What we understand when we smell the new release by Maison Kurkdjian, Acqua Vitae Forte, is twofold: First we realize that urban, contemporary, clean, perfumery can still smell lovely; (as this really does: like angel’s breath, and pink-lemon meringues; laundry musks and the modern sublime): and second, that to achieve this, to have an even half decent, fashionable and futuristic release, it must cost the earth.
In a way it is quite a poignant thing to realize. When I was growing up, perfumes were affordable but still high quality. I am talking about the high street, big name releases. They literally contained essential oils. And artistry. And genuine will power. They had character. And poise. And something memorable; indelible; and even if you hated them, which you quite often did (because why wouldn’t you? They were take me or leave me, love me or leave me, fuck you or love me, and that’s why you were taken); you plonked down your money and went with the show; you took the scent on board and gave her a run for her money; there were less of them but enough to go round; enough for some of them to still remain unidentifiable, at least to that bloke in the bar who had no clue about such things but still liked how you smelled, and that was kind of what it was all about , in the first place, anyway.
Acqua Vitae Forte is a new release from Francis Kurkdijian that is possibly my favourite from this line so far. I will admit that I find the perfumes in the range quite difficult: they are so straight and unconsensual and unforgiving in a way, in their rigid, almost android-like, robotic, perfections, yet they are also, as I wrote in my review of APOM, possessed of a kind of strange genius. Like Mozart or Salieri tossing off sonatas or fugues, there is a kind of inconsolable airlocked immaculateness in the Kurkdijian universive that leaves no stone unturned. Not for this perfumer jagged edges and extraneous puffs of hideous aromachemicals (that cheap, and nasty, pink-bitch shit that wrecks your day and makes you wish you had never even picked up the bottle), no: even if your tastes lie in the more classical, verbatim constructions or along the lines of the shaggy and the aromatherapeutical, you can’t quite deny, upon smelling one of this perfumer’s creations, that there is an exquisite efficacy there, a deal that is nailed, with no airholes; and no compunction.
You have to pay almost three hundred dollars though, now, for a twenty first century creation that smells current, and new, and in the moment. And to be honest, I did consider this one today on my way to work in Yokohama as I do quite like, sometimes, my laundry musk angelics, when worn in the correct contextual situation (like teaching in a suit in front of seventeen year olds, and eighteen year olds); this is exactly the kind of smell that I would like to evince: a CK One redux: expensive, embellished, cast beautifully and peachily and stratospherically into the future, but more soulfful than Acqua Universalis (which struck me as even more of a CK One contender-rejoinder), or the pristine, if in some ways disturbingly piercing, work that the perfumer did for his Absolue Pour Le Matin.
Acqua Vitae Forte, a ‘meeting between sun, and the sea’, takes these quality, almost movingly and ice-hearted citrics, and fuses them, ingeniously, with more sensual, floral notes of ylang ylang and orange blossom (and even cinnamon, and ‘Guatemalan cardamom). The effect, for me at least, as I went up the escalator into the department store while wasting some time before I had to be at school for the beginning of my evening lessons, was a kind of fateful mmm, or perhaps an ooh, or maybe just a vague sigh of pleasure to myself that a new release wasn’t utterly vile (like Sauvage; JESUS, things are getting rough out there, people), or the lamentably mediocre Miu Miu, which isn’t entirely bad, when it kind of gets going, but doesn’t exactly blow your socks off either, and you know now that perfumers are working with quite ludicrously limited budgets so you can’t entirely blame them, as all the money is getting spent on crafting trendily coloured plastic flacons, and cats, and the girl from Lars Von Triers’ brilliant Nymphomaniac, but again, I digress: given the flotsam and jetsam levels of plasticky, mind-bending shit, when something has a charge that even vaguely hits the olfactory button and has been released in the years of 20I5; you somehow can’t quite help having a smile to yourself. This one might not quite be a modern masterpiece, but I do know that I will be going back to smell it again in Takashimaya Yokohama with a view to a potential work-buy; and in the context of the holocausts of dross that we currently find ourselves in, you know that really does not amount to nothing.