Review: Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Moods Collection
As we mentioned in our conversation with Francis Kurkdjian, he will launch his collection of Oud-based fragrances in a trio to complement his original 2012 creation – OUD — in March. The collection is entitled “Oud Moods“, and contains three very unique renditions using Oud as the characteristic texture for each.
From the release information, here is the brief on each of the three Oud Mood fragrances:
About Oud - Oud so rich and intense in its raw state, has provided Francis Kurkdjian with a powerful muse, just as long as he uses it as a means and not an end. Oud entered Kurkdjian’s world in 2012. He has tamed it by shaping it, injecting his French flair and a powerful spark of emotion. With Oud from Laos the most expensive and rarest — he sets the tone, without allowing it to dominate the symphony.
The collection - OUD mood reflects all the sources of inspiration Francis Kurkdjian found during an alone together with this exquisite raw material. He imagined them as feelings, sensations, rather like those one would have when wrapped in a fragrant stole. They play on glamour, comfort and warmth. They are precious, intense and concentrated.
- Velvet Mood. The majestic, enveloping Velvet fragrance gives the sensation of density and fluidity. Together, cinnamon from Ceylan, saffron and Brazilian copahu balm combine to release the fragrance of the oud. Extrait de parfum natural spray, 70 ml.
- Silk Mood. This silky fragrance is a light, airy fragrance reminiscent of the soft touch of a petal. Full of charm and mystery, sketched in Bulgarian rose, with blue chamomile from Morocco and papyrus. Extrait de parfum natural spray, 70 ml.
- Cashmere Mood. This Oriental fragrance is woven with all the gentleness of a “second skin”, soft and balmy. The oud is enhanced with Moroccan labdanum, Laotion benzoin and vanilla. Extrait de parfum natural spray, 70 ml.
The collection will be available in March at select Neiman Marcus outlets nationwide (17 doors in total, call your local NM location for availability), in addition to other boutique doors (Osswald in SoHo Manhattan and other selective boutique retail). Expect pricing to be in the $350 range for each.
Frequent readers might recall my original skepticism over not only ‘another Oud’ but Kurkdjian’s own rendition of one in my review last year. A healthy skepticism is helpful as it creates a discriminating taste for what we like, dislike, and love. I walked away commenting on the impressiveness of Kurkdjian’s OUD as well as it being such a versatile scent. But certainly you could have predicted my skepticism when he announced the release of not one but three more. The US niche and luxury markets have already seen such a plethora of Oud-based releases that it takes something more than a heavy “Arabian or Oriental treatment” of the element to raise the eyebrow of most buyers or reviewers. Already I was questioning what could be so special about three new “Oud Mood” releases.
I’m in the mood…the mood for Oud
Before I feature a plot spoiler, let’s jump directly into each Oud Mood and understand how Kurkdjian rendered each as a texture or fabric, and why the descriptions above are apt.
Cashmere Mood. This is, indeed, a very subtle, gentle treatment that is nonetheless Oud through-and-through. While you get the strength and projection inherent in the Oud note, the treatment is sufficiently soft that it feels more warm and comforting and less medicinal than some other renditions. The depth is there, both sweet and rich, but that isn’t the impressiveness of the scent. It opens on the skin in a truly amazing fashion such that when Francis Kurkdjian compares it to a ‘second skin’, the analogy is very precise. Sillage is readily apparent once this has had a chance to release its heart and fully open; a single spray in my case filled the room. By far, this was an outstanding experience.
While I might normally be prone to offer a comparison, I’m at a loss with Cashmere Mood. This has the refined smoothness of a glass of well-blended Scotch by a warming fire, yet it retains a rugged character. I’ll provide my thoughts and usual ratings in closing.
