I admit to feeling slightly aggrieved. How is it possible that nobody told me about this wonderful perfume before? Or, as is more likely, did someone tell me and did I immediately file it away under the general category of Just Another Oud?
I’m used to the full range of synthetic oud accords used in most Western style perfumery, including the medicinal, alcoholic burps of oud used by Montale, the smoked wood feel of the stuff used in the Dior Privee and Guerlain Deserts lines, and the sometimes oily, acrid approximations used by everyone else from Mancera to Tiziana Terenzi. I enjoy and own a number of these renditions. But I admit that I do have to be in the mood for the coarse honk of synthetic oud. It is a particularly brutalizing kind of note.
But this is a bird of a different color.
This is by far the smoothest and most delicate oud perfume I’ve ever laid my nose on. I recognize several Kurkdijan trademarks here – the exquisite refinement brought to bear on sometimes barbaric materials (oud and patchouli), the taut balance he exercises between light and dark notes, and the meltingly soft and sweet base he likes to use. In fact, I think I would have pegged this as a Kurkdijan piece of work even if I were to have smelled it blind.
In the top notes, there is a burst of saffron, like a streak of sunlight across a grey sky. The saffron is used in much the same way as the golden narcissus in Lumiere Noire Pour Femme – as a sunny, “yellow” counterbalance to the darker, woodier tones of the oud and patchouli. I love saffron as a note, and it features so heavily in this fragrance so as to categorize it as a saffron-centric fragrance than an oud one (which is more than fine by me).
The oud used here is an approximation of the Laotian kind, which is similar to Cambodi oud in its fragrance profile, meaning that it contains hints of cocoa and red berries, as well as plums and peaches. Typically, Cambodi and Laotian ouds are sweeter and fruiter than the Hindi counterparts, which are fiercely animalic and often quite sour.
The oud note itself is subtle, and so seamlessly woven into the fabric of the fragrance that it is hard to isolate as a note in and of itself. It is recognizable as oud, but it is completely devoid of any stinky or medicinal inferences that have come to define oud in Western perfumery. It smells faintly of old, dusty wood, cocoa, and more strongly of a red berry-like sweetness. It lurks beneath the saffron and the cedar for most of the fragrance, and allows the other notes to shine.
The base of this fragrance is incredibly similar to that of Lumiere Noire Pour Femme, which I would define as a smooth, slightly candied patchouli base. This is soft and nutty-sweet, reminding me strongly of the marron glace base to some of the older Carons (again Kurkdijan’s innate French classicism shines through) and indeed some of the current Guerlains (the balmy, velvety patchouli base of Rose Nacree du Desert immediately jumps to mind).
What I like most and what I despair the most of in Francis Kurkdijan’s work is exactly the same thing: his passion for creating perfumes that are perfectly refined, smooth, and utterly without sharp edges. Sometimes it creates an effect that is beautiful but almost too glassily perfect, like his Lumiere Noire Pour Femme. But here, Kurkdijan’s classicizing touch is put to good use by subduing the oud’s more loutish tendencies.
Indeed, this is so soft as to register almost entirely as a skin scent, and as such, does not have monster projection or even longevity. However, just as you think it’s gone, wafts of it reappear, allowing you to enjoy it again, and it permeates clothes and scarves for days and days afterwards. It is one of the most beautiful-smelling perfumes I’ve smelled in a while, and I will enjoy my sample while it lasts.