Niche Fragrance Magazine

Oh, oh, OH! the cologne (Oh my!)

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You may have read recently that Maison Francis Kurkdjian has been bought by LVMH, joining a stable that includes Dior, Guerlain and Acqua de Parma. This sent me to my stash to wear some of the fabulous fragrances Francis has created, and when I went back to re-test one particular fragrance, it blew me away all over again. It is the antithesis of all the fresh, topnote-laden sparkling Eaux de Cologne I’ve written about in the past. There is not an iota of citrus zest or herbal zing here: this is a cologne that growls, purrs and slinkily winds itself around your legs.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Cologne Pour Le Soir is very literally cologne for bed. Like some of the glorious vintage fragrances once available in Eau de Cologne strength, such as the ripely erotic Bal a Versailles, this is cologne you should spritz on generously on date night.

It’s very much in the department of oriental ‘come hither’ fragrances, but apparently it’s composed very simply of Benzoin, Rose, Honey and Incense. I couldn’t say quite what I detect here. When I tested it with my friend Samantha from I Scent You A Day, she commented that it smells of ‘traces of lots of things’, which is an excellent description. There are traces of warm bedlinen, the scent of the curve of your lover’s neck, cashmere sweaters, high church incense, baking Madeira cake, the smell of a puppy’s ears and expensive talcum powder. There’s sweetness, warmth, animalics, light richness (I know that sounds like a contradiction, but I swear it’s both rich and light, like a Victoria sponge cake), and I found myself wearing it again today.

I keep coming back to this remarkable fragrance because a) I adore it and it makes me extremely happy to wear it and b) I admire the awesome inventiveness and masterful work of Captain Kurk. Honestly, this is so clever. When you expect the fragrance to do the obvious thing and dive on deeper into the delicious erogenous zones of deep dark balsams and woods, maybe some vanilla to add to the honey’s gourmand sweetness, that’s when it makes a U-turn. Instead, after lulling you into thinking you’ve put a full-blown oriental eau de parfum on your skin, Francis Kurkdjian uses the attributes of Eau de Cologne to subvert your expectations and poof! He lightens up. A trace of elegant talcum powder creeps in and then takes over. You feel freshened, so it really does follow the eau de Cologne format. I think it is this technical virtuosity coupled with his amazing creativity that is the key to his success.

Francis Kurkdjian makes fragrances that are enormously wearable yet innovative and interesting. This may sound like it’s no great thing, but consider how difficult a balancing act that is: to create something that people want to wear every day but that is unusual and different. I hope that the LVMH corporation will allow Captain Kurk to continue to boldly go out and explore the frontiers.


A decade ago in a little secondhand bookshop, I bought a biography of an obscure biophysicist written by a New York Times journalist and my life changed. Yes, I blame it all on Luca Turin and Chandler Burr; thanks to them I fell in love with L'Heure Bleue and haven't looked back since.

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