LET THE PERFUMERS GO CRAZY : : : : FRANCIS KURKDIJIAN for BURBERRY BESPOKE: : AMBER HEATH, GARDEN ROSES, HIGH TIDE (2017) + IVY MUSK (2018)

 

 

 

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While the main perfumery hall at Harrods is a cacophonous miasma and clamouring jam-packed of competing people, perfumes, sounds and smells- and not a particularly enjoyable perfume browsing experience from my own perspective – take the escalators up to the sixth floor to the recentishly opened Salon De Parfums  (the former Ali Baba’s smoke and mirrors black and gold reliquary of perfumes, The Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, which I used to love visiting for its carpeted luxe and gilded tranquillity, has been moved and extended to a corridor of white and boutique perfumeries), and you have a quiet, expansive and very enjoyable way to sample perfumes at your leisure.

 

 

 

 

Sat in each polished, private and hushed, enclave, the assistants very happy and willing to take you through their particular house’s collection (because in essence there is nobody else there and all they have to do otherwise is talk to each other; dust their surfaces; or stare into space) this, for me, is a kind of perfume nerd bliss. Persolaise and I spent a good two and a half hours there just being led through various collections – one of which I had not even heard of before and which was divine – I will probably write about that one next and more about this pleasurable space of high class perfumery in general – unstressed, smelling endlessly, at our own discretion, and, sat down in comfortable chairs at a table to boot which suited my tired London legs no end as the personable and attitude-free assistants brought the perfumes to us one by one at our request; each one sealed in an envelope for decontamination purposes to be smelled again later and recalled as and when necessary.

 

 

 

 

I have no real interest in Burberry as a brand, neither in terms of clothing – that ubiquitous and supposedly iconic chequered pattern bores me to tears-  nor the very obvious and unmagnetizing fragrances that have not even ever grazed the outer edges of my olfactory consciousness –  but the space at the Bespoke Burberry concession, all wood panelling and quiet glass, at that particular moment the collection looked inviting. As is often discussed by the perfume writers and bloggers, all fashion and fragrance houses now, post the Chanel Les Exclusifs, have their own higher priced ‘exceptional’ collections for the people with money, and usually in my experience, it has to be admitted, though overpriced, the perfumes are in general far more appealing than their duty-free and high street poorer siblings; usually they are note and ingredient rather than brand recognition- based, higher quality, with the odd little beauty raising its head when you were least expecting it (Givenchy’s Immortelle Tribale for example, which I smelled in Istanbul airport on the way back to England, is quite a wild and creative curry fantasy, new and interesting, the likes of which I  don’t think I have experienced since Diptyque’s iconoclastic and sadly discontinued L’autre (the wrenching smell of a cumin-stenched armpit after a night at an Indian restaurant)).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burberry, also, has some unexpectedly savage little concoctions up its sleeve in its collection as well, one of which is so extreme, and so disgusting, that you would assume that the entire thing was a joke – the Burberry representative herself seemed rather embarrassed by it as well – and which when smelling it again on the perfume card last night elicited grimaces of revulsion, horror and great amusement from my family and, later in the evening, from my original perfume partner in crime and best friend Helen, who, as she stood outside our front door and I proffered this brand new perfume for her to smell, memorably said to me, while swallowing her nausea, that the perfume, ‘from throat to gut’, gave her a ‘feeling of sickness’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have written about Francis Kurkidjian recently, in relation to Black Mirror and the perfection of his flawlessly light-riven blends that are almost android-like in their futurism and airbrushed infallibility. I also wrote that he is something of a genius, and a chameleon, who is not wedded to one particular style and can produce whatever is expected of him by the brief. Thus, when being taken through the Burberry Bespoke range, all created by FK, we immediately hone in on the two obvious commercially appealing blends – as confirmed by the member of staff who said that these two perfumes were selling like hot cakes- Amber Heath, a solid, warm, optimistic and very wearable Obsession-like amber that I would wear myself without hesitation as it feels less repressed and oppressive than his own also appealing Grand Soir; fluffier and more feel-good if lacking in any twists or obvious originality; Garden Roses, similarly,  a fresh, high-paced, harmoniously balanced modern rose that is simple and uneventful but eminently wearable and convincing – my first thought was that you could also quite easily wear both of these prototypical fragrances together for a more sensual base and a light, rosy, pink spritz as a contemporary afterthought.

