The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Francis Kurkdjian


Apologies for the recent radio silence: holidays followed by a family drama and so-far unsuccessful job-hunting. Normal service will (I hope) be renewed before long, but in the meantime I thought it might be an idea to do a quick recent-releases round-up of some perfumes I’ve kindly been sent in the last couple of months that don’t, I feel, merit a full review of their own.

I’ll start with PLURIEL, the latest men’s fragrance from the super-talented French-Armenian perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. Listening to him at the London launch I couldn’t help but like him: he speaks with such knowledge and passion, and he draws such interesting parallels between perfume and other kinds of artistry. His fragrances are excellently packaged too, with a nesting double box and a nicely proportioned bottle like a chamfered cube.

My problem is that his perfumes just don’t seem to suit me: I’ve tried them all so far and none of them appeal (see my review of Absolue Pour le Matin). The men’s version of Pluriel takes two of the main elements in male perfumery – the smells of lavender and wood – but Kurkdjian has given them a contemporary twist by using lavender absolute rather than lavender oil, and by mixing a number of different woody smells to create an impressionist ‘blur’ of woodiness. As he explains, lavender absolute has the same overall smell as lavender oil, but it has more depth; a bit like playing the same tune an octave lower.

It’s sophisticated perfumery, but while I admire Kurkdjian’s defence of synthetic ingredients, which he compares to Pantone colour charts for giving him a far greater range of effects than natural ingredients ever could, I think that, ironically, it’s precisely their synthetic smell that puts me off his fragrances.

As a professional perfumer with a long and successful industry career, he also says that he wants to create commercial scents: that makes good financial sense, especially for someone running his own relatively small business, but the downside (and again this is just how it seems to me) is that they can end up smelling like pretty much every other big-selling men’s perfume out there, which is how Pluriel smells to me. And given how much thought and care has gone into creating it, I think that’s a shame.

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