When visiting France, a stroll through the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris is highly recommended. If not for the lovely gardens, then perhaps for one of the prettiest vistas in the capital. Les Jardins lie on the doorstep of the Musée de Louvre, and run parallel to the picturesque Seine – they offer a 360 degree view of stunning Parisian architecture, le Arc de Triomphe and achres of enchanting manicured lawns.
Just a few yards from this sprawling oasis, is Rue d’Alger – a tiny side street that boasts a brand new attraction – that is, the delightful Maison Francis Kurkdjian; a tiny boutique housing the latest perfume narratives of the award winning Parisian nose. At a glance, the entrance to the store looks like it has been over-fortified with architectural beams of iron and panes of glass... the imposing door towers over us as we push past it and step into the foyer of the boutique from the quiet street. The atmosphere feels instantly perfumed with invisible candles, and we stop for a moment to marvel at a charming cityscape of Paris that is behind glass and has been created from tin and gold coloured metal, that runs the length of one wall. I immediately think of whimsical and elaborate Danish paper cut outs. Beyond, we enter a room whose interior is tastefully decorated in harmonious white, grey and gold hues and a friendly young Parisian woman bids us “bonjour” and flashes us a winning smile. I explain that my companions and I have waited a long while to visit the boutique, and ask to be introduced to M. Kurkdjian’s latest creations. The young woman, Donatienne, is only too obliging, and begins by explaining that the miniature skyline of Paris in the vitrine behind us, is the world as seen through the eyes of the Perfumer... we turn on our heels and look back upon the display and each sigh accordingly.
I note that the materials used to create it seem muted and hushed, and am awash with a sense of calm. We turn back to the products assembled in front of us, and Donatienne points out that the perfume packaging echoes the aesthetic of the store, and of Paris in general... the raw tin caps afixed to the heavy glass flacons represent the materials used in architecture, and the flashes of gold incorporated into the line of packaging, mimic the gold used across the city on the ornamental Parisian monuments. We are impressed at the overall aesthetic and cohesiveness. But we are eager to sample the line.
We begin with Aqua Universalis – Kurkdjian’s take on a “clean” fragrance, which immediately conveys a vivifying sense of freshness: an eau de toilette that is as simple, as universal and as timeless as a crisp white shirt. Donatienne explains that this scent was created not only to wear, but also to perfume linens and fabrics. I could easily imagine how luxurious it would be to wake up on 1000 thread-count sheets that have been imbued with this perfume. We are then introduced to Cologne Pour le Matin - a generous 200ml bottle of scented water which Kurkdjian proposes is to be worn after slumbering, and its counterpart, Cologne Pour le Soir; a scent created to evoke warm feelings of comfort and love, and of being wrapped in cashmere. It is dark and ambery and I smell husky curls of incense permeate from within.
We sample more. Lumière Noire pour Femme and Lumière Noire pour Homme. My eyes widen as the latter is lifted to my nose... its lingering sillage is similar to that found in Kurkdjian's other perfume triumph, Narciso Rodriguez For Her (the edt version). I find it interesting this accord is now used as the base in this new men's creation. The female version features patchouli and rose, and evokes an unusual sense of chaiaroscuro – sometimes light and playful, and other times dark and dramatic. By now, I find myself holding a number of cards in the “must keep” hand, and my arms are both heavily perfumed to the elbows. My friends and I offer our wrists to one another and fan cards under each other’s noses as our patient host looks on with a smile... it seems she understands how captivating these scents are. APOM (A Piece of Me) pour Femme follows next, and I find my wife in raptures marveling at this glorious scent which is heavy with ylang ylang and causes her to inhale her wrists repeatedly. APOM Pour Homme is a masterful balance of neroli, cedar and warm amber.
My friends and I peruse the shelves and notice the diversity of goods on offer - aromatic paper strips that are designed to be burned, scented bubble-blowing solution, fragrant laundry detergent, scented candles, leather bracelets imbued with perfume, and of course the line of eau de colognes, toilettes and parfums. It seems to me that anyone visiting the boutique would find something appealing to take home with them.
For me, it was the 200ml bottle of Cologne Pour le Soir at €140. Donatienne cheerfully processed the sale and buried a generous number of samples in the monogrammed tissue paper that surrounded my purchase. We left the store feeling as though we had spent 30 minutes or so in Donatienne's very capable hands, and with a wish to return at our soonest convenience.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian represents for me, a vivid perfume narrative of the city I was visiting. Whilst these scents might be considered 'niche' in terms of their accessibility, they truly seem more "honest", and without a trace of pretentiousness.
I am confident we will return every time we visit the capital.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian,
5 Rue d'Alger,