 

 

 

 

 

At completely the other end of the extreme though, far more inventive, button-pushing and downright weird, is the freakish oceanic High Tide, which in my own body produced that repelled but wide-eyed (because genuinely new ideas are always, no matter your primal emotional responses to them, stimulating) reaction of ‘wow, what is that’ – Persolaise agreed with me as well, this was definitely a perfumer being given free reign to produce whatever he wanted as long as he had a few more objectively pleasing scents in his range, as he has made something that is somewhat indescribable – a conflicted and clashing confection on the one hand of bergamot, aldehydes and panoramic sea notes, and a jasmine and a quite dirty oak moss and possibly immortelle/cumin-like underbelly. To me, it reminded me a bit of unfortunate and unsuccessful self-tanning experiments as a teenager, those lotions that react with your sweat and melanin and produce a peculiar smell of curdling skin: imagine that smell, if you know it, and then running into the waves on a hot summer’s day and you have something of the effect of this jarring, surprising, and quite indigestible, perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ivy Musk, though. Jesus. This is a monster. A joke. Surely. The pooiest civet I have ever smelled – one that makes Mouchoir De Monsieur smell like L’Eau De Issey Miyake in comparison::  a really faecal, gut-churning animal civet that for all I know might be entirely synthetic (seeing that the poor prodded antagonised creatures are not usually used any more by perfumers with a conscience), with completely anti-intuitive fresh and ozonic green notes overlaying the foul-breathed and genuinely shocking decaying gorgon heart in a manner that is, for all intents and purposes in modern society, unacceptable. HILARIOUS.  It would be fascinating actually to do a Youtube video of this one: stop people in the street, make them stick their nose in the envelope, and film their reactions: it would be a dead certain kaleidoscope of olfactory horror and dismay, a WTF of what are you trying to do to me, that isn’t a perfume, that is vile, are you having a laugh, what the fuck is that: myself and Persolaise were also very much WOAH, and even assistants in other boutiques said ‘have you smelled the new Burberry Ivy Musk?’ – you imagine it must already be a new in-joke among the Harrods Salon de Parfums staff.

 

 

 

 

 

Yes. This is most definitely a perfumer run amok. Going a bit apeshit and, because of his stellar reputation generally, getting away with it. And there is something quite exciting about this. A perfumer, amid the mindless banality of modern popular ‘fragrance’, just letting off a bit of steam and taking off the trivial brakes (HA! you think all my perfumes are clean?’!) The sheer extremity of it (especially given the fact that at the Burberry boutiques you can choose the dilution of your perfume by percentage- the strongest version of this perfume could totally be used for terrorist attacks as crowd-clearing stink bombs, making it true guerrilla perfumery). As if Francis Kurkdijian is just there in his perfume studio laughing to himself and slapping his thighs in glee as he  sees just how far he can push this particular idea: hiding the huge, society-scandalising, shit-breathed godzilla within a name as innocuous as ‘Ivy Musk’, a concept in which we rightly imagine a scent that is green and light-natured but instead faint and clap our hands over our mouths and nostrils in instinctive horror in its presence. Like Etat Libre D’Orange’s equally ‘challenging’ Secretions Magnifies, though – a perfume I find repugnant beyond measure – there is still something about this ludicrous new release that is oddly compelling, even magnetising – you almost want to seek out, and timidly sniff, the low percentile jackpot winner for whom this almost incomprehensible perfume works as a boggish and carnally seductive komodo dragon scent: its balls, its collusion. Its absolute fearlessness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 Comments

Filed under Civet, Flowers

29 responses to “LET THE PERFUMERS GO CRAZY : : : : FRANCIS KURKDIJIAN for BURBERRY BESPOKE: : AMBER HEATH, GARDEN ROSES, HIGH TIDE (2017) + IVY MUSK (2018)

  1. Katy McReynolds

    I have a soft spot for disgusting scents. This is so horrible it is fascinating. That sensation makes me giggle. I always feel like I have received the olfactive equivalent of the middle finger from the perfumer and somehow I am charmed rather than insulted.

  2. But definitely worth a sniff!

  3. Filomena

    I almost cannot imagine something like this coming from Francis Kurkdijian. For the most part his perfumes are so perfectly balanced and have the same clean vibe except for Absolue pour de Soir which people rave about but which never worked for me. Although I do enjoy some “skank” in a perfume, I have no desire to smell like foul body odor. I also agree with you about M/ink…Byredo being a rather boring line to me at least so it was a surprise when they went from Gypsy Water to M/ink.

    • No, you would really HATE this perfume. It is a shocker. I like a bit of civet a la Bal a Versailles, but this is just unbelievable. At the same time, there IS something perversely moreish about it. It certainly is NOT dull. Smell it if you get the chance in any case.

      • Filomena

        I get it…although it’s revolting it draws you to it. If I come across it I will be sure to try it or I can ask a Byredo SA I know who in Barney’s NY to make me a sample because now I’m curious. I am sure she will also tell me I would hate it.

      • Just don’t get your nostrils hairs too close or you might regret it!