Velvet Mood. The stronger and sharper of the trio, this first layered on with a very earthy and sharp tone, somewhat spicy yet dense and balmy. Velvet was more demanding of your attention, and felt slightly less smooth in its texture than the Cashmere Mood. Here, I found that the Oud seemed at its fullest proportion, heavier and thick, sharp by comparison. But give this a while, because this let me in for one very wild and eventful ride. It opens up with slightly more ferocity than the Cashmere, but that too is tamed over the course of time as it settles back into a more docile state where it lingers. And here, the word ‘linger’ is an understatement for “more than a day”.
I literally left this for well over a full 24 hours and the scent of a single spray was still detectable on skin. Having reached its base over the first few hours, it settled into its more tamed and seated position which was still strong yet soft, and very characteristic of the Oud beneath. This might have been the closest to what I would have considered a ‘traditional Oud treatment’, except that really isn’t the case. The elements are there from other familiar Ouds, and I was able to detect the richness of the saffron in the scent. But it wasn’t the same as the familiar and more traditional Ouds. This is an Oud that retains an edginess, requiring some comfort and confidence in wearing…or perhaps the wearer is gaining some confidence as part of the experience, I’m still not quite decided. And never have I experienced the longevity in a fragrance as I have in Velvet Mood. This is astounding! But we’re not done yet.
Silk Mood. A rose by any other name…would still be a rose. The Bulgarian rose treatment here is very clear from the outset, and this perhaps has the softest texture of all of the fragrances. True to form, the Velvet Mood texture would be less supple and provide more grain in its feel. The cashmere wold maintain that softness and closeness of skin, almost perfectly smooth yet very warming to the touch. Silk? Perhaps the smoothest and most gentle of the trio, nearly sheer in its texture yet reminding you of the rose petal.
The Oud in this rendition is very heavenly, well-crafted, beautiful throughout. Not as harsh as the velvet, and the floral texture of the scent is clear and very charming. Silk Mood is a very universal fragrance, not as overtly masculine as the velvet mood, very alluring, almost the feel of walking through a rose grove in the midst of a dense forest as the lighter notes juxtapose against the denser Oud offering a play in contrasts. As with the others, this opens bombastically then dries to a more subtle tone.
Differences: First, longevity – Velvet Mood wins that by a country mile, Cashmere Mood and Silk Mood tied behind. Second, sillage — again, all three have fantastic projection, but I’d give Velvet Mood a slight edge here as well. Overall creativity — this is purely a preference on the type of texture you’d prefer or your comfort in wearing. In my view, Velvet Mood was perhaps the most rugged and masculine of the trio, Cashmere slightly less so, and Silk the softest and of the treatments and more universal. All are unique experiences.
Francis Kurkdjian has created three elegantly crafted and masterful works of art in fragrance. If his mission were to take us on a journey to experience a fragrance as if it were a texture or fabric, he’s clearly succeeded in that mission. Each of the fragrances is enchanting in its own right, each has a remarkable personality despite being unique from the others, a testament that not all oud-based scents need be rendered with the same treatment. Kurkdjian in Oud Moods shows a versatility that is interesting to experience and spotlights his talents in crafting these elements into a compelling story. For that, all three are scents to be appreciated.
On that basis as well, all three of the Oud Moods are truly worthy of as high a rating as we can give to a scent:
Rating: 5/5 for all three. Outstanding.
Bottom-Line: It’s difficult to distill the olfactory experiences of this trio of scents into a simple summary statement, nor would that serve justice to them. Kurkdjian has shown a remarkable capacity for crafting an enthralling story around the use of a single note, woven into three different textures. He has demonstrated a very unique and cerebral way of challenging our conventional thinking. By arriving now with such a twist to the plot gives us pause to rethink some of our perceptions, if not dismiss them entirely. In Oud Moods, he’s succeeded in challenging our very notion of an element and inviting us to enjoy his own vision.
Mission accomplished, Francis. Magnifique!
Our thanks to Francis Kurkdjian, as well as United Perfumes, UK for their kind assistance, visual assets and collaboration. Fragrances were provided courtesy of United Perfumes solely for an independent review.