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Bombay Duck London

Francis Kurkdjian Lumière Noir

Once upon a time, ‘noses’ were invisible.  Perfumers mostly worked behind the scenes, rarely enjoying a moment of glory except in an occasional one-on-one interview with a journalist.  Now, they are becoming ‘stars’ – and if Francis Kurkdjian’s name doesn’t exactly trip off your tongue then it probably should.  Just yesterday I happened in Paris, and although familiar with Kurkdjian’s fragrances from their little corner of Liberty that is forever France, I was able to spend a heavenly 20 minutes or so working my way through the scented spectrum in his  boutique on the Rue Mont-Thabor.  Among several fabulous ‘finds’ (some of which the Scent Critic will return to at a later date), my favourite is the utterly exquisite Lumière Noir:  as classic and opulent a chypre as it’s possible to find.  (Right up there with Sisley’s Eau de Soir, in my book.)  It’s an awfully Parisian scent, actually:  you feel you should be wearing Sabbia Rosa silk undies beneath a tailored tweed suit, perched on a gilt chair drinking ice-cold Cristalle, to really do it justice.  Yes, that’s how grown-up and elegant this is.  (I swear my posture actually improved the minute I’d dabbed it on.)  Technically, it’s a rose fragrance, which goes against everything I feel about most rose fragrances.  I’d say this is the rose of your grandmother’s dressing table powder (complete with swansdown puff), with all its nostalgic sweetness – but at the same time, it’s described as a ‘spiced rose’.  So yes, taking what can be a sickly edge off a rose fragrance there’s a distinct element of Damascus spice market:  a pinch of cumin, maybe the tiniest touch of nutmeg, a grind of pepper, making it very edible.  It has its white flower moment:  paperwhites, and jasmine, a tiny spring-like trace of lily of the valley.  And then, oh bliss, the patchouli emerges from the shadows, to amplify the softness, becoming as sensual and snugglesome as cashmere, as voluptuous as deep red velvet.  It lasts amazingly on the skin, too:  as often happens I was way too knackered to bathe after a Eurostar day trip to Paris, but all day long today (and as long as 24 hours after I’d applied Lumière Noir), people have been asking what I’m wearing.  Triumphantly, this smells (in the very best way) like a ‘vintage’ perfume:  there’s not a whiff of over-commerciality about it, even though M. Kurkdjian knows all about those, having worked on a long list of blockbusters that includes Kouros Sport, Narciso Rodriguez for Her (with Christine Nagel), Iris Nobile for Acqua di Parma (love that, so I’m not surprised), Lanvin’s Rumeur – and so the list goes on.  But Francis – pictured here – deserves to step out of the shadows.  Alongside the treasures decanted into the bottles, one of the other clever tricks he’s also pulled off is tracking down what is surely the most invisible spray mechanism on the planet.  The (metal-topped) crystal flacons look like scents you splash on (and we all know how easy it is to overdo those), but in reality they’re atomisers.  (And last but not least, can I also recommend his website, www.franciskurkdjian.com?  When you’re next in need of a soothing Ravel étude to calm you right down, it’s a lovely place to browse.  Music to the ears, to accompany the perfect notes of this exceptionally gifted perfumer’s creations.)

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