  4. Great rollicking writing, N. I love living vicariously through/with you on your trip.

    My nose tends not to be shocked by much in the perfume world, and I’m not sure why, because it’s hypersensitive and it really should. I smelled M/ink and wondered what all the fuss was about; ditto Zoologist Bat. Maybe I’m anosmic to some powerful aroma chemicals. I do recoil at terrible smells in the manufactured world and instantly resent whoever created them — I can’t think offhand of any terrible-smelling perfume as an example, unfortunately — oh, no, wait, Secretions Magnifiques qualifies, and it felt like a vindictive, very personal assault. It’s the flip side of feeling love-bombed by a fragrance and falling instantly in love with the perfumer (like the first time I experienced the original 2007 Chanel 31 Rue Cambon or Amouage Jubilation 25, to name a couple of contemporary examples).

    Strangely, I couldn’t find Ivy Musk on Burberry’s website in the bespoke line. Seven out of seven were listed: Amber Heath, Antique Oak (“A fragrant masterpiece inspired by the legacy of British boatyards. A contrast of industrial strength and historic artistic intricacy. Captivating oud and sensual leather. Earthy, refined saffron and papyrus.” Mmm.), Garden Roses, Hawthorn Bloom (I love hawthorn to distraction; I take it you weren’t that impressed?), High Tide (your description has me intrigued), Tudor Rose (this sounded promising) and Wild Thistle (also promising). Would love to hear your thoughts on those others. I wonder what explains the mystery of the missing Ivy Musk? It’s not on fragrantica, either, and all the other Bespokes are there.

    I wonder if Kurkdjian is playing a joke on Burberry. And I wonder who let him: which exec gave the green light to Ivy Musk? Nothing in his own MFK lineup stinks that bad.

    I hate overpriced fragrances, even though I’ve purchased them myself. I hate the idea. Love him or loathe him, on his blog of September 2016 Luca Turin wrote:

    “I was in el expensivo Zurich recently and a journalist asked me what I thought was a reasonable price for a perfume. Mindful of the old days, when I could buy two years’ supply of Brut (complete with nitro musks) for what would today be $30, and mentally adjusting for inflation, I replied that the price of a dinner for two with a decent bottle of wine in a decent restaurant was about the upper limit for me, so let’s say $120 or so for 100 ml of EdP or a half ounce of proper extrait. To my mind everything way above that, e.g. Lutens’ Section d’Or and a swelling host of others, are simply sad jokes perpetrated on sad sacks. And if anybody tells you that the exquisite raw materials upped the price, just laugh. Niche perfumery stands a good chance of disappearing up its own rear end if it merely becomes yet another golden opportunity to rip off the customer. To be sure, natural materials are going up in price because there is more demand. But bear in mind that formula cost in all but a handful of fragrances is less than 10% of sales price. Don’t give these people your cash: get a decant and smell that $50/kg woody amber first.”

    I’d love to know how much you’d be willing to spend on a bottle of non-vintage (as in, NOT that fabulous Coty Chypre!) fragrance. I’ve never gone more than $400, that for 15ml of Amouage Tribute Attar, one drop capable of filling an auditorium, no regrets.

    • As usual, stacks of synchronicity. There was a perfume there at the Salon de Perfumes for 405 pounds that I WANT and would buy if I had the cash. Ordinarily, I would not (I just never seem to have that kind of money). 20,000 yen on pay day I could do – about 200 dollars if I were feeling really extravagant and I thought the perfume was worth it.

      As for the Hawthorn Bloom, it was quite nice – hard to describe precisely – Iove that note too; modern, dignified, fresh, ok; the Tudor Rose was a bit oudh simplistic. The Oak is actually as is it described; quite an effective, dark, rich, furnitured woody deep perfume that I wouldn’t wear in a million years but which I thought was quite well done. For some reason I didn’t get to smell the Thistle.

      Ivy Musk (GROTESQUE!) is just out I think, which is why there is nothing out on the internet about it I would imagine. I know I am not imagining it though. That thing is real.

      • All too, by the sounds of it.

        Thanks for the note. I’m with you on spending that 405 pounds — if I had the cash — for something magnificent, and generally in the $200 range IF I felt it was worth it. Most honestly aren’t. We’re lucky here in Canada to be able to get stuff from online discounters in the US and can get some good houses — Guerlain, etc. — for (relatively) cheap. Do you have access to something similar, Neil? And do you ever buy on eBay? We have eBay Canada and I have had very fine luck with several sellers I now trust for vintage. Without those sources, my collection would be a fair bit more compact. (Like you, I’ve had success with local sources of vintage as well: one in particular who I feel should be made a saint.) And I refuse to be gouged by anyone clearly trying to make fifty times what they paid for an elderly bottle they found at a garage sale, regardless of how amazing it might be. That Chypre de Coty I might be moved to offer $600 for, I’m thinking . . . Have you thought about it since you wrote about it?

