also distinctly Arabian.
In Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud, the oud elements are paired with elemi, saffron, and patchouli to achieve a sense of exotic mysticism. Unlike many takes on oud, it lacks a prominent rose, incense, or smoke. Instead, the composition comes across as floral, delicate, soft, and refined. It is not a distinctly masculine oud (actually, I find that it leans feminine). It is not brash, and probably won’t offend. A quick whiff of this fragrance might bewilder with its uniqueness and bewitch with its beauty. It’s elegant and soft, though it certainly has a presence. And this brings me to the reason why it reminds me of 1001 Arabian Nights:
I imagine that Queen Shahrazad would have smelled like this. As anyone who has read the story knows, Shahrazad was no ordinary queen. Right from the beginning of the tale, she is described as follows:
“[Shahrazad] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.”
For those not familiar with the work, Shahrazad used her knowledge in order to survive, telling many stories to distract a mad king. In these stories, we find adventure, mysticism, and danger; the most stunning of beauty and the ugliest of souls – Wit and wisdom, magnanimity and murder. If all of these things can be captured in a smell that emanates from the skin of such a person as Shahrazad, that scent would be Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud.
Though many have tried to do so, this is a scent that is impossible to fully capture in words or to describe by way of comparison. You’ll have to smell it for yourself.
…But one day, when you have a few hours, pull out a sample of Kurkdjian’s Oud, and spritz a little on each wrist. Sit back, open your copy of 1001 Arabian Nights, and let Shahrazad’s stories take you to the desert, to the Orient, to the tale of Aladdin and his lamp, to the eery cave of Ali Baba and his 40 thieves… Most importantly, let the stories and the wisps of fragrance transport you elsewhere, which is, sometimes, all we desire of the best of our art.