      • Not while here in England. Too many other things to think about. I do love it though and it rests somewhere in my mossy subconscious.

  5. Zoé

    Lol… I am scared now to run into someone wearing this. (But also curious & wish my iPhone had an olfactory app).

    Perhaps this very skilled gent is losing his sense of smell as he ages & people are afraid to tell him. Like trying to very gently get the car keys away from elderly people. And he hasn’t a clue… with people around him being desperately polite.

    I worked as a fine handwork seamstress for a clothing designer in NY at age 21 & one of the machine seamstresses – a 26 year old named Ginger – had no sense (ability) of smell at all. She smoked (when that was a normal & probably illegal & definitely lethal thing to do in a tiny ancient loft filled w/ fabric) & would accidentally light whatever bit of thread that fell in the ashtray on fire. She never noticed. We did! “You’re burning something again.”

    Some people love scents that remind me of insecticides also (& that means I loathe those… I realised just now that somebody somewhere loves the odour of insecticide). It’s fascinating on so many levels. I love the smell of gasoline (petrol). The pre-lead version that spilled onto the ground due to the earlier less efficient pump nozzles… I really miss that scent…

    • Zoé

      *The ‘gent’ being the parfum nose – not you our lovely host

      • Petrol is a scent I H A T E with an absolute passion but I do know that many people do like it. As for FK, there is no way he is losing his sense of smell, because I do genuinely think that there is something quite fascinating about the drydown in this perfume. In the same way that some forms of ‘sensual’ breath, animalic, disturbing, can repel you but still draw you in like a panther – that attraction/repulsion thing, I think he is playing with such ideas here, and although the opening is a NIGHTMARE, at least for my taste, when things coalesce in the base (still extremely challenging, but there IS some kind of flair and commanding aspect to it) I feel there is some Marquis De Sadeian cleverness in the id of the scent somehow. As I said in the review, I would in all honesty be intrigued by how this might actually emanate from a living human being rather than just from a lavishly sprayed scent card.

  6. Filomena

    I agree with Robin about the expense of niche perfumes, which is one reason I have not sampled a Roja Dove creation among a few others as the price of them is very high and I would fear I would love one of them which would cost way above my price threshold. It seems that niche perfumes have skyrocketed with the onset of more perfume interest on the internet.

  7. Tara C

    Oh lordy. I remember two particularly vile perfume moments. One was smelling Secretions Magnifiques at a tea party of perfumistas. Someone had bought the coffret and we were sniffing them all. Thankfully only on a blotter, which I quickly passed on.

    The second was at JAR in Paris. It was my first day after I had spent the night on the plane, so I was already feeling queasy. When they put Jardenia under my nose my eyes rolled back in my head and I thought I was going to have to excuse myself and step outside. It smelled like overripe cheese and rotting vegetation. Just the memory makes me shudder.

    Interestingly, I enjoy M/Mink. But I always did enjoy ink smells at school.

  8. David

    I’ve noticed from reading blogs and forums many people getting up in arms over the “sickening” price of fragrances. For me, these super luxury fragrances are for the super rich (like a Saudi princess) who can drop 500 dollars like it’s 5 dollars. So why get angry about that? I guess i do get a little sad/jealous because the raunchy and skanky fragrances I like so much (such as Hard Leather by LM) are so expensive. But I can still save up for a splurge (and try to finagle samples). I have also recently discovered that gardenia in just the right amounts goes off-the chart sex on my skin (at least I think so). This makes me so happy because of all the associations with my favourite singer, Billie Holiday; the lyrics from my all-time favourite song “These Foolish Things” (about the gardenia perfume lingering on the pillow) ; and not to mention the sultry memories of growing up down in the American south. Most of all, I love that there are a lot of drug store cheapie gardenias to explore like Jovan ‘s Island Gardenia.
    Thank you for your entries while you are in England!

    • I know what you mean about the Saudi princesses: there is a tuberose I want in Harrods that is DIVINE though and I might have to aspire at some point to princesshood and get myself a bottle.

      Olivia has just come round though and definitely didn’t think I was exaggerating the disgustingness of the Ivy Musk. Good to have it re-corroborated!

  9. Hi Neil – love this post. I just last night received a bottle of Baccarat 540 Rouge, which I enjoy but haven’t sampled for a few years, so to read about Francis’s more recent exploits was great fun. I’m actually writing a newspaper article at the moment about hinoki and hiba and would love to ask you a few questions. Do you mind emailing me? danfstapleton [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks!

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